In which I talk about abortion and upset everyone

A lot of my friends on twitter have been discussing abortion from a feminist pro-choice point of view. Many of my friends on Facebook have mentioned abortion from a Catholic pro-life point of view and requested that I go and sign petitions or join groups against it. I’ve decided to try and work out what I think, and probably upset all the Christians AND the feminists in one go. This is an emotive subject and it can’t be written about or debate without upsetting someone. I have been assured by several people that they will still be my friend whatever I write here, so I just want to remind them that I have that in writing! If you’re going to be upset by reading opinions, or call me names because of it, don’t read this.

As a thirty-something man I often feel that feminists think I am not allowed to comment on some issues. I comment here as a husband who knows what it is like for his wife to have a pregnancy scare at a bad time, and also as a former Christian, a skeptic and an advocate of science. I am not telling anyone what to believe, and I do not force anyone to change their behaviour because of my opinion on this subject. This is what I think, not what I am telling you to think. So don’t attack me on it.

Unlike the idea parodied in the famous Monty Python song, I don’t believe that every sperm is sacred, nor every egg, and not even every fertilised egg. How can it be, when of thousands of sperm and thousands of eggs, only a very few will meet and fertilise, and of those, most will not implant, and even then, a blastocyst may well not stay attached to the lining of the womb? The logic that says otherwise does not stand up to scrutiny. Accordingly, I have no problem with the morning after pill. (There goes the Christian vote.)

At some point between fertilisation and birth, a fetus becomes a living human being, conscious, and capable of feeling pain. We don’t know at what point that happens. Once you have a baby that can move, kick and feel pain, I think a woman’s choice is no longer relevant. There are two people involved, not just the mother. The baby is a living being, a human, and has human rights. End of story.  (There goes the feminist vote.) I am fairly sure that self awareness and learning to respond to outside stimulus continues long after birth, and so what is the difference in consciousness between a 23.5 week old fetus and a week old baby? That is a genuine question, I’m not trying to evoke emotion to back an argument either way.

Currently the law allows abortion up to 24 weeks through a pregnancy. Some MPs have campaigned for that limit to be reduced to 20 weeks. The earliest known surviving birth is at 21 weeks. I believe that the 24 week limit is political, not based on facts. I’ve heard a fetus described as “just a clump of cells” but I have also seen abortion decscribed as “deliberate procedure of hacking an unborn child to pieces in the womb.”  In reality the development of a baby is a continuum and we do not know enough to be able to pinpoint a change between clump of cells and living baby.

In 2007 the commons science committee investigated the issue. A Guardian report said this:

“A report on the scientific issues surrounding abortion published yesterday by the Commons science and technology select committee finds that survival rates of babies born before 24 weeks are not high enough to warrant cutting the limit.”

I strongly object to that phrase “not high enough to warrant” as I am of the opinion that any possibility of survival from that early means that an abortion could be ending the life of a living being. Ultimately though, I have no more knowledge of when the limit should be than anyone else does.

I accept that abortion is a necessary evil in some cases. UK law currently allows an abortion to take place later than 24 weeks in certain circumstances:

  • if it is necessary to save the woman’s life
  • to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman
  • if there is substantial risk that if the child were born, it would suffer from physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.

I think those are a good guideline for when an abortion should happen at all, not just when a late abortion is allowed. I don’t like the idea of aborting a baby because of detected illneses, but I can live with that. I certainly don’t like the idea of ending pregnancy for other reasons such as finance, career, or just not wanting to be a parent. I honestly don’t know what I think in the case of rape.

However, and this is important, where I have said that I don’t like it, that is my opinion and I do not have any right to force that on anyone else and so I won’t.

Soph Warnes has put up a very insightful response with lots of links to more information on her blog.

Why faith?

Just in case you didn’t know, a few weeks ago I arrived at a decision that I would no longer call myself a Christian. I wrote a long, angry, ill-timed article about it which I won’t link here as I don’t wish to offend any more people. I am sure that you can find it if you really want to read it.

My decision might have seemed like an ill-informed snap decision to many. It wasn’t. I have been forming opinions in this direction for perhaps two years, with elements from further back. Some recent events were the final trigger that set off all that had been building up and I made my choice.

It has been pointed out to me that a lot of my reasons for not being a Christian are actually only reasons to reject organised religion. Well yes. I am particularly scathing of many things done by the Catholic church, and I stopped being a Catholic several years ago and started attending an Elim church. Many bad things are done by protestant Christians too. I know that Christians of all types have done good things, usually without any other motive but too often there are bad things carried along with that. Particular ideas, expectations and judgements that all but negate the good stuff. I won’t even go into the stuff done by morons like Westborough Baptist Church or Abortion Clinic protesters. I don’t think they are even Christians by any definition except their own.

Leaving aside my rejection of religion itself, what about God? I said in my earlier article that I would remain agnostic and open to persuasion rather than become an atheist. That is the problem though. Persuasion. To be persuaded, I need evidence, and Christianity is designed around not giving me any. I don’t dispute that Jesus existed. There is plenty of historical evidence for that. What I find so frustrating is the insistence that I must rely on faith alone and that I shouldn’t need evidence.

Some people at this point would point at Lewis’s trilemma as evidence. It really isn’t, I can assure you. Here is what C.S. Lewis said:

“Christ either deceived mankind by conscious fraud, or He was Himself deluded and self-deceived, or He was Divine. There is no getting out of this trilemma. It is inexorable.”

I have often seen the above quote paraphrased as “Jesus was either mad, bad, or God.” I see no reason to pick God out of those answers.

Faith is a virtue. Why?

Johns gospel tells us about Thomas who was not with the other disciples when Jesus first visited them after his death, and refused to believe it without evidence. Chapter 20 verse 29 goes on to say “Then Jesus told him: Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

I do not understand the logic here. Why is it better to have faith without evidence? It seems to me like a recipe for believing anything and everything.

I cannot bring myself to believe in God without evidence. As I said a few months ago in when I wrote about skepticism, I am critical of those things that are harmful and are without reason or logic or even counter to such ideas. Scientology, homeopathy, promotion of anti-vaccine ideas, denying climate change, and more. But how can I criticise all those and not be critical of faith in God? All we have to go on are some historical figures and a lot of feelings and personal revelation. Very strong personal revelation, but still personal and can’t be replicated in controlled observed conditions.

If God is real and wants us to know about him and to worship him, why doesn’t he show himself to us today? And I mean physical manifestation, not personal revelation. Two thousand years is a long time to go without new evidence, and it’s long enough to cast doubt on the reliability of old evidence. So why faith? What is wrong with evidence?

Christian AND Goth?

Today a friend asked me for any help I could give for someone that was worried about their son becoming a goth. As a Christian with a lot of goth friends, and, dare I say it, a bit of goth in my past, I tried to gather some thoughts on the subject. This is what I wrote. It might be total drivel, it might not. What do you think?

I would have thought that any fears about goths are divided in to a few different categories.

  • Goths will stop a person being a christian
  • Being a goth will involve hedonistic behaviour
  • Goths are satanists

To be quite honest, there are very few christian goths, but goths will respect someone for being a christian. They won’t usually ridicule anyone for it. Many of them will be Wiccans but those will not attack someone for having a different religion. Exposure to other beliefs might affect a christian, but it is my opinion that you have to go in to the real world at some point, and your faith will stand up to it if it is strong enough. If it is not, then it doesn’t matter where you are exposed to other views.

Some goths do get drunk a lot, but I don’t think more so than many other groups of people. Many goths also drink less alcohol than average. It’s usually about the atmosphere, the socialising, the common interest in the genre of music, and the identification with others.

Most goths are not satanists! Quite a lot think it’s funny to make devil horn signs, and like bands which allude to satan in their name, but it’s nearly all a veneer of bravado. Whether this is harmful or not I couldn’t say.

Quite honestly, my advice is not to worry. The outcome of this persons faith depends on what has shaped them in the past, not what is to come. Their behaviour, tastes, and drinking habbits might change, but they could equally change with any other peer group. I have always been of the opinion that my christianity has more impact on my goth friends than their spirituality might have had on me.