Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

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When God was Pro-Choice and Why He Changed His Mind

Valerie Tarico

Ethical Technology

November 19, 2012

In the autumn of 1978 the Washington Association of Churches and the Washington State Catholic Conference jointly published a six page pamphlet they called, “Abortion: An Ecumenical Study Document.” Their work offers a fascinating snapshot of Christian thinking at the time and raises some equally fascinating questions about what, exactly, has happened in the last thirty-five years.


Complete entry


Posted by rmk948  on  11/19  at  02:41 PM

What an excellent article! I had heard about the evolving (or rather devolving) position of Protestant churches, but Dr. Tarico explains the remarkable process that led denominations that had been pro-choice to become wildly pro-life.

Posted by Intomorrow  on  11/19  at  03:46 PM

Pro- ‘life’s (if it is really about life, not just a wedge-issue) disproportionality is what gets one to thinking: if the abortion issue, which is undeniably an ethical issue, is of such importance to the pro- life, then more existential issues are of colossal import: seismic activity, asteroids, solar eruptions, climatological threats, pollution, cancer, etc., must be of gargantuan importance.
If one were to lose sleep over the abortion issue, one would be a complete insomniac in coping with existential threats.

Posted by Henry Bowers  on  11/19  at  04:00 PM

Question:  how could “walking, talking, thinking, breathing” people have “earned” their “civil rights” without first being born?  When do these rights kick-in?

Also, please observe how the following article dismantles the Bible passage in question:

Posted by Peter Wicks  on  11/21  at  10:58 AM

Henry, civil rights are a human invention, which we bestow on ourselves and each other, or not, as we see fit. Some of us like to believe that they are God-given, or otherwise sacred or objectively “true”, but this is mere delusion.

Admittedly, it’s a very persistent delusion, and one that holds a huge significance for many. This is something that secularists need to understand, and to some extent respect. But ultimately, delusion is still delusion. If you insist on holding beliefs that are based on something other than evidence, then you risk harming both yourself and others.

Posted by Henry Bowers  on  11/21  at  11:42 AM

@Peter:  it seems your concept of “harm” is also a construct.  Who shall be our arbiter?

The evidence for dignity is that beaver dams have not improved since the 1950’s, 1750’s, or 3500 B.C.

We differ in kind, and not by degree, from other animals, so if we act in opposition to all reason, we handicapp ourselves to a brutality we’re not evolved or equipped to handle, causing more harm than any bacterium, virus, or disaster; and harm, too, can differ in kind against humans, if we have a moral dimension.

Thus, to Intomorrow’s point, the problem is not death qua death, but subjective and arbitrary disbursements of harm, undertaken against all reason.

Posted by Peter Wicks  on  11/21  at  01:21 PM

The question, “Who shall be our arbiter?” is indeed the pertinent one, except that we might replace “who” with “what”, since the answer that comes most naturally to me is, “Reality.”

In a sense, ANY concept of harm is a construct. It’s not a particularly well-defined or measurable concept. Similarly, what kind of action is to be regarded as in accordance with or “in opposition to” reason is very much a matter of judgement, or belief.

And who is to say that the problem is not “death qua death”? Why should I not regard that as the problem, and seek to live forever? Again, who (or what) shall be our arbiter?

You speak of “the evidence for dignity”. Dignity, too, is a highly subjective quality. What one person might consider dignified another might consider to be utterly crass. It’s very much a matter of values: values, mind you, not reason. Values cannot be determined by reason alone: they are a product of our instinctive preferences, our upbringing and culture, and ultimately they must be chosen.

But reality is different. We can choose how we seek to influence the future, but the past and the present are what they are, irrespective of our beliefs. Civil rights are human constructs, irrespective of whether we believe them to be so or not.

Basically what I mean, when I say that delusional belief is harmful, is that on the whole, and in the long run, it limits our ability to lead meaningful and successful lives. In the short term this will often not be the case, of course: one might find much more meaning in delusional beliefs than in non-delusional ones. But if we do not allow ourselves to consider that what we think we know might actually be wrong, then we are likely to experience more severe problems than if we take care to keep an open mind about our beliefs now.

At least that’s what I believe. Of course, this might also be wrong. But when I see people talking about civil rights as if they were somehow sacred or God-given, it makes me nervous.

Posted by SHaGGGz  on  11/21  at  07:23 PM

Implicit in the loaded question of “who shall be our arbiter” is that the questions facing humanity can only be settled by a unified external agency, ie God. This is, of course, nonsensical. Irrespective of God’s actual existence, the presumed means by which we would enact His will would be to have self-appointed humans claiming to speak for Him interpret ancient scriptures, which were also written by humans. The fact that “His” position on abortion can change so radically when supposedly being based on the same scripture as before shows that the only thing any of this is based on is mundane monkey politics.

Posted by Kris Notaro  on  11/21  at  07:39 PM

god was a social construction, and will most likely continue to be a social construction in the future.

Posted by Peter Wicks  on  11/22  at  02:48 AM

That is correct, but we can still have views on how we wish to see that social construction evolve.

Essentially I see two possibilities that I would consider acceptable either
(i) that the concept atrophies altogether, as SHaGGGz would presumably prefer, or
(ii) that the more progressive/emerging concepts of God favoured by people like Alex McGilvery and (especially) Lincoln Cannon gradually replace the more primitive notions that we have inherited from our bronze age ancestors.

In a sense, it was these two alternative visions of the future of the God concept that were at war during the very polemical debates we were having here earlier this year on the subject of religion. It would be good if we could find a more constructive way of debating these issues in the future. If you’re interested I could perhaps write an article on the subject?

Posted by SHaGGGz  on  11/22  at  02:51 AM

@Peter: Do.

Posted by Kris Notaro  on  11/22  at  05:46 AM

That sounds great!

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