On Wednesday, 18 January, I spoke, on behalf of Reason Australia, to a group of about 40 people at the Maroochydore branch of Dying with Dignity (Voluntary Euthanasia Society) Queensland.
(Illustrated) audio is now available online in 2 x 15 minute videos.
Here’s the crux of my speech:
“… it’s probably not going to come as a great shock to you when I suggest that most of the misinformation about [voluntary euthanasia] comes from religious institutions and their fundamentalist supporters.
But, today, I’m going to take this argument further. I’m going to suggest that you aren’t the only victims of religiously motivated propaganda. I’m going to suggest looking at the issue of voluntary euthanasia more broadly; and I’m going to ask you to consider forming alliances with groups which are fighting on other fronts, but which share the same broad goals as you.
And what are those goals? It seems to me, you aren’t just fighting for the legalisation of voluntary euthanasia. In broader terms you’re fighting for a secular government, for a clear separation between religion and state. Because, if we had a truly secular government – one which based its policy decisions on reason and credible evidence – voluntary euthanasia would be legalised tomorrow …
The forces that oppose voluntary euthanasia are the same forces responsible for the pernicious infiltration of evangelical religion into our governments – and particularly into education, health and welfare, They’re the ones delaying justice for those who’ve been sexually or physically abused by the clergy. It’s religious groups and their supporters who oppose stem-cell research. These are the same people who believe their values should determine what websites you can access on the internet, or what movies you should be allowed to see.
At the very core of all these disputes is your right to freedom from other people’s religions. On this basis, the battle to be able to die with dignity, is not that different to the battles being fought over, let’s say:
- women’s reproductive rights
- same-sex marriage and adoption rights
- the insanity of placing evangelical religious chaplains into schools at the expense of youth workers with tertiary qualifications in mental health.
Any of these issues might be won tomorrow if governments could be persuaded not to buckle under pressure from religious groups and, instead, make decisions based on credible evidence. ”
I’ll be speaking on this same topic at Dying with Dignity’s NSW AGM and conference in Sydney on 24 March 2012. The public are welcome to attend. Contact DWD NSW for more information.
There’s been a largely positive response to the speech – particularly in comments to the version of the newspaper article published online.
One of the audience members on Wednesday asked why, when gay marriage affects such a very small proportion of the population and voluntary euthanasia potentially effects 100 per cent, the gay lobby is getting all the attention. I replied, “Because they’re better lobbyists than you.”
All of us, for example, could learn a lot from the efforts of Alex Greenwich and his Australian Marriage Equality lobby.
I did have quite a giggle at one of the letters to the editor in this morning’s daily which reminds me somewhat of a Ronald Reagan movie – it’s so bad, so full of wrong, that it’s actually incredibly entertaining:
“Religious atheist preacher and author Chrys Stevenson told the govern-bent that religious groups (other than her own) often used misinformation and discredited research to prop up their own ideology. What, and the church of atheism doesn’t?” Atheism is as much about faith as any other belief. Still haven’t found those missing links yet have we, Chrys?” – Greg , Caloundra
But then, there was this:
Chrys Stevenson, it’s good to see someone standing up for a secular government. Religion – any religion – has no place in government, especially in a multi-cultural, modern nation like Autralia. The only way to ensure fairness for everyone is by keeping the law and government segregated from religion. We aren’t living n the dark ages any more, where the most ignorant screams the loudest. So let’s hope the government is swayed by researched logic rather than unsupported beliefs. Chrys, you have respect and support from me and my family.” – CP, Warana
So there’s hope, yet, isn’t there?
Thanks CP, whoever you are.
If you’re at the Sunshine Coast and agree with the sentiments expressed in the video, please consider joining the Sunshine Coast Atheists. For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org