The Associated Press is reporting that a late-term abortion doctor, George Tiller, has been shot to death at his church, Sunday, May 31, 2009.
The doctor was 67 years old and had survived at least one other attempt on his life. No suspect is yet in custody.
Wow! Where to start? Death and murder are all around us, so it shouldn’t be surprising that a controvertial doctor would be murdered, especially an abortion doctor who practices late-term abortions. The doctor obviously believed in the right of a woman to have an abortion and had the courage of his convictions. But the alleged assailant also had the courage of his convictions, and will be regarded as a hero by many.
This is one situation where the theists and the atheists might not necessarily agree or get along. The fundamentalist Christian believes in the sanctity of human life. Moreover, the fundamentalist Christian believes that human life begins at conception. The atheist doesn’t believe in the sanctity of human life, to the extent that something can only be sanctified by God.
That doesn’t mean that atheists don’t value human life. We do. And I can’t speak for all atheists, nor do I want to. But the atheist is maybe a little more willing to allow the woman the choice of whether to terminate her pregnancy at any stage, for any reason.
Both are strongly held beliefs, and when murder seems to be the only way to express one’s strongly held belief, then I think it’s the result of frustration, born of a lack of common ground.
Sure, we can mostly get along, maybe dine together, even call each other friend. But when it comes to the core of our beliefs, the sanctity of human life or the rights of a woman to choose, it seems that for some people there can be no common ground between these beliefs.
Maybe there is, in fact, no common ground between these beliefs. Maybe there is nothing good for each side to find in the other. Can the fundamentalist Christian find anything good in the aborting of late-term fetuses? Can the liberal atheist find anything good in restricting the freedoms of a woman’s choice?
I would like to make a personal comment here. Although I am an atheist, I am also strongly against abortion in almost all situations. My journey toward spirituality has taken me along the road toward believing more in the sanctity of human life. Yes, there is something sacred about it, sacred in the sense that it is special and rare, deserving of all our will to protect it. Human life, as is possibly all life, is mysterious. And while I’m not ready to attribute this mystery to God, I acknowledge its mystery.
Maybe the common ground is this: We should be able to do away with all abortions. As a society, we should be able to provide for the “unwanted” baby. The girl (and boy) who have sex and get pregnant should at least make the sacrifice to carry the baby to full term and deliver the baby. If at that point the baby is still “unwanted”, then the mother should have the right to give up the baby to someone who will love it and provide for it. That is the minimum we should expect regarding our behavior toward “unwanted” babies.
And I won’t apologize for believing this.