Although I’ve been pro-choice as long as I have been familiar with the abortion debate, I have been more personally active in the cause in the past month than I ever have been in my entire life. This has brought a few ideas to the forefront of my mind.
The Democrats recently lost their slim majority in the Virginia State Senate, which means that my home state is now facing the kind of intense anti-choice legislation that has plagued much of the country in the past several years. 2011 was a record year for abortion restrictions nationwide; there were over twice as many laws passed restricting access to reproductive health as the next highest year (just under 20 were passed in 2005).
I’ve been out of work with a broken hand for the past five weeks so I’ve had plenty of free time to participate in some of the recent rallies and events organized by pro-choice activists in response to intrusive and overreaching legislation proposed by our state lawmakers.
We’ve marched, protested, rallied, spoken with legislators, called thousands of Virginia residents to ask for their help. We’ve made local and national news multiple times.
It’s hard to think about issues of reproductive freedom without thinking about religion. This isn’t to say that it’s impossible for an atheist to be pro-life, but I’ve never met one, or even heard of one. It’s certainly not a secret that most of the anti-choice leaders and their followers are religiously motivated. This is made especially apparent given that most anti-choicers are also on the front lines of other Christian Right issues like the fight against marriage equality.
Given that many very religious Democrats vote against women’s reproductive rights, and that some otherwise progressive people — men and women, rich and poor — feel compelled by religious conviction to restrict women’s access to reproductive healthcare, it is apparent that it is god, the church, and religion that are the true enemies of women’s health and freedom.
I speak specifically to Christianity because I live in America and that is the Abrahamic religion that I am most familiar with and which most affects my day to day life, but the scriptural and social differences between the Abrahamic religions are negligible, so in almost all cases the points I make apply equally to Judaism and Islam as well. Additionally for broad strokes purposes I also include Mormonism under the umbrella of Christianity although Mormons are not Christians because their theology is at odds with important Christian beliefs, their worship of Jesus Christ notwithstanding.
That being said, I would make the argument, as many have before me, that Christianity is inherently patriarchal, intrinsically misogynistic, and inexorably bent towards the subjugation and repression of women, the LGBT community, and those of other faiths or no faith.
I would also contend that the so-called “good Christians”, those who lean toward progressive, or even radical political stances are doing more harm than good thereby. Christianity has been proven historically false, physically impossible, philosophically detestable, and socially harmful a hundred times over. It is the duty of intelligent people to abandon this hideous and revolting doctrine, not to bend over backwards in an attempt to metaphor-ize, allegorize, and apologize for it. As much as the “progressive Christian” community may want to distance itself from the unpleasant and awkward parts of the Bible and emphasize the parts that they like, at some point it becomes necessary to simply admit that groups like the much maligned Westboro Baptist Church are probably practicing Biblical Christianity better and more accurately than any of the liberal Christian crowd who imagine Jesus as a tambourine-playing Vietnam war protestor out of the ’70s.
That isn’t to say there aren’t verses in the Bible which support liberal points, but there’s a lot more to support conservative cases. And there’s no case for an ultimate, timeless morality here; it’s as simple as the fact that conservative ideas are generally ones that tend backward, and the Bible is nothing more than hodgepodge of conflicting scribblings of philosophical hearsay, apocryphal local history, pseudo-spiritual ravings, written between one and three millennia ago and cobbled together long after the fact by church leaders.
So of course the Bible condones slavery (LEVI 25:44-46), rape (JUDG 21:10-24), genocide (DEUT 2:32-33), and the genital mutilation of children (JOSH 5:3) while condemning homosexuals. The Bible isn’t magical or timeless, it has nothing in it but what was written into it thousands of years ago by mammals like you and me. The authors of the Bible could no more foresee a world where most people in America would think homosexuality was no big fucking deal any more than they could foresee the splitting of the atom or the iPhone. For this reason, those who advocate conservative causes will always find more help in the Bible than so-called progressive Christians.
So when well-meaning liberal Christians try to find a way to reconcile the fact that the holy scripture of their faith is full of horrific barbarism, violence, and bigotry with their own practical attitudes toward their fellow human beings, they are starting an argument they cannot win. The rules of their own religion do not allow them to win this debate, because in order to win they have to ignore some of the basic, unalterable precepts of their faith. It would be as if — and please forgive my sloppy sports metaphor — a football player was up against an impenetrable defense of opposing players covering every possible route to the end zone. He is playing a game he cannot win because the only way he can get past the defense is to step out of bounds for a few yards, step back into bounds, and proceed to score a touchdown.
For example, liberal Christians love to pretend that the events of the Old Testament simply never occurred. They consistently say that Jesus’ teachings essentially voided the edicts and standards of the Old Testament god, thereby conveniently ridding themselves of a lot of rape, murder, and slavery. But this argument is fundamentally flawed because it hinges on the idea that an all-knowing, morally perfect deity could change its mind. This idea would seem logically absurd to even the most dull person. How could an entity who knows everything, the past and future, the feelings and destinies of all beings ever set forth laws that are destined to be overturned and proven horrific centuries later? The idea that god could change his mind runs counter to every claim by Christians that god is perfect and infallible. As a human I can always claim that I was ignorant when I inevitably change my mind about certain issues. But the Christian god has no such excuse.
Liberal Christians simply have no standing or authority to neglect, erase, or contextualize the horrors of the Old Testament. And while there are many terrors in the New Testament to counter with even if they were able to erase the Old — including the introduction of Hell, a heretofore unheard of place with infinite torture for nonbelievers — we need not even begin to argue the New Testament with people who cannot even begin to explain the first section of their holy scripture without having to create loopholes and linguistic gymnastics.
The ancient Greeks at least had the good sense to make their gods anthropomorphic, so that inconsistencies in their mythology were easier to explain because gods themselves could supposedly be tricked, get drunk, lie, or be depressed.
The truth is that most Christians are cultural Christians who don’t even know the truth about the atrocities condoned by their own divine scriptures. They’re practicing a laid-back, bumper-sticker, Cliff Notes version of a faith to which they pay very little attention and which governs their actual day to day behavior very little, if at all. This conclusion can be come to by any casual observer who talks to Christians regularly — simply mention a prophet who has 42 children executed for making fun of his baldness (2KING 2:24), or the ban on wearing blends of different cloths (LEVI 19:19), or the rules concerning slavery (COLO 3:22) — and watch their jaws drop.
One could also refer to my favourite sociological tool and sign up for an OKCupid account. As unusual as it may seem to refer to an online dating site for sociological data, the OKCupid staff keeps a blog of interesting correlations in their user survey data. It’s fascinating to me to view the survey answers from people who label themselves as Christian but also respond on surveys that god is only “a little important in their life,” or those who believe in god but don’t believe in the power of prayer, or those believers who think that science is more important than faith and don’t subscribe to creationism. It’s curious to think about how a person could believe in a vengeful, omnipotent, all-knowing deity who judges every daily thought and action and assign very little importance to that.
Additionally there is an interesting survey showing that atheists know more about the precepts of most religions than the faithful do, lending further credence to my conviction that Abrahamic religion is intolerable except by those with but a cursory understanding of it.
Those that call themselves Christian but who don’t actually agree with the theological foundations of the faith, or even those that actively fight against the more conservative elements within it aren’t doing anyone any favors. By framing their opposition in religious terms, they simply lend legitimacy to a philosophy without any.
We’ve lost too much ground to the Christian Right in America because we concede moral points to them in an attempt to gain their support. We say that homosexuals shouldn’t be persecuted because they were born the way they are and can’t help it. This may seem like a legitimate point, until you consider that this argument is based on conceding to the Christians that homosexual intimacy is in fact sinful, but that homosexuals themselves cannot help but indulge their feelings and therefore shouldn’t be persecuted. Progressives are trying to cajole and coax Christians into living out their own “love the sinner, hate the sin” ideas, the Christians are fighting it tooth and nail, and all the while we have conceded moral authority to them that they should never have. It’s absurd, it’s wrong, and it’s dangerous. I identify as heterosexual, but if I on a whim decided to be physically intimate with a man (which I’ve done before), does that mean that those who would conciliate Christians would not defend me since I wasn’t “born this way” and am acting out “sinful” practices simply out of a flight of fancy?
It is for these reasons that I chose to remain silent at a recent candle-light vigil held outside the Governor’s mansion when my peers began to sing “This Little Light of Mine.” Even though Judeo-Christian ideas have been haphazardly co-opted by various social-justice causes, I felt that a Christian-inspired song has no place at an event promoting the equal rights of women. No matter how many Christians may use their bodies to work for women’s causes, their minds and souls are still pledged to an imaginary sky wizard who happens to be the biggest male chauvinist in existence.
It is for these reasons that I listened politely but couldn’t stop myself from quietly groaning as a Baptist preacher spoke at a recent protest I attended for reproductive rights.
It is for these reasons that I will not concede any more ideological ground to the Christians when it comes to women’s issues.
It is for these reasons that modern feminists are going to be running into a brick wall until they take a hard stance against religion. Fighting sexist politicians or their individual policies is like treating symptoms but not the disease. Christianity is the force behind assaults on women’s rights because it offers a moral justification for a question without a real answer. Why do men need to control women’s bodies? Why is it immoral when women enjoy sex in the same way men do? Because god says so.
This is not a fight that we can avoid, there are no other battles we can pick instead. The truth is that the Christians are not going to stop trying to turn back the clock. If we give them an inch they will take a mile. Feminists have long been warning that the issue of reproductive rights isn’t limited to abortion, but includes things as seemingly innocuous as birth control. This was unthinkable, even silly to most people in years past. But after a landmark year of pushing back on the abortion issue in 2011, we’re now seeing birth control become a flashpoint. The Catholic Church fought Obama’s health care mandate, claiming that forcing Catholic Universities and Hospitals — actual churches had already been exempted — to pay for contraception as part of their employees’ health insurance impinged on their religious liberty. Rush Limbaugh recently called a university law student a “slut” because she thought her health insurance should cover birth control.
And therein lies the crux of the issue.
The Christians aren’t fighting abortion, they’re not fighting birth control, they’re not fighting for or against sex-education, condoms, or any of a long list of issues they cite. If they wanted to end abortion they would enthusiastically endorse birth control because it allows a woman to keep from getting pregnant when she doesn’t want to be and therefore reduces the possibility of pursuing an abortion. If they truly wanted children to be more informed and to make more responsible decisions about sex, they would support comprehensive sex education. But they don’t actually care about any of these issues. That’s why when they gain ground on restricting abortion, they keep fighting and begin to attack birth control. They aren’t concerned with the safety, health, or lives of women any more than they are concerned with the safety, health, or lives of children.
What they are really concerned about is controlling women’s bodies because they are adhering to a faith that was conceived during a time in history when women were the property of men, and that’s the time period they’re trying to get back to. They are determined to roll back the clocks to a time when a woman was the property of her father until she became the property of her husband. They want to go back to the “good old days” when it was considered horrific for a woman to have sex with anyone but her husband, and even then she was only supposed to enjoy it but so much.
Christians think that every aspect and action of a woman’s body should be controlled by men and are opposed to any law, invention, medical practice, or medicine that frees women from the bondage of constant pregnancy and childbirth, the responsibilities of child-rearing, domestic duty, and obedience to father and husband. If we continue to concede ground to the Christians it will not be long until we see bills in the US Congress repealing the 19th amendment.
I am not overstating this issue. The Christian faith always has been and always will be at war with women. There is no room for negotiation or compromise with these people because the moderates who can be reasoned with are not the policy-makers or the leaders. The Christians who are moderate enough to know how wrong rape, slavery, and sexism are should be smart enough to understand how moronic and utterly impossible their entire religion is.
The “good Christians,” those people who call themselves Christians but who reject a literal reading of the scriptures, who work for women’s rights, LGBT issues, who fight for human rights, those people who abhor the atrocities committed and sanctioned by the god of the Old Testament and who see the need for rationality and science, they are not Christians at all and they have a responsibility to abandon a faith that they know is full of lies, injustice, violence, bigotry, and hate. Those Christians who claim to know right from wrong but continue to support a faith that is based on false claims and which is used as a justification for horrendous atrocities are only adding to the problem. There is no middle ground in this conflict, and those who call themselves Christians will have blood on their hands when their leaders take everything away from the rest of us.
Their leaders are the ones who actually grasp the real facts of the Bible and are salacious instead of horrified. They’re people whose morals come from two millennia ago, who would happily own slaves if they could do so legally, who would be thrilled if American soldiers took spoils of war the way ancient Israelites were commanded to by god and brought home the young virgin girls from cities they’d conquered (NUMB 31:7-18). They’re men who would see women kept out of the pulpit, out of politics, out of the workplace, and back in the home. They’re men who would not bat an eyelash to see women die painfully from back-alley abortions because they’ve already done that, and they couldn’t be trusted not to institute Biblical justice when it comes to rape — by forcing rape victims to marry their attackers (DEUT 22:28-29).
These are not Good Samaritans, they are not pious ascetics, they’re not soft-spoken men of the cloth. They’re authoritarian theocrats who want a special class of citizenship for white Christian men only and a different set of laws for the rest of us. They cannot be reasoned with because they think that their commands come from a greater power from another plane of existence. In the same way that Abraham was ready to sacrifice his son Isaac, the Christians will inflict any amount of suffering or even death on women, gays, and the poor because they think that their reward will come in the hereafter.
We can no longer negotiate with Christians, we can no longer barter with them or coax them. We cannot concede moral ground to which they have no right. We cannot and will not defend them or apologize for them. We will not tolerate their false ideas or their stupidity. The Christians have declared war on everything we hold dear. They have declared war on equality, they have declared war on women, they have declared war on the gays, the atheists, the scientists.
Now this war has two sides.
“We’ve made too many compromises already; too many retreats. They invade our space and we fall back. They assimilate entire worlds and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn here! This far, no further!”