Saturday, June 19

The Soul Reason for Debate (Part 2)


Skepticism is the chastity of the intellect, and it is shameful to surrender it too soon or to the first comer: there is nobility in preserving it coolly and proudly through long youth, until at last, in the ripeness of instinct and discretion, it can be safely exchanged for fidelity and happiness. – George Santayana

For the first part of this Beguine Again post, see


From the standpoint of religious organizations and groups, perhaps the most important implication is that, to avoid all the foregoing Tar-Baby issues surrounding human-ness, ensoulment, and the like, those who oppose abortion on ethical grounds founded on religious doctrine should effect a fundamental shift in their rhetoric, tactics, and advocacy.  This shift would consist of two parts:  (1) keep the religious part of abortion opposition on the "Church" side of the "wall of separation"; (2) in those areas where the Church is competent to do so, render only "practical" assistance to women making abortion decisions.

(1) Keep the religious part of abortion opposition on the "Church" side of the "wall of separation"


I am not suggesting here that groups that are opposed to abortion should change their  position and drop their principled opposition.  If you want to speak out against abortion, you have a perfect "free-exercise" clause right to do so.  But preaching against abortion in front of an abortion clinic -- and certainly most of all preaching against abortion to women who are entering the clinic in varying states of emotional and physical trauma -- helps neither the women nor the pro-life cause.  Agitating for anti-abortion legislation raises all the foregoing "establishment" clause issues with regard to the human-ness of the fetus and avoids necessitating aforementioned the "Hobson's choice" between running afoul of that clause, on the one hand, and renouncing the Church's theological beliefs, on the other.

(2) Render only "practical" assistance to women making abortion decisions.


Instead, churches and other faith-based groups can perform services like child-care, free / cheap meals, housing assistance, post-abortion follow-up care of a strictly medical and / or "friendship" nature, etc., etc.  I strongly suspect that much -- not all, but much -- of the post-abortion trauma is the result of a climate of moral censure nurtured, deliberately or not, by churches in their depiction of mothers, abortion doctors, clinic staff, etc., as "murderers".  The case can be made that much -- again, not all, but much -- of the incidence of post-abortion trauma is created by the churches' exportation of its adverse moral judgments into a pluralistic "public square" populated by people who, even while not necessarily especially religious, are affected by the ambient culture of moral disapproval.  Shifting the emphasis of religious opposition from the "moral" to the "practical" / "clinical" would go a long way to remedying the stereotype of churches as being more concerned with the contents of the woman's uterus than with the contents of her heart and her soul.

As long as churches and other religious groups opposed to abortion insist on having their religious beliefs encoded into the secular, civil law in such a way as to prohibit abortion, there will always be a critical, usually fatal, First Amendment / "establishment" clause issue with justifying these civil-law restrictions purely on the basis of religious doctrine.  Churches' reticence about engaging the issue of the spiritual / non-physical dimension of the human-ness of the fetus, and emphasizing instead the purely genetic / cytological aspects says that, on some level, even if only subliminally, churches realize this problem exists.  Courts have faced this issue intentionally, especially in landmark decisions like Roe and Casey, and, instead of making human-ness the criterion of whether or not abortion is permissible, enlisted the criterion of "viability" to serve that function.  This alternative is not open to anti-abortion churches who, because they see the fetus as "ensouled" from conception, consequently see it as human from conception.  Since human-ness, not mere "viability", is the criterion, this means there is no analog of Roe's first-trimester "window", or of Casey's "viability" "window", during which the fetus could be legitimately aborted.  Rather than attempt to write this latter essentially theological / doctrinal principle into the civil law, churches and other religious organizations opposed to abortion would be better advised to adopt a two-prong approach of (1) preaching against abortion to the wider society from the vantage point of the pulpit, even as they (2) provide temporal assistance in the "public square" to women who nevertheless elect to have abortion.

For Thoughtful Thursday, offering something to think about. Often, we are so attached to our own way of thinking that we don’t even consider new things. This will be an offering of something to pull us in deeper. It walks hand in hand with Becca’s “Nurturing Thursday.” While Becca’s prompt is geared towards self-care, this prompt is geared towards self-challenge–perhaps a specific type of self-care! Only by considering new ideas, can we grow. Growth comes in many ways. Through letting go of unhelpful ideas and moving on, or through challenge that grounds you more firmly and knowledgeably in your current ideas. #thoughtfulness #FindingGod


Skeptic Collection graphic from

(c) 2014, James Cowles