Paragons of Subhumanity: On Post-birth Abortion and Other Merry Subjects

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8 Responses

  1. Ante says:

    You said that the people claiming that Christian morality interfered into the supposedly naturally occuring infanticide of preceding pagan cultures are neo pagans. This made me think how true this really is.

    From what I understand of pagan religions as they relate to infanticide, the point of the ritual would be to sacrifice, meaning something was sacrificed which was considered to have value. Even to the point where to be sacrificed was understood as an honour, at least in principle. The custom of leaving sickly children to die among the Greeks also seemed to be considered as a necessary evil, and in myths that involve such episodes we very often see remorse and refusal of orders by those who are supposed to execute them, for example in the case of Paris.

    The abortion and infanticide of today on the contrary seem to revolve around proving that people who don’t satisfy some arbitrary definition of personhood have no value, hence it’s not really killing in the first place. So how much is this really pagan? Actual pagans seemed to have a clear notion of value of those who are being killed or left to die, even if this didn’t stop them from proceeding with the killing. But nowadays it looks to me as sheer cowardice, where instead of admitting to oneself that you indeed think it justifiable to kill for such and such goal (even if it’s merely comfort as it all too often is), you are trying to legalistically pull out of using bad wording and do the killing while pretending nothing actually happened. I don’t think it is similar in any way.

    On the other hand before modern medicine, with very high infant mortality rates, any historical culture older than a hundred years or so would I suppose have a different view on death in general, but I don’t think that is what is being discussed here. That seems to be incidental and not to some basic metaphysical view of personhood, soul, etc. I’m not sure that this particular trend had a precedent in the past.

    • Han Fei says:

      Infanticide most certainly did have a historical basis upon which it reappeared across time and cultures. For example the story of Eve’s fall caused some men of base or disturbed intellect to conclude that women in general are the source of sin in the world. This in turn, led to high rates of infanticide of girls in Medieval Christian Europe, not to speak of child abuse and ironically, served to excuse the most heinous sexual exploitation.

      However I think the point that is being made here is that it’s highly doubtful just because it was practice at times and places, one could say that it was universally held to be the accepted norm, or that people at the time, struggled to form a cohesive argument against such activities with persuasive potency. Indeed an educated church hierarch or national leader could, and frequently did, put a stop to such outrageous behaviors which of course represents a side to history which critics of Christianity often refuse to admit.

      Nowadays of course, the basis upon which the argument in favor infanticide of rests, lies entirely outside its framework, i.e. it consists of the nature of the human being and his relationship with nature. That is why it is argued here, the advocacy of abortion, homosexuality, etc, is fundamentally distinct from incidence of such behaviors in history. The intellectual barrier to moral critique of these precepts (as opposed to what appear to be purely biological or sociological arguments), is the predominant rational-empirical view that the essence of a human being consists of a consciousness physically deriving from the body, and that there is absolutely no moral order or meaning prevalent in nature beyond that which can be artificially conceived and engineered. Indeed when you integrate this kind of thinking into the fabric of public consciousness, then there is indeed absolutely nothing wrong with either, and no reasonable argument can get across, which is why of course a pro-life position is a basically synonymous with abstruseness and being out of touch with the times among the “enlightened class”.

      • Ante says:

        I was a bit unclear, when I connected infanticide with paganism I was thinking of religious side of it, not sociological phenomena. So I immediately went talking about rituals and human sacrifice, without pointing out that’s the angle I’m looking at the whole thing from.

        Anyhow, I’ll try to illustrate the point differently: Say you find a blood-stained Aztec priest who is just taking a respite from carving hearts out of living people and you put your hand on his shoulder and say “It’s ok, they are just cell clumps. You aren’t really doing any killing.”, I’m sure he’d get very angry with you. The whole point was to kill people, because people were seen to have a value and their deaths to have some kind of an effect on the gods or whoever. While we are revolted by such a man, his understanding of what human life is and even of his own bloody activity is much closer to our own than it is to the authors of the article being discussed here. Hence my feel is that these contemporary abortion, infanticide and euthanasia activists are not exactly neo-pagan, but something wholly different.

        I think Branko later made a similar observation, but he was talking only about Aristotle and Plato. I think that even the very executors of the acts we are talking about – priests performing human sacrifice or individuals tasked with leaving babies to die from exposure – would never explain their actions in ways similar to Minerva/Giubilini.

        What further complicates this however is that many people who think that they are pagan or neo pagan or whatever might embrace this line of thinking – the clump of cell/it’s not really killing one that is – but this is likely more due to them merely calling themselves pagan than actually having any real connection to any actual pre-christian religion. Which I don’t believe anyone alive today has. So if by “neo pagan” we think of such people – so people who call themselves pagan but are in reality just being rebellious or embittered or even just want to appear cool or whatever – then ok. But even in this case the neo pagan doesn’t have anything substantial in common with pagan.

        • Han Fei says:

          I couldn’t have said it better myself. This is why de Las Casas and certain other missionaries prudently advised to put off forcibly converting the natives, not because they were so compassionate and open minded towards different cultures as some modern interpreters are keen to assume, but because they sensed that the beliefs, habits and practices of the “savage” Indians reflected a much more pure and deeper felt religiosity than what was present in Europe even at that time. How can you convert them whose faith is many ways is superior to yours?

        • Deirdre says:

          I agree with your comments. In general I found it interesting to consider that there had been a historical issue with infanticide, I had not known the extent – though questions are thrown up – how correct are historical records, for example, how unbiased are the reporters; many historians, even ancient and approved ones like Herodotus, had their own biases, perhaps to view some others as savages, etc and report thus. Nonetheless, accounts of infanticide recur in history, undeniably, such as one relating to women throwing their newborns into the Tiber openly in daylight in the 12th century. (Richard Texler 1973 as reported on Wikipedia)
          Perhaps one could wonder if most likely the attitude of the priestly cast and the activity of the common people differed greatly on this matter. For example, right back into antiquity the Atharva Veda (approx 1000 BC) calls abortionists Womb Killers or Embryo Slayers and equates such people with the lowest of all criminals. It is likely that such a principle underpinned most ancient metaphysics. So if people in pre-Christian times had consulted their shaman or Brahman or priest they would likely have been told the principle of life as sacred, and yet it seems that regardless of this teaching a practise of infanticide emerged.
          Though one may find this disturbing I don’t think it is too hard to imagine why it happened. And this brings me to a point that I hope will not cause anyone to lose control of their tea cups! I think we all share a strong anti-abortion sentiment, and yet since some anti-abortionists continue to conflate the issue of abortion with that of contraception, the cause loses support among many who might otherwise be more strongly committed. And this may be for almost the same reason that infanticide may have been the rule rather than the exception in historical times.
          The human body is (or at least was in former, less polluted times) fertile generally and impregnation is no great feat to achieve. People were historically at the mercy of reproduction. As a mother of three I can attest that pregnancy, birthing and nursing are miraculous and wonderful events, but they are also arduous on the body and provide great challenges in terms ofcontinued responsibility on all levels. I had three children, my mother had 6, her mother had 14, and one can presume going back that my fore-mothers had even more, perhaps a child or miscarriage for every year of their fertile life . It is not hard to imagine how a woman (and her man) might feel helpless before this tidal wave of fecundity, and how in some cases an attitude of miraculous appreciation of birth etc might have worn ragged by times. This coarsening of human sentiment through suffering may have engendered practices like abandonment.
          This would have been more likely among poorer people because since of old wealthier elite people have had access to contraception of various sorts, herbal and barrier etc. Effective emmenagogues are very old medicine.
          One may counter the argument for contraception with the religious one that sex is for reproduction but this is insufficient as sex obviously has many reasons to exist, including – and importantly – strengthening the life long bond between spouses. It would not carry much weight anyway in modern times, at any rate, nor do all constitutions do well with celibacy, so conflating contraception and abortion matters when arguing about the latter is problematic. It is precisely because of an absence of contraception that infanticide most likely evolved in older times. Not because people did not consider their child sacred and imbued with divine essence. That would be my take on it which is open to change.

          This theory does not however account for the inexplicable numbers of abortions in modern times.

          On a side note, at the moment the movie Gosnell is being shown in the United States. It is having a tough time getting advertising, its adverts were refused by Facebook, cinemas are refusing to show it, other obstacles are being put in its way, and so on, yet it is proving very cathartic with audiences and it is in the TOP 10 of movies there at the moment.. It has been openly described as anti abortion ”propaganda”, even though it simply states the facts of the actual events and follows the procedural drama of the recorded court case. It does not show any gore. It was crowdfunded independently and some say it may spark the beginnings of a new pro life movement. Because people are so outraged at the late abortion after delivery of foetuses of 25- 29 weeks old, they are being forced to consider their own ill-thought out notions regarding ”legal” abortion time frames as they now accept them. It is worth following some of the story, on Twitter and Facebook. I am quite proud that it is an irish couple – Ann McIlhinney and Phelim McAleer – who have made this movie. More power to them. It is a great achievement.

          • Ante says:

            I don’t claim any knowledge or understanding of past trends and veiws of common folk on infanticide, but common sense tells me that your explanation is correct. Certainly combination of frequent pregnancies, high likelyhood of children to die at an early age despite best attempts to keep them alive and overall lack of guidance among the poorer social groups could lead to this happening. Especially among those people living in harshest environments. Was it Inuit you mentioned as having as high as 80% newborn killed off? It would fit into that view pretty well.

            I suppose this is where hierarchy comes in. Branko has stated, and I agree wholeheartedly with him, that he doesn’t like grassroots movements but believes in the elites. If we are allowed to just go downhill, that is just roll along with the flow and do what comes easiest or is most popular, we can easily turn into monsters. A group of people really do need some kind of elite (in the proper sense of the word of course, not Alex Jones type understanding of it) to keep them on track instead of sinking to the level of animals.

            But bottom line is that every time that ever was and ever will be will have its trouble, there will always be people committing all sorts of crimes, infanticide included. Problem becomes truly serious not while those crimes happen at incidental level (even if it’s frequent) while society as a whole has an understanding they are crimes or at the very least very serious affairs such as would be the case with human sacrifice and similar customs, but when people decide it doesn’t even present any kind of an issue. Which is what “they aren’t really persons, so it’s not really killing” mindset of today is doing. You correctly pointed out that this same reasoning can be effortlessly extended to literally anyone. I am of course using the extreme case to illustrate the point, but I’d be willing to bet a moderate sum of money that all of us would literally feel more comfortable around that Aztec priest than we would around Minerva types, heh.

  2. coco says:

    Why cant we learn something on why humans have only body and soul and not the spirit? Do we take it as a given that there is only body and soul to be considered, and if yes, on what grounds is that based? Is the absolute subject made of soul, spirit or something completely different? Or if it is not “made” of anything how is it different to being made of nothing?
    I suppose the whole notion upon which to consider Metaphysical entities as “real” is based on the fact that we cannot observe them directly but only conclude about it indirectly, by getting familiar with Metaphysical system. But if we are led to wards metaphysical only indirectly, how can we make conclusions about soul and spirit and claim human has only soul, but not spirit? How is that different to ordinary dogmatism?
    Apology if above is not very scholarly, but just believe maybe would be good to hear some explanation on the position about soul, spirit and the question of human as duality (of body and soul) or trinity (of body, soul and spirit).

    • Malić says:

      It was not really the subject of this talk and debate about triadic anthropology is not in my focus all together, partly because I consider it non-issue, partly because I am not that vain to consider this attitude of mine conclusive. However, I’m pretty certain we’ll never have “spiritual science” as I don’t believe that talk about protecting babies from murderous arguments requires invoking their God given ability to deliver prophecies, intuitively grasp Platonic ideas (have a knowledge ascribed to angels) and explain the history away from one single principle, as is customarily with pneumatikoi of our day.

      Hegel was mentioned and he, in a good radical Protestant tradition, based his idea of “spiritual science” on triadic division, so that can provide some food for thought, as his fundamental belief was that he’s able to describe the workings of the mind of God, and that anything less is not worth the name of “science”.

      As for metaphysical knowledge, the soul/body principle doesn’t exclude spirit, it just denies the direct knowledge gained by man’s own efforts. To point out spirit as the third part, instead of considering it solely as the function of the whole, could indicate to a desire of accomplishing precisely this and it is not a motive that can lead into good direction.

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