June 1997

Ethnicities In Utah

“I became fascinated by the concept of voice, the realization that the enterprise of black writers was to free themselves of the damaging stereotypes formulated by whites and to begin speaking in their own language, on their own terms.” That’s what got Leslie Kelen started in his 10-year project of talking with the ethnic groups in Utah.

Kelen, the director of the Oral History Institute in Salt Lake City, addressing the May 8th meeting of the Humanists of Utah, continued, “I began to realize that cultures, like individuals, strive for and must acquire authenticity. This quest takes on enormous urgency for groups that have had to contend with prolonged physical and psychological trauma of racism. I started to grasp that only by allowing ourselves to experience the layers and the voices of a culture, can we begin to comprehend what its people lived and lived through, how they pass on their heritage, how they contend with pain, how they make sense of their lives.”

His numerous interviews with representatives of the ethnic minorities in Utah taught him that speaking with people about their history, about their memories, reveals human insights about things that really matter, revealing vital truths about the human condition.

Kelen’s tape recordings have revealed the fears, the hopes, the disappointments and the aspirations of every ethnic group that has played a role in the history of Utah. His two published works, Missing Stories, and Sacred Images, help everyone gain a deeper appreciation for the events that have shaped the Utah culture since 1947.

–Flo Wineriter

Welcome to The Religion Store!

First let me say a word about our vast selection. We have Western and Eastern Religions galore, not to mention nearly rubbed out religions like Wicca as well as many Native American religions. But our vast storehouse of superstitions doesn’t end there. We have, for the exotically inclined, the aboriginal dream time and its associated beliefs, as well as various hybrids such as voodoo. If it says it is Christian, we have it. Branch Davidianism isn’t dead yet! For you fashion plates, New Age and similar religions (like Anthroposophism and Scientology) are hip and happening, word up! And for those of you who really want to express yourself, we will customize to suit your superstition!

Our quality is second to none, too. Whether you want to work for your own salvation with Buddhist monks, or have it done for you by having blind faith in some divine claimant like Jesus, we can accommodate your heavenly aspirations! Each religion is carefully selected so as to be internally inconsistent, and all of them are the One True Way!!! This guarantees ego gratification and righteousness, while not sacrificing the happy anticipation of future reward!

Our prices are truly competitive, but such quality, selection, and service doesn’t come free! For all of our religions, the base price is your critical faculties. Further, many Western Religions require a further deposit of free will, with ongoing payments of obedience to various outdated and petty rules. Eastern religions also require adherence to many rules. They need a lot of care and attention to maintain proper functioning, and are the most time-consuming. Small price for the grace and splendor of Eastern rituals and the beautiful tolerance! As always, any religion that punishes non-believers eternally comes with a compassion surcharge. Most of our polytheistic (not including Christian Trinitarians) religions and older, so-called primitive religions are basically live-in religions, and so aren’t recommended unless you want to spend most of your time and really immerse yourself in culture!

So, tired of being atheist/agnostic? Tired of always being asked what your religion is? Are you looking for community and an end to all this strife over secularism? Come to The Religion Store! Now open at a convenient location near you.

–Brian Hayward

Tripoli Treaty

Historic Humanist Series

June 10, 1997, marks the bicentennial anniversary of an important event in the concept of the separation of church and state. On June 10, 1797, President John Adams signed a treaty with Tripoli assuring its Muslim population it had no reason to anticipate religious problems in its relationships with the United States of America. Article 11 of that treaty, unanimously ratified by the U.S. Senate, stated “…the government of the United States of America is in no sense founded on the Christian Religion.”

This article emphatically reaffirmed what the framers of the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment clearly intended: the government of the U.S. is neither Christian nor anti-Christian, it is instead religiously neutral, so that every citizen can make religious decisions based on their own conscience.

–Flo Wineriter

Is Euthanasia Ethical?

Richard Layton’s Discussion Group Report

The distinction between active and passive euthanasia is widely thought to be of great moral importance,” says the January 9, 1975, edition of The New England Journal of Medicine in introducing two articles advocating opposing points of view on this subject. “For instance most doctors believe that, although it may sometimes be permissible to withhold treatment and let a patient die, it can never be permissible to directly kill the patient.”

James Rachels challenges this doctrine while Thomas 0. Sullivan upholds it.

Rachels argues that active euthanasia may be more humane than passive euthanasia, that the conventional doctrine leads one to make life-or-death decisions on morally irrelevant grounds, and that the distinction between killing and letting die makes no moral difference. Take the familiar case of the patient who is dying of incurable cancer of the throat and is in terrible pain, which can no longer be satisfactorily eliminated. He is certain to die within a few days, even if present treatment is continued, but he does not want to go on living for those days, since the pain is unbearable. Under the present doctrine the doctor may simply withhold treatment, since it would be wrong to prolong his suffering needlessly. But simply withholding treatment may mean it will take the patient longer to die, and so he may suffer more than he would if a lethal injection were given.

Or there is the case of the baby with Downs syndrome who, as happens with some such babies, is born with a congenital defect such as an intestinal obstruction that requires an operation to save the baby’s life. Sometimes the parents and the doctor decide not to operate and let the infant die. It is a terrible emotional ordeal for a doctor and the hospital staff to stand by and watch as dehydration and infection wither a tiny being over hours and days. Moreover, the decision about whether to save such a baby’s life is being decided on irrelevant grounds. It is the Down’s syndrome, and not the intestines, that is the issue.

What about the possibility of abuse of patients through euthanasia? In the first of two possible cases, Smith stands to gain a large inheritance if anything should happen to his six-year-old cousin. Smith enters the bathroom while the child is bathing, drowns the child, and then arranges things to make it look like an accident. In the second, Jones also stands to gain from the child’s death. He sneaks into the bathroom planning to drown the child. Hut as he approaches him, the boy slips, hits his head, and falls face down in the water. Jones stand by and lets him drown “accidentally.” “Smith killed the child, whereas Jones merely let him die,” says Rachels. Did either man behave better from a moral point of view? Sullivan argues that Rachels has misinterpreted the traditional doctrine on euthanasia, which he says does not depend on the distinction between killing and letting die. Rather it forbids the intentional termination of life, whether by killing or letting die. “The withdrawal of extraordinary means of life support need not involve the intention to terminate life, even if death is foreseen.”

“We are hardly obliged to assume the Jones-like role Rachels assigns the defender of the traditional view. We have the option of operating on the Downs’ baby and saving its life…that is precisely the course of action most defenders of the traditional position would choose.” Rachels’ distinction between active and passive euthanasia is mere jargon; the AMA resolution on euthanasia does not state or imply the distinction Rachel attacks. That it does not seems clear from the fact that the resolution speaks approvingly of ceasing to use extraordinary means of saving the patient in certain cases. The contrast is between ordinary and extraordinary means. Paul Ramsey in The Patient As a Person defines the former as “all medicines, treatments, and operations which offer a reasonable hope of benefit for the patient and which can be obtained and used without excessive expense, pain, and other inconveniences.” Extraordinary means are those which do not meet this definition.

The traditional view is that the intentional termination of human life is impermissible. Is the intention deadly? If so the act or omission is wrong. A physician’s unwillingness to use extraordinary means may be prompted, not by a determination to bring about death, but by other motives, for instance, his realization that further treatment may offer little hope of reversing the dying process and/or be excruciating, as in the case when a massively necrotic bowel condition in a neonate is out of control.” The doctor who does what he can to comfort the infant but does not submit it to further treatment or surgery may foresee that the decision will hasten death, but it certainly doesn’t follow from that fact that he intends to bring about death.

“I fully realize that there are times when those who have the noble duty to tend the sick and the dying are deeply moved by the sufferings of their patients, especially of the very young and the very old, and desperately wish they could do more than comfort and companion them. Then, perhaps, it seems that universal moral principles are mere abstractions having little to do with the agony of the dying. But of course we do not see best when our eyes are filled with tears.”