Archives for posts with tag: religion

Here is the whole thing boiled down to a cinder.

The evangelist says: “We are doing this wonderful thing. Won’t you send us money so we can keep doing this wonderful thing?”

But what is he doing, exactly? You just saw it. He’s asking for money. That’s all! It’s not really so wonderful. The “wonderful” part is a lie.

For some reason, however, lots of people kind of want it to be true. So they believe him. And they send money. And he gets to keep doing his thing, which is wonderful, if only for him.

[The following is adapted from my unpublished book, No One Believes in God.]

Why do so many people believe?, we want to ask. But how big is this “so many”? Can we quantify it? How many are the believers – and how do we know?

Of course, there have been surveys. According to them, something like 85 percent of everyone in the world believes in some kind of god. But we cannot trust these polls. They are misleading. The methodology is flawed. Let me explain.

The goal of such surveys is to measure the popularity of various types of religious belief. But of course you can’t measure anyone’s belief directly, the way you can their temperature or their blood oxygen level. Are there indirect ways? Sure, you can just ask them about it! – but the thing is, how do you put the questions? What is the wording? You’d have to be pretty clever, I would think, to get decent results. A bald “Do you believe in god?”, for example, would elicit skewed, hard-to-interpret and probably worthless results.

What do the best pollsters use? Let’s take a look at some of the questions from a recent poll by the “highly respected” Pew Forum.

Q.30 Do you believe in God or a universal spirit?

Q.33 Do you believe in life after death?

Q.35 Do you think there is a heaven, where people who have led good lives are eternally rewarded?

Q.36 Do you think there is a hell, where people who have led bad lives and die without being sorry are eternally punished?

What – that’s what the Pew asked? I thought they were the real pros! They ask the same questions that the really stupid polls use. Jesus Christ.

Polls like this are misleading because to ask people “Do you believe in god?” is not an effective way to find out whether they believe in god. Here are just two of the many reasons that we know this to be true.

Most obvious and important is the strength of the social norms surrounding professions of “belief in god”. You answer the door, or the telephone, and a pollster is there. He starts asking you strange questions. In a vast number of households, if you are asked whether you “believe in god”, to say anything but yes would be to invite brutal reprisals from your family and neighbors. And in places where the risk is not so dire, there can still be severe pressure to say the right thing. This is a fact of life in any place where religion has serious influence, and that’s an awful lot of places.

The yes answer, on the other hand, is perfectly safe. There is no cost. Whether or not it is required, nothing follows from it. It’s not like saying, for example, “I believe in recycling”, which might be seen as committing you to a change in lifestyle. After you have affirmed your “belief in god”, no further action is required – so heck, why not say it? (Even if your dad is an atheist, he’ll just think you’re being funny. It’s not like he’s going to beat you or withhold meals or something, as a devout Christian or Muslim parent might do with a kid who said no.)

These observations have the following consequence. Of the people answering yes, some unmeasured but significant proportion have made this response not because they understand themselves to have a belief but because they fear the personal consequences of saying – not believing, but saying – the wrong thing. They feel constrained to say certain words, regardless of their actual belief. Even where the local norm is worded as a requirement that one believe, the practical result is rather that one is required to profess such belief. After all, no one can see into your mind. They cannot tell what you really think. Nor, most likely, do they care. They want you to say the right thing. That is the real demand. It’s about the words you say, especially to outsiders.

“Belief in god” is probably best seen as an idiom. It is not a state of mind but simply a stock phrase. Its meaning is not at all clear; however – and this is interesting – in practice, in the quotidian experience of the religious “believer”, the question of belief’s meaning, its nature and definition, does not arise. People are not asking themselves what it really means when they say they “believe in god”. They assume that they know. Whereas actually, they don’t know the first thing about it.

When we go to the trouble of surveying people on their “religious beliefs”, one of the things we should try to find out is what they personally mean when they use those words. But polls like this one – and they are all like this one – do nothing to help us understand this. They tell us nothing about belief. They assume that everyone already knows just what it is. But no one knows this.

Imagine a different poll. This one is measuring belief in Poseidon, so it asks people: “Do you believe in Poseidon?”

This is a very different question from the one we were just considering. Compared to Poseidon, the “god” in the other question sounds awfully vague. Asked whether I believe in “god”, I might find myself wondering nervously which god is being asked about. However, most respondents will recognize, probably before the question comes up, that there is a soothing, obvious, no-need-to-even-mention-it answer, which goes something like “You know which one: the one that most people talk about, and that most questions ask about. The one that most people, you know, believe in.”

And this assumption is written into the poll. People are going to assume that the “god” being asked about is the “god” that everyone always talks about. The fact that so many people pronounce this word so often is part of the de facto, unexamined definition of what the word means.

And now I really have to wonder whether this poll has measured anything at all. I suspect not. I suspect that every such survey is a travesty of research. Yet, the methodology goes entirely unquestioned. This is how religious belief is “tested”: you ask people absurd, pointless, misleading questions that can throw no light at all on what belief in god actually is – other than reminding us, between the lines, that it’s what you’re supposed to do. Heck, maybe that’s the real intention behind these stupid polls.

Many people believe in God. Many people believe in belief in God. What’s the difference? People who believe in God are sure that God exists, and they are glad, because they hold God to be the most wonderful of all things. People who moreover believe in belief in God are sure that belief in God exists (and who could doubt that?), and they think that this is a good state of affairs … . Given the way religious concepts and practices have been designed, the very behaviors that would be clear evidence of belief in God are also behaviors that would be clear evidence of (only) belief in belief in God. … This fact makes it hard to tell who – if anybody! – actually believes in God in addition to believing in belief in God. —Daniel Dennett

As far as I can tell, no one has ever obtained an actual measurement of the prevalence of religious belief, in this country or any other. The pollsters have no idea how many people believe in god, only how many are likely to say that they do, which is a completely different thing. They have neglected to notice that simply asking people this question, in these words, is worse than pointless. Their asking it in this way proves that they do not understand what the question means. Nor are they trying to understand. Nor are they helping us to do so.

In fact, there are many reasons to suppose that the prevalence of religious belief is greatly overestimated by almost everyone. Dennett’s “belief in belief” effect is one reason. Later in the book we will see more of them, the cumulative effect of which is to bring plausible estimates down very close to zero.

The idea that religion brings meaning into people’s lives is absurd. You can’t get meaning from any book. Neither can any person give it to you. In fact, there is only one place that this kind of meaning can come from. You put it there, you bring it out, you make it happen — if you choose. And the method, as many wise people have pointed out over the years, is to give it away. If you can give your care and your attention to someone or something real, that’s when meaning will enter your world. When you do something for people because you sincerely want them to be happy; when you make something beautiful just because beauty is a good; when you’re kissing your lover or child and meaning it, there is meaning in your life.

Many people have requested a one-page summary of the new book. This one is under 400 words. [Slightly revised 8 June 2010.]

Roy Sablosky: NO ONE BELIEVES IN GOD (second draft, November 2009)

  1. It’s not about belief
    1. That religion has to do with beliefs becomes implausible when you look at the behaviors it evokes. For example:
      1. Their “beliefs” challenged, people are often enraged, as if you had threatened not their opinions but their safety.
      2. One joins a group, not its beliefs. Self-described Catholics may differ profoundly with their church elders on important issues; they are Catholics despite their beliefs.
      3. Notoriously, church elders routinely flout the “beliefs” they most fervently espouse.
    2. Claims of belief are implausible where the tenet in question is nonsensical.
      1. Religious propositions are incoherent. (This is probably by design. A slogan is catchier if no one knows what it means.) In the sentence “Jesus loves you” for example, both the subject and the verb are impossible to characterize or observe. Such a statement is perfectly empty: it is a pseudo-proposition.
      2. Since they are without meaning, religious statements can be neither meant nor believed. Thomas Jefferson: “I suppose belief to be the assent of the mind to an intelligible proposition.” Ludwig Wittgenstein: “one cannot mean a senseless series of words.”
    3. Therefore, no one really believes in the teachings of any prophet or the existence of any god. It cannot be done. It does not happen. People who think they are doing it are mistaken.
  2. Religion is made of memes plus authoritarianism
    1. Religious “beliefs” are memes. Just like germs, they are contagious; and just like germs they evolve through natural selection. The religious memes circulating now have evolved over thousands of years to be very, very good at what they do.
    2. People are naturally deferential to authority figures.
    3. Authority and memetic self-replication combine to form religion.
  3. What we should do
    1. Admit no religious exceptions to any legislation. A few examples:
      1. End all tax breaks (that is: subsidies) for religious organizations and their personnel.
      2. Eliminate chaplaincy programs at all levels of government, including the armed services.
      3. Remove legislative impediments to abortion and birth control.
      4. Outlaw the teaching of antediluvian codswallop in public school.
      5. Government should ratify only civil unions, not “marriages”. Anyone willing and competent to sign such a contract should be allowed to.
    2. Revise the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. No proposal having a religious rationale or using religious terminology should become a law.

You can’t tell me I don’t have this belief. It’s in me, not you. You don’t feel it; I do. I feel it in my soul. When I say that I believe in God, I mean just exactly that, and obviously I am the best qualified to know!

This “argument from introspection” relies on two assumptions: first, that you perceive infallibly the events taking place in your “soul”; and second, that you have correctly identified one specific “feeling” in your “soul” as the belief we are trying to discuss.

To the first assumption: I do not deny that something is going on in you when you say that you believe. On the other hand, I have no reason to trust that you know exactly what it is; nor do you. I mean, are you an authority on exactly what belief tastes like? Very few scientists or philosophers will agree that you are that kind of expert on your own thoughts and motivations. Introspection is not an exact science. In general, when we look in there we have no idea what we’re seeing – and usually, we don’t even look.

It seems likely … that … ordinary people in their daily lives, do not even attempt to interrogate their memories about their cognitive processes when they are asked questions about them. Rather, they may resort in the first instance to a pool of culturally supplied explanations for behavior of the sort in question or, failing in that, begin a search through a network of connotative relations until they find an explanation that may be adduced as psychologically implying the behavior. Thus if we ask another person why he enjoyed a particular party and he responds with, “I liked the people at the party,” we may be extremely dubious as to whether he has reached this conclusion as the result of anything that might be called introspection. We are justified in suspecting that he has instead asked himself Why People Enjoy Parties and has come up with the altogether plausible hypothesis that in general people will enjoy parties if they like the people at the parties. [Nisbett RE and Wilson TD. Telling more than we can know: verbal reports on mental processes. Psychological Review 84:231-259 (May 1977).]

It is a commonplace that speech does not require that the speaker know what she means by her words, or why she is saying them. We have all asked ourselves at some time, Why did I say that? We have all nodded in agreement with someone, after not hearing what they said. We have all expressed in words a thought we had not known we were thinking; or, contrariwise, failed to utter a truth that we were certain must be voiced. We have seen ourselves reiterate a lie and start to believe it. And those of us who are parents have heard ourselves repeat, to our children, a catchy slogan our own parents used, though we have despised it for 20 years. You are just not that knowledgeable about what makes you tick. To insist that you “feel it” does not tell us very much.

To the second assumption: when I say that you don’t have a belief, you insist that you do; and then you testify about a feeling you have. This is odd, because feeling and belief are different categories, different experiences, different phenomena. Most importantly, feelings are by definition non-verbal. You can have a thought that (for example) “god is merciful”; this is a concept, which cannot be expressed without a specialized vocabulary. You cannot have a feeling that “god is merciful”. Feelings don’t work that way.

Feelings are notoriously resistant to verbalization. To make a sentence out of a feeling you have to run it through a language-dependent thought-process. The original, non-conceptual feeling is interpreted according to the rules of the conceptual framework(s) to which you happen to have access; the output is made of words, not feelings. The same feeling (if we can say such a thing) will be described differently by different people. One will speak of it as mercy, another as benevolence, another as peace, presence, Jesus, Krishna, the Buddha, and so on. The feeling itself carries none of these post hoc labels.

‘Feeling’ and ‘belief’ are different linguistic categories; they have different grammatical roles. A belief is a commitment to a proposition. You can’t have a commitment to a non-proposition.

Imagine that we ask someone: “After you made that promise, Ted, what did you do then?”, and Ted says, “I lifted it.”

We’d be like: “What?”

“Oh, yeah. I physically lifted it over my head.”

We now have no idea what Ted is talking about. He said he lifted a promise over his head, but that is not possible, because a promise is not a physical object – not the sort of thing that can be lifted. You cannot use that class of verb with that class of noun. The combination is so empty of sense that we may start to wonder whether Ted is speaking English. We might replay just the sound of his speech in our minds, thinking that maybe those raw phonemes would start to mean something if we took them as being in, say, Finnish.

Just as you can’t lift a promise, you can’t believe a nonsense-phrase. To insist that you are doing this is to make a statement with no meaning. It is, quite simply, a misuse of language: specifically, in this case, your sentence contains a transitive verb but lacks an appropriate object. You cannot form a meaningful sentence that way.

It may be hard to swallow, but the conclusion is unavoidable. Your impression that you believe profoundly in certain religious propositions is an illusion. Here is a tentative outline of what you’re going through. First, you have certain words in your mind that sound deeply meaningful (but are not). Second, in your daily experience these words are tightly associated with strong feelings that arise through social interactions and commitments. This combination of events you interpret as a deep commitment to the ideas that the words represent. But the words do not actually represent ideas, so you cannot actually be committed to them. Your interpretation, even though it is of your own experiences, has to be wrong.

I swear to you I will never go there, nor will I buy any products made there, nor will I be friends with anyone who lives there, until this law is overturned.

Think about this law when people tell you that on the whole, religion is a Good Thing. You have to have serious chutzpah to say that anymore. People are starting to wise up.

Well, maybe not in Oklahoma. But soon Oklahoma will be a smoldering wasteland, with no one left but religious zealots fighting over who loves Jesus more. Let’s make D.C. the 50th state and call Oklahoma the District of Not OK.

This is approximately the talk I gave on October 3rd at the Atheist Alliance International convention. You see, that presentation was not recorded; so I did it myself, a few days later, at home in Sacramento. Therefore, this video shows something similar to what you would have seen in Burbank. Here is an abstract:

As Wittgenstein observed, “one cannot mean a senseless series of words.” Religious propositions have no meaning, so they cannot be meant; and if they cannot be meant, they cannot be believed. One cannot believe a pseudo-proposition. “I believe in God” (for example) sounds like a report of an internal state, but that cannot be exactly what it is. What, then, is it, really? If the person making this statement it is not meaning or believing, what are they doing? Here at last is a question about religion that can be answered! Such “professions” are not reports of private mental states, they are public tokens of affiliation. Thus, the “sincerely held beliefs” paradigm used throughout our society (in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, for example) is wildly inaccurate. This has important implications for cultural debate and for public policy.

BoingBoing has a post called Are Muslim Women Oppressed? Ask One. In it, guest blogger Aman Ali quotes Mariam Sobh saying things like:

Oppression is such a loaded word and it conjures up all sorts of negative images

Both of these observations are beside the point. The point is that oppression is bad, and you are a victim of it.

I’m not harming anyone by wearing a piece of material on my head so what’s the big deal?

You are validating a system of oppression. It has not harmed you — yet — but it is harming millions of other women. How can you not understand that?

it’s something I believe is mandated in my religion. No one is forcing me

Listen to yourself! It’s mandated by your religion, but no one is forcing you?

It all comes down to personal interpretation and understanding

No, it comes down to grievous harms being perpetrated against millions of women in the name of religion.

It’s a testament to myself that I want to be a better person

Better in what way? — more compassionate, perhaps? Is that what you’re going for?

If people try to use Islam as a way to manipulate women then those individuals are sick and twisted.

Yes. So turn around and look at who is manipulating you. They are sick and twisted — and they must be so happy.

I’m thankful that I have the life I do, where I can practice what I believe and not worry about anyone forcing me to do something against my will.

Sooooo happy!

I submitted a comment for this post and it got disemvoweled, even though it was perfectly civilized. Here’s what it said:

“I do so because it’s something I believe is mandated in my religion. No one is forcing me”

You missed it. Listen to yourself. Your religion is forcing you.

Comments from Muslim women are not more valuable than comments from anyone else. This is because Muslims have been brainwashed. If you have not been brainwashed, you will not declare yourself to be Muslim. There is nothing in it for you. Nothing. Being Muslim is of no benefit to the believer. However, in strongly Islamic areas if you refuse to be Muslim they will kill you. Most Muslims accept their religion for exactly one reason: they have no choice.

So, BoingBoing published a hideously disingenuous article — and then trashed my dissenting comment, which contained not a single misstatement of fact (and no swear-words). I am therefore deleting BoingBoing from my reader list. I can no longer trust it not to be stupid, so I do not plan to read it ever again.

I’ve rediscovered a piece from 2007 that reads like the best news ever about organized religion: “Why the Gods Are Not Winning”, by Gregory Paul and Phil Zuckerman. The authors find that secularism is eating away at religion, and will eventually swallow it whole.

Disbelief now rivals the great faiths in numbers and influence. Never before has religion faced such enormous levels of disbelief, or faced a hazard as powerful as that posed by modernity. How is organized religion going to regain the true, choice-based initiative when only one of them is growing, and it is doing so with reproductive activity rather than by convincing the masses to join in, when no major faith is proving able to grow as they break out of their ancestral lands via mass conversion, and when securely prosperous democracies appear immune to mass devotion? The religious industry simply lacks a reliable stratagem for defeating disbelief in the 21st century.

Many people have reported a resurgence of religiosity since 9/11. Paul and Zuckerman counter that there is no evidence for this.

Since 1900 Christians have made up about a third of the global population, and are edging downwards. No growth there. Hindus are coasting at a seventh the total, no significant increase there either even though India adds more people each year than any other nation. The WCE predicts no proportional increase for these faiths by 2050. The flourishing revival of two megareligions whether by democracy, edification, or fecundity is therefore a mirage. Having shrunk by a quarter in the 20th century, Buddhism is predicted to shrink almost as much over the next half century. Once rivaling Christianity, paganism — whether it be ancient or modern as per New Ageism and Scientology — has over all contracted by well over half and is expected to continue to dwindle.

The reign of Bush II certainly saw an acute rise in public religiosity, including a full-scale war in Iraq that was theologically justified. P & Z’s statistics imply that although the voices of piety have become louder, they have not grown in number.

A decade and a half of sampling finds conservative (thought to be about two thirds to four fifths of the total of) evangelicals and born-agains consistently stuck between a quarter and a third of the population. The majority that considers religion very important in their lives dropped from over two thirds in the 1960s to a bare majority in 1970s and 1980s, and appeared to edge up in the Clinton era. But instead of rising post 9/11 as many predicted, it is slipping again.

Tell me more!!!

Even the megachurch phenomenon is illusory. … Rather than boosting church membership, megachurches are merely consolidating it. From a high of three quarters of the population in the 1930s to 1960s, a gradual, persistent decline has set in, leaving some clerics distressed at the growing abandonment of small churches as the big ones gobble up what is left of the rest. Weekly religious service attendance rose only briefly in the months after 9/11 — evidence that the event failed to stem national secularization — and then lost ground as the Catholic sex scandal damaged church credibility. As few as one in four or five Americans are actually in church on a typical Sunday, only a few percent of them in megachurches.

Wow. To what do you attribute this trend?

Every single 1st world nation that is irreligious shares a set of distinctive attributes. These include handgun control, anti-corporal punishment and anti-bullying policies, rehabilitative rather than punitive incarceration, intensive sex education that emphasizes condom use, reduced socio-economic disparity via tax and welfare systems combined with comprehensive health care, increased leisure time that can be dedicated to family needs and stress reduction, and so forth.

But we are a 1st world nation that is still pretty religious.

It is the great anomaly, the United States, that has long perplexed sociologists. America has a large, well educated middle class that lives in comfort—so why do they still believe in a supernatural creator? Because they are afraid and insecure. Arbitrary dismissal from a long held job, loss of health insurance followed by an extended illness, excessive debt due to the struggle to live like the wealthy; before you know it a typical American family can find itself financially ruined. Overwhelming medical bills are a leading cause of bankruptcy.

We’re religious because our health insurance is crappy?

In part to try to accumulate the wealth needed to try to prevent financial catastrophe, in part to compete in a culture of growing economic disparity with the super rich, the typical American is engaged in a Darwinian, keeping up with the Jones competition in which failure to perform to expectations further raises levels of psychological stress. It is not, therefore, surprising that most look to friendly forces from the beyond to protect them from the pitfalls of a risky American life, and if that fails compensate with a blissful eternal existence.

Now, wait a minute. You guys started out with statistical facts, but this is pure speculation. And it assumes that people really believe, and act on, religious propositions such as “God is love” and “Good people go to Heaven.” As I demonstrate in my upcoming book, there is little reason to think that religious “beliefs” are anything more than mechanically parroted phrases.

So much for the common belief that supernatural-based religiosity is the default mode inherent to the human condition. … To put it starkly, the level of popular religion is not a spiritual matter, it is actually the result of social, political and especially economic conditions (please note we are discussing large scale, long term population trends, not individual cases). Mass rejection of the gods invariably blossoms in the context of the equally distributed prosperity and education found in almost all 1st world democracies. There are no exceptions on a national basis. … Mass faith prospers solely in the context of the comparatively primitive social, economic and educational disparities and poverty still characteristic of the 2nd and 3rd worlds and the US.

Ouch. Is the U.S. really that different, in terms of the average person’s experience? Makes me wonder again about moving to Canada, or Holland.

Every time a nation becomes truly advanced in terms of democratic, egalitarian education and prosperity it loses the faith. It’s guaranteed. That is why perceptive theists are justifiably scared. In practical terms their only practical hope is for nations to continue to suffer from socio-economic disparity, poverty and maleducation.

Yes, that does seem to be what they want.

In the end what humanity chooses to believe will be more a matter of economics than of debate, deliberately considered choice, or reproduction. The more national societies that provide financial and physical security to the population, the fewer that will be religiously devout. The more that cannot provide their citizens with these high standards the more that will hope that supernatural forces will alleviate their anxieties. It is probable that there is little that can be done by either side to alter this fundamental pattern.

Well, I still think you have misunderstood what “religious belief” is. But from the international, statistical point of view, that probably doesn’t matter. And even if your speculations regarding its causes are false, the trend seems to be strong. Thanks for the best news I have heard in years.

On the front page of the Times, David Barstow spins the murder of George Tiller into An Abortion Battle, Fought to the Death. A subhead reiterates the false dichotomy:

Protesters tried to close the abortion clinic of Dr. George R. Tiller; abortion rights advocates celebrated him.

In the daily-email version of the front page that I received, the subhead reads:

What thousands could not achieve in three decades of relentless protest, a gunman accomplished on May 31 when he shot Dr. George R. Tiller in the head.

I swear to God. That’s what they said. I just copied and pasted it. The first clause refers to anti-abortionism as a form of protest. Consider that fanaticism, repression, or even terrorism would have been more correct, and you get a glimpse of how misleading this piece is. The second clause turns a premeditated murder into an accomplishment, echoing the word achievement in the first clause.

In what the Times misleadingly calls a “battle, fought to the death” only one side was trying to kill people: the misleadingly named “pro-life” side. They wanter Tiller dead, and they got what they wanted. Tiller, on the other hand, was performing abortions. That’s not the same thing.

Remember that the anti-abortion “movement” wants to make abortion illegal. Not safer, or rarer, or more carefully considered. Illegal. They want to give the fetus more protections under the law than the mother has. After all, the fetus is an unborn person; the mother is just a woman.

[F]or more than 30 years the anti-abortion movement threw everything into driving Dr. Tiller out of business, certain that his defeat would deal a devastating blow to the “abortion industry” that has terminated roughly 50 million pregnancies since Roe v. Wade in 1973.

This misleading number comes straight from the anti-abortionists. The whole article is full of distortions like this.

His willingness to abort fetuses so late in pregnancies put him at the medical and moral outer limits of abortion. Yet he portrayed those arrayed against him as religious zealots engaged in a campaign whose aim was nothing less than to subjugate women.

But that is precisely what they are, and precisely what they aim for.

When an abortion provider in Florida was assassinated in 1994, Dr. Tiller spent the next few years under the protection of federal marshals. By 1997, he had been labeled “the most infamous abortionist in the United States” by James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family.

Barstow quotes Dobson’s epithet as if it’s a matter of public record. For the record: the word ‘infamous’ is a moral judgement, not a fact.

Several years ago it became clear to anti-abortion leaders that they needed a new strategy to shut down Dr. Tiller.

See the language? Instead of “it became clear to anti-abortion leaders that they needed a new strategy” he could have written, for example, “the radical clerics altered their strategy”.

“God has his own way,” Mr. Gietzen [chairman of the “Kansas Coalition for Life”] replied, “but you can’t say our prayers weren’t answered.”

They prayed that someone would kill George Tiller. And God heard them! Allahu Akbar!

Yet later, Mr. Gietzen said his feelings were more complex. [He would say that, wouldn’t he?] Many years ago, he explained, he had wrestled with the question of whether it would be moral to kill Dr. Tiller. [That is so kind of him!] Only after months of reading and praying, he said, did he conclude that violence could never be justified. [He kept praying for it, though.] Killing men like Dr. Tiller, he said, will only put off the day when abortion is outlawed altogether.

And then we’ll all have the benefit of a truly loving and gentle society. All of us, that is, except the women.

Here’s something the founder of all Protestantism wrote on this topic.

Even though they grow weary and wear themselves out with child-bearing, it does not matter; let them go on bearing children till they die, that is what they are there for. [Martin Luther, Works 20.84 (I haven’t been able to verify this quote. It’s all over the Web, but I couldn’t find the original.)]

No scripture can ever justify such an attitude. The fight over abortion comes down to this. Who do we want to write our laws — theocrats, or people who have a conscience?