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"Rational Suicide" and the Dearth of Courageous Humanists

Cornelius Van Til famously compared the non-Christian's attitude toward God to a child who sits upon his father's lap in order to slap his father's face. This comparison highlights the unthankfulness of non-Christians, even while they openly demonstrate their dependence on the Christian God.

Why do non-Christians persist in invoking assumptions which ultimately only Christians can justify? I know the simple epistemological answer -- they can't help it -- but I am still surprised by the brazen use of Christian assumptions in anti-Christian contexts. Why don't non-Christians have the courage of their own convictions? Where have all the Nietzsches gone?

In a recent Free Inquiry editorial, Tim Madigan defends "rational" suicide in light of questions raised by Dr. Jack Kevorkian's "suicide machine."

Madigan begins by invoking David Hume (another uncourageous anti-Christian) to refute traditional objections to suicide. But Hume's rather sophomoric retorts either beg-the-question or assume principles which can in turn be used to justify even genocide.

Moreover, Hume's refutation of traditional arguments against suicide rests upon moral notions which he claims to derive from "objective" and "universal" moral sentiments (which in fact turn out to be very subjective and parochially English sentiments). Ironically, Hume can only transform these sentiments into norms by committing the naturalistic fallacy.

Madigan himself argues that though there are cases of irrational suicides -- e.g., jilted lovers -- there is a positive case for "rational" suicide. Madigan claims that "in order for an action to be deemed rational, it must involve effective deliberation and a realistic assessment of possibilities."

Why, according to Madigan, ought we to opt for rational over irrational suicide? He answers: "life is precious, and should not be given up lightly." There it is, sitting and slapping. Madigan can't ultimately justify the "precious" nature of human life in terms of his anti-Christian worldview, but he invokes a remnant of the Christian "image-of-God-in-man" without flinching.

Madigan not only invokes "precious" human life in his case, but he goes on to invoke the values of "compassion," "understanding," "autonomy," "consequences...upon family and friends," and a "right" to die.

None of these moral notions makes any sense in a naturalistic outlook (notwithstanding Kai Nielsen types). How do "rights," "compassion," and "precious life" have any place in a cosmos of material processes? Why play games?

This sort of leeching-off of the Christian worldview is common. I find it amusing that Free Inquiry publishes on its back cover "An Affirmation of Humanism" (offering a "parchment copy of this page, suitable for framing") which is full of humanistic mysticisms and is obviously modeled after historic Christian creeds.

If non-Christians are going to persist in being like the children in Van Til's analogy (and they will), then they should be told to either play right, or go get their own worldview.

DMJ


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