As one who has lived in and studies multiple cultures around the world, I am often intrigued by how cultures observe and value life. In economically undeveloped or developing countries, life generally holds a low value. This view is not completely confined to these countries with first world countries now beginning to embrace a reduced value on human life as evident through actions and policies.
The loss of a life is much more of a tangible daily reality in undeveloped and developing countries than most westerners have every experienced. Where I currently live, mortality rates for children under the age of 5 is around 1 in 10 and the average life expectancy is officially somewhere between 60-70 years although that seems very generous. It is not unusual to regularly hear of people dying in their 30’s and 40’s. Just last month we experienced six adults in their prime, die in a village of only 1000 people. Much of this is preventable but because life is so easily lost and therefore not highly valued, the priority of eliminating the threat of death is not high because it is ‘fighting a losing battle’.
The point is that life is held very loosely and has thus become cheapened. This has led to certain practices in developing countries such as parents not being legally able to find out the gender of their unborn child. Because of government programs to control population explosion based on economic conditions, families are heavily ‘encouraged’ to only have 1 or 2 children. Without a welfare system in these countries, their children are their retirement plan. Male children therefore become very important. Having 2 girls means one thing, a very poor retirement plan! Combine this mentality on gender in children with a reduced value of life and that is partly why we see so many abortions in these countries. I had one friend studying medicine in one Asian country and before he could be registered as a doctor, he first had to perform a minimum of 50 abortions because they would be such as big part of his medical practice. Makes sense right? It does to these people! Does that make it right? Who are we to say … right? This is a result of a relative philosophy so I assume that no atheist or agnostic would have a problem with gender based abortions in these countries or any other for that matter. They seem to make sense in a world of relative morals … right?
Historically, we in the west have placed a very high value on the right to life and the value of life. This ideal has been around for hundreds of years, mentioned in documents such the constitution of the US. The philosophy that life mattered was established long before the invention of the ultrasound and the understanding of embryonic development in the womb. Why was this the case? What separates our traditional view of life with those in the undeveloped and developing countries? From my experiences, the common denominator is a faith in the God of the Bible. While the western nations were not necessarily founded as Christian nations, they were heavily influenced by individual Christians and Christian theology. There are numerous passages that speak of God and His hand in our creation such as Job 31:15, Ps 17:14-15, Ps 127:3, Ps 139:13-16, and Isa 44:2. This, I believe, is at least partly why the west has traditionally held to life holding the greatest value. Life is of greatest value because it is a gift from God.
When I speak of the west undermining the intrinsic value of life, I am not only concerned about the abortion that takes place everyday. What is just as concerning is the talk I am hearing more of in regard to sterilization. I believe that in Oregon, under Obamacare, there is a trial taking place where children from the age of 15 can be sterilized for life without parental permission (read here). This seems to be another indicator that the eugenics of 100 years ago never died but has rather laid dormant and is becoming popular again through organizations such as Planned Parenthood, and policies such as Obamacare. It is subtle and dangerous.
If my philosophy is relative, I believe that mankind has it’s origins in apes and primordial slime, and my morals are not absolute, can I justify ALL human life as valuable? Why keep around someone who is mental disabled and unable to contribute anything to this world; or so we think? Why not allow someone to kill themselves if they are getting old and tired of life; where euthanasia will always lead? Why not kill the 20 week old baby in-vitro who will only bring emotional and financial hardship to the single mum enjoying the sensual benefits of a boyfriend without a thought for the responsibility? It seems the only lives worth keeping around in a post modern world are those that bring a positive contribution without being a burden to anyone.
I believe that it is only through the absolute morality given by the transcendent, creator God of the Bible that we find and maintain value in ALL human life. If the West continues to reject Christ and the Scriptures, the value of ALL human life will continue to erode with it. As a house without a strong foundation will collapse, so will our lives, communities, and nations. Life will be come cheap and that is one hopeless and fearful place to be. I know in part, because I have seen it and experienced it.