With all the discussion of rape that is now occupying the news virtually 24 hours a day there is an element that I think is not receiving the attention it deserves. You are no doubt aware of the Atkins (and Ryan) attempt to redefine rape, or at least to classify different kinds of rape (apparently rape is rape is not clear to them), and now we have Mourdock’s ridiculous argument that if a woman becomes pregnant from rape she should have to bear the rapist’s child because, somehow, it is God’s will. These arguments apparently come from two different but related sources, ignorance and religion. The claim from Ryan and Atkins has to do with their fundamental religious belief that life begins at conception, the Mourdock claim is also from his religious beliefs. From the point of view of those who do not share their particular religious beliefs these arguments are simply nonsensical and extreme.
But notice here there is a difference between the issues of abortion and rape. Abortion has long been a controversial issue, with people on both sides of the issue holding strong personal (and religious) differences of opinion. Abortion has mostly to do with the difference between those who believe life begins at conception and those who presumably doubt it. There is a problem here in that “life” in the abstract probably could be said to begin at conception, but the issue is really about when “human life” begins. That is, even those who believe in life at conception have no compunction about interfering with the lives of animals, breeding them and ending them at will, whatever suits them. But human life is regarded as a more sacred form of life, an assumption I believe may be unfounded as the judgment is made only by humans themselves. As I think humans are basically part of the animal kingdom, being merely mammals and primates, I wonder why human life should be regarded as more precious than that of their close primate relatives, or even any other form of life for that matter? It is so regarded only by humans, and mainly because of human religious beliefs about such things, souls and such.
But unlike abortion, rape has never until now been a controversial subject. Rape has always been rape and has long been considered a crime. Abortion has always been a problem for our constitutional separation of church and state, but rape has not. The problem with introducing rape as a fit subject for politics is that, like the abortion controversy, it clearly ignores the constitutional separation of church and state and slowly sneaks in the idea that these personal religious beliefs are not being kept separate from politics and are somehow a legitimate subject for political consideration they should not be. This is a serious problem in that it implies that candidates for political office, including even the Presidency, should be allowed to bring their religious baggage with them, legislate and vote according to their religious beliefs, and so on. This is dangerous, the very thing the Founding Fathers attempted to avoid, and the very thing the religious right is trying to unconstitutionally sneak back into our politics. In my opinion this is even more dangerous than the threat of terrorism from the outside, especially as it obviously spills over into the Israeli/Palestinian issue, beliefs about the end times, and so on. Indeed, I suspect the rest of the world, especially the Europeans, think we are absolutely insane when it comes to things like evolution, creationism, which side God is on, and so forth.
It would be a great help if in this election these Tea Party nut cases could be so soundly defeated they would disappear never to rise again, but with so many religious fundamentalists these days I guess that is not likely to happen. It will, however, have to happen if the U.S. is ever going to recover and regain the status we once had. We will not go far with the idea the earth was created in six days, is only 8000 years old, and that our ancestors kept dinosaurs as pets. Nor will we go far with the idea that whatever happens is just going to be “God’s will.”
In religion and politics, people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second hand, and without examination.