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Friday, March 25, 2005
Podhoretz: “Soul-Believers” v. “Rationalist”
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:57 am

Rush Limbaugh notes the following column by John Podhoretz

Those who want her to live tend to view life as a gift-a treasure beyond value that has been bestowed upon us and that we therefore have no right to squander. The giver of the gift cannot be seen by the human eye, and the essence of the gift cannot be seen either.

We usually call that essence the “soul.” Our souls define us: They make us who we are in the deepest sense. And they transcend us as well: They are our connection to the divine, to all in the universe that is unseen and unknowable but is still there.

Most religious people share this set of beliefs, which is why those who have pushed hardest to save Schiavo are devout Christians.

The funny thing is that it would seem to me that those who believe that this life is all that we have would be more prone to cling to it no matter what and those who believe in an eternal soul would believe that at some point (and I will grant that it is a difficult point to determine) that that soul ought to be released.

I don’t see the logic that believing in God or an eternal soul automatically means that one has to believe that life should be maintained no matter what.

Understand: I come to this conclusion as one who is a devout Christian who is the member of a very conservative denomination (i.e., Southern Baptist) who has done a good deal of Bible study, and has taught adult Sunday School.

I would argue that Podhoretz creates a false dichotomy in terms of the “rationalist” v. the “soul-believer”. I know some of my secularist friends will disagree, but I do not see those categories as mutually exclusive, nor do I see either as logically leading to a specific conclusion on this case.

I do agree with the final sentence of his piece:

This is not something that anyone should celebrate.

Filed under: Political Philosophy/ Theory, Courts/the Judiciary | |Send TrackBack


  1. The difficulty in all cases (not just the one mentioned) is that a Christian must be very, very careful about hurrying anyone on to the next “good life”.
    That’s a good excuse for a hell of a lot of evil, in all but the most saintly hands. There are few that are equipped to wield such power righteously. In fact, I can only think of One.

    Comment by Meezer — Friday, March 25, 2005 @ 12:46 pm

  2. I agree with the basic sentiment.

    However, my question is about the logical consistency in saying that there is another life, yet one must cling to this one no matter what.

    Why should it logically follow that those who see the body as a “machine” be more willing to invite death? And why is it more logical for one who believe in eternity to argue that life must be preserved in an absolutist position?

    Comment by Steven Taylor — Friday, March 25, 2005 @ 12:49 pm

  3. I happen to think that those who are fighting so hard to maintain “life at any cost” must be very afraid of what they are going to encounter on the other side. That’s the only explanation I can come up with for people of so-called faith to fight so hard for a life that isn’t.

    Comment by Davette — Friday, March 25, 2005 @ 12:51 pm

  4. Another factor that plays into this is that many non-Christians seem to think that we consider this life a giant “waiting room” with us holding a ticket until our number is called. Naturally there is no reason to linger in a waiting room. My own brand of Christianity (LDS) thinks of life as a 500 level course with a pretty tough final. I don’t want to take the test til I’ve had *all* the lectures and labs to prepare me as much as possible. Therefore there is no desire to “skip” the last half of the semester (and I spend a lot of time in the tutoring lab, too!)
    So it follows that we don’t want to push someone else before they’ve had all the preparation time they need. (This does not apply to Terri, but to many others who are in danger, as some think, of being pushed out of this life a little quickly)

    Comment by Meezer — Friday, March 25, 2005 @ 1:52 pm

  5. Very good points Steven. It seems that people like Podhoretz and Limbaugh need to revisit St. Thomas Aquinas. You would think that someone, like Podhoretz, who studied with Allan Bloom would know better.

    Comment by Kappiy — Friday, March 25, 2005 @ 4:49 pm

  6. The article said that those who want her to live “tend” to believe, and that “most” religious people believe… These statements in the article are true to anyone who can see and here. To find one person, a Dr Steven Taylor, who doesn’t want her to live in no way contradicts the statements in the article. As a side note, having ones name on the rolls of a church does not guarantee entry to heavan, rather accepting Jesus into your heart and being made a new creation does.

    Comment by bruce — Saturday, March 26, 2005 @ 8:16 am

  7. Bruce,

    Oddly enough, I am well aware of that fact.

    Further, it is telling how emotional this issue has become that your reaction to my statement is to question my Christianity. There is not need fo that to be your initial reaction. Since when was the litmus test as to one’s spiritual condition the way one view the Schiavo case?

    Comment by Steven Taylor — Saturday, March 26, 2005 @ 9:02 am

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