Hawking Up Hairballs

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

We Humans, We Fools

I'll never understand human nature. Not that I'm meant to, but it still boggles my mind on occasion. Last night, I watched part of an Independent Lens documentary on the local PBS channel. The topic of the documentary was the Jehovah's Witnesses. It left me shaking my head, though I don't think that was the reaction the filmmakers meant for me to have.

At the center of the documentary was a 23-year-old man who needed a liver transplant in order to survive. Finding a liver was not to be a problem. His father was a suitable donor. However, Jehovah's Witnesses are forbidden to have blood transfusions, and liver transplant patients have need of lots of blood. There was the problem. However, this young man's family managed to find surgeons who would use an experimental procedure that didn't require transfusions. The surgery was successful and the young man's life was saved. Okay, happy ending and all that, but answer me this. If a Jehovah's Witness's faith prohibits him from getting a blood transfusion, how is it that he is permitted to receive an organ transplant? Both amount to the same thing, the introduction of foreign tissue into the body. This question wasn't asked in the documentary, though I thought it should have been.

A larger issue was also addressed in the documentary. This family apparently had ancestors in Germany who were also Witnesses and were sent to concentration camps by the Nazis. Jehovah's Witnesses were apparently tortured horribly in an effort to get them to renounce their faith. Very few, if any, did so. What were they, nuts? They weren't like the Jews to the Nazis. They weren't race enemies, so all a Jehovah's Witness had to do in order to be released from the camp was to sign a document renouncing his faith. Why wouldn't one do such a thing. There are those who think that such people are courageous and to be admired for adhering to their beliefs in the most difficult of circumstances. Christians, for one, love their martyrs and think they are deserving of praise. But why? The sensible thing to do would be to say, okay, I renounce my faith. You can then go your merry way and believe whatever the hell you want. That's what many Jews did in the Middle Ages. In places like Spain, they even converted to Christianity, but continued to practice their faith in the privacy of their homes.

That said, I hope we continue to live in a society that permits beliefs like those of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Live and let live is what I say. No one should be made to suffer for what he believes, even when that others find those beliefs distasteful.


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