Aborted Reasoning

God_is_pro-LifeYesterday, I had the questionable pleasure of driving by a small abortion protest in front of a local medical building. Two men and a woman were each holding signs while one of the men used a bull horn to shout something from the sidewalk. One of the signs in particular, caught my attention.  It read, “God Chose That Baby“.

In the wake of the recent Todd Akin debacle, I’ve heard a number of so-called Pro-Life advocates claim that abortion is always wrong. This troubles me. I agree that life is precious, but the mother has a life too. And life is much more than being physically not dead. I would never advocate for abortion as a casual form of birth control, but drawing hard lines around exactly when pregnancy is too much for the mother to bear is beyond my pay grade.  Choose life? Sure. But whose? And at what quality of life? I’m not qualified to make that decision, and frankly neither are you… or the government.

But the sign started the wheels turning in my mind. A Pro-Life friend recently explained that when God conceives a baby, He has a plan. If the mother dies, or is physically or mentally traumatized or disabled in the process, that’s tragic. But it’s still part of the plan. If God means for the mother to survive, she will. It is not for us to intervene. Hmmm… And then, the apparent worldview of these folks clicked into place for me… and then quickly went all askew.

While I don’t agree with the position, I can at least respect a position that says God plays an active role in our everyday lives. He chooses the key events of our lives, and we are not to meddle in His affairs.  He has a plan.  It’s not possible to know what it is, but He has one. At least I can respect the position if the person actually lives their life by that philosophy.  But I can’t see how that’s so.

According to this philosophy, there’s no reason to seek medical intervention on anything, not just pregnancy. If you have a heart attack, God meant that for you. If you were meant to survive it, you will. To expect that God’s plan included a paramedic with a defibrillator makes no sense. It would then be equally reasonable to assume God’s plan included a pharmacist with a morning-after pill.

If, in fact, God did choose that baby, who among us can say what for? God sent his own son to die for us—to teach us something. Is it so farfetched that he might send an embryo to die for a person or a family to teach them something?  There are several references in the bible to men being called to a destiny from the womb. Who is to say fulfilling that destiny requires reaching adulthood? The simple reality is, you can’t say there is a plan; no one knows what it is; but that thing there is definitely not part of it.

The only rational counter argument is that there is something special and sacred about the life of a child. That the value of a child’s life is always above and beyond the value of anyone else’s life. But (since we can’t know the plan) this valuation would have to be supported by the bible, and that’s not at all clear.  Jesus may have loved the little children, but Abraham was told to kill his own son, and Deuteronomy instructs fathers to have their non-virginal daughters stoned to death. Further, the bible says nothing about abortions. The closest it comes is in Exodus when it is stated that if you strike a pregnant woman and cause a miscarriage, you must pay a fine to the woman’s husband.  God’s plan for the life of children is a bit cloudy at best. Clearly, “Thou shalt not kill,” is not quite the black and white rule you might assume.

Perhaps you believe that God chose that baby. But it seems that unless you’re purporting to know God’s unknowable plan for it, you’re a hypocrite.


One of these things is not like the other

GOPvsDemThis week has provided for an interesting micro-study on a key difference between our two political parties.

Harry Reid proclaimed that Mitt Romney did not pay any taxes for years. Meanwhile, Romney released a new ad asserting that Obama was gutting welfare reform. These were not tit-for-tat events. They are relatively unrelated. But the parties’ and pundits respective reactions to each are instructive.

First, a recap of the facts: Reid’s claim is a baseless accusation. The public has no knowledge of whether or not it’s actually true, and little reason to believe Reid actually knows. It’s a distasteful attempt to put a political opponent on the defensive. To make him guilty until he proves himself innocent.  Romney’s claim is different. While it is also intended to put his opponent on the defensive, it is flat-out, demonstrably, unquestionably, factually false.

How were these two events reported? The New York Times is generally considered a left-leaning news source. You might presume they’d defend Reid while hanging Romney out to dry. You’d be wrong.

Compare the opening of a story on Reid:

Senator Harry Reid’s decision this week to hurl a taunting, unsubstantiated accusation at Mitt Romney is hardly out of character for the cantankerous Democratic leader of the Senate, who revels in provocative comments and once called Mr. Romney “kind of a joke.”

To the opening of a story on Romney:

Seven years ago, Mitt Romney joined other governors to urge the federal government to grant “increased waiver authority” to states to experiment with implementation of the federal welfare-to-work program.

But as he runs for president, Mr. Romney and his Republican allies are now accusing President Obama of “gutting” the welfare program by saying it will consider waivers to states.

These are not cherry picked stories, nor is the NYT unique in this regard. The major media outlets and pundits are pulling no punches in calling Reid out on his baseless accusation.  Meanwhile, Romney’s lie is treated as a topic of reasonable debate.

My initial reaction to this was that the “mainstream media” was now so in fear of being labeled as having a liberal bias, they had become afraid to expose even outright falsehoods on the conservative side. And I do think this is at least part of it.  The right’s efforts to play up their victimization by a lefty lamestream media have assuredly had an effect on the way news gets reported.

Yet I think that’s not the whole story. I think a part of the media reaction also relates to how far the parties get from their behavioral norms. The GOP has key figures claiming Obama’s birth certificate was faked, and that there is a Muslim conspiracy brewing in the State department. In the greater scheme of outrageous claims, “Obama guts welfare reform” barely nudges the needle. On the Democratic side, unsubstantiated claims of filing perfectly legal tax returns that play the IRS for every penny are treated as scandalous.

There’s a lesson here. Both sides may “play the game”, but not to the same degree. It’s kind of like claiming the USA and Tunisia were both playing Olympic basketball the other night. While technically true, they weren’t playing in the same league.

Still, I know many of you out there are completely frustrated with the whole thing. You claim to hate what both sides do, and that’s more than fair. There are no angels in politics.Some of you are determined to check out of the political process by not voting, or you intend to make a statement by voting for a 3rd party candidate.

But the simple reality is this. Come 2013, one of these two parties will take the White House. And one of these two parties will control each of the houses of Congress. With four short months to go until the election, no other party has a remote chance in hell of altering that reality.

One of these things is not like the other. As the Templar Knight told Indiana Jones, “Choose wisely.” And as the band Rush reminds us in their song Freewill, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”


Einstein’s God was not Yahweh

Einstein on GodThe quote attributed to Einstein, “The more I study science, the more I believe in God,” is getting a lot of play around the interwebs.  I though it might be interesting to look at what he might have meant by the statement.

Einstein is also widely quoted as saying, God does not play dice with the universe.” Together, these quotes are oft cited as evidence of scientists believing in God—usually by fundamentalist Christian groups defending themselves against the encroachment of science on their literal interpretation of their mythology.

First, Einstein was neither a Christian or even a Jew. He was raised as a Jew and was schooled as a Catholic. He had ample education in the Abrahamic religions, but rejected them nonetheless.

Still, Einstein is not properly classified an atheist either.  He rejected the notion of a personal god. Instead, he said, “I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings.”

In other words, he was a Deist, and was in the spiritual company of Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, George Washington, Ethan Allen, and Thomas Paine. Deists believe that reason and observation of the natural world, without the need for organized religion, can determine that the universe is the product of a creator.

So Einstein’s quote is an observation of the mathematical beauty, the order, the ever unfolding revelation of the inner workings of the universe that he perceived. It’s not remotely an affirmation of the bible.

Einstein’s god never intervened in human affairs or suspended the natural laws of the universe, and absolutely did not have a supernatural existence or the capacity for miracles.  This makes Einstein a curious poster boy for Christians in specific, or even theists in general.