Abortion, Birth Control and Contraception
How Religion is Making Overpopulation Worse


1. The Necessity of Birth Control and Contraception and the Opposition of Religious Organisations

Few people doubt the severity of the problem that overpopulation presents for this planet. Its consequences are poverty, famine, disease and death, sometimes on very large scales. Minor problems include overcrowding, strained infrastructure and social instability. By facilitating contraception and women's medical services we enable family planning. "Allowing women to plan their pregnancies also leads to healthier outcomes for children. A recent study showed that if all births were spaced at least two years apart, the number of deaths among children younger than five would decline by 13%. The number would decline by 25% if there were a three-year gap between births"1. Making birth control accessible to all is a moral requirement for anyone who has the power to help. It is inconsistent, for example, to say that contraception and abortion is "murder" whilst ignoring the fact that poverty and overpopulation are far bigger killers.

Aside from population control, "the health benefits of contraceptive use are substantial. Contraceptives prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the number of abortions, and lower the incidence of death and disability related to complications of pregnancy and childbirth"1. The numbers of abortions that are prevented by contraception is staggering. A Guttmacher Institute report on the developing world predicts that "in 2012, use of modern contraceptives in the developing world will prevent 218 million unintended pregnancies, which, in turn, will avert 55 million unplanned births, 138 million abortions (40 million of them unsafe), 25 million miscarriages and 118,000 maternal deaths. It will also prevent an estimated 1.1 million neonatal deaths (those within 28 days of birth) and 700,000 postneonatal infant deaths (those from 28 days to one year of age)"1. Condoms help prevent the spread of disease - their effect is strong enough that long-term use by a community can gradually eradicate strains of sexually transmitted diseases from the community. Venereal disease causes unimaginable suffering and can affect the purely innocent. Babies are frequently infected with the diseases of the parents; in this way, the prevention of disease with contraception is vital because once women in a local area are infected with a disease, children will also be directly infected. In the case of incurable diseases, such an event can lead to unsurmountable suffering. Such a terrible state of affairs is prevented by the correct use of contraceptives such as condoms. The number of women with unmet needs for contraception in the developing world is still increasing - between 2008 and 2012 the figure rose from 153 million to 162 million1. Those 69 countries are the ones that are least able to support growing populations.

Some of the religious traditions have presented recurring obstacles to open discussion of certain kinds of birth control at UN population conferences. These religious groups are associated largely with Islam, Roman Catholicism, and evangelical Christianity.

"Religion and Ecology"
Mary Evelyn Tucker (2011)2

Religious opposition to abortion, birth control and contraception: Despite the practical necessity of birth control, the benefits of disease prevention, the moral responsibility we have towards the future of our children and the responsibility we have with regards to the stewardship of our planet, many religions have opposed birth control for various superstitious reasons. On the other side of the fence, it is worth knowing that all of the pioneers of contraception were freethinkers3,4 (that is, people who are opposed to the influence of organized religion on people´s opinions and beliefs). Why have religions determined to prevent family planning? The answer is in a kind of survival of the fittest amongst religions themselves. As most religious people simply abide by the religion of their parents5, religions that encourage parents to have more children will attain a stronger and longer-lasting base of adherents. Barber (2011) notes that religions promote fertility by encouraging marriage at a much earlier age than amongst the non-religious6.

Bearing this out is Catholicism, which has an infamously strict suite of dogmas that forbid all kinds of birth control. The Roman Catholic Church is the most notable, powerful and active organisation that lobbies against birth-control wherever it can, internationally. Thankfully Most Catholics routinely ignore the Church on this issue, especially in educated and developed countries, but there are still plenty of fast-growing countries where the Catholic Church is still prospering the old-fashioned way. It took the government of the Philippines 13 years to force through legislation to allow government-funded contraception and for sex education in schools because of the strength of the opposition of the Catholic Church there - in a country where 11 women die of pregnancy-related problems every day. The Catholic Church "ferociously" opposed it, warning of moral and social collapse, the destruction of family life, and divine wrath, if it was passed. The bill is considered "a major step toward reducing maternal deaths and promoting family planning in the impoverished country, which has one of Asia's fastest-growing populations. [...] The United Nations said early this year that the bill would help reduce an alarming number of pregnancy-related deaths, prevent life-threatening abortions and slow the spread of AIDS"7.

Source:8

The graph to the right can be clicked to view the full size version. It shows that the effects of religious prohibitions against birth control are clear on the international scale. No country that is either less than 40% religious, or has less than a 40% rate of belief in God, has a fertility rate of over 2.0. Conversely, every country that has a fertility rate of over 3.0 is over 80% in terms of both belief in God and in the rate at which they say they are religious.

On account of all of this, in "Why I am not a Christian" by Bertrand Russell (1957) the author takes a moral stance against the Church:

Book CoverI begin with contraception, because here the influence of superstition is particularly noteworthy. [...] If either of the parents has venereal disease, the child is likely to inherit it. If they already have too many children for the family income, there will be poverty, underfeeding, overcrowding, very likely incest. To please [the anti-contraception religious types] a life of torture is inflicted upon millions of human beings [...] merely because it is supposed that sexual intercourse is wicked unless accompanied by desire for offspring. [...] If they had even the smallest spark of love or pity for children they could not adhere to a moral code involving this fiendish cruelty. [...]

To be killed suddenly and then eaten, which was the fate of the Aztecs' victims, is a far less degree of suffering than is inflicted upon a child born in miserable surroundings and tainted with venereal disease. Yet it is the greater suffering which is deliberately inflicted by bishops and politicians in the name of morality.

"Why I am not a Christian" by Bertrand Russell (1957)3

Simple contraceptive measures such as condoms can be used to prevent long-term suffering and control population growth, but also endows families with shorter term relief from suffering, and it is for these reasons that Bertrand Russell above states that Aztec cannibalism produced less suffering than anti-birth control lobbyists. The availability of methods to control family size is one of the biggest factors in being able to escape poverty.

In the world as a whole, a stunning 135m people escaped dire poverty between 1999 and 2004. [...] More people, more quickly than at any other time in history. [...] Perhaps the biggest change affecting people's lives has little to do, at least directly, with development policy or public spending. People in poor countries are now able to exert more control over their own fertility, and hence over the size of their families.

The Economist (2008)9

Aside from statistical commentary, it is often individual cases that can educate people about the need, however unfortunate, for abortions to be available at proper medical institutions. Neil J. Kressel relates a story about an American woman who "now believes abortion rights are an important component of American civil rights and that physicians have a moral obligation to make them available, even if at considerable risk to themselves. [...] Her change of heart came partly from experiences during her medical training, including one occasion when she had to counsel an eleven-year-old girl. The doctor recalls: '[I]t soon became obvious that she had no understanding of sex - she didn't really understand that she'd even had it, or that it had any connection to her pregnancy"10. In the real-world, the moral arguments are strongly in favour of those who defend the right of women and doctors to be able to freely use abortion as one of their possible methods of preventing harm.

2. Condom Promotion vs. Harmful Ideology

2.1. Anti-Condom Pseudoscience

Condoms are scientifically proven to be superior methods of preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and are effective methods of birth control11. But, for superstitious reasons, some religions such as the Catholic Church and a mixture of other fundamentalist groups have run (and still run) long campaigns against their use11. Their ideology not only prevents them from using effective anti-disease contraception, but it causes them to also (a) deny its effectiveness (b) emphasize problems with condoms and (c) actively campaign against others' use of it, and even to the extent of sabotaging the distribution of condoms. Catholic agencies in Africa have committed such horrors as instructing all condoms to be stapled (piercing them), and Christian leaders are regularly caught teaching that condoms don't work and recently, that Westerners are distributing HIV-ridden condoms that will give their users AIDS. (HIV is the virus that causes AIDS, but, neither survives outside the body so such stories are misinformed, let alone paranoid).

2.2. Abstinence-Only Sex Education

Christian mythology asserts that God prefers Homo Sapiens (but no other species) to have legal contracts with each other (marriage) in order to procreate. Conservative Christians often talk about "abstinence-only" education, and in many states in the USA have conducted battles to stop schools from educating children about safe sex. Instead, they teach, that in order to be responsible Christians adults, you have to abstain from sex until marriage.

Book CoverIn the US and elsewhere, 'Just Say No!' campaigns promote sexual abstinence, while unmarried young people with a sexual past are encouraged to become "born-again virgins" through a pledge to refrain from further sexual activity until marriage. However, such programmes have generally been unsuccessful in radically changing sexual behaviour or in reducing rates of HIV/Aids transmission, as health evaluations have demonstrated.

"Sexuality: A Very Short Introduction" by Veronique Mottier (2008)12

But, whether or not abstinence-only works can be tested and studied. "Studies have found that abstinence-only sex education programs actually increase the rates of pregnancy and STDs in the teenage population"13. "Kirsten Underhill and her colleagues at the University of Oxford have, over the past few months, been testing it"14. Their studies involved 16 000 young people in America and compared Christian abstinence-only education with no (or low key) education.

Pregnancies were as numerous in both groups. Sexually transmitted diseases were as widespread. The number of sexual partners was equally high and unprotected sex just as common. [...] In contrast to the fears of the protagonists of abstinence-only-education, not one of the trials found that teenagers behaved in a riskier fashion in either the long or the short term after receiving [condom] instruction.

The Economist (2007)15

However in 2009 new data revealed that in the USA at least, abstinence-only education was not only ineffectual, but was actually making things worse:

To the surprise of few outside the rarefied world of the Religious Right, it has emerged that George W Bush's "abstinence only" policies led directly to a rise in teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. The Centres for Disease Control (CDC) says that after years of falling rates, teen pregnancies and STDs started rising after Bush was re-elected in 2005.

According to the CDC, birth rates among teenagers aged 15 or older had been in decline since 1991 but rose sharply in more than half of American states after 2005. The number of teenage girls with syphilis had risen by nearly half after a big decrease, while a 20-year fall in the gonorrhea infection rate was being reversed. AIDS cases in adolescent boys had nearly doubled. [...]

The number of teen pregnancies is double in areas where abstinence is the only method of birth control taught as opposed to areas where there is comprehensive sex education and condoms are handed out. [...] Religious proponents of the "abstinence-only" policies still insist that the reason for the rise is because their policies were not promoted hard enough.

National Secular Society, National Secular Society (2009)16

The Bible-belt is a swathe of Southern states in the USA famous for their embrace of tough Christianity. It was here, where abstinence-only programmes are popular, that the CDC reported the highest rates of teenage pregnancy and STDs.

In conclusion:

3. The Catholic Church's Eternal and Absolute Truth

The Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, embody a wide range of opinions and practices on contraception. In the 1920s, most Christian denominations, including both Protestants and Catholics, were against birth control and contraception17. According to a Catholic website, "At its 1930 Lambeth Conference, the Anglican church, swayed by growing social pressure, announced that contraception would be allowed in some circumstances. Soon the Anglican church completely caved in, allowing contraception across the board. Since then, all other Protestant denominations have followed suit"18. In modern times it is the Catholic church that is most famously and strongly against the use of contraceptives, even for the use of disease prevention. But whilst the official doctrine as propounded from the pulpit is strict; condemnations of contraceptive use are widely ignored on the ground. Even in Poland, Europe's most Catholic country, "many are openly defying its rulings on contraception and abortion"19. Hindus are free to employ birth control methods as they see fit.

Any conscientious priest in the Catholic Church should consider openly declaring dissatisfaction with the Vatican's anti-human and anti-equality policies. Mother Theresa, one of the other "good guys" who has rabidly opposed condoms, spent millions flying to and fro in Europe and the USA on political campaigns against contraceptives. The Catholic Church, with all its money, could turn itself into a force for good and squarely put the dark ages behind itself, but, riddled with superstition and religious inhibitions, it is still a dangerous and dysfunctional failure, crippled by delusions about the real world.

3.1. The Absolute Truth until 1930: All Birth Control Methods are Wrong

The Catholic Church has heavily opposed all forms of birth control for all of known history. The current document is Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae (1968)20, reflecting the opinion of Pope Piux XI in 1930 that the Catholic Church teaches absolute truth as passed down 'uninterruptedly from the beginning'21. Between 1816 and 1916 there were twelve separate condemnations of contraception issued by the Catholic Church's Sacred Penitentiary17. One thing is clear: For much of its history, the Catholic Church has strongly opposed contraception. In particular, it has opposed any method that intentionally prevents childbirth between a married man and woman.

3.2. The Absolute Truth from 1930: The Safe Period Method is OK

Despite this clear, long-standing and impractical standing, things slightly changed in 1930. The eternal truth passed down and taught by Catholics "from the beginning", slightly changed for the better, and the Casti Connubii allowed, in extreme situations, couples to use the 'safe period' or 'rhythm' method. This inaccurate method hardly works and doesn't stop the spread of disease, but, nonetheless, the position of the Catholic Church changed a little. This change in absolute, eternal doctrine of the infallible Pope (get the sarcasm?) was confirmed twice by Pope John XXIII in 1951.

3.3. Immoral

It is no wonder that Bryan Wilson, in his discussion of how Christian Churches have followed society, but lagged behind (therefore undermining their own claims of doctrinal moral truth), uses the history of birth control as his main example of the changes in society that have led to changes in Church doctrine22.

43% of Roman Catholic priests in England & Wales do not support the Church's ban on contraception (another 19% are unsure)

National Secular Society, Newsline (2003)23

All of this so far would be merely an academic curiosity, another example of zany religious clerics making odd declarations based on ever odder historical precedents. But The Catholic Church is also a heavy activist, and has caused uncountable numbers of poor people in South America and Africa to become infected with HIV and other STDs, contributed to the dangerous population explosion, and undermined charity organisations that support birth control, such as when the Birmingham Catholic Church boycotted Comic Relief because money raised might go to a family planning clinic that gave access to contraceptions to street children24. The Catholic Church causes very real suffering amongst very poor people as a result of its impractical policies.

3.4. Catholic Church Opposing Condoms in Africa, Despite HIV Threats

Africa suffers massively from HIV and AIDS, and is the continent that saw the first cases. 20 million people have died from AIDS in Africa and a further 22.5 million are infected with HIV. Many are born with it, as it often passes from mother to baby, and due to the nature of HIV, many people can have the virus but remain without symptoms, sometimes for decades.

The Catholic Church still strongly opposes the use of condoms in Africa, which is home to 135 million Catholics25. In Kenya, local Bishops have instead recommended that abstinence, "counseling" and "ethics" are used to prevent the spread of HIV, instead of condoms. The Catholic Church has run long-term campaigns against condoms. Dr Muga, Kenya, said that the government has reduced infection rate from 14% to 10% as a result of sex education and condom contraception, but still, the Catholic Church campaigns against sex education that teaches the value of contraception. Bishop Korir said that only the guilty were afraid and resorted to condoms, and that he wanted "no condom talk" (2003)26. Those who are born with it, or are infected with it because a partner unknowingly had it, are not exactly 'guilty'!

You might think that such crazy Bishops are a phenomenon peculiar to Africa. But the doctrine against condoms comes from the top, and the Vatican's official long-standing policy is propounded even in Europe and the USA. Pope Benedict, the German head of the Catholic Church from 2005 to 2013, delivered speeches in Africa in 2009 and reiterated, in the 21st century, his stance against condoms:

Asked about the use of condoms to help tackle the scourge of AIDS, the pope restated, in unusually explicit terms, the church's position that these are not useful to "overcome" the epidemic, indeed their use actually makes the problem worse. He suggested the disease could be beaten through chastity, abstinence and "correct behaviour". [...] His statement sounded otherworldly at best, and crass and uncaring at worst. Merely wishing away human sexual behaviour does nothing for the potential victims of AIDS, many of whom are innocent under even the most moralistic definition of that word.

The Economist (2009)25

In countries where the authorities are weak, science is ill-established and there are mass social problems, it would help a lot if the Catholic Church, with its powerful social networks, joined in with the efforts to stop the decay of society due to disease and overpopulation (two things that go hand-in-hand). But governments in Africa and South America, not to mention the USA and European countries such as Poland, have to fight against the church on such simple measures as birth control and condom use, and this battle often politicizes the operations of charities and welfare groups.

4. Abortion: How Religion and Rationality Clash

The best ways to prevent abortion are increased education27, increased (and more equal) chances in life for women, less poverty and fewer legal restrictions on abortion. In developed countries where abortion is legal, rates drop. Where it is illegal or heavily restricted, and where it goes against popular religion's beliefs, the rates of illegal abortions are high. Millions of women each year suffer from medical complications as the result of having to obtain illegal "back street" abortions; 70,000 of those women die as a result28.

A new report by the Guttermacher Institute, a pro-choice think-tank [examines how] prohibitions on abortion are slowly easing, though poor countries remain much tougher than rich ones. Since 1997, 22 places have changed their abortion laws and in 19 of those cases the change was a liberalisation. [...] In Western Europe, which has among the most liberal laws in the world, abortion rates are the lowest. Places where abortion is in effect banned, such as Uganda, typically see the highest incidence of abortion.

The Economist (2009)28

The Catholic Church campaigns heavily against abortion as it does against contraception, no matter how much suffering is caused. It does not just limit its interference to matters concerning its own staff or followers, but actively tries to impose its superstitions on any over whom it might have power or influence, such as governments of countries such as the USA, Poland and Italy, and charities. Even when a charity would help a poverty-stricken woman who was raped by a soldier, or when a genetic disease threatens the life of the mother or would render the child's life unliveable, the Catholic church will still lobby to prevent abortion.

The Catholic Church has been persecuting Amnesty since it was revealed that the human rights organisation had changed its policy on abortion to support women who were raped and impregnated by enemy soldiers. Catholic schools have been told not to raise funds for Amnesty and Catholic bishops have been advising their parishioners to withdraw their support.

National Secular Society (2008)29

Fundamentalist Christian organisations in the USA are responsible for that country's strict laws on the matter in many states. The political researcher Andrew Heywood notes the Christian group Moral Majority founded by the famous bigot Jerry Falwell: "since the 1980s its principal energies have been devoted to the campaign against abortion [, ...] homosexuality, pornography, premarital sex and, in the USA at least, the teaching of Darwinian theories of evolution rather than Biblical 'creationism' have also been castigated"30. Other Christian "religious right" organisations and Christian activist individuals follow similar agendas against abortion and against gay rights31. In the UK a notable anti-abortion lobbying group is Christian Action Research and Education (CARE) which has "adopted a broad agenda, and developed sophisticated methods of lobbying and mobilization on moral and welfare issues [...], campaigning on medical ethical issues, opposing abortion (although without the militant direct action of counterparts in the USA)"32.

Anti-abortion activists from 20 European countries jointly run a campaign to de-fund activities including research and development that involve human embryos. Such activists are joined by the likes of the fundamentalist Catholic organisation "European Center for Law and Justice", which, ironically, seek to undermine law and justice and replace them with theocracy and Catholic rule. The Pope's vocal support for these groups sees the Catholic Church continue its involvement in anti-abortion and anti-human-rights movements in Europe as well as in the USA, South America and Africa33.

In the wake of a long series of serious of prolific sexual scandals across Christendom, many have come to suspect that there is something deeply wrong with Christian Biblical dogma on sexuality in general. One author who has published at length on the horrific sex abuses of the church notes that (thankfully) most ordinary Catholics do not subscribe to their own Church's stance on most issues of sexuality, which must server to reduce the effective influence of the church:

Book CoverMore and more scholars see the official Catholic position on sexuality as both dangerous and false. [...] Large numbers of Catholics simply do not trust the authoritative teachings of the Vatican in matters of sexuality. Contraception, abortion, remarriage after divorce, homosexuality, and masturbation - all areas of strict prohibition according to Vatican teaching - are tolerated as acceptable behaviour by lay Catholics in roughly the same proportion as by members of other denominations.

"Sex, Priests and Power: Anatomy of a Crisis" by Richard Sipe (1995)34

Liberal abortion laws have proven to be the best not only for the safety of women and the health of society in general, but are also associated with low rates of abortion. I think that once a society can openly and freely talk about family planning without such things as taboos or religious dogma getting in the way, responsible behaviour can be increased in general.

5. Anti-Abortion Violence and Murder by Fundamentalist Christians in the USA35

The USA has a particular problem with fundamentalist Christians, many of whom come to hold strong anti-abortion views. Based on this, violent activists have frequently targeted abortion providers. The following quotes are taken from "Bad Faith: The Danger of Religious Extremism" by Neil J. Kressel (2007):

Book CoverSince 1991, there have been seven murders and seventeen attempted murders of abortion providers and their associates. There have been 300 reported death threats, 84 incidents of assault and battery, 99 acts of arson, 967 cases of vandalism, 367 bomb threats, and 15 bombings. On 482 occasions, antiabortion activists have stalked doctors, staff members, or patients. Minor disruptions are more frequent. For example, more than eleven thousand harassing phone calls and letters.36 [...]

Dr. Barnett Slepian was one such stubborn and dedicated physician, and on October 23, 1998, a member of the Army of God, an extremist group, finally delivered his 'just deserts'. Slepian had returned from synagogue with his wife and four sons. While standing in the kitchen of his home, surrounded by his family, he was shot dead by sniper James Kopp [... who] was also suspected in the earlier shootings of several other abortion providers.37 [...] In an eerie letter to the editor of the Buffalo News written four years before his death, he warned:

"The members of the local non-violent pro-life community may continue to picket my home wearing large 'Slepian Kills Children' buttons.... They may also display the six-foot banner with the same quotation at the entrance to my neighborhood.... They may continue to scream that I am a murderer and a killer when I enter clinics at which they 'peacefully' exercise their First Amendment Right of freedom of speech.... But please don't feign surprise, dismay and certainly not innocence when a more volatile and less restrained member of the group decides to react to their inflammatory rhetoric by shooting an abortion provider. They all share the blame."38

[...] The Army of God Web site still triumphantly displays a photograph of Dr. Slepian amid wavy yellow and orange flames. The caption proclaims: 'Slepian now burning in hell fire where he belongs'. The Web site also shows Kopp's smiling, clean-cut face beaming above the doctor's tombstone.39 [...]

Kopp - unlike the majority of violent antiabortion extremists - is Roman Catholic [rather than Protestant]. [...] He engaged in clinic protests in the mid-1980s and became associated with two extremist groups, Operation Rescue and Lambs of Christ. Kopp soon became well known among antiabortion extremists. One major protest in 1988 led to his arrest and jailing along with other militants, including Shelley Shannon (who later shot Dr. George Tiller), John Arena (who later committed a butyric acid attack against an abortion clinic), and others. [...] Catholicism has been a central part of Kopp's life, and no doubt the church's teachings contributed to his view that abortion is murder. A priest, Father Norman Weslin, heads the radically antiabortion Lambs of Christ, for which Kopp was once a chief strategist.40 [...]

Another fanatic, Eric Robert Rudolph, bombed an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, and in the process killed an off-duty police officer. Rudolph also carried out several other attacks, including one targeting a gay bar and the notorious bombing at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.41 [...]

Paul Hill is the only man ever executed for crimes against abortion providers and, among the extremists, he is an unrivalled candidate for canonization. [...] Hill explains how he came to kill Dr. Britton in several articles and his book Mix My Blood with the Blood of the Unborn. The Army of God makes these materials readily available, always picturing Hill with a warm, avuncular grin. Once a Presbyterian minister, religion means everything to Hill. [...] He then joined a Reformed Presbyterian church that agreed with him on the doctrinal issue and became very involved in pro-life activism. When another activist shot Dr. David Gunn, Hill called the Phil Donahue Show and compared the act to killing a doctor in a Nazi death camp. Soon after, he appeared on ABC's Nightline to justify yet another violent attack on an abortion provider. Hill cites scripture frequently but not compulsively.42 [...]

Comments such as these suggest that religious thoughts, feelings, and experiences propel most violent antiabortion activists, and sometimes provide their central inspiration. Far from being impulsive or insane, these extremists contemplate and calculate their terror as a means of achieving what they consider to be a religiously certified objective. Several violent activists equate abortion with murder because they learned precisely this as young Catholics and Protestants. Christian clerics, of course, figure prominently in the Right to Life movement, and some priests and ministers from mainstream denominations still in good standing (e.g., Father Weslin) have spearheaded antiabortion protest movements that employ questionable tactics. One even finds some fringe Christian clergy associated with the Army of God. The Web sites and writings of the antiabortion extremists overflow with biblical quotations and allusions.43 [...]

Operation Rescue's national director, the Reverend Flip Benham, says that Dr. Slepian murdered 'countless thousands of innocent children,' but that his group still does not condone the murder. Many of his followers probably perceive, I think correctly, that he is being disingenuous for legal and political purposes.44 [...]

Reverend Michael Bray wrote the definitive Christian text supporting violent activism. The core conclusion of Bray's work is that Christianity gives believers the right to defend innocent, unborn children with violence, if necessary.45 [...] Paul Hill has pointed out, not unreasonably, that given the pro-life premises so strongly expressed by the Southern Baptists in their document on the matter, the logic behind their rejection of violence is not entirely convincing.46

"Bad Faith: The Danger of Religious Extremism" by Neil J. Kressel (2007)47

6. How Faulty Teachings on Sexuality Lead to Faulty Society

The high child abuse and sexual abuse rates within the Christian priesthood highlight a problem that many religions face: We should not attempt to mould human sexuality around otherworldly religious ideals. Sexual dysfunction always results. Psychologists and sociologists have noted the association between extreme religious fervour and psycho-sexual problems (the former causing the latter), and the highly negative stance that many monotheistic religions take towards sexuality in general have contributed to a general malaise amongst their lay adherents, and a serious pandemic of abuse amongst professional religionists. The religious attitude towards religion is to behave like an ostrich and stick its head in the sand, hoping that theology can override biological truth, but merely making its victims unable to cope with adult sexuality. Witness the hateful and confusing statements that Christians and Muslims make about homosexuals, the anti-contraception stance that the Catholic church has in an over-crowded world ridden with disease, the harmful and simplistic rejection of abortion and the patriarchal dominance over women that has gone hand-in-hand with traditional religion on every continent.

Many religious practices are somewhat more positive towards sexuality than Christianity. The scholar Veronique Mottier gives the example of Judaism, which disapproves of abstinence48. Karen Armstrong reminds us that "Certain sects in Buddhism and Hinduism have used sex as a mystical activity. Everybody has heard of the Karma Sutra but not everybody is aware that this is not just a sex manual, but a method of achieving transcendence and spiritual enlightenment. Christianity is unique in having hated and outlawed sex and in making people feel guilty because they are sexual beings"49. But it is not just the subject of sex which is important to a discussion on sexuality - it still must be remembered that all traditional religions have normalized the dominance of men over women, and often obsessed over matters such as female dress.

In the modern world, many modern popular movements provide an alternative to traditional religions, and have enshrined normal sexuality. The secular world merely lets sexuality remain natural, and the New Age movement amongst many others, actively engage sexuality. The results have been much more positive and healthy than those of the classical monotheistic religions. This is one reason why countries that have liberal laws on abortion also have much lower rates of abortion than highly religious countries that restrict abortion heavily. An atmosphere of taboo and restriction serves limits responsible sexual behaviour. Rather than an ostrich, be a peacock!

"The Peacock vs. the Ostrich - Religious Behaviour and Sexuality: 5. Conclusions: Be a Peacock (Secular Society and New Religious Movements Excepted)" by Vexen Crabtree (2008)

There are many still in the world who embrace the more traditional, unfair and damaging ideas towards women. In 2016 Mar, Turkish president Recep Tayyip epitomized the traditional and established opinion of "woman's place" in Turkey, repeating several slurs against modern gender equality. He managed to include a criticism of contraception in general, saying that it is used to 'dry up our nation'. Contraception and modern life 'paves the way for abuses against women in all fields' and in particular, capitalism 'enslaves' women for profits. What he's talking about is (1) women making choices as to when they want children, and (2) women being able to work. Tayyip doesn't support either right and he has repeatedly called on Turkish women to have at least 3 children, even in a country that is suffering from overpopulation and serious issues with quality of life. He has described abortion as 'murder' and Caesarean sections as unnatural. His embarrassing and backwards opinions are holding back the entire country.50 But there are many who resist, and help move humanity forwards. In a recent talk at the Women Worldwide Advancing Freedom & Equality event, the invited speaker Naomi Phillips spoke on women's reproductive rights and said that although secularism doesn't guarantee fair rights for women, it is still a necessary prerequisite simply because of the limiting harm that religion has so far done; the biggest threat to such rights still come from strict religion-based lobby groups.51

Read / Write LJ Comments

By Vexen Crabtree 2013 Oct 23
(Last Modified: 2016 Mar 10)
Originally published 2007 Oct 07
http://www.humantruth.info/birth_control.html
Parent page: Human Sexuality

Social Media

References: (What's this?)

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The Economist. Published by The Economist Group, Ltd. A weekly newspaper in magazine format, famed for its accuracy, wide scope and intelligent content. See vexen.co.uk/references.html#Economist for some commentary on this source.

i Newspaper. Respectable daily news paper published by Independent Print Limited, London, UK.

Armstrong, Karen
(1986) The Gospel According to Woman: Christianity's Creation of the Sex War in the West. Subtitled "Christianity's Creation of the Sex War in the West". Hardback. Published by Elm Tree Books/Hamish Hamilton Ltd, London, UK.

British Humanist Association, the
Newsletter. Website also contains news: www.humanism.org.uk

Clarke, Peter B.. Peter B. Clarke: Professor Emeritus of the History and Sociology of Religion, King's College, University of London, and currently Professor in the Faculty of Theology, University of Oxford, UK.
(2011) The Oxford Handbook of The Sociology of Religion. Published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. First published 2009.

Crabtree, Vexen
(2008) "The Peacock vs. the Ostrich - Religious Behaviour and Sexuality" (2008). Accessed 2016 Mar 10.
(2013) "The Overpopulation of the Earth and the Demographics Crises: The Impact on Pensions and Immigration" (2013). Accessed 2016 Mar 10.

Gallup
(2009) Religiosity. gallup.com/poll/142727/.... The survey question was "Is religion an important part of your daily life?" and results are charted for those who said "yes". 1000 adults were polled in each of 114 countries.

Heywood, Andrew
(2003) Political Ideologies. 3rd edition. First edition 1992. Published by Palgrave MacMillan.

Kressel, Neil
(2007) Bad Faith: The Danger of Religious Extremism. Published by Prometheus Books, New York, USA.

Lynn, Harvey & Nyborg
(2009) Average intelligence predicts atheism rates across 137 nations. Richard Lynn, John Harvey and Helmuth Nyborg article "Average intelligence predicts atheism rates across 137 nations" in Intelligence (2009 Jan/Feb) vol. 37 issue 1 pages 11-15. Online at www.sciencedirect.com, accessed 2009 Sep 15.

Momen, Moojan
(1999) The Phenomenon Of Religion: A Thematic Approach. Published by Oneworld Publications, Oxford, UK. [Book Review]

Mottier, Veronique
(2008) Sexuality: A Very Short Introduction. Published by Oxford University Press, UK.

NSS. The National Secular Society, London, UK.
Newsline. Weekly news letter. See: "Secularism" by Vexen Crabtree (2011).

Peel, John
"Birth Control and Catholic Doctrine" in London Quarterly and Holborn Review (1965 Oct) pp.315-27. In Wilson (1966) p89.

Russell, Bertrand. (1872-1970)
(1957) Why I am not a Christian. Quotes from Fourth Impression of 1967 edition, 1971, Unwin Books.

Sipe, Richard
(1995) Sex, Priests and Power: Anatomy of a Crisis. Hardback. Published by BunnerMazel Inc., New York, USA. A.W. Richard Sipe is a retired Roman Catholic Priest. Lecturer in the Department of Psychiatry, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Chair of the Board of Directors of the Interfaith Sexual Trauma Institution, Minnesota, USA. (Biblio detail correct as of 1995). The Amazon link points to a modern book by Sipe on the same topic as the one referenced here.

Tucker, Mary Evelyn. Senior Lecturer and Research Scholar at Yale University, New Haven, USA, and, Director of the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology.
(2011) Religion and Ecology. This essay is chapter 45 of "The Oxford Handbook of The Sociology of Religion" by Peter B. Clarke (2011) (pages p819-835).

United Nations
(2013) Human Development Report. This edition had the theme of The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World. Published on the United Nation's HDR website at hdr.undp.org/.../hdr2013/ (accessed throughout 2013). UN Development Program: About the Human Development Index.

Wilson, Bryan
(1966) Religion in Secular Society. Penguin Books softback first edition.

Wolffe, John
(2002, Ed.) Global Religious Movements in Regional Context. Published by Ashgate Publishing Ltd in association with the Open University. This was a religious studies textbook in the AD317 OU course.

Footnotes

  1. Singh S and Darroch JE, Adding It Up: Costs and Benefits of Contraceptive Services - Estimates for 2012, New York, USA, published by the Guttmacher Institute and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) (2012). Summarized on the guttmacher.org article "Costs and Benefits of Investing in Contraceptive Services in the Developing World". Accessed and added to this page on 2015 Feb 22.^
  2. Tucker (2011) p830. Added to this page on 2015 Mar 21.^
  3. Russell (1957) p57-58 (plus editor's comment).^
  4. Mottier (2008) digital location 943-47: "The prominent American birth control campaigner (and eugenicist) Margaret Sanger, founder of the American Birth Control League in 1921, had long called for the development of a pharmaceutical birth control product, meeting up with scientists in 1950 to explore possibilities. Sanger joined forces with the philanthropist Katherine McCormick, who funded the majority of the scientific research and development of the Pill, and from 1960 the modern contraceptive pill, invented by Karl Djerassi, became available to the wider public in the Western world.". Added to this page on 2015 Mar 26.^
  5. "What Causes Religion and Superstitions?" by Vexen Crabtree (2013)^
  6. Barber, Nigel Ph.D. (2011) article in Psychology Today (2011 Jul 14).^
  7. National Secular Society news article "Catholic Church fails to stop Philippines contraception bill" (2012 Dec 18). Accessed 2013 Oct 19. Added to this page 2013 Oct 23.^
  8. Multiple sources:
    • Fertiliy rate data: "Human Development Report" by United Nations (2013).
    • Belief in God, 2004: Disbelief in God (2004). Zuckerman, P. (2007). Atheism: contemporary numbers and patterns. In M.Martin (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Atheism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. In Lynn et al. (2009)
    • Religiosity rate: Gallup (2009)
    ^
  9. The Economist (2008 Jan 26) article "The world's silver lining" p27. Added to this page on 2008 Apr 03.^
  10. Kressel, N. (2007) Chapter 3, digital location 916-20 Added to this page on 2015 Apr 10.^
  11. Mottier (2008) digital location 1292-94. Added to this page on 2015 Mar 26.^
  12. Mottier (2008) digital location 1295-98. Added to this page on 2015 Mar 26.^
  13. Wikipedia article accessed 2007 Jul. The article contains two relevant references:
    1. DiCenso A, Guyatt G, Willan A, Griffith L (2002). "Interventions to reduce unintended pregnancies among adolescents: systematic review of randomised controlled trials.". BMJ 324 (7351): 1426. PMID 12065267 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/....
    2. American Psychological Association (February 23, 2005). Based on the research, comprehensive sex education is more effective at stopping the spread of HIV infection, says APA committee www.apa.org/.... Press release retrieved on 2006 Aug 11.
    ^
  14. The Economist (2007 Sep 22) article "AIDS: Time to grow up" p103.^
  15. The Economist (2007 Sep 22) article "AIDS: Time to grow up" p103.^
  16. National Secular Society, National Secular Society (2009 Jul 24) newsletter "The truth at last - abstinence-only programmes make the situation worse". Added to this page on 2009 Nov 26.^
  17. Peel (1965).^^
  18. www.catholic.com "Catholic Answers: Birth Control" (2004 Aug 10), accessed and added to this page on 2007 Oct 14.^
  19. Momen (1999) p497.^
  20. The Vatican (1968 Jul 25). Full text online "Humanae Vitae: Encyclical of Pope Paul VI on the Regulation of Birth" accessed 2007 Jan 05.^
  21. Wilson (1966) p89. This refers to the Casti Connubii encyclical.^
  22. Wilson (1966) p86-88.^
  23. National Secular Society, Newsline (2003 Apr 04) .^
  24. National Secular Society, Newsline (2003 Mar 14).^
  25. The Economist (2009 Mar 21) article "The pope in Africa: Sex and sensibility" p16. Added to this page on 2010 Jun 19.^
  26. National Secular Society, Newsline (2003 Mar 28).^
  27. UN (2013) p6. Added to this page on 2015 Apr 10.^
  28. The Economist (2009 Oct 17) article "Abortion: A bit better". Added to this page on 2009 Dec 24.^
  29. NSS (2008) newsletter (2008 Apr 18). Added to this page on 2009 Dec 24.^
  30. Heywood (2003) p99. Added to this page on 2009 Dec 25.^
  31. Kressel, N. (2007) Chapter 3, digital location 1053-54.^
  32. Wolffe (2002) p37. CARE was previously known as the National Festival of Light. Added to this page on 2013 Oct 23.^
  33. National Secular Society news article "Pope gives personal backing to Europe wide anti-abortion push" (2013 Feb 06). Accessed 2013 Oct 19. Added to this page 2013 Oct 23.^
  34. Sipe (1995) p7.^
  35. Added to this page on 2015 Apr 10.^
  36. Kressel, N. (2007) Chapter 3, digital location 926-30^
  37. Kressel, N. (2007) Chapter 3, digital location 931-35^
  38. Kressel, N. (2007) Chapter 3, digital location 1120-24^
  39. Kressel, N. (2007) Chapter 3, digital location 935-36^
  40. Kressel, N. (2007) Chapter 3, digital location 947-51,960-61^
  41. Kressel, N. (2007) Chapter 3, digital location 972-74^
  42. Kressel, N. (2007) Chapter 3, digital location 1005-15^
  43. Kressel, N. (2007) Chapter 3, digital location 1026-31^
  44. Kressel, N. (2007) Chapter 3, digital location 1063-65^
  45. Kressel, N. (2007) Chapter 3, digital location 1068-69^
  46. Kressel, N. (2007) Chapter 3, digital location 1118-19^
  47. Kressel, N. (2007) Chapter 3.^
  48. Mottier (2008) digital location 515-17. Added to this page on 2015 Sep 13.^
  49. Armstrong (1986) p4. Added to this page on 2015 Sep 13.^
  50. i Newspaper (2016 Mar 09) article "Turkey: 'A woman is above all else a mother'".^
  51. The British Humanist Association Newsletter mailing (2011 Issue 2) p3. Added to this page on 2011 May 04. Naomi Phillips is head of Public Affairs at the British Humanist Association.^

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