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The Wondering Due

Every year, five million Catholics from all around the world visit the Vatican, never-see-come-for-Holy See. Two million Muslims make the hadj to Mecca, a pilgrimage required by every one of all of the many versions of Islam. Another million Catholics find their way to Medjugore, to stand on the same spot where, in 1981, six children imagined they saw the ghost of a virgin who, two millennia before, apparently gave birth to God.

Last week, a single individual, made a far less irrational pilgrimage of his own to a place that was far more important, for all humanity, than the combined religious tourism destinations of the world: London-born ecologist and botanist, Professor David Goodall, aged 104, left Australia and went to Switzerland, one of half-a-dozen or so states in the world that allow assisted suicide, where, with the aid of the humanist group, Exit International, he died, happily, a week ago; one hesitates to add, “God bless him”.

But, if there is a God who is common to all humanity (not just the maximum billion or so who might feverishly swear loyalty to him by his holy book), that All-God or One-God could not have chosen a more fitting messenger than Professor Goodall to deliver the messages human beings need to hear now, more than ever before:

All people are equally deserving of love and respect, regardless of how much hatred may be provoked in others in reaction to their skin colour, gender, or whom they happen to love; there is no afterlife to come, all you get is this one shot, do your best; there are no holy wars and there is no martyrdom (and no X-amount of virgins to be raped in Heaven, either, no matter how zealously murder for your God); no injustice can be made right by men in dresses shouting everybody else down on behalf of a silent God; and the human rights of ten cc of spermatozoa are simply not equal to those of a living woman.

The videos of Professor Goodall or his story online should persuade anyone not blinded by doctrine that his was an example worth following, both in life and in death.

For myself, I’m searching the Internet for a David Goodall T-shirt; if I can wear the Rolling Stones, the Roots or Bob Marley on my chest, I can declare, for all the world to see (or at least that portion of it as might look at me) that, “Here is a man worthy of emulation.”

Thirty-nine years ago, at the University of the West Indies, as part of my LLB, I did a paper on the legalisation of euthanasia. I still described myself, then, on forms, as, “Catholic”. I began my research fully expecting it to confirm what my religious upbringing had taught me: that only God could create and, ergo, destroy life and lowly humans could not usurp the role of the Almighty.

It was the most upsetting scholarly endeavour of my life.

Dig as I might, and I dug mightily and deeply, my research unearthed no legal, ethical or moral objection to the ending of life, if it brought the welcome ending of suffering. Minor cultural reservations were easily overcome by reason.

Only religious belief – which, even then, I could discern was completely made up (or, if you think God gives a firetruck, “revealed”) – claimed to know better than law, reason, morality and ethics.

I wasn’t 21 years old yet and I remember, today, how shocked I was to discover that the real world could come to such a different conclusion from the one imagined by my own faith.

Until then, what was right had pretty much lined up with what was taught by my church.

And it nearly killed me to acknowledge that the real world was right.

What it did kill, eventually, was my acceptance of anything that was simply asserted, without proof, no matter how aggressive the assertion, or how fervent the belief of the fantasist.

There is a Christian legend of “The Wandering Jew”, a man who supposedly taunted Jesus Christ to carry his cross faster to Calvary. Jesus, according to the myth, replied, “I go. But you will wait until I return.” And so the Wandering Jew now roams the Earth, waiting for the Second Coming, so that his suffering will end. The medieval English chronicler, Roger of Wendover, in the year 1228, reported meeting a man in Armenia who claimed he had been Pontius Pilate’s doorman; he was the Wandering Jew.

Consider Professor Goodall, and how he came peacefully to his own end last week; and consider the Muslim parents who pressganged their own children into suicide bombings to murder Indonesian Christians.

And ask yourself where your wondering is due.

BC Pires is preying for God

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