Being Honest About Religion

Being Honest About Religion

It has been alleged that Savita Halappanavar, who was seventeen weeks pregnant, died in an Irish hospital after being denied an abortion - an abortion which might have saved her life. Her husband, who begged the doctors to help, was told "This is a Catholic country" and that whilst the baby had a heart beat they would not carry out an abortion.

If they have made a decision which caused a women to die in pain- based on religion and not their duties as doctors then they have failed in their duty to preserve her life and should face sanctions.

Of course, this touches, on the whole debate around abortion and all that that involves. It is an important debate and it matters because it is about life and death - the lives of mothers and the lives of unborn children but I don't think religion should be involved.

Few people know what exactly what was said and in what context - it is possible (for the sake of argument) that a poor distraught husband may have misunderstood what he was told.

What is clear though is that whatever was said - the fact that Ireland is a Catholic country probably did effect the way this poor women was treated. It is a Catholic country in the sense that large parts of public policy and culture have been heavily influenced the Catholic Church.

I married into an Irish family - two members of which were raised in a Catholic run children's home - a place where illegitimate children were put to work in a laundry service - and that whilst they were there because of the death of their mother - they still experienced a very austere, loveless, regime.

I have no religious believes - I do not believe in any god or gods or any sort of afterlife. For me - someone dying because of someone else's religious belief is plainly wrong. We get one life and we should not treat it lightly - a vague belief that we all get a second chance in some ill-defined after - life suggests some may take a careless approach to the lives of other people.

The doctors may not have been thinking about religion when they decided not to terminate the pregnancy - but there must be serious questions to be answered about how Ireland got to the where it is in terms of abortion. There is a lack of clarity on abortion in Ireland which is made clear by recent comments by leading Irish politicians and this must surely be in part because of the influence of religion on public policies.

I know that the vast majority of people who are religious want to do good or at least no harm to others and that there are many religious people who do courageous and good things to help other people - but this does not mean that other religious people should be allowed to let people die because of their particular views on how the Universe is ordered.

If people are going to base their decisions that effect the lives of others on religious belief it should be done openly and transparently so that it can subject to debate and scrutiny by the rest of society.

This is not just a debate for Ireland - there are people in the UK Government and other positions of responsibility - past and present - with strong religious views.

The personal religious views of other people are non of anybody else's business except if they are making decisions that effect the lives, well being or rights of other people based on those beliefs.

Many say that we get our morals from religion - I disagree - I think religions have taken their morals from the society in which they were formed in and have adapted them (sometimes very slowly) as time has gone by to match the wider societies in which they exist.

We are all entitled to hold whatever views we like about how the Universe was created and who - if anyone - is running it; but we should not be free to treat other people badly or to deny them their rights as citizens. All too often - in public debates in this country - the argument for religious freedom appears to be defined as being a freedom to deny other people's rights - the right of others to get married - the right of others to stay overnight in boarding houses and the right of people in same sex relationships to receive counseling.

In this case Savita Halappanavar it was about her right to life.


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