Thursday, December 4, 2008

This isn't just about religion.

One thing that gets me going is when I hear that abortion is just a religious issue.  Some people seem to think that because many prominent leaders from all churches and faiths speak out against abortion that the issue is a theological one.  To these people, banning abortion for everyone would be like banning meat on Fridays for everyone during lent.  Some even go so far as to say that it would violate the separation of church and state or suggest that pro-lifers want to create a theocracy.  

As best as I understand it, the argument goes something like this: 

Your faith teaches you that you should oppose abortion, and so you do, and that is ok.   However, since this is an issue of personal beliefs, you just can't come out and say we should ban it.  After all, not everyone shares your faith.  At first blush this may seem to make sense.  However, when we really think about it, this argument misstates the role of religion in the public, and more than that it completely misunderstands the reason why people of faith speak out about abortion.  

The problem arises from the fact that anyone who makes this argument is confusing religious doctrine with religious teaching on morality.  Just because not everyone shares my faith, or the religious doctrines I ascribe to, doesn't mean that our laws should not represent our foundational and universal morality.  After all, that is exactly what laws are meant to do.  Why do we all agree so readily that it is wrong to steal, cheat, and kill an innocent person?  We do not need to agree about the validity of the doctrines of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Atheism, Agnosticism, or any other "ism" to agree on these things.  

Indeed, the fact that so many people from ALL faiths and NO faith speak out against abortion greatly discredits the argument that it is just a religious issue.  If CatholicsJewsMuslims, and Atheists can all agree about one issue, well then it is clearly not an issue that speaks to what makes us all Jewish, it is an issue that speaks to the heart of what makes us all human.  Abortion is not wrong because the Pope said so, rather, the Pope said so because abortion is wrong, and a bunch of Rabbi's, pastors, atheists, and faithful Muslims, and countless other groups of people happen to agree with him. 

Religion doesn't function in the public square as rule-maker, instead it informs the consciences of those who make the rules, namely you and I, so that we may make rules that are fair and just for everyone.  People of faith speak out about abortion not because they are just following orders from their spiritual "bosses", they speak out about abortion because their faith calls them to "be their brother's keeper", to care about the lives of other human beings.  They see that reason and science point to the fact that innocent life is being taken by abortion, and their faith then requires them to act.  This is not theocracy, this is compassion and justice.