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Why We Need to Remove Religion from Abortion Opposition

It is common for people protesting abortion to use religious emblems and arguments. This is unfortunate, because it undermines our efforts to protect the unborn. There are several reasons for this.

First of all, there is a whole world full of people out there who think that abortion is somehow a religious issue. It is not. It is a straightforward matter of human rights, in particular the most basic human right of all, the right to life. Every time we mention God or religion we reinforce the concept in people's mind that this is somehow a religious issue, and they have no interest in getting involved with our religious matters.

People who disagree with your religious viewpoint will automatically reject your message. People who disagree with you on the issue of abortion will automatically assume that you are "Catholics"," fundamentalists", "holy rollers", or whatever religious group they disagree with, and will therefore reject your message. For example, if you saw a group of people holding signs such as, "Allah commands you to sacrifice your firstborn child on an altar of fire", what would be your reaction? Would you give any serious consideration to their claim because they attribute it to Allah? For that matter, if you saw a group of people saying, for instance, "God says to allow slavery!" (as it says in Leviticus 25:45-46), would you listen seriously to what they had to say because they attribute it to God or quote scripture?

You are trying to convince people that abortion is the killing of innocent human beings, so you hold up a sign saying "Abortion Kills Babies", hoping to convince them of this fact. Then you hold up a sign saying, "God Says No to Abortion". This does not state a fact, but rather a religious belief. The person reading the sign will see that you are trying to state your own personal beliefs as if they are facts, and will assume that you are doing the same thing when you say. "Abortion kills babies." You have undermined the truth that you are trying to get across. For example, if you saw somebody holding a sign saying that 80% of cats die from abuse by their owners, and then you saw somebody in the same group holding a sign about astrology saying, "The Stars Guide Your Destiny", how likely would you be to believe the claim that 80% of cats die from abuse from their owners? Or how about the issue of global warming?

Would you go to a meeting to discuss whether or not the city should, for instance, ban the use of pesticides and present religious arguments? Of course not, they would just laugh at you. You would present arguments on the dangers or benefits of pesticide use. Using religious arguments would only aggravate the listeners and cause them to lose respect for your intelligence and integrity. The same is true for abortion. We must present the facts showing that abortion kills human beings. Presenting religious arguments only undermines our efforts in the same way as doing so in a hearing about use of pesticides would.

Our country was founded on the principle of separation of church and state. This was because many of our forefathers came here because of religious persecution at the hands of governments that tried to force one religion on the people. The only way to assure religious freedom is to remove it from the purview of the government, i.e., separation of church and state. This is not only a founding principle of our country, it is a principle firmly engrained in the consciousness of our people. Nobody is going to allow the state to uphold one religion's beliefs over another. If people perceive that abortion is a religious issue they will absolutely resist any laws restricting it. If we say, "God says no to abortion", people will say, "Keep your religion out of my government and out of my laws". And rightly so. We cannot enact laws based on religious beliefs. We need to keep religion out of the equation.

At the risk of angering or alienating people "of faith", I will also point out that the God of the Bible is a God who killed every person - man, woman, and child, born and preborn - except for the eight people in Noah's ark. He did similarly in burning to death the innocent born and preborn babies (along with everyone else) in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Then he commanded his people, the Israelites, to kill every single person, again including both born and preborn babies, in the land of Canaan that he led them to. Christians (and Jews, or any others who include the Old Testament as part of their beliefs) have learned to "compartmentalize" what they believe, and put beliefs like this in a "compartment" way in the back of their minds where it doesn't interfere with their more benign picture of a loving God that the New Testament tends to portray (see an excerpt (last paragraph) from Steven Pinker's book, "The Better Angels of our Nature"), and this is fine - I have no problem with that. But I believe that most of the people who hear our message are aware of these things, and they know that, if the Bible is to be believed, God has presided over some of the worst atrocities and killings that have taken place on our planet. They don't compartmentalize the same way, and holding up this God, with such reputation as this, is akin (and please forgive me, I mean no insult here) to holding up Hitler as a leader in matters of human rights, tolerance or cultural acceptance. It, at best, doesn't work, and, at worst, backfires and convinces people that the message that you are trying to bring is one of deception and even hatred.

Perhaps the worst problem with relying on religious beliefs, though, is that Christians accept the horrors described in the last paragraph as being okay. They read (those that actually read the Bible) about the tremendous violence and horror inflicted by their God, and still accept him as their God, one who can do no evil. "God is good." Instead of recoiling in horror at these atrocities attributed to God in the Bible, they just accept them as somehow divinely good. If the Bible is to be believed, though, their "good" and "loving" God is the biggest abortionist, as well as the biggest murderer in general, that this world has ever seen. If Christians can accept these horrors without squirming then they can accept any horror, even abortion. They may pay lip service to its evil, but they can just go on with their lives and not worry much about it. After all, they have already accepted even worse violence. Once Christians are able to look at their God with horror for his violent and capricious ways, and repudiate this violent and deka-murderous being, then perhaps they will be able to be horrified enough by abortion to actually do what it takes to end it. Until they do, though, and as long as they can accept the horrors of the Bible, they will never develop the fervor necessary to do so.

Also, please consider people like myself who do not have religious beliefs and would not want to be perceived by others as having them. It is always very difficult for me to join in any effort that espouses religion. Frankly, I feel embarrassed to be associated with such thinking; I do not want anyone to think that I would believe in such things, just as a Christian would not want anyone to think they he or she believes in reincarnation, or witches, or werewolves, or those previously-mentioned believers in astrology. And what of those who are religious, but not in same way as you are? What if a person is a Buddhist or a Hindu? Or perhaps just a Christian who is of a more liberal bent who doesn't want to be associated with what he or she perceives to be "fundamentalists" or "evangelicals" or "Catholics" or whatever he or she perceives your religious thought to be. These people are not going to want to be seen in your company. You are therefore driving away the people that you need. And we need everyone; we can't afford to drive away people. Let's keep religion out of the picture so that all will feel welcome to join our ranks, regardless of their religious leanings or lack thereof.

Another problem with mixing religion with abortion activism is that it doesn't just stop at taking a stand for one's religion. If one is going to stand up for religion, one then finds him- or herself standing up for all the other issues that that religion touches upon. In the case of Christianity, as well as a number of other religions, for example, is their teaching about sexuality, and, in particular, homosexuality. While the Bible doesn't make any clear, overt statements about abortion, it does make clear statements about the immorality of homosexual relations. (Amazing that the Bible says nothing directly about the killing of innocent children in the womb, but does strongly in no uncertain language condemn sexual actions that hurt no one!) Indeed, in the Old Testament, at least, a person found to be engaging in homosexual relations was ordered to be killed - about as clear an example of the abrogation of human rights as one can find! And, indeed, religious beliefs still lead people today to discriminate against people on the basis of who they choose to have sex with. Many Christians who oppose abortion in the name of God will also denigrate those who have sexual inclinations that they do not agree with. Indeed, it often seems clear to me that Christians who oppose abortion have more interest in getting people to follow the Christian path than they do in stopping the horrendous slaughter of preborn children. I honestly believe that many Christians who claim to oppose abortion would refuse to make it illegal if such agreement also involved the unequivocal acceptance of gay marriage and other gay rights -- their religious prejudices are more important than saving the lives of those who are being slaughtered! We have to move outside such a frame of reference if we are going to be successful in saving the lives of innocent children.

Another consideration: Christianity is a minority religion. If you truly know the Bible and believe in what it says, particularly the words of Jesus himself, you know that he proclaimed "Straight is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." (Matthew 7:14, KJV) Jesus himself has told you that Christians will never be the majority, or even close to a majority. Even if the majority of people in the United States might check off a box on a form or answer a survey indicating their religion as "Christian" (or some subset thereof), unless Jesus was a liar, most people aren't and won't be true Christians. So if you use religion to push your abortion views you will be "preaching to the choir" and ignoring the vast majority of the population.

And perhaps the biggest reason we need to remove religion from the abortion question is this: Christians live peaceably and amicably in our society with all other people. (I live in the U.S., but I believe this applies equally well in all "modern" or "Western" societies.) That may seem like a strange statement. "Of course we live peaceably. That's a GOOD thing. What does that have to do with this?" you may ask. Just consider that that has not always been the case. Christians have frequently been violent in the past, whether it is marching in crusades against Muslims or fighting between Protestants and Catholics in European religious wars. This is not to try to put down religion because of its violent past; that would be missing the point here. The point is that Christians of all sects and denominations do indeed live peaceably today alongside people of all different belief systems. Even the most evangelical among us are not out "beating people over the head" and trying to force their beliefs on others. Can you even imagine war breaking out between Protestants and Catholics in a country such as the United States? We have progressed beyond such practices. Freedom of religion is an accepted part of our culture. Every one of us, including the most ardent proselytizer, recognizes and appreciates this underlying principle upon which our society is built, and would not have it any other way. None of us would vote to institute a theocracy that would tell one group of people that they have to live by the religious code of another. That would be both repellant and unthinkable in our society. What this means, though, is that Christian ardor and enthusiasm, no matter how strong, is never going to reach to trying to force our religious beliefs on others. And if we make abortion illegal we will indeed be "forcing" others to live according to our beliefs. (Those on the other side like to point this out, and we may try to contest it, but it is true. Every law that exists in our society is forcing people to live according to the beliefs or principles that the others in society have said they have to live by. That is, they force the "morality" of the majority on the rest. That's what law does.) Christians, along with all other religious groups in modern society, have learned to NOT force their beliefs on others. Therefore if we try to get people to really stand up and take a strong and unrelenting stand in opposition against abortion it simply will never happen if we try to base it upon religious conviction. This dawned on me recently after being frustrated at the lack of interest among "pro-lifers" to actually take action and stand up strongly against abortion. I finally realized that most "pro-lifers" are Christians, and their religious faith is a significant part of their basis for their objection to abortion. But since they are unwilling (fortunately) to "beat others over the head" with their religious beliefs, they act similarly with respect to abortion. We have to separate abortion from religion for the sake of these Christians, so that they will recognize the reality of the horror of this incredible human rights abuse and take the kind of serious, meaningful action necessary to end this atrocity. No matter how strong our religious convictions, we always respect and allow those that differ from ours. We have to use a different basis for abortion activism if we are going to create the ardor and determination necessary to do what it takes to end this atrocity.

As perhaps an adjunct to the previous thought, I recently spoke to a woman at a "pro-life" booth at a fair and asked her why she was doing what she was doing. I went on to say that we need people to be horrified at what is taking place and to take strong action to end it. She responded by saying, as others have said at other times in the past, that she was doing what she felt God had called her to do. She used her religion as an excuse for not having to go beyond the rather minimal action she was taking and do things that might move her outside of her "comfort zone". As long as she was doing what she felt (or wanted to believe) God had "called her" to do she didn't have to worry about whether her actions were actually helping the victims of abortion. She didn't have to get too horrified or lose any sleep over the fact that 3000 innocent children were being ripped to pieces every single day. She was doing what God called her to do what more could anyone ask for?

One final consideration: It has been almost 40 years since Roe v. Wade effectively legalized abortion throughout the United States. In all that time all of the protests, arguments and other efforts to end it, interlaced with religious messages, have not succeeded. If it hasn't worked, then is it not time to try a different way? ("Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein)

If you wish to preach religion, that is fine go out and preach religion. If you wish to save the unborn you need to focus on the facts of the atrocity that is taking place and not distract from that reality by bringing in issues of religion or other unrelated issues. There is one message that we need to send forth: that we are killing human beings and that is not okay, regardless of one's religion, political affiliation or ideology, ethnicity or heritage, or any other factor. Killing innocent little people is simply wrong.

I don't care if you preach religion that is your right. But please don't do it to the detriment of those who are being killed.