The statistics for miscarriages are notoriously difficult to assess completely accurately. This is partly due to the fact that many miscarriages go unreported (those after 6 weeks of gestation, which are known as spontaneous clinical abortions). However, the greater reason is that early pregnancy losses – those that happen during the first 6 weeks of pregnancy, generally tend too happen without the mother even knowing.
So why am I writing about this? Well, because statistically, it means that anywhere up to 75% of all pregnancies, of all fertilised eggs, die. This is a staggering number of pregnancy losses (It is estimated that 3 out of 4 eggs that are fertilized do not fuse their DNA correctly, and therefore either do not attempt to implant or fail at implantation).
The reason for talking about this is twofold. Firstly, for people who critique abortion on religious grounds, it makes somewhat of a mockery of their arguments. Secondly, again from a religious perspective, it does make God look a little callous. Nay, brutal and unloving.
So let’s explore these issues.
God is supposedly omnipotent, all-powerful; and omnibenevolent, all-loving. We also hear very often how terrible clinical abortions are. Now I don’t want to investigate clinical abortions per se but I do want to look at the standards that Christians adopt when approaching abortion, and then when they evaluate their perfect God. The general approach, rightly or wrongly, is that abortion is the murder of human beings. If this is the case, then the death, at the hands of other humans, of any and every embryo from blastocyst onwards, is bad, abhorrent and so on.
Given this state of affairs and given this appraisal of the ethics of abortions, let us then look at the God scenario.
Let us assume that somewhere between 60% and 75% of human embryos are fertilised and subsequently die naturally. The numbers aren’t so relevant, though the sheer volume does make you stop and think a little harder. This raises these points:
1) God has the ability to stop this from happening
2) By allowing it passively, he is actually actively declaring that the deaths serve a greater good
3) The manner in which these deaths serve a greater good is necessary for this greater good. In other words, there can be no other way that this greater good can eventualise which causes less suffering, otherwise god, as an all-loving being, would have chosen the alternative option.
4) The vast majority of these deaths go unknown to anyone in the world. Thus the deaths can have nothing to do with humanity and our ‘journey’, begging the question as to exactly how they can serve a purpose.
5) Since such deaths occur on such a scale, and no decent reason is forthcoming, then perhaps foetal life isn’t as sacrosanct as many claim.
The standard Christian response to issues such as these which fall into the category of the Problem of evil is to offer the ‘Omniscience Escape Clause’. This posits that we cannot know the mind of God, or would not understand the reasons as to why such evil must exist. This again begs the question as to what kind of reason could be beyond our comprehension, and what kind of reason could actually justify death on such a massive scale. Even if, by some appeal to our idiocy, we cannot understand through cognitive deficiency as to why these deaths must occur, then it would be appropriate for God to at least let us know that these deaths aren’t in vain; that they DO provide a mechanism for achieving a greater good. Some kind of revelation, one way or another, would be decent.
What we come to, as a conclusion to this scenario, is this: either God is not omnibenevolent; or God does not exist; or embryos are not so sacred and arguments over what defines personhood are called for; or that millions of foetal deaths a year, unknown to humanity, are necessary for a greater good.
Of all those options, the last one is by far the most improbable, and yet the one adhered to by most, if not all, Christians.
In : Religion
Tags: abortion miscarriage "problem of evil" personhood
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