Sunday, 9 March 2014

Are Nail Clippings Eligible for Human Rights?

Sent to The Star, Johannesburg, Sun 09/03/2014 20:55.  Not published.

John Rowland (The Star, Thursday March 6 2014) in “Punish the guilty, save the innocent”, says that everything he wrote “has a Christian base”.

A difficulty with Christianity is that there are (per Wikipedia) around 3000 different sects.  Across the spectrum, there are radically divergent views.  Many sects regard the others as hell-bound non-Christians.  “Christians” can be as diverse as Catholics and the ZCC.  All claim to be following “God’s Word”.

What sort of god is unable to express himself clearly enough to avoid being misunderstood in 2999 different ways?

As Ricky Gervais says, “It’s almost as if The Bible was written by racist, sexist, homophobic, violent, sexually frustrated men, instead of a loving God. Weird”.

If there were any truth in religion, over time it would converge to a consensus.  This happens in science.  Instead, religion produces ever more schisms.  This is ample proof that religion has no basis in fact.

Hence, Mr Rowland’s “Christian base” is built on sand.

“By their fruits ye shall know them”:  Religion –particularly Christianity– has produced sumptuous churches, rich preachers, poor masses, ignorance, fear, disagreement, hatred, inquisition, persecution, pogroms, wars, and misery.  It has suppressed freedom, progress, science, and human rights.

Given its history, it should be clear that religion has no moral authority.  Rather, faith marks a person as one that believes things that aren’t true.  A religion is a badge of the irrational, something of which to be deeply ashamed.

Religion is an unreliable guide.  Let us look instead to facts, to science.

Mr Rowland argues against abortion with the usual dishonest emotive argument that a “baby” is aborted.  This is hardly true.

The fertilized egg is known as a zygote. It develops rapidly into a mass of cells called a blastocyst.  This becomes an embryo, which looks like a fish.  From around 10 weeks, it begins to have some human characteristics and is known until birth as a foetus.

A first trimester embryo or foetus is not a viable human being.  The nail clippings Mr Rowland so callously discards are just as much human tissue, just as capable of independent life.  Should nail parings be given human rights?

Later in pregnancy, things become more complicated, and our treatment should be more sensitive and circumspect.

Of course, the unspoken reason that Mr Rowland opposes all abortion is the concept of a “soul”.  His particular branch of his particular religion probably holds the belief (not necessarily shared by other sects or religions) that the “soul” enters the body at conception.  This gives a zygote, in his eyes, the same rights as a fully-grown woman.

Science has found no evidence of the existence of a “soul”, just as it has found no evidence for any gods.  This may distress those who are suffering under the yoke of religion in the hope of a glorious Hereafter, but it is so.  There is no afterlife, no Heaven to come.  It is up to us to make this Earth our Heaven during the brief time that we have here.

I agree with Rowland that “women who find themselves pregnant in distressing circumstances must be helped with all the compassion that society can provide”.  That compassion should include every woman’s right to cheap, safe, legal, early abortion.  Having an abortion is no easy decision.  It should not be further complicated by a patriarchal religion that still regards women as property useful only for producing male heirs.

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