Our friend Steve made an excellent comment on yesterday’s post:
Aside from religion are there grounds to value another person for anything other than utilitarian reasons? Reason can construct all sorts of arguments in favour of humans living cooperatively because this produces good outcomes for individuals and their children. Where cooperative endeavour is unproductive of such benefits, as in the case of, say, disabled babies, then are there any purely reasonable grounds to continue with such endeavours?
That is a good question. If we take a ‘survival of the fittest’ line, then anything, or anyone, who is unproductive to the survival of the tribe should be jettisoned; food is always at a premium, why have useless mouths around consuming it and giving back nothing in return?
Christians have not always lived up to Christ’s teaching, but they believe that each human life has a unique value, and that Christ died for each of us. There are no ‘superfluous’ lives; none of us is a mere object to be put aside when it has no obvious purpose. Indeed, it was, in part, and ironically, because of the value that we place on life that David Steel’s abortion bill got through parliament – much was made of the plight of those women who went to back-street abortionists, and with the assurances that abortions would happen only when two doctors certified that the mother’s health was at risk, MPs felt able to pass the bill. Those assurances have not been met, and as recent events at the Marie Stopes Clinics have show, it is by no means certain women’s health is well-served. Statistics also suggest that although illegal, gender-biased abortion is common. It is a sign of the power of group-think on this subject that feminist groups, like ‘black lives matter’ groups seem content not to protest against something which kills far more females and blacks than any number of police forces. But then if your enemy is an abstraction called the ‘patriarchy’, and you believe that its adherents are your main enemies on the abortion issue, the twisted logic makes sense within such a solipsism.
The difficulty here is that ethics are at a discount; this is about power. On that basis, why should anyone give way to the demands of feminists or black people if they have the power to suppress them? What is the argument from survival for valuing feminists or black lives? One can construct a woman’s or a black person’s argument for why their lives matter, but so can everyone else, but once we are in a world where the unborn and the infants can be killed because they are inconvenient, there is a slippery slope argument which leads to some very dark places.
Christianity is a radical religion. It scandalised those Jews who saw themselves as the chosen people. Its founder paid no regard to social standing, with St James being very firm on those who put the poor at the back of the synagogue and invited the rich up to the front. St Paul took this to the conclusion that in Christ there was neither male nor female, slave nor free, Jew nor Gentile – we were all one in him. Those so often left behind – women, slaves, the poor, were attracted to a religion which told them that their lives had a unique value. What it said then, it says now. What it said to a world which held human life cheap and valued hedonism, it says still to that world.
The Christian argument in favour of the unique value of each human life is clear. What is less so is the argument for that without Christianity.