23 March 2009

Abortion & Christianity

The Objectivist
Christians on Abortion and the Afterlife: Inconsistent Doctrines
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
March 9, 2009

Many of the leading pro-life groups are Christians. The pro-life position generally holds that abortion is wrong and should be illegal. One of the leading pro-life groups, Operation Rescue, is a Christian-activist group. The Catholic Church holds that abortion is a grave sin and excommunicates anyone who directly participates in bringing one about, assuming they knew of the penalty when they acted. Before he was the current pope, Cardinal John Ratzinger wrote that priests should tell politicians who support abortion that they should avoid taking communion or risk being denied the Eucharist. This is bad news for Joe Biden (D-DE), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Ted Kennedy (D-NY). Other evangelical and fundamentalist Christian organizations oppose abortion, as does the Mormon Church. These groups’ influence has led the U.S. Republican Party to call for a ban on abortion.

Traditional Christianity also accepts that some people go to heaven and some go to hell or are annihilated (cease to exist). The Bible repeatedly states that there is post-earthly existence and many will not be saved. Consider Matt. 13:49-50, 25:41, 25:46, Luke 13:23, and Matt. 7:13-14. The Catholic Church and some types of Protestantism explicitly accept that hell exists and is a bad place to reside.

The Catholic Church recently issued a report, approved by Pope Benedict, which expressed hope that unbaptized babies will be sent to heaven. The church is committed to a similar conclusion about fetuses because both fetuses and babies are created in the image and likeness of God and hence are sacred. This position makes a lot of sense. It is hard to believe that an all-loving person like God would send an innocent child to hell or annihilate her.

Compare this to the doctrine which holds that because unbaptized infants and fetuses are tainted by original sin, if they die unbaptized God sends them to hell. Just imagine the mean-spirited religious leader who would tell a heartbroken woman who recently lost a newborn that her child is wailing in hell and will do so until the end of time because she did not move quickly enough to have him baptized.

The problem arises when we combine the pro-life position with the above view on heaven and hell. The problem is that if traditional Christianity is true, then a person who aborts a fetus guarantees that it goes to heaven. If someone guarantees that a fetus goes to heaven, then she does a wonderful thing for it. If someone does a wonderful thing for a fetus, then her action is permissible. Hence, if traditional Christianity is true, then abortion is permissible. As a result, on pain of contradiction, traditional Christians cannot be pro-life.

Even if we assume that fetuses have rights, specifically human rights, and that abortion infringes on them, the infringement is still permissible. After all, we often think that it is okay to infringe on someone’s right when doing so prevents a tragedy. Consider the following. There is a car accident and a three-year-old black girl’s arm is cut off. If reattachment surgery doesn’t begin soon, she will permanently lose the arm. A bystander knows the only way to get the child to the hospital in time is to hotwire a parked car. The bystander knows the car owner and in particular that he is a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, a vicious racist organization, and would never consent to allowing his car to be used to help the girl. Intuitively, it seems permissible to hotwire the car. A similar thing permits us to break into a storefront and steal a syringe of insulin if it is necessary to save a diabetic child’s life. In short, it’s okay to infringe on someone’s right when doing so prevents a horrific tragedy. Note that the worst tragedy that can befall someone is spending eternity in hell.

One objection here is that abortion is not similar to the above cases because it is not clear that the aborted fetus would have gone to hell. The fetus might have grown up and freely chosen Christianity. Still, we often praise people who act to reduce risk. If an emergency medical technician gives lifesaving shocks to a woman whose heart has stopped and thereby reduces her chance of permanent brain damage from 99% to 1%, we think that he did the right thing even though there is some chance the shocks weren’t necessary to prevent brain damage.

A second objection is that because our bodies are on loan from God, we have no right to take others’ lives, and this includes unborn children. One problem with this is that this would prohibit self-defense and defense-of-others killings (for example, consider the U.S. military). A second problem is that God must have a reason to prohibit persons from sending their unborn children to heaven; otherwise his prohibition is arbitrary. The fact that he owns their bodies is irrelevant.

A third objection is that if traditional Christianity is true, then sending persons to hell is morally permissible. If God may send people to hell, then he must have a reason not to send everyone to heaven. The objection continues, if God has a reason not to send everyone to heaven, then so do women and physicians. Hence, they should not try to send fetuses to heaven. This objection fails. Just because God may not do all he can to ensure human beings go to heaven, the same is not true for human beings. After all, God has the power to change individual’s thoughts and human beings do not. That is, when he acts, he interferes with human freedom in a way that differs from how human beings interfere with each other. The concern for freedom might explain why it would be wrong for God to kill monsters like Mao Tse-tung, Joseph Stalin, or Adolf Hitler, but why the same is not true for human beings trying to stop them.

Many Christians accept the pro-life position on abortion and yet hold that aborted fetuses go to heaven. These ideas are inconsistent. They ought to dump their pro-life stance.


电灯 said...


电灯 said...

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