Religious views and the euthanasia debate

Xavier Symons
November 12, 2016
Reproduced with Permission

Many take it to be the case that religious arguments against euthanasia should not be admitted to the public square.

In a new article in the journal Christian Bioethics , Villanova University philosopher Stephen Napier makes an ambitious argument against this view.

Napier believes that the sorts of arguments usually made against religious perspectives actually undermine the very premises upon which the legalisation of euthanasia is justified.

His argument is based upon the claim that many people who reject religious viewpoints reject them precisely because they think God does not exist, and, what's more, they believe this because of some form of 'problem of evil' argument or reasoning.

When viewed in the context of the assisted dying debate, Napier suggests that the 'problem of evil' argument against religious belief simultaneously undermines the 'interests account of harm' that ordinarily will be used to justify the legalisation of euthanasia. It is Napier's contention that any plausible formulation of the 'problem of evil' argument requires a conception of harm that is far more sophisticated than the interests account of harm typically adopted by pro-euthanasia advocates.

Either this, or we should agree to admitting religious views to the bioethical public square -- at least on this issue. Or so Napier suggests.

It's a complex and (perhaps) contentious argument. It is, nevertheless, food for thought, particularly in a political climate where suspicion of religious perspectives is ubiquitous.