This post was almost titled “Stop Making Me Defend Governor Hochul!” Conservative pundits, bloggers and busybodies are freaking out over Governor Kathy Hochul (D-NY) signing into law legislation that makes New York the sixth state to legalize the composting human remains. The law adds “natural organic reduction” to cremation and entombment as legal ways to dispose of bodies. The new law defines the practice as the “contained, accelerated conversion of human remains to soil” in a “structure, room, or other space” in which decomposition can occur.
To all of which I say, “Fine.” Any time government increases individual autonomy and the liberty to do as citizens please as long as it doesn’t harm society or other individuals, or infringe on their rights, that’s an ethics win. It is especially encouraging to see a Democratic governor move in this direction, since her party has lately embraced a philosophy of seeking more restrictions on core American rights—like, say, freedom of speech— rather than fewer.
Never mind, though: some on the right are eager to bash Hochul anyway.
Needless to say, this is an anti-human, anti-Christian affront to humanity…This is a pagan practice and is in contradiction with biblical principles. It treats the human being as mere matter. I know, a lot of people, even Christians, are of the opinion that “I’m dead, what do I care what happens to my body?” But this is a modern thought that has never been embraced by any historic Christian or Jewish teaching. Treatment of the body in life or death has been trivial until the modern materialist age…This is just the latest example of how our world is abandoning the Christian principles that have formed civilization in exchange for animistic paganism that worships the creation over the Creator.
What hypocrisy. These people insist on “freedom of religion” as a core human right enshrined in the Bill of Rights, but simultaneously condemn those who don’t adhere to their religious practices and beliefs. The world isn’t “abandoning Christian principles”: the world was never Christian. Dead bodies are the objects of myth, superstition, reverence, tradition, ritual and lore of all sorts, much of which is weird and disgusting. Why is composting worse than cremation, in which a body is broiled into ash, and then scooped into a container assuming you believe that the ashes aren’t really a mixture of whoever else was fried that day? Why is it more “anti-human” than what morticians do to corpses in the embalming process?
“Ick” isn’t ethics, as we have discussed here many times. Your “Ick!” may be my revered tradition. Back off.
A lot more bodies are chopped up and distributed far and wide as organ transplants, just like spare auto parts, than are composted. I’m pretty sure that practice isn’t “embraced by any historic Christian or Jewish teaching.” Both of my in-laws directed that their bodies be handed over to medical schools for research. There they hung on hooks and were subjected to dissection until they started falling to pieces. If they didn’t mind, why should I? Why should John Knox?
I don’t care if the loved one of my neighbor is stuffed like Trigger and mounted in his living room. I don’t care if his brother is reduced to a mummified head and carried in a bag like Michael Caine carries Sean Connery’s head in “The Man Who Would Be King.” Thomas More’s daughter kept his severed head by her bed: would Sir Thomas, a stickler for Christian practices, have approved? It’s none of my business if my neighbor has his dead wife preserved and hanging on the wall, like Han Solo in “The Empire Strikes Back.”
Autonomy is a crucial ethics value: it means we let others live as they please, worship as they please, do as they please as long as nobody is harmed. If conservatives are going to claim grievous wounds because someone they don’t know disposes of the body of someone they don’t know in a manner they don’t like, how can they object when the Left tries to ban words and ideas?
I think I want my body, after I’m through with it, to have a Boston Red Sox cap nailed to its head, hen be encased in acrylic and erected as a bird bath in my back yard. John Knox doesn’t have to visit.