Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain


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Coming Out of the Dark….

…Ages, that is.

“When evil is called good, darkness is ushered into the land. And with the darkness comes a threat to our freedoms,”  says Janet Porter, author of the Faith2Action documentary, The Criminalization of Christianity, as she walks into view in the darkness under a moonlit forest, the tree branches bare.

What is this evil, you might ask?  The gays.  It’s always the gays.

Conservative Christians are alleging all sorts of actions by the “gay agenda”, such as making it illegal for a business that has an owner who has Biblical principles from opening in specific locations. Mike Huckabee has this to say:

What kind of freedom of speech do we have, if a person who expresses a biblical viewpoint about marriage is told they can’t open their business in a location?”

Yes, there has been much controversy over wedding services providers refusing service to LGBT couples.  Nowhere has anyone been told that if they have a Biblical viewpoint they cannot open their business. They have been told that they may not discriminate against customers based on sexual orientation.  In turn, businesses have screamed loud and long about having the right to refuse service to anyone they see fit.  It’s quite reminiscent of the days when businesses could refuse service to people based on the color of their skin.

In response to the upholding of non-discrimination laws some businesses have opted to shut their businesses down.  Not really.  They close their storefronts and then continue to operate out of their homes.

Another Conservative Christian pastor has this to say:

...homosexual activists get everything they want. Nothing less than criminalization of Christianity.

Listen, conservatives, it’s not that hard.  No one is forcing homosexuality on you.  The legalization of homosexual marriage in no way forces you to be homosexual.  How is that so hard to comprehend?    What you don’t seem to recognize is that what you want to do absolutely is forcing your lifestyle on others.  If you get to dictate whether or not consenting adults can marry then it is you who is cramming your morality down the throats of those who do not agree with you.

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IPV: Adjust Your Sails

inthestorm

I wanted to end this series on a positive note.  It’s hard to do that with a topic which is the source of so much pain.  It’s depressing, frankly.  I thought about doing a post about making a safety plan if you intend to stick it out, a strategy for coping with ongoing abuse, and an exit plan if you want to leave.  But those have all been done before.  I’ll leave some links if you need them.

There are just really are some things I want to say to you if you find yourself in a toxic relationship of any kind.  Whether it’s physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, or spiritual abuse the result is devastating.  It erodes self-esteem.  It corrodes hearts.

It is not your fault.  No matter how many times you’ve heard, ‘if only you wouldn’t…make me so angry, or make me worry, or be so selfish, or be so stupid [insert your own].

Embed this in your memory.  Affirm yourself even if no one else does.  Know this:

“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” Kathryn Stockett, The Help

You are important. You are valuable.  You are irreplaceable. You are priceless.  And because you may have forgotten I want to tell you:

You are beautiful.

You are beautiful.
You are beautiful.

There is nothing wrong with you.

Listen, I do not know you.  But I am you.  You are not alone.  Things can get better.  Nothing will change unless you do.  You can do it!  Learn to trust yourself again.

If you need help or just someone to talk to you can email me at deconstructingmyselfdma@gmail.com

—————————————————————————————————–

http://heleneltaylor.com/planning-a-safe-escape-from-an-abusive-marriage/

http://www.respect4women.org/what-is-abuse/the-cycle-of-abuse/

http://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/emotional-psychological-abuse/dealing-with-emotional-abuse-how-to-stop-emotional-abuse/

October is domestic violence awareness month

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)


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Put that Gavel Down!

Judge-Gavel

“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.” 1Corinthians 5:9-13

Dear Christians:

I’m not sure if you even read here but just in case you do there are a few things I’d like to say about judging others. First, you are well within your rights to judge each other. Have at it. Paul even tells you to engage in it; not only to judge but to be the jury and executioner. If there are any among you who do the things you find sinful, don’t associate with them. Shun them. Put them out to pasture. Don’t even break bread with them. It’s okay. That’s what you’re supposed to do. Give them a time out, place them on restriction, and put their noses in the corner.

That seems to be your favorite pass-time, anyway. I thought cannibalism had been pretty well outlawed within your ranks, but you all seem rather comfortable with the practice of eating each other for breakfast. Knock yourselves out. There are some 30,000 plus denominations of Christianity, not including Catholicism which has around 245 religious orders or rites. I’m not sure what the difference is except that all of those 245 religious rites still answer to the same Pope so I guess that means it’s just one. Even though they all practice their worship a little bit differently, which isn’t the same, so not one? ‘I see’, said the blind man.

Regardless, it’s helping people to see that it’s all a little bit…well…hokey. So all those people you shun will either go on feeling guilty and horrible and terrible about themselves or they’ll decide they don’t need your approval and move on. With your church discipline it places the disciplinee on the outside; like they’re not even believers. Most of you would say they aren’t True Believers™, anyway. This brings me to my next point:

If they aren’t True Believers™ you shouldn’t be judging them, anyway. Put ’em out of your fellowship and leave them be. What’s that? You don’t believe me? “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.” 1 Corinthians 5: 12-13. There you go. Right there from your good book. Instruction manual on how to treat unbelievers.

Do you know what else that means? Your church rules and your Christian law book only apply to you and your fellowship of believers. So stop trying to apply them to everybody else. Gay marriage? Abortion? Not your concern unless it’s happening in your congregation. I think it would still suck air to be so rude to your professing brothers and sisters in Christ to treat them so callously, but there’s your recourse. That’s it. Put them out of fellowship and leave them be. But that’s all you’ve got.

You see, this country is not a church. Our forefathers went to great lengths to spell out in great detail that the government would not and could not sponsor a state religion. Therefore, if you are a Christian and you want to live out your life till the cold, clammy hand of death comes to take you to become dust again being one, that’s your prerogative. And if you want to spend your days on this earth with your nose turned up, looking down on unbelievers because they aren’t livin’ right, that’s your prerogative, too. But what you don’t get to do is tell anyone else how they get to live.

Sure, you can go in the voting booth and pull the lever whichever way tickles your fancy and you can spend your very last dime campaigning for whatever cause is near and dear to your heart. That’s the way it works. But what you don’t get to do is be the judge, jury, and executioner of those who don’t subscribe to your beliefs. It’s not your place and it’s certainly not your right. Put your gavel down and go on about your business.

Kindest Regards,

Ruth


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Evolving Morality

I’ve been reading around the blogosphere for, now, going on four years.  The reason many Christians to try to give for their God not outlawing certain practices falls woefully short of any sound logic. So the reasoning goes, and I have used this reasoning myself in my Christian days, that God did not want to take away our free will, our autonomy, our ability to choose these things.  Take slavery, for instance:  Christian logic dictates God’s edicts about the treatment of slaves is merely legislation of a societal practice already in place.

This same logic rationalizes the way the spoils of war were treated. By spoils of war I don’t just mean possessions.  Or do I?  What are women and children in the Bible if not possessions?  When Israel made their conquests they were told to annihilate their foes, killing all the men, and taking the women, children and livestock for their plunder(Deut. 20:13-15).  The Israelites were authorized to use their plunder for themselves.  Got that?  They could use the women and children.  These were the rules of engagement for those cities who simply lay in their path on the way to their promised land.  Oh sure, those cities would be offered a chance for a peaceful surrender; one that involved submitting themselves willfully to slavery.  Who could resist that offer?

Even worse were the rules of engagement for the cities to which they would lay siege and call home.  In those cities they were to kill everything that had breath(Deut. 20:16-18). Men, women, children, the precious babies, livestock….everything. Why?  Because their idolatry might rub off on the Jews.  Yes, those tiny little newborns, little kiddies, and cattle would lead God’s people down the primrose path of destruction.  The only thing safe in those cities were the fruit bearing trees(Deut. 20:19-20).  Anything else was fair game for use in their efforts to win the battle.

These rules came from that staunch arbiter of objective morality, Himself.  Himself has declared himself to be good, so Divine Command Theory suggests that anything that Himself does, commands, or says is also good.  We don’t have to like it; we just have to believe it an do it.  What does it say about the supreme being that some consider to be the author of all things ethical that we have evolved past these archaic and barbaric practices in most of the civilized world?  What does that say about morality, in general, that you and I are more compassionate, more advanced in our thinking than the supposed creator of the universe?

I think it says quite a bit about where morality really comes from.  Let’s talk about the ten commandments, shall we?

ten_commandmentsIf the Judeo-Christian God did not mean to impede free will, autonomy, or choice why lay down any laws at all?  If making a law against an act infringes on free will why do the ten commandments not infringe on free will? The making of a law does not infringe on the notion of free will at all.  What’s that saying?  Rules are made to be broken?  Reading through the ten commandments objectively( 😉 ) one can easily see that these are a social construct.  The first four deal with unification of he people.  We all worship the same deity, in the same way, and with the same fervor.  That intensifies the last six.  If the people believe that these laws are being laid down by a supernatural being who will strike them down for disobeying the last six they’re much more likely to obey them.  The leaders could say, ‘hey, it’s not us, it’s God!’

Telling children to obey their parents seems like a good place to start.  After all, children belong to their parents; it’s only right that they should kowtow to their every demand and command with a hearty ‘yes sir!’ and ‘yes ma’am!’.  What if the parents are terrible?  Same deal, right?  Only in today’s society we recognize that sometimes staying as far away from our parents is the most honoring thing we can do.  We don’t automatically assume every parent to be worthy of having children.  Just because a person has reached a certain age doesn’t follow that they’ve reached any level of maturity or sanity, for that matter.  We know that now.

Many translations change ‘Thou shalt not kill’ to ‘Thou shall not murder’.  We know that instinctively, do we not, that murder is not acceptable in society.  We have evolved with, not only a sense of empathy, but a sense of survival that tells us that if we murder everyone else we might be king for a day, but in the long run we’re kind of screwed.  We need other people, we need a community, to survive and perpetuate our species.

Adultery, theft, and covetousness all deal with possessions.  You read that right.  Possessions.  In the Old Testament the only way a man committed adultery was to fornicate with another man’s wife.  A man could have as many wives and concubines as he wanted and never was considered to be committing adultery.  Why was it adultery for him to have sex with another man’s wife?  Because she was his possession.  He owned her and any children she might have so if she fornicated with another and bore children the other man could lay claim to those children.  The husband would have now way of knowing if those children were his property or not.  On the other hand, a woman could only have one husband.  Many read into the New Testament a command for marriage to be between only one man and one woman, but that’s taking serious liberties with the scripture.  Nowhere is the practice of polygamy condemned.  You won’t find it.

Not bearing false witness against our neighbors is a rational and reasonable law.  Slander and false testimony intended to deprive a person of their property or good reputation is detrimental to a functioning society.  Again, a social law for the good of the community.

Do we really need a deity to tell us not to do these things?  Does laying down the law impede our ability to choose?  Simply, no.  Is this by any means objective morality?  Clearly not when the deity, Himself, arbitrarily chooses when and how they should be implemented.  It’s not okay to kill your neighbor, but it is okay, even commanded, to slay the entirety of a nation?  Even the way the spoils of war are treated has evolved because we know that however we treat prisoners of war will be meted out to those of our own who are taken captive.  Thus we’ve created laws which prescribe the code of conduct regarding the treatment of prisoners and plunder.  We’ve made slavery, rape, and abuse against the law in most countries.  We recognize the harm that is perpetrated, not only to individuals, but to entire societies.

Why do Christians continually excuse the lack of compassion and morality their god displays with the wave of a hand and write it off to free will?  It’s a ridiculous notion if you really consider it.  ‘Thou shalt not have slaves’ is much easier to say and shorter to write than the plethora of laws concerning treatment of slaves, up to and including how to beat your slave and in what circumstance it is acceptable to kill him or her.  That’s no more an infringement than ‘thou shall not murder’. ‘Thou shall not rape’ is much better than ‘if a woman can’t be heard screaming out you must pay her parents the dowry and marry her’.  If a person cannot read these laws and come to the conclusion that these were a product of the times and the society, instead of rationalizing how God isn’t complicit in abhorrent behaviors because he was merely a legislator, then they seriously need to re-examine their ability to reason at all.

Still, even though we’ve evolved past these simplistic, barbaric, archaic laws there are those who murder, steal, lie, cheat and covet. The laws set forth in the Bible are no more objective than the laws let forth by society.  There is no more objectivity in a given law simply because it comes from an ancient document.  Those who hold that objective morality comes from God are deluding themselves.

I’m in agreement with Violet that morality has evolved over time.    Ignostic Atheist summed it up well with this comment in response to Mark Hamilton’s moral argument:

Morality has 20/20 hindsight, therefore it is absolute (duh, of course that was wrong to do). In the future, we may discover thing that we do now are immoral, therefore morality is relative (this is nice, but oh, it hurts someone down the line). If a person can argue that slavery is absolutely wrong, but admit that, at one point, it was considered acceptable, then they must adopt the relative framework, because it is impossible to know, even if there exists an absolute framework to discover, whether or not you have fully discovered that framework.
 
Well, duh!  That’s absolute morality, folks.


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That Depends on What the Meaning of ‘Is’ Is (or what is the definition of person) Part 2

If you’re just joining in it probably be helpful to read my last post: That Depends on What the Meaning of ‘Is’ Is (or what is the definition of person) Part I

*Trigger Warning – This is a difficult, complex, controversial, and divisive subject.  As such people become highly impassioned.  For that reason I’m going to ask that if you can’t be respectful please move on.  This is the final installment of a two-part series.

So when exactly is a person a person?  Does it help to define it?  Does it even matter?  In the last several days I’ve come across new information. It’s not really new information but it is new information to me. Not even so much new information as a new perspective.  It is a perspective that has caused me to re-think my unabashedly pro-choice position.  Have I learned nothing from my Fundamentalist Christian group-think days?  Don’t important positions require re-examination?  Have I not just become a fundamentalist of another kind if I’m not open to new information?

There are a number of distinct moments that can be thought of as the beginning of personhood and there is no scientific consensus. Personhood is a question of philosophy – not science.  As an atheist shouldn’t science inform our philosophy – especially if we also call ourselves Humanists? It is a question of ethics. So what does science tell us about the beginning of human life?

Embryologists agree that human development, and thus human life, begin at fertilization.  How could development occur without it being a living organism?  A human living organism.  Did we really need an embryologist to tell us this?  Not really.  We know that’s when life begins.  A sperm and ovum meet, become a unique living organism, implant themselves(if they are healthy) to a woman’s uterus, and begin growing(again, if they are healthy). There are terms for this.  Zygote, Embryo, Fetus.  These are stages of maturity within the human life – the birds and the bees; the facts of life.

The conversation about abortion is not one of life but of one personhood.  If a human being is a person and a person is a human being then how is a zygote not a person? Just because there are medical terms for these stages of development do not mean they are any less human or any less a person.  There are medical terms for every stage of human development.  Infant, toddler, adolescent, adult.

We would call a brain-dead individual a brain-dead person.  They don’t cease being a person because they are dead.  On the whole we would agree that even a brain-dead individual should be treated with respect.  Would we dismember them?  Typically not without their consent obtained beforehand.  Even when it isn’t obtained before hand family members make this decision based on what they know of the individual and their wishes.  Even in death we take their well-being into consideration.  We are, rightly, mortified when we hear of cases of illegal organ harvesting or postmortem dismemberment.  It is a question of ethics.

According to Wikipedia Humanism is a movement of philosophy and ethics that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers individual thought and evidence (rationalism, empiricism) over established doctrine or faith (fideism).

Being pro-life, in my opinion, has more of a basis in Humanism than any other.  We should be ever evolving based on what we know based on facts.  Scientific fact is that human life does begin at conception. And this human being is a unique individual – not just a part of the female. It is completely separate and whole, though not mature.  A fetus is a human being at the very beginning of maturity.  Human beings do not begin at birth.  Shouldn’t we protect the weak?  Does personhood even figure into the equation, then?  In my personal opinion a human being is a person regardless of status.

What does that mean for legalized abortion, then?  Does that mean we should criminalize the practice?  Throughout history, in every civilization, in every era there has been the practice of abortion.  Women have undertaken the risky practice of drinking all sorts of concoctions, using crude and unsterilized tools, and enlisting the help of others to perform abortions.  Women have both obtained abortions legally and illegally.  Isn’t criminalization really just an interest in punishing the participants?  Laws against abortion seek to penalize practitioners and not necessarily women who obtain abortions but, either way, it really is only dealing with punishment.  What should we conclude about this?  Criminalization doesn’t work.  It is like treating the symptoms of a disease with no cure.  It is much like America’s War on Drugs and it’s War on Poverty.

I don’t think that abortion will ever be eliminated completely.  For all their religiosity and their piety concerning abortion between 1973 and 2008 Protestants make up 37% of women obtaining abortions and Catholics make up 28%.[1]  That’s more than half.  These are women who, while the practice isn’t illegal, supposedly violate their own consciences.  Is a law going to change that?  As a pro-life advocate shouldn’t the goal be reducing the number of abortions – not punishment?

I submit that the answer lies in our attitudes toward women and their rights and autonomy before pregnancy occurs. If you want to reduce or end abortion ask yourself why a woman feels the need to have an abortion in the first place and address those needs.

I would suggest that we stop, as a society, slut-shaming women who enjoy sex.  Stop making women feel as if having sex in general is wrong and something to be ashamed of regardless of marital status. If you belief that every life is valuable don’t you think it devalues a woman when you make her feel ashamed of her own body and her own sexuality?  Isn’t that committing murder in and of itself?  Many religious women consider having or do have abortions because they know that the world will know that have have been having sex.

If you want to make laws regarding reproductive rights start with requiring employers, regardless of religious affiliation, to cover contraception as part of their insurance coverage.  Let contraception be between a woman, her partner, and her God or lack thereof.  Start effective sex education which includes abstinence and proper use of contraception.  Prepare people to be responsible with decisions with regards to sex, not as a matter of religion, but as a matter of pragmatism.  Let people who can’t afford contraception know that there are options.  In my particular state the Department of Health issues contraception to those who are unemployed and minors free of charge.  This is not a known fact.  Advertise it.  Contraception is less expensive than pregnancy.  My state’s Department of Health also provides prenatal care on the same basis.

Offer practical solutions to women who are not prepared to be mothers.  Sometimes, even used correctly, contraception fails.  Stop being so high and mighty, get off your high horse, put your damn picket sign down and put your money where your mouth is.  Begin to act with compassion instead of judgement.

[1] http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html

*Edited to add:  If you would like more information about arguments from pro-life humanists please visit http://www.prolifehumanists.org/.


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That Depends on What the Meaning of ‘Is’ is (or what is the definition of person) Part I

*Trigger Warning – This is a difficult, complex, controversial, and divisive subject.  As such people become highly impassioned.  For that reason I’m going to ask that if you can’t be respectful please move on.  This is the first installment of a two-part series.

As a Christian I was unapologetically pro-life. Every life was precious because every life was God’s.  I knew without a doubt that life began at conception, not because of science, but because of scripture.  Specifically Psalm 139: 13-16:

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

When I say that I was unapologetically pro-life I mean that I didn’t see any wiggle room.  There was no gray area;  no exceptions for rape or incest. Convinced that abortion was tantamount to murder,  I was loud and proud.  It never occurred to me that the person sitting next to me could have had an abortion for any reason; that my words were probably like daggers to their heart.  Every life was precious in God’s sight, right?  And if it did hurt their feelings, then so be it.  Sometimes the truth hurts.  That right there is how you show that Christian love and compassion.  Come on in and get you some.

Most conservative evangelicals say they believe these things.  The reality doesn’t bear that out, though.  I posted about my teenage friend whose parents thought she had been raped so they had the fetus aborted. Her father was a deacon in the church.

Then there was my Christian friend who had IVF.  She was implanted with five fertilized eggs.  They all implanted, but it made her pregnancy high risk, she had three of them selectively, therapeutically aborted.  I remember wondering how she decided which ones to abort.

Finally there was the conversation I had with my (then)husband, also a deacon, about abortion in the case of rape.  I posed the hypothetical that I had been raped and remarked that even if I were raped I didn’t think I could have an abortion because the fetus was an innocent. I would carry to term and then place for adoption. He informed me that I would have an abortion. His rationale was that if I didn’t have an abortion he couldn’t be certain I was raped, most certainly not since I wanted to have the baby.  Even if I had been raped, if I didn’t terminate the pregnancy, he’d be resentful and man to me about it.  Didn’t he mean even more mean?

I also hadn’t considered these scriptures:

11 Then the Lord said to Moses, 12 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him 13 so that another man has sexual relations with her, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act), 14 and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure—or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure— 15 then he is to take his wife to the priest. He must also take an offering of a tenth of an ephah[c] of barley flour on her behalf. He must not pour olive oil on it or put incense on it, because it is a grain offering for jealousy, a reminder-offering to draw attention to wrongdoing. 16 The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the Lord. 17 Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water. 18 After the priest has had the woman stand before the Lord, he shall loosen her hair and place in her hands the reminder-offering, the grain offering for jealousy, while he himself holds the bitter water that brings a curse. 19 Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, “If no other man has had sexual relations with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. 20 But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband”— 21 here the priest is to put the woman under this curse—“may the Lord cause you to become a curse among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell. 22 May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries. Then the woman is to say, “Amen. So be it.”~ Numbers 5

22 “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. 23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” ~Exodus 21

The religious really don’t have a leg to stand on where abortion is concerned. Apparently their own God doesn’t give the same value to the unborn as the born. As atheists, though, is that the measuring stick we would want to use to decide the value of human life?  Where does that leave us?  Are religious considerations the only reasons to be pro-life?

When I left Christianity I rejected that idea.  I decided that individual autonomy and women’s rights were more important.  Then I became unapologetically pro-choice, believing that women should have access to abortion on demand and that it shouldn’t matter what her reasons for abortion are.  Isn’t it a private matter, after all?  Shouldn’t this be between her and her physician?  A woman should not be coerced into – nor out of – the decision whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term.

My consideration for this came from the viewpoint that while, yes, some form of life does begin at conception, that fetus doesn’t become a person until an EEG pattern can be detected.  We consider a person who has no brain activity to be brain-dead. In the same regard life doesn’t begin until brain activity occurs.

But is that true?  A person who is brain-dead has no potential to be brain-alive again.  Even then sometimes we want to hang onto them – not willing to give up hope – as exampled by the Terri Schiavo case and more recently the Jahi McMath case.

How does Merriam-Webster define person?

per·son

noun \ˈpər-sən\: a human being

Okay.  Descriptive.  Helpful.  How does it define human being?

human being

noun

: a person

Delightful.

How, then, do we define personhood? Just when does a person become a human being? Or when does a human being become a person?