Posted by: Witch Doctor | January 5, 2012

The Atheist / Humanist predicament (or not)


Once upon a time, when The Witch Doctor was very young – about the age of four, she used to sit beside her mother on a big couch in front of a blazing coal fire in the bleak mid-winter evenings. She would be drinking a cup of hot, milky cocoa before going to bed.

It was story-telling-time for the young witch child. They were usually the “normal” children’s stories like Cinderella, Red-Riding Hood, Snow-White etc. but often they were not read out of a book but were told with the addition of various embellishments in her mother’s own words.

Some of the stories that she heard have never since been encountered elsewhere by The Witch Doctor, and so she assumes they originated purely from her mother’s imagination.

There was one very brief and simple story that was a particular favourite of The Witch Doctor and she often asked for it to be repeated again and again on these winter nights.

She can’t for the life of work out why she liked this story so much because it was a bit gruesome for a child. Some children might think it even more gruesome than a wolf eating Red-Riding Hood’s granny. Since The Witch Doctor was not really into gruesome tales the fact she liked this one must have been something to do with the way her mother told it, the words she used, and the expression on her face.

Essentially, the story was about a little boy whose mother had died. One day he stepped off from the pavement in front of a car and was killed. He met up with his mother again in Heaven. So everyone was happy.

End of story.

That was all there was to it!

Now that The Witch Doctor is older and wiser, she asks herself:

“What was that childhood story her mother told her really about?”

Firstly, it was always about a little boy, never a girl. Was this because her mother did not want to personalise it in a way that pointed to the WD being that child?

Secondly, could it have been a road safety story, warning that children should take great care when crossing roads? If so this was never enlarged upon during it’s telling. Furthermore, it could be argued that it might encourage a bereaved child to walk in front of a car so that he could find himself in Heaven with those he loved.

Thirdly, could it have been a story that was handed down? Was it a family story told to my mother when she herself was very young? You see, the Witch Doctor’s mother was an orphan. Her father died when she was two and her mother when she was only six years old. Had relatives tried to lighten her mother’s burden by indicating that her parents were alive and well in Heaven and waiting for her there?

Fourthly, could it have been that The Witch Doctor’s mother thought she herself was dying and was trying to prepare the way for some kind of coping strategy for her own young daughter’s grief?

The latter is a distinct possibility, but that tale is for another day.

For some weird reason, The Witch Doctor remembered this story when she read about the current reactivation of the euthanasia debate (for the moment they are calling it “assisted suicide”)

Here we go again, thought The Witch Doctor. It’s like the Irish Referendum. This lot will come back again and again till they get the vote through.

There will be safeguards.

Of course there will……..

Then there will be Creep.

Of course there will……..

Assisted suicide should be legal, says major report to parliament.

“MPs should consider changing the law on assisted suicide to allow some terminally ill people to end their lives at home with the help of their doctor, a major report into the subject has concluded.

The Commission on Assisted Dying, chaired by the former lord chancellor Lord Falconer, says a choice to end their own lives could be safely offered to some people with terminal illnesses, provided stringent safeguards were observed.”

It has always seemed to The Witch Doctor that many of those most vociferous about a change in law in favour of assisted suicide and euthanasia are those devout followers of the Atheist and Humanist religions.

If an individual has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, or as Creep inevitably progresses, has not been diagnosed with a terminal illness, but are simply aged and lonely, or perhaps not aged but just lonely, why should they not be assisted to die or euthanased since they believe their loved ones are patiently waiting for them in that same Heaven that The Witch Doctor heard about in her tender years?

Why should an assisted suicide law not allow them die in order to be with those who care about them? Surely lonely people spending eternity with loved ones is a more justifiable reason for assisted suicide/euthanasia that spending it in the powdered ashes of oblivion?

I wonder what the most devout followers of the Atheist and Humanist religions might say about that, My Black Cat?

You think they would just say: “The Witch Doctor is a silly old Bat!”

But that would be very judgemental. We are living in a country where diversity, tolerance and choice are paramount.

Aren’t we, My Black Cat?

The Witch Doctor – Link to a random page





© Dlundin |


  1. Happy new year WD.

    It is a very interesting story from your mother. I really do not know what it means.

    Euthenasia is a common bedfellow with Athiesm. If one believes that extinction follows death, and ones life is no longer one where any pleasure reigns, then dying is desireable.

    In most religions suicide is regarded as a significant sin, with consequences in the afterlife. I think this is because the suicide usurps the perogative of God to choose the time of death. My concept of God is that He is a rathrr forgiving sort and not likely to be hard on someone who commits suicide in distress. He may well not take the same view of some of the Angels of Death who come out of the woodwork as enthusiasts for killing others.

  2. Mmmh ‘tis a thoughtful post WD on the possibility and probability of Creep in “assisted suicide” should it become legal – for Creep it surely will.

    I do understand that those with a terminal illness experiencing exquisite pain will welcome death and I guess the provision of the LCP quickens the final days – and in essence I have no problem with this – yet the LCP has taken on a ‘life’ of its own and in some instances has allowed doctors and indeed nurses to become harbingers of death in that they anticipate death is imminent whether it is or not – how easy it is to become hardened to death, tick the boxes in a grotesque routine way – a slippery slope – but I guess that is another matter.

    Interesting article here in which the author describes the “Slippery slope: ‘loneliness,’ ‘fatigue’ now criteria for euthanasia in Netherlands.”

    “The Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG) has released new guidelines for interpreting the 2002 Euthanasia Act that now includes “mental and psychosocial ailments” such as “loss of function, loneliness and loss of autonomy” as acceptable criteria for euthanasia. The guidelines also allow doctors to connect a patient’s lack of “social skills, financial resources and a social network” to “unbearable and lasting suffering,” opening the door to legal assisted death based on “psychosocial” factors, not terminal illness.
    The June 2011 position paper, titled “The Role of the Physician in the Voluntary Termination of Life” concludes that the “concept of suffering” is “broader” than its “interpretation and application by many physicians today.”
    Included in a broader interpretation of suffering would be “disorders affecting vision, hearing and mobility, falls, confinement to bed, fatigue, exhaustion and loss of fitness,” according to the authors.”

    “Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director and International Chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition committee responded to the new guidelines, saying that in his view “the expansion of euthanasia and assisted suicide has been constant and deliberate.”
    Schadenberg warned that what has happened in the Netherlands can—and will—occur in other jurisdictions, if euthanasia and/or assisted suicide is legalized.
    When the Netherlands sanctioned euthanasia for emotionally ill patients in 1994, Karl Gunning, head of the Dutch Doctors’ Union warned the country of the “slippery slope” it was sliding down.
    “We have always predicted that once you start looking at killing as a means to solve problems, then you’ll find more and more problems where killing can be the solution,” he said.”

    Another side of euthanasia is a href=””>here in which a Dutch doctor describes the emotions involved in ‘doing the deed’ – worryingly she has no ethical problems in assisting in ‘mercy killing’ – or at least will not admit to.

    Unfortunately it is possible and probable that eventually “assisted suicide” will become legal and then the Creep, the slippery slope Alex Schadenberg clearly warns us of will begin.

    I am an atheist WD – yet a firm believer in the sanctity of life and that life is not something we should dispose of with indifference – for indifferent we shall surely become.

    Anna :o]

  3. Oops – problems with both links! First one should be:

    Anna :o]

  4. I would be wary of generalisations here, WD. It’s true that the likes of the British Humanist Association is supporting euthanasia; they had an article on their website today opining that the Lord Falconer report didn’t go far enough. But the last vote the BMA had on voluntary euthanasia was 35% for and 65% against and I can’t imagine that all of them went to church. Similarly, up here in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon opposed Margo McDonald’s bill. I don’t know what her personal beliefs are, but I know that when she got married that she opted for a civil wedding. It cuts the other way as well; I was with a group of people who are all church goers and someone brought the subject up and we could not agree on it.

    I would echo what Dr P says; that although suicide is proscribed by my church, they do take the attitude that responsibility is greatly lessened by extreme distress, either physical or mental and that we should leave judgements about that to God. What they are absolutely totally against is assistance in that act, sanctioned by the state. It is seen as a threat to the sick and vulnerable and asking one person to be the judge of another’s worth (or the judge of their own worth).

    One of the things that bothered me about the Margo McDonald bill was that the word ‘patient’ was in quotation marks all the way through the draft. That led me to ask; why was this the case? Did this mean that the patient might not be a patient ie someone who was not medically ill? And if that was the case, then what would the role of a doctor become if he was asked to assist in such a case? As Anna points out, this is now happening in Holland. They keep coming back and as I speak, Margo McDonald is gearing up to have another go in Scotland. Having said that,there has been an important shift in policy up here; Nicola Sturgeon has brought in spot checks for nursing homes, once a year and there is now a dementia strategy getting put in place. This is what I have been looking for; a positive sign that we are actually preparing to take care of people actively and not just let it pan out any way it wants by default. I don’t see a shift in Westminster on this yet, sadly.

  5. It might be expected that many from all religious backgrounds and those with none will have views, when considered initially on a superficial basis, that suffering should be relieved humanely by assisted suicide / euthanasia if that is the patient’s will. However, after deeper consideration, it may well be that many of these people from all backgrounds, religious beliefs or disbeliefs may change their minds completely about it when they give the subject due consideration and recognise the possible harms that could come from legalising it.

    It seems to me there is a subgroup of people that I have carefully called “devout followers of the Atheist and Humanist religions.” who appear not to be representative of the ordinary non-believers but rather seem to have some kind of missionary zeal to convert others to their way of thinking on these matters. They seem to emerge again and again when it comes to a desire to change the law. They may be relatively few in number but make up for it in persistence, articulation, and influence. No doubt they all have their individual reasons for promoting this cause.

    Even MBC is getting very twitched indeed about the developments in The Netherlands.

  6. Here’s something else for MBC to get twitchy about. Make sure that you’re not holding any hot drinks when you’re reading this, WD..

  7. And where is the website you can go to to download the report?

    Why, it belongs to one of The Intertwingled Triplets of course!

    Goodness, MBC is a great one for hunting rats during The Witching Hour!

  8. […] The Witch Doctor […]

  9. […] Why can’t the extremely healthy but lonely, grieving, individual choose to be helped to die because they want to meet their beloved relatives in Heaven? […]


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