Behind the narcissistic attitudes exhibited by many people in today’s society, behind the “death with dignity” slogan fostered by the euthanasia movement, behind much of existential philosophy which believes everything is relative, allowing persons to do what they want, is the desire for the beholder of these viewpoints to be God. To this list we can add the problem of pride, not hate, which for many Christians is the antithesis of love. Each of these has the problem of turning ourselves into our own deity, with the false idea that we are not only the most important person in the universe, but are also totally in control of our lives and destiny.
The main character in the novel The Stranger by Albert Camus is the quintessential existentialist. Throughout the book he continues to hold that life has no meaning. His brief encounters with other people have no lasting value. His life is very individualistic. Nothing matters. It makes no difference whether one lives or dies, marries or stays single. There are no absolutes, everything is relative. As a result, life, and one’s very existence, is futile. Mankind is inconsequential. He has no worth nor dignity. He is a stranger, even to himself.
The outgrowth of this existential philosophy has dire consequences for today’s world, and easily leads one to be a proponent of euthanasia. If individual humans have no dignity; we are not much more than a blob of protoplasm. If life has no meaning, it cannot be considered to be sacred. As a consequence, the only remaining dignity that a person can have, as its proponents argue, is to die with “dignity”. Society, as a whole, has bought into the viewpoint that non productive individuals have no value, thus no dignity. This attitude primarily impacts the most fragile in society – the unborn, the infant, the elderly and those with special needs. If life itself has no meaning, they become expendable, as we have seen in the mandated end of life counseling in the new national health care laws and in Roe versus Wade.
In assisted suicide, we see attempts to play God. We strive to be in control of our own destiny, choosing for ourselves the moment of death. Ironically, the loss of real dignity that our modern worldview has foistered upon us only makes the void more noticeable as we vainly strive to seek to find some final dignity in the moment of death, a dignity that has eluded us in our existential existence.
The advocates of abortion have succumbed to the false view of dignity that our society holds. If dignity and worth are tied to what we do, infants and the unborn have no value, for they are not productive individuals. Instead they are a drain on society because they require so much of our attention. As such, they are a burden, thus expendable. To solve this difficulty, ancient societies practiced infant abandonment and exposure. Our society practices abortion.
Our loss of dignity contributes to the narcissism so prevalent in our society. The narcissist, as a lover of self, thinks only of himself and his pleasure. Without the significance that comes from having dignity in the eyes of God and of each other, our own selfish pleasure becomes the highest goal of life.
Our true dignity comes from having been created in the image of God. From the moment of conception till the moment of death we are persons with great dignity. As his children, he affirms our worth. What is the source of your worth? Is it bound up in yourself or your relationship with God?