By the Numbers

I have an old friend, R, who has in the past wrangled with me here on this site. It hasn’t always been pretty, and we’ve both been guilty of some pretty poor behavior toward each other. We’ve set aside those mistakes and have had fewer, but more constructive dialogues here and there.

Recently, on Facebook, he challenged my pro-choice position. He calls it “pro-abortion,” of course, but I reject that specificity on the grounds that 1.) it doesn’t accurately represent my position and 2.) it still assumes I have some choice in the matter myself.

Up front, however, I will make my position clearer. I am pro-choice because I believe a woman has an autonomous right to control her own body, including every aspect of her reproductive system. Therefore, I don’t have any say in the matter. But I’ll go further and say that, if anyone was actually asking me (which they aren’t) I don’t think I could bring myself to make such a decision casually, nor can I make a pronouncement one way or the other without actually experiencing the situation. I think it’s reprehensible for anyone to insist a rape victim carry to term the result of their rape. I think it’s cruel to the woman and baby to force anyone to bring a deformed child to term whose life is going to be nothing but a brief torture and quick death. But I’m not the woman, and I’m not in a position to make those choices, nor do I presume to be qualified to do so, unlike so many others.

My friend R is an evangelical, fundamentalist Christian who has very strict views about abortion. He is wholly against it for basically any reason, and views it as wholesale murder and Planned Parenthood as a government funded slaughterhouse (nevermind the fact that not one federal dollar goes to fund abortion services.) He believes that abortion doctors murder ~1 million unborn babies every year. I don’t think I’m mischaracterizing his stance at all (having once held that view myself) but I invite him to correct any aspect of that I’ve got wrong.

Now, all that said, I would like to invite my friend, R, to participate in a thought experiment with me. Ideally this will be an interactive post, with us discussing each points and supporting our particular conclusions.

And for the sake of the thought experiment, let’s go ahead and assume that my position is pro-abortion for any reason, with zero personal reservations (forgetting for a moment that it’s none of my business.)

In a slight way this won’t be fair to R, because I already know what I’m driving at. However, the questions should make it quickly clear what I’m driving at, and we’ll see where we end up. My intention is to embed the initial answers and my responses into the body of the post, then we can take up any further conversation in the comment fields below.

Question 1: What is the primary mission of Born-Again believers?

Question 2: In your Evangelical Worldview, what happens to the souls of babies that are aborted?

Question 3: Of all the children born every year, what percentage of them will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ – a genuine regenerative conversion?

Question 4: What is the eternal fate of the remaining percentage who do not come to a saving knowledge of Christ?

So there you go. I’ll ping R and see if he wants to come out and dialogue.

I should say that my purpose in this is not to convince anyone to support or not support abortion per se. Rather I hope to challenge the simplistic assumptions of Evangelicals and hopefully get at least a few people to view the larger picture on the importance of women’s health issues in our modern society. I’d like readers to see the complexity and the humanity of the pro-choice position, and step away from the inflammatory and platitudinous nonsense that characterizes this social conflict.


8 thoughts on “By the Numbers

  1. This is an approach that I also take. I would also ask them about whether an egg that is fertilized, but doesn’t implant has a soul, and if so what happens to all of those souls, because that is the case for well over half of all fertilizations. I’d also ask what happens to the souls of miscarriages, because that’s around a third of pregnancies that do implant. There are vastly more unsuccessful pregnancies than there are aborted ones.

    If his god takes care of all of those “unborn souls”, then why should aborted “souls” fare any differently? . If god sends all those unborn souls to hell, then he’s a monster. And the most logical answer, if god sends all the unborn souls to heaven, but condemns most of the souls of those people who are actually born to hell, is to abort ALL pregnancies.

    I don’t think most of them have really thought this through. I think they accept what they are told because it’s a marker of their “True Christian™” tribal affiliation to loudly proclaim their opposition.

    • As long as we’re talking about souls existing from conception, you could also ask about identical twins: are they implanted with a single soul that is later divided in two with the egg? Does the single fertilized egg temporarily have two souls before the division? Is a second soul imparted at the time of the division… and if so, what are the implications regarding which fetus gets which soul?

      Or how about genetic chimeras–when one twin essentially absorbs the other in utero? Does the resulting fetus have two souls? Do they combine into a “super-soul?” Is one soul removed… and if so, does this mean that one fetus is guilty of having murdered the other?

      • I really regret not responding to this when you originally posted it, because that is pretty brilliant. It also shines a light on the very rudimentary and scientifically naïveté displayed by the biblical writers.

  2. The more I learn about Evangelicals, the happier I am I don’t know any.

    I believe in souls, though. I think. I’m sort of half-assed as an atheist. My journey did not stop when I quit church, and of late has continued in the company of some very spiritual and insightful people. Just the other night the concept of a soul transplant came up. A friend is quit certain the soul he was born with exited his body and another took its place when he was seventeen. There are various reasons how he knows this, and the other people in the conversation affirmed his belief with stories of their own or of people they knew. Obviously I am not qualified to offer any opinion on that so I don’t. It’s sort of like belief in ghosts, though (or Jesus and the Saints for that matter): For me to say those things aren’t real requires tremendous arrogance on my part, being as I have not actually experienced the believers’ lives.

    I was relatively pro-life from an atheistic point of view for many years. This was because every fetus represented a potential human being and its abortion was a violation of that human being’s natural rights. When rights clash, you have to go to the fundamentals, and to say a woman’s right of control over her reproductive system is inviolable shades you towards the inviolability of the rights of a parent to raise and discipline her child to a similar degree. So I don’t know as I could ever construct a solid set of rules over this from basic principles. I’m more of a pragmatist. Souls, as you say, will move on when a body dies, thus abortion does the soul no harm; the fetus is not self-aware enough for its death to be a crime (given the fact of natural abortions, stillborns, etc; and there are more than enough people anyway. Let’s first take care of the ones we have, which is to say, if you’re so uncompromisingly pro-life, why aren’t you on the front lines to stop the bombing in Syria? Or at least take care of the living in those countries, rather than campaign for warlike intervention?

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