Sunday, February 15, 2009

Does God really hate abortion?

If you ask the standard pro-lifer "does the Bible oppose abortion?" their first answer will be "Of course it does! All life is sacred!" It's when you try to pin them down regarding where, exactly, the Bible says this that they start to get squirrelly. For all of the people who are willing to tell me that I'm "twisting Scripture" and taking things out of context for saying that homosexuality isn't opposed by the Bible, the only way to say that the Bible opposes abortion is to read things into the verses that aren't actually there.

You find arguments like "Psalm 78:5-6 reveals God's concern over "the children yet to be born." Yeah, that's a steaming pile. What it actually says is:
He decreed statutes for Jacob
and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our forefathers
to teach their children,
so the next generation would know them,
even the children yet to be born,
and they in turn would tell their children.
Yeah, so the fathers are going to teach the baby while it's still in the womb? Or is that just saying that each generation will teach the next? Poetic license is not equal to proof.

Or the anti-abortion people will feed you unsupported arguments like "Well, the Bible says 'thou shalt not kill.' And so abortion is murder, right?" But that doesn't answer when a fetus is considered a human being. For example, all throughout the Bible, "life" is equated with "breath." In Genesis 2:7, it says "the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." So you could take that to read that life begins when the baby takes its first breath.

Alternatively, in Leviticus 27:6, the Lord tells Moses how much people are worth, to establish the tithe, and children aren't worth anything until they're a month old (anything younger apparently has no value). In the same way, the Lord told Moses to count the "Levites" (Jews) in Numbers 3:15, but not to count anybody less than a month old. So perhaps the baby isn't even human until then.

Another common argument is to use more poetic license from the Bible to show that God sees us as individuals even before we are born. For example, Jeremiah 1:5 (Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart), or Psalm 139:13-16:
or you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
So, we'll ignore the fact that in Jeremiah, we have a guy claiming to be a prophet pumping up his own importance. Let's just consider the statement in there: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you." Doesn't that imply that God sees every person as important before conception? Which not only leads us back to the Catholic opposition to birth control, but, taken to its logical conclusion, any woman who miscarries should be charged at least with manslaughter, if not murder.

Same argument, folks. Let's not fool ourselves. So let's consider what the Bible actually says, as opposed to what people want to read into it.

Let's go to Numbers 5:19.
And the priest shall charge her by an oath, and say unto the woman, If no man have lain with thee, and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness with another instead of thy husband, be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse.
First, that's another use of shakab-as-rape: "...If no man have shakab with thee," which is then contrasted with her willingly having sex with a man other than her husband. If it is suspected that a woman has been raped or had an adulterous affair, she will be forced to drink the "bitter water" (made from holy water and some dust swept from the church floor), which would cause her to have an abortion "to make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot."

Or in Ecclesiastes 6:3-5, where Solomon is making the point that it is better to end a pregnancy early than to allow him to be born and live a miserable life:
If a man beget an hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he. For he cometh in with vanity, and departeth in darkness, and his name shall be covered with darkness. Moreover he hath not seen the sun, nor known any thing: this hath more rest than the other.
So apparently, the "holiness of the womb" isn't quite as important as some conservative Christians would like you to believe. In fact, it wasn't even a serious crime to cause an abortion.
If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.(Exodus 21:22-25)
It states right there that abortion is a civil matter - you only pay a fine. It's the other damage, to the mother (not, you'll notice, the fetus), that can get the abuser punished.

In Genesis 38:24, there's a pregnant woman convicted of prostitution. Though the leaders of Israel knew the woman was carrying a fetus, they still decided to burn her. Why does the fetus have to die for the mother's crimes?

And all through the Bible, it repeats that it's better to be aborted, to die before you're born, than to live a crappy life. That sounds kind of... well, pro-choice to me. Or at least a "quality of life" argument.
Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed. Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father, saying, "A man child is born unto thee," making him very glad. And let that man be as the cities which the LORD overthrew, and repented not: and let him hear the cry in the morning, and the shouting at noontide; because he slew me not from the womb; or that my mother might have been my grave, and her womb to be always great with me. Wherefore came I forth out of the womb to see labour and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame? (Jeremiah 20:14-18)

Or as an hidden untimely birth I had not been; as infants which never saw light. There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest. There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor. The small and great are there; and the servant is free from his master. (Job 3:16-19)

If a man begets a hundred children, and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but he does not enjoy life's good things, and also has no burial, I say that an untimely birth is better off than he. For it comes into vanity and goes into darkness, and in darkness its name is covered; moreover it has not seen the sun or known anything; yet it finds rest rather than he. (Ecclesiastes 6:3-5)
OK, they were sad, so they're allowed to wish to have been aborted? Not just "never have been born," the wording is pretty clear there. "because he slew me not from the womb; or that my mother might have been my grave"

And apparently, abortion is quite all right if it's performed on somebody you don't like, during wartime, or on someone who disagrees with your religion.
At that time Menahem, starting out from Tirzah, attacked Tiphsah and everyone in the city and its vicinity, because they refused to open their gates. He sacked Tiphsah and ripped open all the pregnant women. 2 Kings 15:16

Give them, O LORD—
what will you give them?
Give them wombs that miscarry
and breasts that are dry.
(Hosea 9:14)

The people of Samaria must bear their guilt,
because they have rebelled against their God.
They will fall by the sword;
their little ones will be dashed to the ground,
their pregnant women ripped open
(Hosea 13:16)
So basically, if you actually read the Bible, you'll find that it really isn't opposed to abortion after all. In fact, it's easier to make the case that the Bible supports pornography than it is to say that it opposes abortion.

No, really. It is. As evidence, I submit the following:
How beautiful your sandaled feet,
O prince's daughter!
Your graceful legs are like jewels,
the work of a craftsman's hands.
Your navel is a rounded goblet
that never lacks blended wine.
Your waist is a mound of wheat
encircled by lilies.
Your breasts are like two fawns,
twins of a gazelle.
(Song of Solomon 7:1-3)

Your stature is like that of the palm,
and your breasts like clusters of fruit.
I said, "I will climb the palm tree;
I will take hold of its fruit."
May your breasts be like the clusters of the vine,
the fragrance of your breath like apples,
and your mouth like the best wine.
(Song of Solomon 7:1-3)
And even more than that, my favorite Bible verse:
There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses. (Ezekial 23:20)
Perhaps, rather than twisting passages from the Bible, the rabid anti-abortion activist should remember one or two. Like, perhaps, Matthew 7:1-2: Judge not, lest ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And, once again, another verse from the Gospel of Matthew. "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." (Matthew 15:9).


One Dove said...

All caught up on your knitting there, Nameless Cynic?

Nothing irks me more than someone with insufficient spine to defend a position on their own.

An unborn child getting its brain sucked out during an abortion couldn't care less about your interpretation of scripture.

At least you labeled your post appropriately: It was about abortion and it revealed your ignorance by your inclusion of religion in the discussion.

Nameless Cynic said...

You know, OneDove, I'm really trying to figure out what you're saying here. I've been reading the Bible again lately, and in this blog entry, I asked "Is the Bible opposed to abortion?" The answer I came up with is obviously "no."

"All caught up on your knitting" - so I'll assume you found me through my responses to Barbie. We had our little discussion, we reached the consensus that she believed that the Church cannot err; since no amount of logic will get past that, I left.

Now, as for "an unborn child getting its brain sucked out," you and I will probably disagree about when a fetus is declared a human being. I'm thinking that, with you, it's a unique individual as soon as Dad rolls over and goes to sleep. I don't happen to believe that; I've found a number of cases where I've felt that an abortion should be allowed retroactively, up to about the 25th year.

But maybe that's just me. I'm told that I can overreact sometimes.

As for "insufficient spine," I don't know what the hell you're talking about. I'm sitting here (in my pajamas, as a matter of fact), alone in a room. This is me. What are you looking for, me to challenge you to a fight? (I mean, I'd tear you apart, but that's a part of me that I'm trying to divorce myself from since I left the military.)

(Oh, yeah. I support divorce, too.)

Now, the part that really confuses me is your last paragraph. You admit that I labeled my post appropriately: "Does God really hate abortion?" I thought that made things crystal-clear that religion would be involved. But I'm not the first one to bring this up. In fact, I'm not even the hundredth.

Do me a favor, sweetie. Go to Google, and search for two words. Make the first one "abortion" and the second one either "sin," "Jesus," "God," "Christian" or "Bible." And come back when you've gone through all of them.

So obviously, I don't believe that you stated your point clearly enough. Feel free to explain further, so that I'll have a clearer idea of your stand on the subject; that will make it easier to make fun of you.

Jemima said...

Cynicism has its place, oh nameless one, but its better than being gullible, which is worse in my estimation.
On the question of whether the Bible has anything to say on abortion, I found this passage in Exodus 21:22-24.
It talks about men 'struggling' (an altercation of some sort perhaps)and the struggle involves a pregnant woman who is injured as a result. If no fatality to mother or child occurs, damages were still imposed on the guilty party by the child's father and the law. If a fatality of mother or child occurred then "life would be for life". This would indicate to me that God views the unborn as a "life".
If we would not murder a newborn, then at what point is an 'unborn' any less a child?
Just my 2 cents worth.


Nameless Cynic said...

There is some argument on that point. The King James Version (which is, after all, "breathed out by God") translates that verse as "so that her fruit depart her," whereas the NIV translates it as "and she give birth prematurely" with the footnote "or she has a miscarriage." (New American Standard has the same, without the footnote.) The Message finds a more in-depth translation of "a pregnant woman is hit so that she miscarries but is not otherwise hurt," and the Amplified Bible sees it as "and a pregnant woman [interfering] is hurt so that she has a miscarriage, yet no further damage follows."

The New Century Version finds it to have been "and hit a pregnant woman, causing the baby to come out. If there is no further injury..." and the Darby translation reads "And if men strive together, and strike a woman with child, so that she be delivered, and no mischief happen."

Once again, the difficulty is that nobody alive today speaks Ancient Hebrew (or even knows what it sounded like). If you've been reading my posts for the past two weeks or so, you'll see that these errors abound.

PersonalFailure said...

I have read all of these sections you referred to, in 6 different translations (including a translation of the Torah done in 1912 by a Council of Rabbis in New York for "the modern Jew who neither speaks nor reads Hebrew"), and always figured I must have been reading it wrong.

Thank you for this very well reasoned explanation. (And I don't think we should stop retroactive abortions at 25.)

Rafting Bear said...

Nameless, excellent job!

Whether aboortion is a good thing or not is certainly open to argument, but the false argument of "This is what God wants!" should never be used.

Personally, I think abortion is an extremely inefficient method of birth control, but it is no one's business but the mother's whether she chooses to have one or not. If God has a problem with it, She can work it out with the mother later.