Mixing Religion and Politics

The author of this meme neglects to provide any specific examples of government intrusion upon his/her religion, so I took to the Internet in search of supporting evidence.

According to Bishop David O’Connell in an opinion piece: the “Health and Human Services mandate forcing nearly all private health plans to include coverage for all FDA-approved prescription contraceptive drugs and devices, including abortifacients and surgical sterilization” constitutes an attack on the liberties of religious objectors. Yet Rev. O’Connell acknowledges in the next paragraph that President Obama extended an exemption to those same objectors, so that their organizations would not be required to cover the hated drugs and procedures, but it’s still not good enough. Apparently, Rev. O’Connell is incensed that the government allows anybody to make choices with which he personally disagrees. The government’s willingness to facilitate differing viewpoints must certainly be a sign of its gradual erosion of religious liberties, right?

But that’s just one person’s opinion. Are there others who think the government’s will is blocking their spiritual path? Oh, you bet.

Paul Roy wrote in The Guardian Liberty Voice that the recent Supreme Court case of Town of Greece v. Galloway was a classic example of religion under attack. The case was passed up from a lower court which had declared that the town of Greece, New York, could not open its legislative sessions with a (predominantly Christian) prayer. Although the case had not been decided when Roy wrote his piece, the SCOTUS eventually voted 5-4 that the town could permit volunteer chaplains to issue a prayer. Naturally, the religious right was ecstatic – they hailed it as a victory for religious liberties – but that hasn’t stopped them from grousing about government intrusion in other arenas.

Erik Stanley writes in – a website dedicated to “protecting and promoting” the rights of churches – that Washington state’s acceptance of same-sex marriages poses a threat to religious freedoms. Although the law does not require religious officials to solemnize any particular wedding, according to Stanley, wording in the bill (in Section 7 (PDF)) would require that if any church rents its facilities to non-member heterosexual couples for the purpose of getting hitched, it would be required to rent its facilities to same-sex couples.

While that may sound awfully intrusive – particularly if you’re a religious conservative – keep in mind that an open rental policy exposes the church to a lot of people with whom the church may not agree: atheists, pro-choicers, etc. When you open your doors to the public, you always take that risk. The solution is simple: either accept that your facilities will occasionally be rented for purposes with which you don’t agree, or don’t rent to non-members. Problem solved.

So is the government intruding upon our religious rights? In each of these cases, some layer of the government was trying to make our nation more inclusive, and in each case religious conservatives fought back vociferously. To the maker of this meme: it seems to me that the government isn’t intruding upon your religion. The people are asking you not to impose your religious beliefs upon others, and you are perceiving that as an intrusion. What does that say about your religion; or more directly, what does that say about you?

Of Eagles and Embryos

Eagles And Embryos

I was going to start by saying that if you want to have a rational debate on abortion, you cannot open by drawing bizarre connections between unrelated issues, but then I realized that very few people actually want to have rational debates. Rational debates are hard. They force you to closely examine your beliefs and to answer some very hard questions, and who wants that? It’s much easier to become emotionally invested in a narrowly-defined set of beliefs and to refuse to budge no matter what. That’s why the abortion problem has been so intractable, and why the only way for either side to gain ground is to wield political power.

So what is the purpose of this meme? It certainly won’t convince anybody who believes that a woman should have the right to control her own reproductive organs. I think this meme – and others like it – are really about stroking the self-confidence of anybody who already agrees. Preaching to the choir, if you will. You just know that a Pro-Lifer will see this meme, get a good chuckle out of it, then use it in his next online tirade against the uninformed Pro-Choice horde. Well, in case any Pro-Lifers are reading this, allow me to explain exactly why you shouldn’t use this meme as part of a debate.

First let’s examine the facts of the matter. Under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, it is illegal to kill, disturb, harass, solicit, or make prank phone calls to a Bald or Golden Eagle without special permission from Uncle Sam. The same goes for their nests, eggs, droppings, and any clouds they happen to fly through. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, but not by much. You don’t want to mess with the eagles, lord no. Failure to respect the eagles carries a stiff civil penalty of $5000 or $10,000 with a year or two in the clink. A felony conviction can net an even higher fine: up to $250,000. If you happen to be part of an organization (the Eco-Villains from Captain Planet and the Planeteers, for example), you can be fined up to $500,000.

So that part is true. The second part starts to blur the lines between objective truth, personal opinions, and outright lies.

First: I examined a few pictures of embryos at the seven-week mark, and none of them appeared quite this developed. The picture in this meme is more reminiscent of an embryo at the nine-week mark, but I’m not going to argue for long because I’m not a doctor.

Second: One of the major focal points of the whole abortion debate has been whether a first-trimester fetus counts as a human being at all. By labeling it as human, you’re committing a logical fallacy called begging the question. Begging the question is when you assume that the conclusion of an argument is true and use it as one of your premises. It’s somewhat similar to circular reasoning.

Third: explains that by law, neither federal Title X money nor federal Medicaid money can be used to fund abortions. Each state decides whether its own Medicaid money can be used to cover abortions, and under what conditions. Look here to find a list of states that provide Medicaid funds to cover abortions: if you disagree with your state’s position, feel free to move someplace more conservative. But know this: It is at best ignorant and at worst dishonest to claim that “taxpayer money funds abortion providers”, as if every woman who cannot support a baby can apply for and receive government assistance to pay for the abortion.

There’s one more point to make in this case: when a human destroys an eagle’s eggs, the eagle has no choice in the matter. An adult woman does. That’s what Pro-Choicers are fighting to protect.

Choice Within Limits


And where does a rape victim fall into your philosophy, Mr Pro-Life Memer? At what point was she offered a choice?

What about the woman whose life is endangered by the fetus inside her? Does she have a choice in the matter?

So you support a woman’s right to choose as long as her choice falls within your personal definition of moral acceptability. I get it.

What’s that you say, Mr Pro-Life Memer? It’s not your definition but God’s definition? Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it’s your personal interpretation of God’s morality.

Oh, don’t give me that absolute morality crap. If that were true, all Christians (and members of other God-fearing faiths) would agree on what has to be the most basic tenet of life: when it begins. But they don’t. Polls consistently show that relatively few Christians are hardcore pro-choice (“Abortions for all!”) or pro-life (“No abortions for anyone!”), but fall somewhere in between (“Abortions for some; miniature American flags for others!” And any Bible verse you can throw out in favor of one opinion can be countered by a different verse that seems to favor its opposite.

Oops, did I say opinion? I meant absolute moral authority. Sorry, I forgot what issue we were talking about.

It’s time for us to be honest with ourselves, and when I say us I mean you, Mr Pro-Life Memer. The abortion debate isn’t going away because there is no clear-cut right or wrong. It continues to be an incredibly difficult decision that must be made by each woman on a case-by-case basis. Please don’t thrust your religious convictions on somebody who is already in a place of emotional distress. That’s not the way to win converts.

Here’s an alternative concept for you: I support a woman’s right to choose whether she carries a fetus to term or not, and I support her right to reconcile her decision with her personal religious beliefs in whatever way she sees fit. I do not support an avid pro-lifer using his faith to take control of her decision-making process. That’s what this is really about, isn’t it: control?

I think yes.

Catholic Apples and Muslim Oranges


Oops, did you catch that? That oh-so-subtle attempt to once again tie President Obama to Islam? Sure, the Muslim Obama myth may no longer be something you can mention out loud without drawing the derisive laughter of more rational people, but you can still slip the implication that Obama favors Muslims over Christians into your ill-informed tweets and get away with it.

I’m not going to argue about whether it’s right to require faith-based hospitals to provide health care options which are contrary to their religious beliefs. On the one hand, I do value religious freedom. On the other hand, this is health care we’re talking about. Womens’ reproductive health – and the numerous, often difficult decisions that go along with it – are a vital part of overall health care, no matter how much some lawmakers would like to believe otherwise. Restricting womens’ access to reproductive health care is, in my opinion, just as immoral as forcing Catholic hospitals to provide abortions and condoms.

If this tweet-turned-meme were just making the point that the author doesn’t care very much for the Affordable Care Act and it’s implications for faith-based hospitals, I wouldn’t have much to say about it. But the tweeter completely misses the point by insinuating that the president is some kind of hypocrite. Why? Because, according to the tweeter, Obama wants Catholic institutions to provide access to condoms and abortions (which are a part of womens’ reproductive health care and therefore may fall under the purview of any health care establishment) but he doesn’t force Muslims to sell bacon and alcohol (which definitely are not associated with health care, except to its detriment).

If you cannot see the problem with this comparison, then perhaps you think that a woman’s access to affordable reproductive care is on the same level as a person’s access to booze and bacon. Many people enjoy those things, but nobody’s health will be endangered if they don’t get them…in fact, a lot of people would probably be better off. Please, don’t reduce the issue of womens’ reproductive health care to a farce, no matter how much you hate the idea.

So-Called Life


Wow…this is a doozy, isn’t it?

First: regardless of where you stand on the abortion debate: you’re dead wrong and evil. Don’t believe me? Just ask somebody on the opposing side.

Second: this meme is perhaps the stupidest, baddest meme I’ve ever seen. I really am at a loss for where to start.

Shall we start with “Life” on mars? Not to take too much emphasis off the importance of life, but most people don’t spell it with a capital “L”. Most people do, however, capitalize the first letters in Mars and Earth. The people who first laid out the rules of grammar and capitalization were clearly pro-choice.

So how big of a deal would it be to find a single-celled organism on Mars? It would be huge; perhaps the most important scientific news in decades, if not centuries. It would answer a question of enormous scientific and philosophical importance. Peoples’ world views would be dramatically shifted overnight. It would be reported in every news outlet.

How big of a deal is it to find a baby in a womb? It’s a very big deal for the owner of the womb, but you don’t generally hear about it on the news unless the owner of the womb happens to be British royalty.

That’s not to say that human babies aren’t important. Settle down, pro-lifers. But to compare a human fetus to the very first organism ever detected on another world…well, that seems like apples and oranges, doesn’t it?

Furthermore, I disagree that most pro-choicers wouldn’t recognize a human fetus as being alive, especially when it’s advanced enough to actually look like a human. As I understand the pro-choice argument, most pro-choicers simply want for women to have the ability to choose what they do with their own bodies. But since I have an opinion on the abortion issue, I’m dead wrong and evil, so you have to take it with a grain of salt.