Like so many people around the world, I’m horrified (though not surprised – this danger was discussed in detail in a previous post, here and even earlier, here) by the gutting of women’s rights by the SCOTUS. As Naturalistic Pagans, our focus is on this real world – giving us both the awe of the world we live in and the commitment to build a better world to help future generations. When even basic healthcare and control over one’s own body become illegal for half the population, it’s yet another step towards a totalitarian state, and that hurts us all, both for us today as well as for future generations. Edited to add – Starhawk is having a ritual to help us move forward, on July 4th, 9 am Pacific Time! You can attend it at this link.
We aren’t alone
Though many of us fighting for human rights are often not unified, I’ve seen a lot of (justified) outrage at this indefensible change. John Beckett’s post here is very good (and points out a lot of important points, such as the fact that this is just a start – other human rights like marriage equality are next to be removed). Mark’s post at Atheopaganism shows the advantages of the structure which has been built up in Atheopaganism – allowing one to point to specific lines in an established set of principles, which is more direct than my point about our responsibility to our Ancestors for building a better world for future generations. And of course the many many more similar statements across our diverse land – too many to list here and hundreds already, I’m sure. This shows again that those who say “I don’t get involved in politics” or “I’m not political” are, in fact, political, and quite “involved in politics” – usually to enforce current privilege (be that white, male, Christian, straight, etc.). Theocrats were able to accomplish this win by playing the long game over 50 years, and voting for their theocrat even if that person wasn’t their ideal dream candidate. If we can’t do that, then the deaths of thousands of women is partly our fault (it already is, in fact).
A Difference of Values
Even though so many have already pointed it out, it’s worth revisiting that this is a question of values/morals – a religious/spiritual issue. As with so many aspects of this and many other issues, being honest about the facts on the ground is essential to moving forward. The theocrats have now made it law that women don’t have a right to full healthcare, or even full control over their bodies (we have a name for living things without full control of their bodies – that name is “livestock”). This is fully consistent with their values. Nearly all of the opposition to women’s healthcare rights in the United States is from those who base much their values on the bronze age, authoritarian morality of the bibles. Any honest reading of those bibles shows that, despite the creative “interpretations” modern people use when trying to get modern Enlightenment values out of their bible. I applaud anyone working to build a healthy, modern spirituality, but if this isn’t done honestly – including being honest about harmful text – then it can help spread the toxic ideas that they wish weren’t in there (aside from the many false arguments the theocrats make). Our values as Naturalistic Pagans, where everyone has rights (not just straight white males), where we value a just, healthy and sustainable world for the benefit of our entire family tree of all life on Earth, are often the opposite of the authoritarian, hierarchical, totalitarian values of the bibles. Any religion that strives to make the world a better place is inherently political for honest adherents. That certainly includes the broad category of Naturalistic Paganism, the more specific path of Atheopaganism, and even much of the wider Pagan community.
Theocrats gutting our rights often rely on “originalism” – the idea that the Constitution can only be read as if it were 1791. It struck me how telling this is, and why so many Americans accept it.
The bibles state again and again that the Law is unchanging, from an unchanging deity. This law is literally written in stone as per Exodus, and Jesus affirms “every jot and tittle” of it in Mt 5. With that, I can see that one might approach it with an expectation that the original intent is all that matters – that’s exactly what the bibles say, over and over.
The constitution is the exact opposite. As an Enlightenment document, it’s clear again and again that changes are expected as social progress unfolds, and it not only has a clearly laid out process to change not just the reading of it but even the very text itself (Amendments, 3/4s of the states, etc), and in case that’s not clear enough, it even starts out with 10 amendments to show that it’s expected to be amended.
I suspect that part of conservatives trying to apply an originalist approach to the Constitution is due to cultural background. Conservative Christians are raised with the bibles all around them, telling them again and again that this important document is unchanging, and to be interpreted in an originalist way, and that there is no other possible way to approach an important document. After all, that’s what the bibles say, as per the above.
They learn that lesson well, and then, when they later approach another important document, the Constitution, of course they’ll approach it with an originalist assumption. What other way could one possibly see an important document, in their world?
From there, it’s easy for this to spread out to wider society, because many of us (myself included) were raised Christian, with this set of assumptions firmly in place. It’s only a very tiny minority of Americans who were not raised Christian, regardless of the rapidly increasing share of non-Christians today. So when they make the originalist argument, the overwhelming majority of us will feel familiar with it, and it’s only after a lot of effort, thought, and discussion that most people can begin to see it any other way. After all, dominant group privilege works by being the unspoken assumptions that go unquestioned until explicitly dragged into the open (often with difficulty), so this seems to me to be another result of the Christian privilege we live in.
But hold on. Don’t women have a right to control their own bodies, regardless?
Not biblically. One way some of our allies on the left have tried to support abortion rights is to point out that the bibles don’t say that a fetus is a person with rights (not even alive, because it hasn’t taken a breath). While that’s true, it doesn’t actually help. According to the bibles, it is indeed true that abortion is OK (and that the fetus is not a person). However, that’s because even the woman is not a person with rights. She is the property of the husband (or father for unmarried women), just like his chair, his slave or his goat (Dt, Ex, Nm, etc.). The fetus is part of that property, and to destroy the fetus is up to him, not at all up to her. This is made especially clear in Exodus 21, where when one causes a woman to have an abortion, that person must pay the woman’s owner a fine for the loss of his property.
If US law was based on the bibles, then abortion would be allowed if the woman’s owner wanted it, and not allowed if the woman’s owner did not want it – the woman would have no say. This is clear over and over in the law – and Jesus said that he affirms “every jot and tittle” of that law (Mt 5). That’s why, even in the US, as recently as in my own lifetime, a woman could not have her own bank account, could not take out a loan, and husbands could legally rape their wives (because one can’t “steal” one’s own property, right?).
The problem is looking to a bronze age, authoritarian, book as any kind of moral authority in 2022. We need to stop doing that, and stop doing it now. Every time we try to wiggle around to try to find a way to say “no, scripture/Jesus/Paul/a bible/Genesis says so and so”, we fall for the trap that what it says makes any difference at all, and give more power to the Christian supremacists who are trying to force everyone to base our society on their book. We need to forget it and move on to a compassionate society based on reality and on the needs of real people. Plus, even if some ancient text was all “good”, that still is worse than reason, evidence, and adjusting views in light of new data.
This is all the more frightening when this same court also just made it easy for theocrats to spend your tax dollars on religious indoctrination, and in a separate ruling, also allowed coaches to proselytize those at public schools, and subject students and everyone there to coercive prayer.
It’s not about “life” or “babies”. It never was.
There are a lot of detailed arguments about aspects of women’s healthcare rights which are beyond the scope of a blog post. However two of them are important.
Only Supernatural Beliefs can put “Life” at Egg Fertilization
We have a clear legal, medical, and reality based definition of when something is a “living human”. That definition is important in deciding when organs can be harvested, when a person on life support is still “alive”, and so on. It’s used in hospitals across the country and has been for decades. That definition is “when a human body has a developed, functioning brain”. A living, beating heart is irrelevant – thousands of Americans are walking around without living hearts (having artificial hearts or on mechanical circulation in a hospital), and no one questions if they are alive or not. Cases like Jahi McMath show that we can technologically keep a heart beating in a corpse for literally years. It’s not “unique DNA”, since all of us have mutated cells with unique DNA, which is not treated as a person. Heck, you know what else has it’s own distinct DNA, is made of human cells and is in a woman’s body? Cancer. The brain develops sometime in the later stages of pregnancy, so ideas behind “life begins at egg fertilization” or “heartbeat bills” are simply the imposition of supernatural beliefs on everyone else.
Using a person’s Body Against Their Will is Slavery
But what if we assume “personhood” after fertilization? What if we hypothetically grant the point and superstitiously believe that an embryo is a person? In that case, one person is using another person’s body against their will. We have lots of legal precedent on that. If person B absolutely needs person A’s body to survive (say, due to a needed organ, etc.), then can person B legally force person A to keep them alive? No. No one has any right to use person A’s body for their own use without person A’s explicit permission, even if person B will die otherwise. One can’t even legally take life-needed organs from a corpse without prior permission. Today in America, women have less control over their own bodies than corpses do.
But if it’s not about “life”, what is it about?
It’s not about “life”, as we just saw. It never was about “life”. It has always been about controlling women, because the bibles are clear that women are to be subservient to men, and subservient women can’t be allowed control over their bodies. Their bodies belong to men in the biblical theocracy that a large chunk of Americans are trying to put in place in the United States.
Similarly, it’s not even about reducing the number of abortions. We know how to do that. Accessible birth control and reality based Sex-Ed drops abortion numbers like a rock. But it’s not about reducing the number of abortions, and it never was. It has always been about controlling women to match the biblical worldview.
Your next step
Whatever you do next is up to you, highly dependent on your own personal circumstances. First, I encourage everyone to do what you need to do to get centered, safe and empowered. As Naturalistic Pagans, there are many powerful tools at our disposal, including rituals – either in a group or individual, and our own spiritual practices (here). Also, Starhawk just announced a public, online ritual for this, on July 4th, 9 am Pacific Time! You can attend it at this link. Then, if you are able, join with the millions of us who are trying to save the lives of women across the country, both through immediate help as well as the the essential long term efforts needed to restore women’s rights. It took the theocrats 50 years to do it, it may take that long to fix, with many hours of phone banks, campaigning, voting, and so on. Many national efforts are already underway. In that effort, our naturalistic reliance of evidence is a critically important tool. Facts will help us be effective. Here are a few that may change in the future, but which I found surprising or important today.
Men vs. Women? No.
What Factors are actually Important? Where are the Real Divides?
Starstuff, Contemplating by Jon Cleland Host
We are assemblages of ancient atoms forged in stars – atoms organized by history to the point of consciousness, now able to contemplate this sacred Universe of which we are a tiny, but wondrous, part.
Dr. Jon Cleland Host is a scientist who earned his PhD in materials science at Northwestern University & has conducted research at Hemlock Semiconductor and Dow Corning since 1997. He holds eight patents and has authored over three dozen internal scientific papers and eleven papers for peer-reviewed scientific journals, including the journal Nature. He has taught classes on biology, math, chemistry, physics and general science at Delta College and Saginaw Valley State University. Jon grew up near Pontiac, and has been building a reality-based spirituality for over 30 years, first as a Catholic and now as a Unitarian Universalist, including collaborating with Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow to spread the awe and wonder of the Great Story of our Universe (see www.thegreatstory.org, and the blog at evolutionarytimes.org). Jon and his wife have four sons, whom they embrace within a Universe-centered, Pagan, family spirituality. He currently moderates the yahoo group Naturalistic Paganism.
See Starstuff, Contemplating posts.
Pingback: The Elephant in the Womb: Calling Out Theocracy Where it Breeds, by Heron Michelle | Naturalistic Paganism