Suffering and Religion

October 27, 2014

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Ever since the announcement last week, people from around the world have weighed in on the subject. I have ignored most of the discussion on the topic because this is, and should be, a personal decision. However, a religious friend of mine posted about a plea to Brittany to continue to live and dispose of her pill. This response caught my attention because it comes from another terminal cancer patient.

Kara Tippets, the author, suffers from breast cancer that is slowly killing her. Naturally, she should have some valued insight on fighting such a terrible disease and staying strong throughout the difficult treatments. Tippets instead says that Maynard’s choice of action is not “what God intended”. She further implores Maynard to stay alive because her suffering will bring beauty to her life. Maynard’s doctors fed her a lie about the pain and suffering in dying of terminal brain cancer. Additionally, Tippets states that Jesus died and overcame the death that these women are facing in cancer. Jesus only wants to shepherd her to death the natural way.

After reading this response, I was speechless. Tippets is asking a woman making the most difficult decision of her life to change her mind because of the big guy in the sky. Tippet seems to think Maynard should suffer through losing her ability to walk, talk, eat, and control her bodily functions because Jesus will show her beauty in a horrific death. My first thought was “where is the beauty in losing the one thing we value the most, our mind?”.

As I tried to piece together Tippet’s train of thought from her post, I noticed one overarching idea. The promise of paradise in a religion overrides every other option. Religion tends to make people think that suffering is the only way to reach the proverbial carrot at the end of the stick. I am not saying that people who believe in a deity would not chose to end their life like Brittany or vice versa. I am saying that religion has a funny way of deluding people into thinking that suffering a prolonged and painful death is worthwhile to potentially see Heaven. It is hard for secularists to wrap their mind around this concept because we do not have a paradise at the end of our lives. We just have a wooden box buried under six feet of dirt. For us, there is no beauty in the suffering of terminal cancer, only pain and sadness.

Whether or not Brittany goes through with her end-of-life plans, one thing is clear. The decision a terminal patient faces in this situation is difficult and emotional. If the individual decides to forgo suffering for a dignified death on their own terms, I believe that is their right. Religious people should not condemn patients for valuing their life over a potential paradise.