The (Non)Sanctity of Life

Some Christians, maybe not fundamentalist ones, but still some Christians, regard the Story of Creation in Genesis as a metaphorical tale that carries less literal fact and more philosophical teaching. Primarily, the Sanctity of Life.

The Sanctity of Life is almost the most important element of Christianity, second only to the whole ‘God thing’. And not just Christianity. Every major religion holds life as the most sacred thing upon our Earth. Either because it is seen as a divine gift or because Life is just seen to hold a basic and intrinsic worth. An infinite worth.

This idea is so simple and obvious that it has spread to secular beliefs and is a commonplace notion from the realms of veganism to anti-abortion protests. The only disagreements are generally around how the finer details of how to apply the Sanctity of Life to the relevant issue. That’s why I want to, as you may have guessed from the title, challenge the very core of the notion itself.

This may seem controversial — heartless even. And perhaps it is. Perhaps being one year in to an Economics A Level course has blackened my soul and left me a cold, calculating husk of a banker. However, don’t write me off too quickly because I think there could be something within my bizarre musings.

Let me begin to lay out my argument. The basic idea of the Sanctity of Life holds that all life is INTRINSICALLY valuable. It lives therefore it has value. I propose that the value of life is instead derived extrinsically. Life is not inherently valuable but creates its own value.

I think the clearest way to express what I’m trying to say is to examine the two ideas in relation to the opposite of life — death. Specifically the question of why death, and particularly premature death, is such a tragedy. The traditional view is that because Life is necessarily good, divine even, that the absence of Life must be bad. However, I posit that Death is bad and murder evil for a different reason. It is not the loss of life that makes Death awful but the loss of all the privileges, opportunities and wonderful moments that accompany Life. I think that it is these things that we gain through life and lose through death that give life its worth.

To avoid misunderstanding I would like to be clear that I am not equating the worth of a person’s life to their achievements. Instead, their potential to be a force for good is what makes a living person important . To make someone feel better. To care for other people. Or simply just to be happy, even if only slightly. This is not to say that genius scientists who can cure cancer have earned more worth than an alcoholic who can’t hold a job down. You see, this is where my theory adds a dash of optimism. It is not the scale of a person’s potential that matters but the fact that they have potential in the first place. And everyone has potential. And as a product of either millions of years of natural selection or actual DIVINE INTERVENTION!!! we all carry acres of the stuff. Some squander it. And some are so depressed that they don’t even see the stuff in the first place. But the point is that it exists. And as long as life exists that potential exists with it. As a living person it is inescapable until death. And that is why life is so valuable. Because in all the aeons of time since the universe began it is the only moment that there is that potential. The briefest window for you to not just exist but to bloody well get off your ass and get on with it.

This concludes a slightly more philosophical piece of writing than I typically churn out. I probably ripped off some poor, underacknowledged philosopher and if anyone knows who that mystery philosopher might be please tell me so I can give due credit. Otherwise, I hope that you enjoyed my ramblings. If you did, then well done for getting through it all, give yourself a break (and maybe a cookie) and consider plowing through to read more of nonsense. Good Night.

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