The Panda Reflex

Because it’s that special Roe v. Wade anniversary time of year . . .

I once heard somebody refer to “a vegetarian pro-choicer” as a contradiction in terms.  At the time, I chuckled appreciatively, since it made sense to me; how could you feel concerned over the lost lives of chickens, but not unborn human children?  Since then, however, I’ve come to appreciate that there’s no contradiction there at all.  In fact, I would argue that it is logically inconsistent for a pro-choice individual to not be vegetarian, or indeed fail to show what most of us would consider an inordinate concern for animal welfare.

In general, the pro-life stance is based on the idea that fetuses (and possibly embryos, blastocysts, etc., depending how one defines “pro-life”) are human and thus worthy of protection.  In turn, the typical retort from the pro-choice side is that, while a fetus may be human, it has not acquired personhood prior to one particular point in development.  There are other arguments–Post-Abortion Syndrome, the “famous violinist”–but these are largely peripheral.

Let us suppose that personhood is definitely acquired by the time of birth (again, I have read arguments to the effect that infanticide is morally permissible, but that’s thankfully a fringe position).  The notion of personhood, in this context, is usually contingent on the entity in question having reached a certain level of mental sophistication–it has a mind, and is therefore a real person.  So, the intellectual level of a newborn is definitely enough to make you a person. Continue reading

God and Mammon

Before I start this post, a quick apology or proviso of sorts: in my last post, I held up typical Christian children’s books as an example of flawed “Christian” culture.  I do believe it is true that presenting the world as divided between “Christian” and “Secular” cultural spheres, with the “Christian” as ostensibly superior (but really just a whitewashed imitation of the secular), is a losing bet.  However, the problem confronting Christian children’s books is much the same as that confronting children’s books, and especially very young children’s books, in general: people tend to believe that, because small children are not mentally and emotionally sophisticated, you can foist off whatever doggerel you like on them, and they’ll love it.  On the contrary, small children are as challenging an audience as any–perhaps more than others, even, because of their limitations–and people like Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein are their Shakespeares and Mark Twains.  Little children only continue to have crummy fiction dumped on them because they are a largely captive audience, with little input into which books are purchased for them.  But this is not an exclusively Christian, or “Christian” problem.  See also Sturgeon’s Law.

With that said: there is a second major reason, in my opinion, why religiosity is fading in America today.  Like the first, I think it grew out of the Sexual Revolution.  Specifically, it developed in reaction to the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.  As I understand it, what we now call “socially conservative” religious leaders, fired up by a seven-judge majority essentially steamrolling over conventional morality, offered a pledge of mutual support to Reagan and other GOP leaders.  The result was the prolonged disaster we know as the Religious Right. Continue reading