The embryonic stem cell research debate is steeped with religious arguments, with some faith traditions convinced the research amounts to killing innocent life, others citing the moral imperative to alleviate suffering, and plenty of religious believers caught somewhere in between.
President Barack Obama’s order Monday opening the door for federal taxpayer dollars to fund expanded embryonic stem cell research again brings those often colliding interests to the fore.
Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, called Obama’s move “a sad victory of politics over science and ethics.”
“Sad victory of politics over science and ethics”? What is sad is to stop science from finding a cure for terminal illnesses and paralysis all in order to save the life of frozen embryos which would otherwise end up being destroyed. How can it be a sad thing when these embryos that would otherwise be destroyed would be used to help save the life of others. Isn’t it better to use what the embryos can give to others?
“This action is morally wrong because it encourages the destruction of innocent human life, treating vulnerable human beings as mere products to be harvested,” Rigali, the archbishop of Philadelphia, said in a statement.
These “innocent lives” are already being destroyed. What is going to happen if they are not used for medical research? My question to them is why are they so concerned about this “innocent life” that is not implanted where that life can be sustained? Take it out of the freezer and it dies quickly.
Some groups and faiths are divided on the issue. Muslims disagree over — among other things — whether an embryo in the early stage of development has a soul. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormon church, has not taken a position.
If embryos that would otherwise be destroyed not be allowed for stem cell research, then other lives are lost in addition to the life of the embryo all because of some people’s superstitious beliefs about embryos having a “soul”. Well, they also believe that everyone has a soul. What about the soul of the already living person who was carried to term and born into this world? If they believe that it is “God’s will” to allow that person’s “soul” to “fly up to heaven” then why do they have a problem with the soul of an embryo going to a place they believe they are eventually going anyway? God believers contradict themselves on this afterlife business all the time.
Fortunately, despite their delusional beliefs, there are believers on the side of common sense who look at this stem cell decision in a positive way (and that includes our new president).
On the other side is the Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, a United Church of Christ minister and a professor at Chicago Theological Seminary.
“There is an ethical imperative to relieve suffering and promote healing,” she said. “This is good policy for a religiously pluralistic society that cares about human suffering and the relief of human suffering.”
Obama alluded to religion in announcing the changes, saying, “As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering. I believe we have been given the capacity and will to pursue this research and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly.”
As people of faith and non-faith, we are all supposed to care for each other and work to ease human suffering. Obama failed to make that point, implying that only those of faith care about such things.
Some religious traditions teach that because life begins at conception, any research that destroys a human embryo, as this research does, is tantamount to murder and is never justified. The Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention are among those that oppose the research.
How can it be murder when the embryo is outside of its mothers womb and unable to sustain itself on its own? Keeping it in a freezer forever also will kill it. They are only good for so long. Then they are disposed of. These folks should be fighting for the lives of those who were born into this world and who are in need of help them live as long as they can. These two denominations mentioned above are more focused on death and afterlife than they are the here and now so they should be jumping for joy when all these little embryos get their wings and fly up to heaven.
Other more liberal traditions, including mainline Protestant and Jewish institutions, believe the promise to relieve suffering is paramount. In 2004, the governing body of the Episcopal Church said it would favor the research as long as it used embryos that otherwise would have been destroyed, that embryos were not created for research purposes, or were not bought and sold.
This is where I draw the line, also. I think that it would be unethical to create embryos to be harvested specifically for research purposes. They should not be bought or sold, but I can see where that would happen anyway. There are those who will create their own little embryo businesses for profit, and that in my opinions is just wrong. However, the embryos that are frozen and never used will be destroyed anyway, and I think that using them for scientific research would be something good that comes from them ever being conceived.
The good news is:
Polls show some believers are willing to buck their leaders on the issue. Fifty-nine percent of white, non-Hispanic Catholics and 58 percent of white mainline Protestants favor embryonic stem cell research, according to a poll released in July 2008 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
But most evangelical Christians still have a problem with it:
Only 31 percent of white evangelical Protestants, however, favored the research.
Many of those other 60% of evangelicals against stem cell research would be changing their minds if they or their child came down with a terminal illness or paralysis and they see prayers don’t work. Just like they run to medical science now to cure them when they are sick or injured instead of waiting for their god to heal them.