Posted by: Paul Chiariello | February 10, 2011

Abortion, Free Will and the Soul: Can Devout Christians Still be Pro-Choice?

Throughout my freshmen year of college, only a handful of years ago, I used to argue fairly passionately for pro-life policies.  Since then I’ve moved more to the fence, especially after taking a unit on the issue in one of my philosophy of normative ethics classes.  However, after writing a post on the Planned Parenthood and the Pimp Controversy I have thought a little more about the issue.  Not only have I come to identify more solidly with the pro-choice side of the debate, but I believe there is a strong argument for why Christians should also throw down their weapons, if only for the moment, and reassess their views on the matter.  It runs through a few very simple points on Christian doctrine.

First, The “Soul” is basically the crux of most if not all Christian thinking on the issue.  There is no mourning of gametes (sperm and eggs) and if the egg isn’t a ‘person’ (i.e. a being/agent associated with a soul), then there isn’t even really a thing which you are murderering.  You murdered a person and it’s wrong to murder people, but if it has no soul then it is not a person, or at least ‘complete’ person.  You are simply stopping a biological function and have not affected any soul which might survive or be conscious of the incident.  Of course pro-life people do argue that the fetus after conception (or whatever point) is in fact a person and it is therefore murder, but from my understanding this is because it has a soul.

Of course, maybe you should not create needless suffering, as with animals, and that is why abortion is wrong.   Animals do not have souls, but yet suffer.  Possibly, but new arguments against abortion would have to take that route.   However, if the argument were to turn towards merely considering suffering, most think that people can cause such suffering if it benefits humans, especially if it saves people from suffering.   The debate becomes a utilitarian calculation of ‘units’ of suffering.  It also might be difficult to use this argument because at many stages it seems a fetus does not suffer pain.   It can easily be argued that at the early stages there isn’t a (developed) nervous system or such that can experience suffering or, similarly, we could perform the procedure with minimal or no suffering.

All I want to point out here is that the soul is central to the argument that abortion is wrong.

Now some people knowing where this is going may try to find some other nuance in it, but I think most people are on the same page as me so far.  If not, write some comments and we can complicate the point further.

Second, the reason we seem to be on earth is to exercise our free will.  Jesus died on the cross so we could exercise our free will in choosing or denying his free gift of salvation.  Free will also is the main (and only reasonable) line of argument against the Problem of Pain argument against the existence of God.  The exercise of a person’s free will is so valuable, the argument goes, that it justifies a world with all the suffering you see around you.

Point being, free will is damn important and God wants us to have it and exercise it, even if it causes a lot of other problems.  Free will could even be argued to be the very purpose of our creation – to choose God and go to Heaven (or not and go to Hell).  God wanted companions or willing worshipers and He could only have such if they chose Him of their own accord.

Third, here is the good part, departing from Christian theology and looking out into the world: Why does God kill so many babies? Infant mortality has only just gone down to, on average, 43 deaths per 1000 births.  In the 1950s it was 152 per 1000 (over 15%).  The oldest stats I found after a very very brief search were for the US in 1850: 216 per 1000 for whites and 340 for blacks (also showing the rampant inequality of the period).  The under 5 mortality rate (if you believe it takes a few years to be able to exercise free will) is obviously much higher.  It is currently almost 50% higher than mere infant mortality.  And all of this doesn’t even touch on the prevalence of miscarriages estimated at a third of fertilized eggs!

But it doesn’t really matter how often it happens.  It is the fact that it happens at all which seems so at odds with both (1) and (2).

Question, if after conception a fetus has a soul and God created that soul for the very purpose of choosing Him with its free will, why does he bar them so often from exercising their free will?  What does it mean for such a being to bar them from the exercise of free will?

Of course you can say ‘it’s a mystery’ (though make sure to allow that answer when you criticize other religions for not giving an explanation!).  But if you want to rationally answer this, I’m curious.  Why does God kill so many babies if you believe in both 1 and 2 above?

I’m not trying to be abrasive or controversial or attacking anything.  This just doesn’t make any sense to me.  Either 1 or 2 have to go.  You cannot have both.

Fourth, The easy answer is… a fetus does not have a soul.  So basically I’m just dropping (1) for which I see no real reason why not to do so.  If you believe in souls, it apparently can  at whichever moment a child is able to choose for themselves.  So, if such is that case, an abortion is not the equivalent of murder, because no person is harmed.

NOTE: Don’t be silly and tell me I just argued that now its OK to kill 5 year olds.  There are LOTS of reasons we would not on a whim kill children.  Do you believe animals have a soul?  If not, why don’t you kill them on a whim?  Maybe the utilitarian suffering argument above is appropriate to apply to these kinds of issues.  Also, we obviously have much more emotional and social investments in children that we don’t have as much with animals.  Personally, I don’t believe killing animals is ‘murder,’ though I still try to be as veggie as possible for moral utilitarian reasons.  My point is, here is not the place to list how absurd it is to say this conclusion points to the devaluing of children or the right to kill them on a whim.  If you insist, we can have that conversation on the side or, even better, in the comments below.

Final Note, if babies do have souls and are still judged as to whether they are going to heaven or hell (or purgatory, which doesn’t really make a difference, so long as it isn’t hell), then it almost seems that abortions are a good thing.  I already know this sounds ridiculous, and I am NOT recommending anything crazy… but, so my little thought experiment goes, even if I go to hell for being an abortion doctor and ‘murdering’ tons of babies, at least they won’t be going to hell themselves!  Right?  I will be going to hell, yes, but at least I saved many more from that very fate.  Those that were already going to heaven still go, but all those that would not have get a free pass!  After all, Jesus said, “narrow is the way that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  So most of those babies were probably going to hell.

Apologies to anyone that is so sensitive they were offended by the above paragraph.  The point was just to show if you agree with both 1 and 2 it comes to absurd conclusions.

Conclusion, again, please don’t say I’m arguing to kill babies.  I’m just showing that if you believe 1) that a fetus has a soul and 2) that free will is important/necessary, then you come up with some crazy conclusions and things you can’t explain.  Namely, there is no explanation for why God would end so many lives before they were able to perform the act for which he created them.  Therefore, you need to drop one of the premises.  I suggest dropping #1.

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Responses

  1. Paul,

    Thank you for asking for my comments on this post.

    First and foremost, I think if we’re going to talk about an institution’s stance on any issue, the point of departure should be that institution’s official statement, if you will. While you talk specifically about “Christians” in your article, I have taken the liberty of consulting the Catechism of the Catholic Church to discover what the Church as institution says about abortion and why it is wrong:

    2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.72

    Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.73
    My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.74

    2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:

    You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.75
    God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.76

    2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,”77 “by the very commission of the offense,”78 and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law.79 The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.

    2273 The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:

    “The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death.”80

    “The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. . . . As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child’s rights.”81

    2274 Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being.

    Prenatal diagnosis is morally licit, “if it respects the life and integrity of the embryo and the human fetus and is directed toward its safe guarding or healing as an individual. . . . It is gravely opposed to the moral law when this is done with the thought of possibly inducing an abortion, depending upon the results: a diagnosis must not be the equivalent of a death sentence.”82

    2275 “One must hold as licit procedures carried out on the human embryo which respect the life and integrity of the embryo and do not involve disproportionate risks for it, but are directed toward its healing the improvement of its condition of health, or its individual survival.”83

    “It is immoral to produce human embryos intended for exploitation as disposable biological material.”84

    “Certain attempts to influence chromosomic or genetic inheritance are not therapeutic but are aimed at producing human beings selected according to sex or other predetermined qualities. Such manipulations are contrary to the personal dignity of the human being and his integrity and identity”85 which are unique and unrepeatable.

    Would love to discuss this further once you have read the Church’s official teaching.

    On a side – yet very related – note, the Google ad that appears (at least on my computer) below your post is for http://www.wewishtoadopt.net with the tagline, “Pregnant? Adoption Plans? We’re a loving professional couple…”

    Beautiful.

  2. First, i dont control the ads at the bottom – I think they come automatically depending on the tags i list.

    Second, I know the ‘church law’ by which you refer to the Catholic Church and not the Protestant, Orthodox, etc churches. I wrote this with complete understanding that what i was saying clashed with Church law.

    Third, read the paragraphs entitled “Question” and “Conclusion, Again” and then respond to that. Merely stating “the Church says X” doesn’t touch on my arguments at all.

  3. Also, you didn’t mention any of the relevant teaching on when the soul enters the the body (which in the article i suggest amending) or the role free will plays in why God creates us in the first place.

  4. Your first point: on what do you base your assertion that pro-life people believe that a baby receives a soul at the moment of conception and that that is the reason why they believe that abortion is murder? No pro-life person I know even talks about the soul because no one knows when a person is ensouled (and I have worked with Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Jewish, and self-proclaimed atheist pro-lifers). Rather, pro-life people are against abortion because, at the moment of conception, a new creation is made, one that has its own DNA and is a separate and unique individual. This assertion is not a product of any religious faith; it is scientific fact.

    Your second point: again, on what do you base your assertion that God created us to exercise free will? You know the basis of my assertions, the teaching of the Catholic Church, whether you accept that basis or not. What is your basis? Of course, He has given us free will, but it’s not the purpose of our creation. For example, Jesus did not die on the cross so that we could exercise our free will in accepting or rejecting his free gift of salvation. He died for our sins. He died so that we may have salvation. It is salvation that He wants us to seek. It is salvation that we do seek. Whether we attain salvation or not is a matter of how we determine to exercise our free will.

    You argue that “Christians” are pro-life for the reasons you set forth. Perhaps some – or all – of the Christians you have encountered have shaped your belief that this is what they or “Christians” in general believe. As I said, I have yet to meet a single individual who possesses these beliefs and consequently fights for the right to life of the unborn.

    • First, I did not say this is the ONLY way they argue. Just pointing out IF anyone believes 1 and 2 then X. The primacy of the ‘soul’ in being a person and having certain moral characteristics and rights is one reason however, and a strong reason, I believe. Namely, a soul is the thing that survives death. Without a soul it is at very least a different kind of creature. It also falls prey to the absurd argument of ‘why not kill a fetus to prevent it from going to hell’ as per my quote from Jesus. However, if you do not tie this to the soul but instead to DNA, which makes a person a unique being, then you have the SAME EXACT problem. Basically I use ‘soul’ as my own marker to compare with number 2. The important thing is the ‘relationship’ between 1 and 2, regardless of the content of 1. Namely at what point or what characteristics result in a being that God requires/wishes/etc to use its free will? God created a particularly important set of unique DNA, why does he kill so many if it seems he created it to use its free will to choose him?

      Second, I draw it mostly, as I mention, from its primacy in the argument against the Problem of Pain. It also seems your last sentences in this paragraph agree that free will is what we use to accept God’s free gift that Jesus provided on the cross. For instance, you mention ‘seek’ twice, but we obviously use our will in order to seek or not. Your very last sentence seems to be completely in line with what I argue. God wants us (created us?) to be with Him, the use of our free will determines if we will or not.

      Lastly, I’m arguing not that Christians are only pro-life for the reasons I set forth, but that in part some are. I’m making a fairly specific claim. Again, I talk a lot about Christians, but this also relates to anyone who accepts 1 and 2.

      In the most simplified form 1 can merely be ‘the fetus is an individual of value’ and 2 ‘god created individuals of value for a purpose to be used during life.’ This becomes stranger if you believe that why he created us (to be with Him or not) are results of how we exercise that purpose during life.

      You haven’t answered why God prohibits so many individuals from exercising their free will.

  5. Hi Paul,

    My name is Luke. I’m a friend of Christina’s, and she suggested I read this post, although I don’t think she’s expecting me to reply. It’s an interesting take and actually something I’ve thought about and struggled with before.

    Although I don’t think the logic is as clean as 4+5=9, I think you make a good point that you need to drop one of the first 2 premises, but I would suggest dropping number 2, or at least modifying it.

    You said, “free will is damn important and God wants us to have it and exercise it, even if it causes a lot of other problems.” The purpose of free will in not merely to exercise it, it’s to exercise it rightly. God’s will for our free will is to use it to choose what is good. Abuse of freedom destroys it. We see that in our country and judicial system. I have the freedom to go outside, walk down the street, and wave to my neighbor. But if I walk down the street, punch my neighbor and steal his wallet, I’m going to lose that freedom pretty quickly. It happens on a spiritual level too. Thanks be to God, I have the freedom to look at my wife and think, “God, I love her,” and even do something about it by living out a relationship of love, recognizing her unique spirit and being careful not to violate it. I can’t just do whatever I want with her, but in my spirit, I’m still free. On the other hand, if I look at a woman lustfully, ignoring her unique spirit, I’m very aware of my limitations. Again, I can’t just do what I want, but this time my limitations are like bars. It’s just like Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”

    The original sin, and the one that still plagues people today, is that they want to be God—they want to make the rules. You have the freedom to choose good or evil, but you don’t have the freedom to choose the consequences of those choices any more than you can choose to prevent your own death.

    That takes us to your 3rd point and question, “Why does God kill so many babies?” This is the question that I too struggled with for some time. It’s a question that bothers us because we’re blind to what God has really done for us. God is the author of life. He created us. All that we have, all that we are, is a gift from God. If I live 100 years, those years are all a gift from God. If a baby dies after its first few breaths, those breaths are a gift from God. If a human zygote dies after its first seconds of life, those seconds are a gift.

    Why am I blessed to have lived this long and to have exercised my free will? I can’t say. Why is a stillborn infant not blessed to have such an experience? Again, I can’t say. It’s a mystery. But who am I to demand the answer as to why a lover gives any gift to his beloved, or to suggest that the gift isn’t good enough? God is God, and we are his creation. It’s not our right to have all the answers. In asking, “Why does God kill so many babies?” you are asking a question that doesn’t directly involve you, and you’re wording it in a negative way. It would be like you asking me out of the blue, “Why don’t you have sex with your wife more often?”

    Mystery, far from being an out for a lack of an answer, is simply the acknowledgement of a presence outside yourself. Rather than being a hindrance to a logical argument, I think it’s a wise starting point.

    Let me give you a different perspective on mystery. My wife is a mystery. I can love her, and get to know her more and more deeply forever. I’m never going to exhaust the complexities of her soul. God is a far greater mystery. We can live with God for an eternity and never fully grasp him. That’s part of what makes being a creature so awesome.

    What I discovered when I struggled with this question was that my heart was hardened. I wasn’t satisfied as creature and wanted to be in God’s seat. And it seemed innocent enough; I just wanted to know why God let babies die? Just like Adam and Eve, it started with a question undermining the deity of God. “Did God really tell you not to eat to eat from any of the trees in the garden?”

    Paul, I’m bothered, and not so much by your blog entry, but by the wording in which you introduced it on Christina’s Facebook wall: “thought you’d enjoy this. would like your comment :)”

    It’s cold and it’s a lie. I probably don’t have to tell you, but Christina didn’t enjoy it. In fact, she’s really upset by it. Why would you do that to her? Do you think you’re making the world a better place? Is that how you plan on working toward a world of more hope than sorrow? By mocking what people hold most sacred?

    Either you’re mocking her, or you’re very ignorant of interpersonal dynamics. You don’t strike me as an ignorant person.

    Paul, you need to look at your heart.

    ~Luke

    • two quick things,

      first, not only do i acknowledge god wants us to use free will in a certain way or that there are consequences, but adding the clause ‘but to exercise it rightly’ is irrelevant. the only point i need is that He ‘wants us to use our free will’. whether rightly wrongly or any way, it doesn’t weaken my argument. making my point more specific doesn’t argue against it.

      second, adding the discussion of ‘gifts’ does not comment on the fact that god does not allow the fetus to exercise it’s free will in choosing him. he condemns it to purgatory (i assume you are catholic) and basically a get out of hell free card and bars it from heaven… without any choice in the matter.

      third, i acknowledged the ‘mystery’ argument as valid. i merely said that you now commit yourself from accepting the same argument from other religions that cannot answer your criticisms. be prepared in a discussion with a muslim or protestant in which you are winning to say ‘yes, i guess it is just a mystery, you’re right.’

      lastly, i’m sorry if she is upset. i didn’t think she would enjoy it in a non-fustrating way. but christina is a confrontational person, in a good way. she is public about her beliefs on the subject and she should confront them so if she wishes to continue. also, does this imply she should stop making her arg’s because they make people really upset and distressed? of course not. people may hold it sacred, but it doesn’t mean that it is.

  6. Hi Paul,

    Allow me to clarify my argument involving gifts. Not only is our life a gift from God, but so is our free will, and so is our ability to exercise our free will. We’re not entitled to any of that. Again, God is God, we are his creation. I understand that God, in ending the life of a baby or fetus, prevents it from exercising it’s free will (at least here on earth), but I just don’t see it an injustice. Life and free will are his to give to whomever he wants.

    You also have a misunderstanding of Catholic teaching. Yes, I am Catholic. The question of what happens to babies who die without being baptized has been asked in the church for centuries, maybe millennia. I don’t know how long. But the church never taught that they went to purgatory. For a long time, it suggested that maybe they go to a place called limbo, where they spend a comfortable existence for eternity, where they experience neither the torment of hell nor the presence of God. In very recent years, the Church made a statement saying that there is still reason to hope that maybe they go to heaven. But the Church openly admits that it doesn’t know what happens. All this is just speculation. The Church, in its wisdom, leaves the judging to God.

    I know you acknowledged mystery, but then you disregarded it by immediately making the bold proposal, “The easy answer is… a fetus does not have a soul.” And in your reply to me, you again seem to misunderstand mystery. You wrote, “be prepared in a discussion with a muslim or protestant in which you are winning to say ‘yes, i guess it is just a mystery, you’re right.’” Acknowledging that mystery exists does not mean that you have to accept any proposal of what the mystery includes as truth. It also doesn’t mean that you can’t know anything about the mystery. A great analogy I heard about mystery compared it to an endless hallway in an art gallery. You can go down it forever learning more and more and never exhausting all it has to offer. Again, I’ll compare it to my wife. I know more about her than I know about any other human being alive, but I still don’t know her through and through, I can’t. That doesn’t mean that I can’t talk intelligently about her or have a meaningful conversation with somebody who views her differently.

    You make a good point about Christina and about sharing beliefs in general, and maybe you weren’t being as much a jerk as I initially thought. I just want to make sure that you’re not intentionally wasting her time. One of the Bible passages that used to really bother me was the one where Jesus sends his disciples evangelizing and tells them, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.” My thinking was, “Well, shouldn’t they stay in that town then and evangelize all the more?” That passage bothered me until I found myself completely exhausted after a week long debate with a person on Facebook about (believe it or not) abortion. I worked so hard, and had no fruit to show. I had wasted my time. It became obvious that the person was not looking for truth, but was just arguing for entertainment with no intention of really considering what I had to say. I could have done so many other good things with that time.

    That said, I think it’s unlikely that I’m going to reply to this blog anymore. I’m not shaking the dust off my sandals at you, but I probably have about 4 hours tied up in our conversation already and I don’t know how I managed to find 4 hours of free time on a Thursday and Friday afternoon given everything else I’m trying to do with my life. I’ll pray for you, and I don’t say that in the bitter, in-your-face way that some Christians end a conversation. Accept it as my authentic gesture of good will.

    Peace,
    Luke

    • your first and second point can be responded to simply by referring to the original question, ‘why does God not allow any choice in the matter?’ He merely creates something for limbo? why does he create these things and then send them straight to limbo?

      i do not disregard ‘mystery.’ i say that if you accept ‘mystery’ or say ‘i don’t know but God does’ or any version of that, then you must be prepared to allow other religions to give the same answers for things they cannot explain that otherwise seem absurd. if you are willing to do so, fine. your endless hallway analogy doesn’t apply here because you are using ‘its a mystery’ instead of giving an explanation. it seems you are saying ‘i dont have the answer because i’m not that far down the hallway yet.’ if you agree to this version of your analogy then be willing to accept such answers from others. For those that are not willing to use ‘its a mystery’ in place of an actual explanation, i suggest scrapping #1.

  7. Hi Paul,

    I apologize for being direct, but this will have to be quick as I am writing this from a new orleans hotel lobby between conference meetings.

    The premise of your argument is in fact a prerequisite (pseudo?)belief in a dualistic origin of the human person – soul and body. You say that “…the soul is central to the [Christian] argument that abortion is wrong.” I say that you couldn’t be more wrong. Indeed, that very statement, which is the very crux of your argument, is inconsistent with Christian (read: Catholic) teaching on the origin of human existence (next paragraph), and the emphasis the church actually places on the body – the very vehicle by which God’s love was made known to us in the being of Jesus Christ. I hate to break it to you, but we are not “spirits trapped in the material world.”

    Although it is very true that the physical is different from the spiritual, both are aspects of the same substance (the human being); it is that substance that is human, not the soul or the body alone. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2516) teaches that, “because man is a composite being, spirit and body, there already exists a certain tension in him; a certain struggle of tendencies between “spirit” and “flesh” develops. But in fact this struggle belongs to the heritage of sin. It is a consequence of sin and at the same time a confirmation of it. It is part of the daily experience of the spiritual battle…” Note the terminology used in this teaching: a COMPOSITE being. For a greater understanding of this teaching, I suggest you check out John Paul IIs “Theology of the Body” and research the Thomistic view of the persistence of the soul after the death of the body.

    To answer your questions regarding when the soul enters the body and the complexities of free will: It doesn’t matter, it is irrelevant, and you are muddling the pro-life issue. Christina setup the doctrinal foundation necessary to understand why abortion was a grave wrong, and it was strikingly different from your flawed view of Christian (again read: Catholic) teaching on the matter.

    The moment a unique (as defined by a person’s identifying biological marker – DNA) human being is created, it is endowed with the unalienable right to life. The slogan “from conception till natural death” only makes sense in light of Catholic teaching on the composite being of man.

    To briefly answer your secondary question (which again, has no bearing on the pro-life issue at all): to be created and live forever in limbo is better than never having been created at all. While it is true God wants us to choose him, He did not create us to choose him, he created us because it is his very nature (Love) to create. I am taking down this blog because I don’t have any time to maintain it, but read the only post at livechivalrous.wordpress.com for a brief explanation of my understanding of this issue.

    Best,

    Lou

    • First, I respond to the idea that the soul is not the unit that matters for my arg with Christina above. Sorry but you wasted the majority of your comment. So therefore, I don’t care what the official teachings are. I used ‘soul’ as my placeholder for X. What matters is that God sends X – some morally significant unit of the indv – to heaven/limbo/hell without any input in the matter.

      Second, But since you bring it up again: if it isn’t a soul or body alone, what is a half human like in moral terms? You argue it doesn’t necessarily have a soul, but it does have a unique body, then it’s only a half person? What does that mean for its moral significance? Does God deny an incomplete person the use of their free will? What role does the soul play if it is unnecessary to complete an indv? If it is necessary, do you agree with my original point? You apparently do agree the soul is one necessary ingredient for personhood? Does the physical unique body that matters so much survive death? Many (apparently not you, unless you like the Thomist view you recommend) believe we are spiritual beings in heaven and our soul is the part that is eternal. If a fetus were to have a body and not a soul, does that mean nothing survives the death? How does the idea of twins work into your scheme? I mean you have a unique indv set of DNA, THEN you have two sets of the same DNA? Is it one still, or now two indv? Is the soul there yet to differentiate them? I could go on further – and if you want to fine – as I mention in above, however, I do not need to at all for my argument.

      Third, neither of you have addressed why God kills so many morally significant individuals who, to quote Christina, “attain salvation or not [as] a matter of how [they] determine to exercise [their] free will.” God still denies them the mere possibility of exercising their free will, whatever it takes to make a ‘them.’

      Third, you mention an ‘unalienable right to life’ and ‘from conception to natural death.’ Yet, and I am assuming so, you believe in the death penalty, just war, killing in self defense, the right to use lethal force for police, etc? Much less, how does this play into how you consider animals that are unique beings also? Are they entitled to the same as a fetus? Or is it because they don’t have a soul? Don’t exercise free will? Don’t survive death? Or any of the other things I point out in my article?

      Fourth, if limbo is good, it still doesn’t get around that they had no choice in the matter. God creates something that CANNOT be with Him. Why? But also, I’m sure it’d be a consolation to many mothers that they statistically avoided going to hell. After all, Jesus said, “Narrow is the way that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

      Fifth, if “it is his very nature (Love) to create” why does He destroy what He creates so often for no apparent reason and in spite of what you agree He “wants” from that creation? If God’s nature/love is to create, why does he with hold the gift of life and free will to so many of his creations? Seems contradictory for an omni-benevolent being to possible be more benevolent. Does he have any control on his ability to create, or is He some automaton?

      Main point, you’ve focus on the nuance of details and not addressed the main point at all.

  8. http://secularprolife.org/index.php

  9. Paul,

    We’re still not agreeing on the definition of the first premise you present, so it’s impossible to advance. I took a Logic class in college and, while I know you’re much more knowledgeable in this field than I am, I’m grappling with something. While you argue 1 and 2 –> X here, I’m saying that your premise #1 is false. While your argument is valid, I don’t believe it is sound. You still haven’t given me the basis from which you deduce that the “average Christian” believes abortion is wrong because of something related to the soul. While you may be familiar with what the Catholic Church teaches with regard to this matter, as far as I’m concerned, it hasn’t been a part of this argument. You say the soul argument isn’t the only one but that IF someone argues this, then…again, this is what I mentioned above with regard to this premise just not being true. It’s like me saying about a white cat, “If that cat is black, then it shouldn’t be allowed on the sofa.” Well, the cat isn’t black. So now what? What’s the point in arguing ad infinitum about whether the white cat can go on the sofa or not? The argument doesn’t help me with my white cat. So it is with your premise #1. I agree with you – I think premise #1 should be dropped – and replaced with the truth. I disagree that a “soul” can be replaced here for the dignity of a human life. The truth is what is contained in my first comment. Please create an argument where you argue something directly in this text…then it will be an argument. Or please give me the origin of your assertion that the average Christian believes what you claim he does. We could argue hypothetical “if”s to exhaustion; I love philosophy, but if it’s not rooted in the truth – something real – or if it doesn’t lead us to truth, it’s in vain, in my opinion. I just don’t see the benefit in pulling “if”s out of thin air when you have a real wealth from which one can pull “real” “if”s…if that makes sense. Argue something presented in the Catechism. Or in the Quran, something.

    Also, I have intentionally not addressed the premise that God kills babies because a) I don’t believe that He does, and b) if He did, I’d find it irrelevant. I don’t have much to say other than that in saying because God kills babies, a Christian can be pro-choice (which in honest language means he or she believes it’s okay to kill an innocent child), this is comparable to saying that God kills human beings with hurricanes, volcano eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc., and that, therefore, I can go kill someone, too. This sounds ridiculous. I would hope anyone would laugh at this. So why don’t we laugh at the other?

    Moving away from the argument itself, I’ll share something personal with you. I did not become staunchly pro-life because of my religion. I recognized what abortion was. I didn’t need a religious faith to tell me why this horrendous act is “wrong”. By my very humanity, my insides churn thinking about my brother or sister who can do nothing to defend him- or herself from the means that will end his life. My faith gives depth to this, but it is by no means necessary in order to recognize that there is something gravely evil about abortion. I’ll use this platform to simply comment as you asked me to do in the first place and say that it isn’t just the child the “pro-life ‘side'” cares about. We care about the mother, the father, the grandparents. What exactly does “choice” do? Who does it “liberate”? What are the benefits of being “pro-choice”? Who does it help – truly help?

    One of the biggest problems I have with the pro-abortion argument is its grave contradictions to what so many in that movement also believe: that we should help the financially poor and destitute overcome their poverty. You might know I recently submitted my application to Teach For America. There is a list of ten statements to which the applicant must answer whether they strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree, etc., etc., you know what I’m talking about. The first statement is: “The education gap is the greatest social issue in America today.” My response was “strongly disagree”; I obviously think abortion is the greatest social issue of our time. BUT, I cannot see myself ever working in a school in Camden to help my kids cultivate the skills necessary to work themselves out of the miserable conditions into which they were merely born, simultaneously believing that abortion is okay. Arguing that abortion is okay – on any condition – but, in particular, because it will save a child from a life of poverty and conditions no one should live in, I believe robs the power of the human spirit. How are the kids sitting in my classroom any different from their peers who never had the opportunity to sit in that classroom – other than that those in the classroom are alive and their peers victimized by abortion are not? Regardless, whether or not a child works his or her way out of poverty or not doesn’t give his person worth, or deem whether or not he should live, any more than whether he has only 1 leg instead of 2 or cerebral palsy. And besides, once that sperm hits the egg, no matter how hard anyone tries, the truth is the truth, and that new organism is a new human being. If you have a problem with the death penalty or war (I do, too), why don’t you also have a problem with abortion?

    If you’ve never watched an abortion procedure, perhaps you should. You can find one online. Maybe you’ve seen “The Silent Scream”. All these religious and political smoke screens need to go. The fact – the truth – is, innocent children are being killed every day, and that is a grave injustice that needs to end.

    • Ok great, as you know (but anyone reading this comment prob doesn’t) i tutored logic, tho by now that was a couple years ago. However I will go into the details of the logical form of the argument later in a private email with you on that since its long and boring. Basically your “(x + Y) -> Z” is merely a statement, not an argument, i.e. it is true/false and not valid/invalid. It seems you are trying to get at some modus tollens type argument, what you write with the cats. The argument more goes along the lines of ((1->X)+(2->¬X))->(¬1v¬2) and/or (((1+2)->x)+((¬X)+2))->(¬1) . This is sloppy and skipping some parts, but basically, 1 and 2 lead to conclusions that contradict each other.

      In my argument concerning the soul i’ve taken two paths in this discussion that seem to be getting mixed up. Ive argued (1) that the ‘soul’ is merely my marker for personhood but it need not be. DNA would work equally well. And (2) that the soul is a better marker for personhood than DNA. I may have mixed them up, but i hope you can see they are different. All i need is (1), and i argue (2) on the side to vindicate my original and particular stance.

      (1), as regards to my statement “the soul is central to the argument that abortion is wrong” it is more important, again to quote my original post, that the real emphasis is on the point that “there isn’t even really a thing which you are murderering. You murdered a person and it’s wrong to murder people.” I was wrong in saying ‘central.’ I believe it is actually ‘central’ because of (2) below. Personhood is the real issue at stake here. Most ppl i have talked to (eg protestants) refer to the soul being a ‘neccessary’ condition of personhood (below I will argue this, tho i need not for the over all arg of the post). You and Lou assert that personhood starts with the biological organism’s genesis as a unique individual, which is marked distinctly by its DNA. The presence of unique DNA, not the unique soul as i personally assert, is the mark where personhood is attained and therefore a person which you are murdering. You simply cannt murder if there is not a morally relevant subject which is being murdered, agreed? DNA is certainly the mark of a unique organism of homo sapien, but whether or not it is a minimal marker of a morally relevant person within the Christian worldview is separate. (Again, I argue it is not below.) Abortion is argued as wrong in part because it is an act against a person, i.e. the fetus. The fetus is attributed the status of person for one or another reason, Soul or DNA, either will do. Of course it also harms the mother, society, etc, but that is a separate argument against abortion. Really all I need to move on is that Christians see the fetus as a morally significant indv person. To connect it to free will and God in the next part I just need to say there is a morally significant person that God denies the use of free will to (and, maybe, also that survives the abortion/death).

      (2), I also still believe that the soul is a necessary marker of personhood. I did not argue it is sufficient. I will quote you and Lou to prove my argument it is necessary. (A) Christina quoting the bible “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you … My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.” Taken literally, what is not hidden and wrought in the “depths of the earth” or known before the womb? Certainly not the physical body or the unique combination of DNA from two specific gametes. There is activity between God and the individual person before the formation of a unique set of DNA. My arg is that God does not form/wrought a soul for a fetus he knows will be aborted/miscarried. The same as he does not wrought a soul for each possible set of DNA and gamete (sperm/egg) combination. (B) Lou on what a human is: “the physical is different from the spiritual, BOTH are aspects of the same substance (the human being).” And also Lou: the “Catholic Church (2516) teaches that, ‘because man [read person] is a composite being, spirit AND body…’” Both words in caps are mine effect. Here lou seems to agree the soul is necessary for a human being. Not that it is the only thing that is needed, i.e. sufficient, but that it is one necessary component. To ask if a soul is necessary or not ask yourself “can X be a human if it does not have a soul?” If you say yes it can be a person without a soul, fine, I am wrong. But if a human/person needs a soul to be considered as such, i.e. it cannot be a person without a soul, that is all I need. A soul may not be sufficient, i.e. the only thing needed to make a person, but it is necessary, i.e. one thing needed. This is why I bring up twins: imagine that you have a fetus that does not have a soul yet (if a soul is un-necessary then you can have a full fledged person without one). You have a single set of DNA (a ‘unique’ being). Then it splits into two fetuses but still one set of unique DNA. Do we have one or two individual persons? What is it that is unique in one twin that makes it a separate person from its sibling? The marker by which we determine one unique person of twin siblings from another unique person of the same set of twins cannot be their DNA, which is shared. (C) lou cites “the Thomistic view of the persistence of the soul after the death of the body.” It seems, since he recommends it, that lou believes the soul survives death and the body does not. If a fetus dies and does not have a soul but only a unique body, is there anything that survives death? It seems if the soul is what does survive, then it becomes the most basic unit of personhood for the individual. If it is the most basic unit after death, it seems reasonable to think it may be a necessary part of the person beforehand. So if the body is sufficient and necessary, and therefore can be a person without the soul, the personhood of soul-less body would not exist after death? If yes, this seems to have some ramification when considering an abortion. I won’t go into this one point much more unless you want. Mostly because I would like to hear more of what you have to say on this last point. Namely, you may believe the body with its cells and DNA does survive death and is in limbo or heaven. It is an interesting idea i’d love to complicate furhter, though. (D) If unique DNA is the sufficient marker of personhood, and a soul is un-necessary, since animals have unique DNA are they persons? Again i won’t go much into this, but i’d love to complicate it further. (For isntance, not only DNA but it seems that a dolphin or chimpanzee has many more relevant moral characteristics than a day old group of homo sapien cells.)

      I already emailed you about the the hurricane/tsunami example. If you wish i could post my short reply for discussion here.

      I will also wrote to you sharing my own personal such. I hope we have that sorted out.

      We will discuss the free will part of the argument after this soul bit.

      • i wrote this in word and it didnt save any of my underlines or italics :(

  10. Along with every thing that appears to be building inside this particular area, many of your opinions are somewhat stimulating. Nonetheless, I beg your pardon, because I do not subscribe to your entire suggestion, all be it exhilarating none the less. It would seem to us that your comments are actually not entirely rationalized and in reality you are your self not totally convinced of the argument. In any case I did enjoy looking at it.


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