One of the great things about the Internet is that it affords an opportunity for ordinary people all over the world to exchange ideas with one another in a way that would otherwise never be possible.
Most of us who regularly share our thoughts online in some form or other—websites, blogs, forums, etc.—are not professional writers; on the contrary, nearly everyone is an amateur writer in the true sense of the word “amateur”.
Every now and then, an amateur writer comes up with something so insightful that one can’t help but sit back and repeatedly nod one’s head while reading it and, upon finishing, want to share it with everyone he knows. I had that feeling today when I read a brilliant blog post that has been making the rounds in the Pro-Life and Catholic corners of the blogosphere recently.
Former Atheist Describes How She Became Pro-Life
On January 28, a blogger known only as “Jennifer F.” wrote an amazingly insightful post on her blog, which is called “Et tu?” (The Diary of a Former Atheist). The title of her post was, rather simply, “How I became pro-life”.
Jennifer’s tour de force post is extraordinarily illuminating, and portions of it deserve to be quoted at length.
The most interesting part of Jennifer’s “testimony”, if you will, is her plain admission that she did not fully become pro-life until she came to understand the moral prohibition against abortion in light of the Church’s moral teachings on sexuality.
In her words, Jennifer said, “It was when I was reading up on the Catholic Church’s view of sex, marriage and contraception that everything changed”:
I’d always thought that those archaic teachings about not using contraception were because the Church wanted to oppress people by telling them to have as many kids as possible, or something like that. What I found, however, was that their views expressed a fundamentally different understanding of what sex is, and once I heard it I never saw the world the same way again. The way I’d always seen it, the standard position was that babies were a horrible burden, except for a couple times in life when everything is perfect enough that a couple might temporarily see new life as a good thing; the Catholic view is that the standard position is that babies are a blessing and a good thing, and while it’s fine to attempt to avoid pregnancy for serious reasons, if we go so far as to adopt a “contraceptive mentality,” feeling entitled to the pleasure of sex while loathing (and perhaps trying to forget all about) its life-giving properties, we not only disrespect this most sacred of acts, but we begin to see new life as the enemy…
The “Contraceptive Mentality” Is the Problem
I came to see that our culture’s widespread use and acceptance of contraception had led to the “contraceptive mentality” toward sex being the default position. As a society, we’d come to take it for granted that we’re entitled to the pleasurable and bonding aspects of sex even when we’re in a state of being vehemently opposed to the new life it might produce. The option of abstaining from the act that creates babies if we’re in a state of seeing babies as a huge burden had been removed from our cultural lexicon: even if it would be a huge crisis to get pregnant, we have a right to go ahead and have sex anyway. If this were true, if it was indeed a fact that it was morally OK for people to have sex even when they believed that a new baby could ruin their lives, in my mind, then, abortion had to be OK.
I realize that ideally I would have taken an objective look at when human life begins and based my views on that alone . . . but the lie was just too tempting. I didn’t want to hear too much about heartbeats or souls or brain activity . . . terminating pregnancies just had to be OK, because carrying a baby to term and becoming a parent is a huge deal . . . and society had made it very clear that sex is not a huge deal. As long as I accepted that for people to engage in sex in a contraceptive mentality was morally OK, I could not bring myself to even consider that abortion might not be OK.
Dehumanizing “Inconvenient” People
Jennifer went on to say:
All of these thoughts had been percolating in my brain for a while, and I found myself increasingly in agreement with pro-life positions. Then one night I was reading something, and a thought occurred to me, and from that moment on I was officially, unapologetically PRO-LIFE. I was reading yet another account of the Greek societies in which newborn babies were abandoned to die, wondering to myself how normal people could possibly do something like that. I felt a chill rush through my body as I thought:
I know how they did it.
I realized in that moment that perfectly good, well-meaning people—people like me—can support very evil things through the power of lies. From my own experience, I knew how the Greeks, the Romans, and people in every other society could put themselves into a mental state that they could leave a newborn child to die: the very real pressures of life—”we can’t afford another baby,” “we can’t have any more girls,” “he wouldn’t have had a good life”—left them susceptible to that oldest of temptations: to dehumanize other human beings. Though the circumstances were different, it was the same process that had happened with me, that happened with the concurring Supreme Court Justices in Stenberg v. Carhart, with the abortion doctors, the entire pro-choice movement, and anyone else who’s ever been tempted to dehumanize inconvenient people.
Jennifer has hit the nail on the head, and she deserves to be commended.