A sane person, which I must not be, would ask me, “While the timing is clear, (considering the Supreme Court’s pending decisions), why in the hell would you wade into such a contentious topic now or ever?” It’s because I’m a writer and I can’t help myself. Also, I think I bring a voice to the table, something that is almost never said in the tens of thousands of articles on pro-life and pro-choice. It is a way of looking at things that I think has the greatest hope of finding resolution and peace in the culture wars over this issue, about pursuing real, classical truth in the matter, and escaping the cycle of emotional reasoning. My goal is to dampen the anger and hatred on both sides. For some people whose emotions are so severely charged over this topic, they will have their feathers ruffled after just reading the title. I ask that you read this entire 2-4 part series and consider the facts, and not just keep believing or thinking as your subculture dictates.
I’ll focus on the two farthest points. On the Pro-life position would be the white evangelical and conservative Catholics , and on the Pro-choice side would be those who only interpret the issue as women’s rights issue. The white evangelical often defaults, saying that “pro-life is Biblical!” I will cover that. The other side is saying pro-life is about dominating women once again … and nothing else. If you have evidence that contradicts anything I say, please share in the comments. As a seeker of truth, I am a profound skeptic of baseless statements because I lived in a world of baseless statements for thirty years, but I’m also a lover of change and have revised my opinions many times when someone presents facts.
In the small hours of a Heliopolis, Egypt’s hot summer’s day in 1989, I had an epiphany. It wasn’t a happy one as much as an unsettling one. After a series of unfortunate events, I suddenly recognized that during my 30 years of Bible-belt rearing and evangelicalism devotion, my group, pastors, leaders and etc. had misled me on many issues. An alternate reality if you please. But not only that, in somewhat of a Holden Caulfield moment, I realized I was a self-righteous phony, but not just me. There was firm evidence that our entire missionary group was a bunch of phonies. I’ve shared this story before, so this may sound familiar.
Immediately that morning, just when the minarets were calling my good Muslim friends and neighbors to Fajr (first morning prayers), I made a pack between God and me. I was going to start from scratch in everything. Unbelieve everything and rebuild on facts, not social coercion. Not just in religious matters, but in all things of life. That was a somewhat of a Descartian moment [as in Rene Descartes, “I think, therefore I am.]”
I said to God before the sun had risen, “I want nothing but truth no matter where it leads me. If it leads me to atheism, Buddhism, or wherever. God, if you are really there, show me the honest way of finding you.” It set me out on an incredible journey, ending up back to believing in a personal God, but very different than before. So this article is not about me finding God again after 10 years. I cover that in my book, Butterflies in the Belfry (which I could write much better today).
This article on abortion is based on approaching topics with candor and truth in the classical sense of that which is coherent with reality. So hold to your seats. I will try my best to go through this methodically, often philosophically, but illustrated with true-to-life stories that I’ve encountered with people in the middle of the crisis of an unplanned pregnancy as a medical provider, especially when I was providing “student health” at a major university.
Possible Philosophical Positions on Abortion
I could try to stumble through and describe abortion from all positions along the philosophical spectra, but I won’t. I’m only going to focus on the atheistic and ecclesiastical (which I mean as a god-believer or believer in a spiritual domain). A Buddhist and Hindu, I would think, would have the same perspective as the atheist in this matter but they could correct me if they don’t. I will focus the ecclesiastical as represented by the greatest opponents of abortion, white evangelicals and conservative Catholics.
Atheistic View on Abortion
A true atheist believes the entire cosmos came into existence for no reason. It just snapped into being … as a quirk. Call it the “Big Bang” if you like. Therefore, with no intention in creation, there is no possible philosophical position to have except that all of existence, all of life, is insignificant. I know of plenty of atheists that cheat here and try to inject meaning. The late Carl Sagan was famous for that. But if the problem with religion is, they live in a pretentious world where they think they are better (morally) than they really are, then the atheists live in an equally pretentious world where they believe life has meaning when it doesn’t. I think if I had lived all my early life as an atheist, rather than just a small part, and my atheist culture had assured me that there is meaning, I would have had the same type of epiphany as I did in Heliopolis, but about being lied to as an atheist.
So within this atheistic, meaningless world, abortion and choice would also be meaningless. No good. No evil.
I’ve heard atheists say that the survival of humanity is the meaning of life. While that is a leap from that perspective, perhaps outlawing abortion would promote the propagation of the species. But that’s an irrational position.
Before I write about a perspective from inside the viewpoint of having a personal creator, I must ask that you suspend everything you think you know. I would guess that 100% of evangelicals, when asked, would immediately say, “God hates abortion (and the abortionists) because the Bible says so.” We will get to what the Bible really says later. But now, think in philosophical terms. The idea of a personal God solves the meaning problem aforementioned with atheists. However, theism has its own challenges of understanding, which goes far beyond this article. That is why I respect and love atheists, especially honest ones. Most of them have not reached their positions because they are stupid or immoral (one of the lies taught to me as an evangelical) … but I digress.
If there is a creator God, and everything was a function of his/her creative act, then its rational to assign meaning and value to that creation. In that situation, you can make the argument that causing the death of a living fetus is destroying a creative act of that God. But then, for the sake of consistency, you would have to apply the same standards to all of creation, all other life and all other physical representations of creation such as the earth.
The evangelical and catholic would protest saying that humans are in a unique position of creation and deserve much greater value. I will look at that as I look at what the Bible really says later.
Beyond just the intrinsic value of a fetus, the personal God view could also have a direct word from God (scripture) that says the act of abortion is evil. However, to most people’s surprise, it does not. Again, I will look at what the Bible really does say later.
In my last third and last installment (I hope) I will look at the Pro-choice position and their assumption that the issue is simply a woman’s rights issue and not dealing with the three dimensions that include the value of the fetus as an independent being, or at least in the process of becoming a being. Or as one Ob/Gyn physician I knew years ago would call a pregnancy, “tissue of conception.” She had to remove the personal language from her vocabulary, even “fetus” because she was quite active in doing abortions and wanted to distance herself from the thought of the fetus being in the process of becoming human.
But it is also quite naïve for the evangelicals to think of the fetus as fully human from conception. This does not make sense biologically. It was never considered that way throughout human history until the 1970s (for most part) and if you really want to be Biblical, you would not think that way. Within a great paradox, evangelicals pride themselves in being “Biblical,” yet in reality, their greatest quest is being evangelical or consistent with the mores of that subculture, not the Bible.
In a later section, I want to look at the painful decision that abortion is for most women. Twenty five percent of women have had abortions. That includes the twenty five percent sitting in evangelical churches. There are very few women who see abortion as simply another form of birth control with no qualms about it. Lastly, I want to write about what we could do to reduce the perceived need for abortion, discuss the options, considering that making it criminal maybe short-sighted, winning the battle for pro-lifers, but loosing the war. A better approach, dealing honestly and lovingly with the core issues.
Mike, The Hermit of Loch Eyre