I mentioned a few posts back that as society has changed our ideas and definitions of what is and is not ethical has changed. It’s not that we are more evolved or better human beings, or worse. It’s just that the ways in which we look at the world and the people in it has changed.
People today are facing questions that they didn’t know needed to be asked 40 years ago. When I look at some of these questions for myself, I fall back again on one basic tenet – Harm None.
These are some of the big ethical questions which I have considered for myself.
Gender Identity and Sexuality
Does it cause harm to me or to another person if John Doe over there is gay/straight/or bi? Does it have an impact on my life if JoAnna Doe changes his name to John Doe and identifies as male? If as John he opts to undergo gender reassignment surgery (or not)?
No, of course not.
Does it have any impact on who I am, my gender identity, or my sexual identity if the person next to me or down the street is heterosexual, bisexual, asexual, or homosexual?
Only if I am considering being in an intimate relationship with said person and they with me.
Will it be causing harm if John and JoAnna Doe are forced by society to conform to religious or social rules on who they can love and what gender role they must conform to?
When you consider the incredibly high rates of suicide, mental health issues, and self-harming behaviours found within these communities, yes it can and does cause serious harm.
If someone tells me that they are female, it is not up to me to decide whether they are or not based upon what I think their genitals look like, or any external secondary characteristics.
Unless I am in an intimate relationship with that person, or their doctor, it is none of my business what their genitals may look like. Males with high levels of estrogen compared to testosterone levels can grow breasts yet still fully identify as male. Females with high levels of testosterone compared to estrogen levels can grow facial hair yet still fully identify as female.
Birth Control and Abortion
This area is a bit fuzzier. I’ve known Pagan who firmly believe that using birth control is wrong, and I have known Pagans who would never have an abortion because they do consider it to be harming another (the unborn child).
Here, I have to look at what is the higher good for all concerned, and also at the harm it may be causing to the woman should she have a child at that time. Sometimes, the physical, emotional, and psychological impact on the woman should she be pregnant will cause far greater harm than ending the pregnancy.
In an ideal world, abortion would not be needed. Women and men would have ready access to safe and reliable contraceptive options. No man or woman would ever be made to have sex before being ready emotionally, mentally, and physically. All pregnancies would be completely safe with no risks to the woman. All children would be born into safe, loving, nurturing homes.
But we don’t live in an ideal world. And as long as we don’t live in an ideal world I think it far better contraception first and abortion as a last resort are safely and legally available.
Decisions about birth control, abortion, and whether or not one should have children are highly personal and nobody’s business but those directly involved.
Suicide and Euthanasia
I am someone who has dealt with depression and PTSD for most of her life. So, I have a lot of personal experience wresting with internal black dogs and thoughts of suicide.
What ultimately held me back though was an inner understanding that ceasing to be alive would not remove the difficulties I was facing. It would just mean I would hav to face them all over again in the next life. I believe that we are here, in these bodies and these lives, to learn lessons which we set for ourselves before we were born.
We don’t avoid learning these lessons through death, we merely postpone them. And the next time around that lesson may be even harder. So, knowing and believing this to be true, taking my own life is not an option.
On the other hand, I believe that a person who is facing an existence of incredible pain, an existence in which they have no control over their body automomy, or where they are terminally ill they should have the right to end their life at a time and place of their choosing.
Are they harming someone through making a conscious choice on when, how, and where they will die? No. Yes, family and friends will grieve. Grief is not harm. At the very least, if a person has a choice on their own death, teveryone will have the opportunity to say their goodbyes and say all of the things they want to say before it’s too late.
How have your beliefs as a Pagan shaped and influenced your answers to these ethical dilemmas? Please, feel free to share. I don’t mind disagreement as long as there is respect for others’ views.