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May 15, 2005

God Is Pro-Choice

-- by Gary Boatwright

People hold all kinds of irrational religious beliefs. Here is one of the "Questions to Ponder" in Scott Adams' book, The Religion War:

(6.) The dictionary defines "faith" as belief without evidence. It defines "stupidity" as unreasoned thinking. Is belief without evidence a form of unreasoned thinking?

The answer does not become a problem until radical Christians insist on turning their unreasoned thinking into legal mandates. Today I will address why God is Pro-Choice.

Unless otherwise identified, all of my quotes are borrowed freely from Truth In Religion, by Mortimer Adler.

There are two kinds of truth. The first kind of truth is logical, scientific or descriptive truth which "corresponds to the way things really are." The second kind of truth is the poetic truth of literature and faith, which while not exactly and precisely true, nevertheless may convey profound moral truths. While "the truths of faith or religious belief are beyond proof by any empirical or rational means." It is also a given that "[m]eaning or significance is not dependent on the logical truth of what is being said or thought.

Scriptural proscriptions against a variety of immoral acts are addressed in Leviticus 20 The Penalties for Acts of Immorality. The contention that Christian faith requires a believer to be anti-abortion is indelibly linked, through Catholicism, to the proposition that contraception is immoral. I selected two representative examples of the Christian and/or Catholic argument against abortion. Birth Control and Genesis38 by Matt 1618 and Contraception.

I won't bother with a point by point refutation, because it isn't worth the bother. Both of these sites are not only missing a couple of branches on ye old logic tree, they resemble barren logic telephone poles completely lacking any logical coherence. Matt 1618 does make one frank concession:

Most Christian opponents of the Catholic teaching on birth control say that the Bible nowhere condemns birth control. It is true, birth control is not explicitly mentioned as being condemned in the Bible, in the sense of 'Thou shalt not practice birth control' (though we have seen its clear implications in Genesis 38) . A full reading of Scripture itself likewise does not have an explicit condemnation of abortion itself. In fact, I have seen some use Numbers 5:12-22 as God actually authorizing abortion. There is nothing in the Bible that condemns abortion anywhere approaching the condemnation of birth control that we see in Genesis 38:9

The condemnation of birth control in Genesis 38:9 is the infamous parable of Onan's wasted seed:

And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.

If masturbation and contraception are immoral, God could easily have let us know in clearer language. Why did God force us to make the inferential leap from "spilling seed" to masturbation and/or contraception? The prohibition against abortion requires a second inferential leap from contraception to abortion.

Let's grant that the Bible is divinely inspired. God is perfectly capable of itemizing specific immoral acts, not the least of which is Leviticus 11:12, which states that "everything in the waters that has not fins and scales is an abomination to you." That puts eating shrimp, lobster, clams and oysters on the same moral par as homosexuality and adultery. Nowhere does God specifically identify contraception or abortion as immoral acts. Not once. Why didn't God simply list abortion as an abomination? Did abortion slip his mind?

St. Augustine's religious and spiritual evolution is instructive in identifying the fatal flaw of the pinched reading of scripture that compels the flawed conclusion that abortion is morally wrong. When he was first forced to read the Bible by his mother he dismissed it as "not for mature minds exercising their literal meaning." Only after he heard a sermon by St. Ambrose on the text "the letter killeth, the spirit giveth life," did St. Augustine revisit the Bible. It was only after he read the Bible for its deeper poetic truth that went "beyond the literal meanings of the words to the moral, allegorical, anagogical, and spiritual meanings to be found in the things literally signified by words of the text" that St. Augistine converted to Christianity.

It is not from the deeper poetic reading of scripture that radical Christians discover a moral condemnation of contraception and abortion. The biblical ban on contraception and abortion is a pious fiction invented out of whole cloth and transmuted into Catholic dogma over the centuries. Self appointed contemporary Protestant Mini-Popes have adopted the abortion fiction that was not traditionally shared by Protestants. The Protestant Mini-Popes are close to adopting the Catholic ban on contraception, which has traditionallly been a Catholic dogma rejected by most Protestant faiths. The simple fact is that the Bible does not mention either contraception or abortion. If repeating a lie for hundreds of years made it true, the Sun would still revolve around the Earth.

It would be bad enough if it was the pinched literal reading of scripture rejected by St. Augustine that radical Christians were trying to impose on America by force of law. They have taken it a step further. They are trying to impose moral prohibitions that are not in any way supported by scripture.

There is a fundamental rule of legislative interpretation that also works as a general rule for biblical interpretation of scripture. Whatever is not prohibited, is permitted. Since contraception and abortion are not prohibited, they are permitted. Every woman is permitted by scripture to make the private medical decision, informed by her personal religious beliefs and conscience, about whether or not to have an abortion. God is Pro-Life.

Posted by Gary Boatwright at May 15, 2005 5:42 PM

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