I’m not particularly moved to write about anything today. Any requests?
Sorry for the intentionally derisive headline but I have a point to make here. Consider this Part 2, of my series on abortion and my contention that abortion is a much more complicated issue that simply being pro or con, pro-life or pro-choice, etc.
In my first installment, I made an observation that was really more of a commentary against the validity of Christianity than it was a commentary on abortion. Going forward, I’m going to address a series of ideas that don’t get brought up very much in the abortion debate. I have no agenda here, I simply find this discussion fascinating and amazingly complex, much more complex than I the way I see it normally framed.
So, you may be wondering, how exactly does abortion save lives?
This is actually a surprisingly easy question to answer.
I have a very good friend named, Wendy (not her real name, but real person). Wendy is a former Christian that now self-identifies as agnostic. When she was in college, she had a one night stand, got pregnant, and made the very difficult decision to have an abortion (confiding only in her roommate; not her family, not the young man she slept with). Wendy considers herself “pro-life,” and some twenty-odd years after her abortion, she still struggles with guilt over her decision. Wendy is married, and the mother of three fantastic children.
Over coffee, about a year ago, we were discussing some aspect of the abortion debate, and Wendy was really struggling with the residual guilt that she harbored—Wendy, like me, was raised Catholic, so guilt is in her DNA. During the conversation, a thought occurred to me and I leaned over to her and said, “you know, if you didn’t get that abortion and had that baby back in college, your kids would never have been born.” This caught her off guard, but she immediately understood my thought.
Now, we parents love to feel that our kids are “meant to be here,” but the fact of the matter is that if Wendy had a child in college, her life would have played out differently than it did. And there’s absolutely no chance that the three particular sperm and three particular eggs that needed to fuse together to make her children, would have ever crossed paths. She probably would never have even met her future husband.
Wendy still carries guilt and probably always will, but her stance on the abortion issue has softened, which was not my intent. I simply had an organic thought during a conversation.
PLEASE, PLEASE understand that this observation is not a moral argument for or against abortion rights, nor is it a commentary on selecting some potential children over other potential children.
This observation does have a practical application with regard to abortion statistics, however. One abortion does not necessarily equal one net less life on Earth. Any given woman that has an abortion might end up having more, less, or the same number of children by the end of her procreative run than she would have had if she had not had an abortion. You could also consider the potential children that come into play that the men involved would have a hand in. And if you really wanted to get dizzy, you could consider the endless next generations of potential children that would or would not come into play based on a countless combination of scenarios. In reality, almost any random encounter between two people has this same effect on the chain of human reproduction, but we’re getting away from the point, now.
All of this may sounds cold, but it happens to be true. And, again, I AM NOT addressing any ethical issues here; I’m simply making observations that I find interesting.
We non-believers are often requested to explain where we get our morality from, if not from a god. As a result, the phrase, “good without god,” has become quite ubiquitous in the atheist community and emerges when we atheists are put in the nonsensical position of explaining how it’s possible to be a decent person despite the absence of a belief in a god.
Now, there are millions and millions of assholes in the United States—sometimes (I’m human) I’m one of those assholes. But it stands to reason that if the vast majority of Americans believe in a god, then the vast majority of assholes in this country must be believers. The reality is that most of us are assholes from time to time. For some, those instances are rare; for others, those instances are constant.
Does me being an asshole make the case for Christianity stronger? Does me being a good person make the case for Atheism stronger? NO, on both counts! I would argue that people like, Pat Robertson, or the late, Jerry Falwell, might just be among the biggest assholes this country has ever produced. Do they make the Christian argument weaker? Do they make the Atheist argument stronger? NO, again!
So while it’s true that Atheists not only can be, “good without god,” they usually are, “good without god.” Maybe the better question is: Can you be good with god?
The next time you see two people in the midst of a road rage incident, please understand that the odds heavily suggest that they believe in a god. The next time you see a parent being abusive to a referee at a nine-year-old sporting event, please understand that the odds heavily suggest that she believes in a god. The next time an armed man robs a liquor store, please understand that the odds heavily suggest that he believes in a god. And the next time an adult sexually assaults a child, please understand that the odds heavily suggest that the adult in question firmly believes in a god. OBVIOUSLY, non-believers do bad things, too, but in the United States, 80-85% of the population self-identify as believers in a god, so you do the math on all the bad shit that happens. Next time you wonder if I can be good without god, maybe you should wonder why so many people are not good with god!
Now, from a personal perspective, I’ll flat out claim that I’m a better person as an Atheist than I was as a Christian. I also appreciate life more as an Atheist than I did as a Christian—mostly because I no longer consider my life to be the entrance exam into the next life. I’m amazingly lucky to simply exist and my appreciation for that fact impacts how I try to live my life.
I know a great number of believers that are wonderful people. In fact, the majority of the people that I love, believe in a god. Most of those people never wonder how or why I can be good without their god—mainly because it’s a nonsensical thing to wonder about.
The Bible is roughly three quarters of a million words long, it’s messages are all over the board, and no one agrees on the messages. I’m going to deliver a better moral message that the Bible could ever hope to deliver. Right here. Right now. And I only need four words to do it.
Don’t be an asshole.
Considering that Jesus was fully human AND fully god, it got me wondering if he experienced some of the things that we regular human men experience.
For instance, in a severe lightning storm, did Jesus flee for cover like a frighten school girl (like I do), or did he just saunter his way across Jerusalem because he KNEW he wasn’t going to be struck by lightning?
Did Jesus ever misplace anything like a regular human would or did his divinity always kick in to know where his stuff was at all times?
Did Jesus ever eat some lamb that wasn’t prepare quite right and end up shitting his brains out? Or was he able to kill aggressive bacteria at will?
Did Jesus wake up with morning wood and have to urinate at odd angles or wait for it to subside and pee with a full range of motion? Or did he never get morning erections?
Did Jesus use his superpowers as a hormonally imbalanced teenager, or did the powers not kick in until he was an adult?
Did Jesus ever fantasize about women? (He was FULLY human, right?)
Did Jesus ever fantasize about men? (He never spoke against homosexuality.)
Did Jesus ever forget someone’s name? (“Remind me of your name again, child. Yes, of course. Good to see you again, Ananias, son of Zacharia.”)
Did Jesus ever fall for a practical joke, or did he always know when he was being tricked?
Did Jesus ever catch a cold?
Did Jesus have nightmares?
Did Jesus ever bother to work out? Do a few pushups? Situps? Light jog?
Could Jesus handle his liquor? We know he was a prolific winemaker, but did his pure blood make him a lightweight?
Let’s face it, most people don’t spend much time contemplating Jesus as a real person with real human traits. But most believers are quite familiar with the phrase, “Jesus was fully human AND fully God.” Perhaps this is just another concept that people think they believe but really don’t believe, or have never given it the proper consideration.
Two years ago today in Pakistan, Seal Team 6, put a bullet in Osama Bin Laden’s eye, ending a ten year hunt for America’s most wanted criminal. Late the prior evening, I happened to arrive in Dubai, my first and only trip so far to the Middle East. The next morning I was the recipient of numerous text messages inquiring if I was OK.
Considering that I happened to be staying in a six-star resort (long story) and couldn’t have been more comfortable, the answer was yes.
At that time, uprisings throughout the Middle East were dominating the news, which had people questioning why I would travel to Dubai during such a volatile time. So when the Bin Laden news broke, I’m sure those concerned about me pictured me in a scene like this…
…when in reality, I was here…
…sipping some of these… Continue reading
This would be funny if I didn’t live in a country filled with people that believe this sick, stupid story. (Thanks Mary)
As many of you know, as an ex-Catholic Atheist, I’m not shy in berating my former church for its centuries old, systemic, child-rape cover-ups. I’m also critical of the church’s immense wealth, its nonsensical canonization program, its governmental style bureaucracy, its sexual paranoia (especially in sub-Saharan Africa), its proliferation in the poorest and most ignorant parts of the world, its treatment of women and homosexuals, and many more items that I could list.
However, every so often, I find myself defending my old church, which always feels a bit unsettling.
These instances usually take place when I’m explaining my Atheism to a non-Catholic Christian. Continue reading