Friday, September 14, 2012

Chatting With Marcy

I don't get into many arguments with deeply religious people on Facebook...probably because if I was ever friends with anyone deeply religious, they unfriended me long ago or I stopped following their news feed for the sake of my own sanity. However, a friend of mine has recently gotten involved with politics. The poor thing is starting to understand how completely fucked up the Republican party really is, and has been posting a lot of articles to that effect. And oh my, does she have some religiously conservative friends and relatives. Wow. I really feel for her - not only is she dealing with the devastatingly messed up political process, she is being faced with the reality of how many people out there have bought what the GOP is selling. That is a lot of uncomfortable truths for one person to deal with.

Anyway, my friend posted a link to this story, where a Republican legislator got caught saying something appalling about how God was punishing children with disabilities because of abortion. You know there's a problem when you can't tell the politicians from extreme fundamentalists. The resulting conversation went like this:

Angel: Keep in mind that 2/3 of human conceptions are spontaneously aborted by nature in the first trimester.

Marcy: All I know is God is not for abortion.
And here we meet Marcy! Her comment struck me as particularly inappropriate in this context. She does nothing to protest the extreme and awful things being spouted by the individual in question, and in fact comes across as supporting him (if not outright agreeing). Whatever her views on abortion, it takes a particularly shallow and self-absorbed viewpoint to think this was an appropriate time to share them. I just couldn't let it slide.

BW: How do you know that, Marcy?

Marcy: Because the Bible says so, and I believe the Bible is the infalable word of God.

Yeah, she went there...and she couldn't even spell it correctly. It was on.

BW: I didn't think abortion was mentioned in the Bible. Can you tell me where you read that?

Eileen: Citation sorely needed for the initial assertion! WTF?!?
Oh and AFAIK, "abortion" per se isn't mentioned at all. Without hauling out a concordance, I'm fairly sure there i
sn't even an allusion to it in the NT. The only thing that can possibly be construed as an unnatural termination of pregnancy is in Leviticus, but that's even in the context of a pregnant woman who is injured, causing a miscarriage, and the restitution that is required by the responsible party is much less than what is required if the pregnant woman is slain. Hmmm...

BW: Thanks for clearing that up, Eileen. I certainly didn't remember it being mentioned. So if the Bible is silent about abortion, how do you know God's opinion on it, Marcy? Now if it is simply your opinion we are talking about then that is all well and good, you are absolutely entitled to it. But it's a little unreasonable to claim that God's opinion just happens to coincide with your own when the Bible is silent on the matter. 
I'm going pretty easy on our friend Marcy, here. It's pretty clear to me that she is someone who has just never really thought that much about her beliefs. She was probably raised Christian, grew up surrounded by Christians and has never had those beliefs challenged. She certainly wasn't going to go looking for evidence that contradicted what she had been told.

Marcy: Abortion, the modern word given to the meaning of killing an unborn baby is not in the Bible. We can, however, get God's 'heart' what he thinks about killing unborn babies. In Exodus 21:22 God does talk about what is to happen if an unborn baby is killed or injured. This shows God believes in the sanctity of human life, it is not a good thing to have killed an unborn baby. (this passage may have been what you thought was in Leviticus). Also, in Proverbs 6:16-19 it says "There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush to evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers." Killing unborn babies is shedding innocent blood. As a Christian, I believe God is telling us in these passages that killing unborn babies is not good, he does not like it. As a Christian I believe my God. Psalm 139:13-16 is beautiful, on how God knew each one of us before we were even born, and the days He ordained for us before they even happen. Its beautiful!
 Ye-ouch. That is one tangle of false-equivalencies and Biblical literalism (except when it's not literal 'cause Jesus). Again, Marcy has probably never had to justify her beliefs before. She's probably never thought about how many versions of the Bible and how many sects of Christianity there are, or wondered how they all came to such different conclusions from the same original text. 

BW: I'm sure it's lovely, Marcy, but is it a basis for making medical decisions? Also, I just googled Exodus 21:22 and found a couple different versions. One says '22 “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows'', while a second version says 'And if men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she has a miscarriage, yet there is no [further] injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him; and he shall pay as the judges decide.' It seems to me that these two passages mean completely different things. How do you know which version is the version God supports? If this is the only mention of anything even close to abortion in the Bible, is that really enough to base your decision on? Should your personal interpretation of what the Bible says be applied to anyone other than yourself?

Marcy: No, the lovely verse is just lovely, it is not connected to the killing of unborn babies. Just that God knows what every baby will do someday, if not killed. With the Exodus verse, the point is God's 'heart' in the matter of killing and unborn baby, it is clear God does not support killing his babies, He values their lives. The verse says that if the baby is harmed or killed there are consequences. Point being God clearly puts a value on all babies lives, as the Psalms 139:13-19 verse states. (if you have read it). And no, It is not the only mention of killing babies in the Bible, you did not comment on the Proverbs verse 6:16-19. I am appling this to my life because I am a Christian. I have no control of what someone else does. We all will have to give and account to God for what we do here on earth, and not being 'for' killing babies is a choice I can be proud of at the judgement seat of Christ.
 Ah, the logical fallacies! The insistence that her version of the Bible be treated as a window into the mind of God, because of course her version is the TRUE version! The...continued refusal to actually answer my questions? The rampant mis-characterization of abortion as 'baby murder'... Yeah, I can maybe let that slide once or twice, but damn. There is so much going on here that I would have to devote a serious chunk of my time to explain all of the ways that Marcy is wrong so far...and I have better things to do. You have to pick your battles within your battles sometimes.

BW: What it seems like you are doing here, Marcy, is explaining your interpretation of the Bible. What I am trying to do is demonstrate that your interpretation is one of many possible interpretations. You have shown that some parts of the Bible suggest that killing or hurting babies is bad. I think that for most people that goes without saying, which is probably why it is only mentioned tangentially. You have chosen to interpret 'killing or hurting babies is bad' to mean 'God is against abortion'. That is a significant jump in logic that, as I think we have demonstrated, is not based on much actual evidence. As I said before, you are absolutely entitled to your own interpretation of the Bible and to make your own moral choices. But it is not reasonable for you to assert that your interpretation is God's opinion. I am not calling your holiness or morality into question, only the reasonableness of what you are saying. It is also misleading for you to describe abortion as 'the killing of unborn babies', but that may be a different discussion.

Marcy: It seems clear to me, not much left to interpretation, but alright. Do you think God is ok with killing babies? How is calling abortion, 'killing unborn babies' misleading? Isn't that what happens to the baby during an abortion? Are you a Christian Amanda?
 This comment absolutely floored me. Throughout our conversation Marcy has been talking about 'knowing God's heart' and explaining the meaning of scripture...without recognizing that in doing so she was interpreting that scripture. Her version of the Bible is literally the only one she can conceive of, in spite of my earlier example of how a single word change between editions completely changes the meaning of the passage. Also, fetus /=/ baby. Seriously. It is the definition of the word. 

Also, Oh Noes! My cover is blown! Don't you love how most Christians assume everyone thinks the way they do until proven otherwise? And how when that assumption is called into question they become immediately hostile? I am hesitant to bust out the 'A' word with Marcy. Somehow I get the impression that she thinks atheists eat babies for breakfast or something, which is just is far too rich a meal for breakfast. 

BW: No, Marcy, 'killing unborn babies' is not what happens during an abortion. To begin with, a fetus is not at all equivalent to a baby, medically speaking. Legal abortions also take place long before most metrics would ascribe the quality of 'life' to the fetus. Neither 'killing' nor 'baby' are correct terms to use and are therefore misleading and inflammatory. Is my religion somehow relevant to the quality of my arguments?

Marcy: Amanda, to say that an abortion does not kill and unborn baby is a lie. That is what an abortion does. 'Baby' and 'killing' are most certainly correct terms to use. The word 'abortion' is used to mitigate the truth of what is happening. What I see happening here is, I look at what God says, to make my choices in life because as a Christian I want to make choices that are pleasing to God (I understand, you are not belittleing my morality or holiness) I, unlike you, am not looking at science/the medical community or what man says. Psalm 139:13-16 is the verse I named earlier (the one you were sure was lovely but probably did not look up) that would just expose the tip of the iceburg on how God created each one of us in the womb and the plans he has for our lives. Not a plan to be killed in the womb. A person either wants to know God's good and perfect will (I have a verse for that too, but you probably won't look it up, let me know it you want it) OR they don't care what God says, they want to do what is right in their own eyes, and whatever they want, and will look for ways around what God's word is clear about. (I have verses for all these points, I did not just make them up, but I get the feeling you are not interested in what God says so I did not include the citation) I feel at this point I am "casting my pearls before swines" Matthew 7:6, I do not think I will be able to continue this conversation much longer if at all. You ask "Is my religion somehow relevant to the quality of my arguments" I don't know Amanda, is it?
 Aaand...I'm done. The fact that someone would be so condescending in response to, you know, reality...not to mention that she's calling me a liar and insisting that the Bible (The Real One, which happens to be hers) is superior to reality as a basis for making complex moral decisions. I have gone from viewing Marcy as someone who has never had her beliefs challenged to someone who is unwilling even to questions them herself. 'Applying your beliefs in this way isn't very reasonable' and 'here's what actually happens in reality' is just too much for poor Marcy to handle.

BW: I have been patient and respectful throughout this discussion. I have not criticized or judged you or your beliefs, I have suggested that the way you are applying them is unreasonable. Not only have you ignored or dismissed my direct questions and comments, it would seem that taking the modern medical and scientific understanding of human development more seriously than your interpretation of the Bible is deserving of condescension. You presume to judge me and my arguments based on how closely my interpretation of the Bible aligns with yours. I find this behavior to be appalling and disrespectful. And yes Marcy, your version is only one interpretation out of many. Taking ‘God knew you in the womb’ to mean that God literally knows everything about you and has planned your life out before the cortex is even functional, for example. That is definitely an extrapolation that goes far beyond what is written, and has some very disturbing implications…especially considering Angel’s earlier point about two-thirds of fertilized zygotes miscarrying naturally. You are filling in the gaps with your own beliefs and opinions, to the point where you are ignoring both our current understanding of fetal development and what words actually mean. This may speak well to your faith as a Christian, but it speaks very poorly to your reasonableness as a human being. Frankly, if you are not willing to entertain discussion perhaps you should refrain from posting such opinions in a forum where they might be challenged.
Marcy has no idea how easily she got off. How much of her nonsense I forgave or ignored for the sake of getting across the importance of reasonableness in applying interpretations of the Bible to real-life situations. I doubt I even got that across. But hey, that's why you do this publicly...not to convince the person making an ass of themselves, but to reach whomever might be silently following along. Reason is important, and it does not come naturally. Marcy is an excellent example of how often we simply don't question or challenge our own beliefs without provocation. Let us learn from her!