Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Protestants vs. Catholics

One of the famous splits between Protestants and Catholics is in regard to birth control. I always thought the Catholic opposition to birth control was stupid. I know, I'm a diplomat. What do you want, twenty babies?

I've always liked birth control myself. Big fan of the birth control. Nonetheless, I do see how birth control has changed our attitudes about human sexuality. Before birth control, we were at the mercy of God, or if you prefer, nature. Women could get pregnant at any time. Thus sex was a very big deal, as we would be responsible for any baby we created.

Birth control is an attempt to take control of this process from God. We will control when we get pregnant and when we do not get pregnant. Abortion kind of flows out of this mindset. I am pregnant and I do not want to be pregnant and therefore I should be in charge of whether I am pregnant or not. One might add that this same argument can be made by Plato and Aristotle for the woman who walks away from her baby. I do not want to be a mother, and so I walk away. I am responsible for what I do, but I have no responsibility for this other human being. Sooner or later this attitude seems selfish to us. And of course it is selfish. We are putting our own will ahead of God's will.

Planned Parenthood suggests by its very name that humanity should be in charge of this event. A religous person might point out that every pregnancy is planned by God, although we might not know what the hell is going on. But Planned Parenthood says that we human beings should plan it. An unplanned pregnancy is bad. Something major has happened to you and you are out of control. In religious terms a miracle has happened, the miracle of life. This one little sperm, out of millions of sperms, has fertilized an egg, in a completely unique process that will never happen again. So a pregnancy seems bigger than us. We did it, of course. This is not a virgin birth. We did it but we did not control it or plan it or organize it. We might pretend we did, but it's really God's show. And so birth control is like this contest of wills. We have a human urge to control and play God. And God gave us free will, and so it is up to us to decide whether we will exert our will, or attempt to follow God.

I do not think birth control is a sin, but then again I am always easy on myself. I do think as we use birth control, it opens up the mindset that sex is fun sport, which suggests that it need not be lovemaking. And I think also that our human urge to control, not just birth but the world itself, leads to all sorts of sins. So I like birth control. But I get the heebie-jeebies when I imagine yuppies in the future who fertilize a thousand zygotes and then select the one with the best genetic profile, and terminate the rest. I get repulsed when we control birth so much that we start DNA profiling. And we treat our babies as if they are our property, to dispose of at our will. If we create this life, and God has nothing to do with it, then we open the door to treating our children as if they are objects. And having a baby becomes rather like shopping for a new pair of shoes.

When we abolish God and say that we plan the pregnancy and the pregnancy is ours and we control it absolutely, it seems to me that this is a monstrous attitude to have. Do we design the baby, organize the baby, structure the baby? Do we impose our will on the baby? When does our desire to control become an ugly fascism? And when does our unhappiness at our lack of control result in innocent people being slaughtered? We all feel this urge to control, and yet when we look at human history, we can see all the evil that is done by people who obsess about control and obsess about power over humanity.

We do not have the power to design the baby. Although it probably will come, some day. Right now all we can do is terminate the unwanted, the handicapped, the girls. We can terminate girls until we get a boy. But we cannot design that boy. But perhaps one day we can. We will design him and build him from scratch and he will be our little science project. And will we love this child, or we will we be unhappy at how he resists our controls?

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