Wednesday, January 28, 2009

euro-commune adventure '08

kassia and I finished a website compiling our writings and photos from europe this past fall. Here's the URL. Hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

abortion, religion, and empire

Over the last few months my mother and I have been having an email exchange on the topic of religion. I thought I'd share my last volley...

Mother Theresa names various social ills and names abortion as their cause. I agree that the problems she named are serious problems. I disagree that abortion, or the legalization of abortion caused them or has exacerbated them. Do you know of any data/studies that support her assertions? I think those problems were developing before abortion was legalized. Abortion is not the problem, or the cause of those problems. Our culture is the problem, and abortion is one of many symptoms.

The mainstream of contemporary western civilization is a culture of hyper-individualism, consumerism, and commercialism. The birth of this culture can be traced back to the advent of hierarchy, because this culture depends on the exploitation of people and natural resources by other people. More recently, look back to European colonialism starting in the 15th century, then to the industrial revolution and the rise of the corporation as a dominant social institution, and in the last 50 years to the rise of global, free-market capitalism as the dominant economic model. (Ironically, the first civilization known to outlaw abortions, the Sumerians, was one of the first to engage in war and slavery on a large scale. - noted in The Creation of Patriarchy by Gerda Lerner)

What has come out of this culture? A set of socio-economic structures, imposed by the owning-class of world society everywhere in the world that condition people to believe that they themselves are disposable and that their only worth is in what they produce and consume. It is not people's relationship to unborn children that is the fundamental problem. People's relationship with themselves and their understanding of their place in the world is the fundamental problem. And this is being perpetuated by a system that has intensely greedy and selfish people at the controls.

Mother Theresa says about the woman considering abortion that, "we must persuade her with love, and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts... the mother who is thinking of abortion should be helped to love - that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child."

How can you tell a woman that without also acknowledging that so-called "pro-life" politicians like John McCain can't even remember how many houses he has? How can you justify telling a woman she can't have an abortion when over 50% of the federal budget is spent on the military? Mother Theresa says that if we allow women to kill their children how can anyone else learn that it's wrong to kill others. But where did these women learn that it's okay to kill their children?

You also sent me a video that included images of aborted fetuses. I didn't watch the whole video. I've seen those images before. I've also seen images of children in Africa, starving to death with their bloated bellies. I've seen images of children hit in the cross-fire of the war in Iraqi, waged by so-called "pro-life" politicians from their greed and lust for power. I know I will continue to see images of suffering people around the world, victims of a distinctly anti-life culture.

In contemplating my response to you, I looked up some statistics that you might find interesting. There seems to be an assumption that if abortion is condoned by society it will be more frequent. There also seems to be an assumption that somehow religiosity corresponds to morality, and thus, presumably, to a decrease in abortion. But if you compare statistics to various developed nations this doesn't hold up.:

..........................Abortion Rate....................Percentage Christian

Denmark..........19.1.....................................57 (21 believe in god)
Spain.................16........................................76 (59 believe in god)


Abortion is legal in all of these countries. Also, religious affiliation is not inversely correlated to abortion rates. In these examples, the opposite is more the case. So what's going on in a country like the Netherlands that has a 13.5% abortion rate, but only 43.4% identify as Christian?

What's also been well documented is that the incidence of violent crimes in every other western nation are substantially lower than in the US. Incarceration rates are also vastly lower (the US holds 25% of the worlds incarcerated individuals.) What we also know is that public services and social welfare in other western nations (particularly Europe) are far higher, and that the US ranks low in health and happiness compared to other developed nations.

I think the frequency of abortion in the US is due less to the availability of abortion and more to the perpetuation of a culture that sees all things as disposable, including people and life itself, combined with a lack of social and economic support. As I've said before, if you want to stop abortion you need to ensure that every child that comes into this world will have their basic needs met. Abortion will not stop if it's outlawed. It didn't before, and there's no reason to believe that it will in the future.

Here are a few more statistics I found fascinating:

"While white women obtain 60% of all abortions, their abortion rate is well below that of minority women. Black women are more than 3 times as likely as white women to have an abortion, and Hispanic women are roughly 2 times as likely."

"Women identifying themselves as Protestants obtain 37.4% of all abortions in the U.S.; Catholic women account for 31.3%, Jewish women account for 1.3%, and women with no religious affiliation obtain 23.7% of all abortions. 18% of all abortions are performed on women who identify themselves as 'Born-again/Evangelical'."

Here is a link to an article about a study showing a recent drop in abortion rates in the US. This and other articles say that the reasons for the drop are complex and unclear. It also points out that the new availability of the abortion pill did not increase abortion rates as many "pro-lifer's" asserted:

What all this points out is that abortion is a complex issue wrapped up in a much larger and much more complex cultural context.

Another aspect of this debate that needs to be addressed is the difference in belief around consciousness and life. My understanding is that the Catholic position is that a human life begins when the egg is fertilized. To me, the animals and plants that we eat have as much consciousness as a zygote or bundle of cells. Fundamentally, I believe that the extreme anthropocentrism of modern society is part of the problem. Similarly, I also believe that our fear of pain and death helps disconnect us from the natural world, of which we are a part (as much as we forget or deny it), and allows us to cause the kind of suffering and destruction rampant around the world.

Again, if we want to talk about being "pro-life" we can't just talk about unborn babies, nor can we just talk about human life. From a strictly pragmatic perspective human life is dependent on the lives of other beings. If we ignore this fact, and continue to destroy the world around us, we will die. Again, the early civilizations that laid the foundations for our current anti-life culture were the first to outlaw abortion. Before that, women terminated pregnancies when it was clear the community and the natural environment couldn't support another human life. This was not about anyones "pleasure." This is a much different motivation than the one Mother Theresa speaks against, and is one that helped humanity live in balance with the earth for millennium.

Currently, the global economic empire that is ruled by the corporatocracy, primarily from the US, and imposed by the US military and espionage establishments is leading us all on the path of social, economic and ecological suicide. Don't take my word for it. Just read any news sources that are not CNN, FOX, ABC, or CBS, and ideally sources that are from other countries (the Guardian is great, for example.) This has to be stopped and it has to be stopped as soon as possible. Otherwise, the question of abortion for most people will become moot in the face of far more pressing issues of basic survival.