Which faith gets to decide our morality?
The U.S. House of Representatives voted last week to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions, along with a variety of health care services for women. The Virginia General Assembly last week approved legislation that requires abortion clinics to be regulated as hospitals, and providers say the stricter regulations will force many of them out of business. Both measures were pushed by anti-abortion activists. Should personal and religious views be allowed to prevent women from having access to a legal medical procedure?
A particular faith's moral perspective should never be imposed on a pluralistic and theoretically secular society. Not simply because religious moral codes aren't one-size-fits-all, even within predominantly uniform belief systems like evangelical Christianity, but because such an imposition amounts to tyranny in a multi-religious society. If there is one lesson from history, it is that all dominant groups fall, change, or fade over time. The pagan religions of Rome once influenced most of what we now know of as Europe and the Mediterranean, in addition to parts of Africa and the Middle East. Some thought that dominance would extend forever, with other faiths endlessly conforming, synthesizing, and changing in the face of its influence. However, the mythic history of Christianity is built on the power of these faiths ending, and sweeping changes being made. After 2000 years it is sheer hubris for Christians, and members of other dominant monotheisms who now enjoy unprecedented social influence, to believe their time will never end. The world is changing, becoming increasingly post-Christian in make-up, and the tighter certain socially conservative monotheists grasp, the quicker their seemingly endless reigns will topple.
As for abortion, the issue is far more complex than many ardent "pro-life" activists would care to admit. I think it would be fair to say that the majority of modern Pagans across the spectrum favor safe and legal access to abortions (and want it to stay that way). Most Pagans who don't personally support abortions stay out of the "pro-life" camp since they feel that it is an ethical matter between an individual and their gods and not something the government (or religious groups) should be deciding for us. As my fellow On Faith co-panelist Starhawk said here some years ago, pregnancy and birth is a profound and holy mystery. That it is an encounter with goddess (or The Goddess), where weighty decisions concerning life and death are made, and that outside attempts to legislate or control a woman's pregnancy and birth is to deny her "deepest spiritual self". Sometimes, in the crux of that holy moment, a potential life is rejected. We may not always agree with or like this situation, but the sacred power of choice can't be denied, lest we deny a woman's moral agency in the matter of birth. Throughout recorded history husbands, rulers, family, religious leaders, and various laws have tried to regulate and control that agency, but despite this, women have found ways to choose the time and manner of bearing children.
"Through our own abortion experiences, we came to reject the dichotomy of abortion politics that would require women to choose between two beliefs: that pregnancy is a miracle, the fetus's life is sacred, and therfore abortion is wrong; or that pregnancy is merely a physical event, the fetus is just a mass of tissue, and therefore abortion is insignificant. As feminists and Pagans, we believe that women are literally a gateway between worlds and that abortion is a responsible exercise of the sacred power of choice." - Minerva Earthschild and Vibra Willow, The Pagan Book of Living and Dying
As Pagans, whether we personally agree with abortion or not, we do agree that no singular moral teaching should control us all. That we know and acknowledge the existence of many paths, many powers, and many teachings. That in a world where people worship different gods and hold to different ways, co-existence and tolerance is the key to survival. Those Christians, Catholics, or Mormons who drive the politics of anti-abortion sentiment would make their moral understanding the only understanding, their way the only way. To make us accept only their truth, and deny all others, and ultimately to destroy the primal right of women to be the final arbiters of carrying a pregnancy to term. It is for these reasons I yearn for a truly post-Christian America because I yearn for a country where no one group feels privileged and empowered enough to interfere with the lives and medical decisions of women.
Posted by: lepidopteryx | March 5, 2011 12:41 PM
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Posted by: smohame | March 5, 2011 7:16 AM
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