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It’s All About Contraception

I have long argued that the real target of much of the Christian right is not abortion or homosexuality, it’s contraception. Michael Orsi, a chaplain and professor at Ave Maria Law School, confirms this by tracing marriage equality to the availability of birth control.

Christians have always recognized children as one of the main purposes, or at least properties, belonging exclusively to marriage. The Bible, in the Book of Genesis, commands men and women to be fruitful and multiply. However, in every society regardless of religious belief, marriage was determined to be based on the natural law. It was the means for the continuation of the human species and ordained for the good of the state.

Standard-issue bullshit. I have absolutely no idea what that third sentence, “in every society regardless of religious belief, marriage was determined to be based on the natural law,” is supposed to mean. It is literally gibberish.

By separating life-giving and lovemaking through contraception, marriage became more focused on the couple’s happiness. The traditional understanding of marriage waned regarding the procreation of children and self-sacrifice on the part of the couple for them. In fact, children became not only unimportant for marriage, but they became important only if having them made the parties to the marriage happy. This effectively made children a commodity. Finally, marriage lent itself to rationalizing divorce on the grounds of one or both partners being unhappy, even if their separation proved detrimental to their children.

This is quite bizarre. Children are certainly unimportant in some marriages. Lots of people get married and do not have kids. Would Orsi prohibit that? Perhaps not. But he does want to get rid of birth control, which would make it far harder to be married without having kids. What I find most disturbing about this is that there is absolutely no consideration that individual people could possibly have their own ideas about how to live their life or that they should have any right to do so. In Orsi’s formulation, every single person must get married for exactly the same reason, every couple must have children and, once married, they must never get divorced. If that isn’t turning children into a commodity, I don’t know what is.

This is so disconnected from the real world that it could exist only in the mind of a religious zealot. No recognition at all of the diversity of human experience or diversity, or of the fact that some marriages become toxic whether there are kids involved or not. Many times, divorce is the best of a set of bad options and staying together in an unhealthy environment would turn out far worse for the children.

The elimination of children as one of the purposes of marriage cleared the path for sterile, homosexual marriage. After all, don’t homosexuals have a right to be happy, too? Shouldn’t same-sex couples have the right to adopt children if it adds to their bliss?

Yes, they should. But note the straw man. Who has proposed the “elimination of children as one of the purposes of marriage”? No one that I know. Yes, children are one of the purposes of some marriages. They are not the exclusive purpose of all marriages, as Orsi so absurdly claims. Nor should they be.

Justice Kennedy further stated, “The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the state, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.”

These words are extremely dangerous for those churches that maintain a traditional understanding of marriage.

No they aren’t. Churches that maintain a traditional understanding of Marriage are more than welcome to keep believing that and acting on it until the end of time. This ruling has absolutely nothing to do with them. It doesn’t change one tiny little thing for those churches. But theocrats like Orsi can’t separate the church from the government because they view them as one and the same thing.

And like all theocrats in every religion, what this really comes down to is a desire to control women. That’s what the elimination of birth control does, it enslaves women to be nothing more than incubators with no control at all over when or if they give birth. And that means all of the advances of the last few decades in equal opportunity for women are systematically dismantled. Birth control is the single most important development in history for the emancipation of women. No wonder they want to stop it.

Comments

  1. matty1 says

    In traditional marriage children were for trading to your neighbours to establish some kind of alliance, which in turn led to another traditional marriage and more children who could be used in the same way. Commodities indeed.

  2. sigurd jorsalfar says

    If God really needs more people on earth, why does he desperately need us humans to create them? Can’t he just snap his fingers or slap around a lump of clay and create all the humans he needs? I’m always amazed at how much believers think their all-knowing all-powerful god needs them to be doing stuff for him because he can’t do it himself.

  3. Ellie says

    Why do I get the feeling that Orsi is pig-ignorant regarding the history of contraception?

  4. raven says

    Catholic kook Orsi:

    However, in every society regardless of religious belief, marriage was determined to be based on the natural law.

    Ed Brayton: (This) It is literally gibberish.

    That it is.

    There is no such thing as natural law. It just sounds better than “voices in someone’s head” or “god told me”..

    Natural law says:

    1. If god had wanted us to fly, he would have given us wings.

    2. If god had wanted us to drive cars, he would have given us internal combustion engines.

    3. If god had wanted celibrate, unmarried priests, he wouldn’t have given them functional reproductive organs.

    Single priests with working genitalia have been causing huge problems for themselves, the RCC, and others, especially children since a Pope invented it in the 12th century. It’s unnatural if anything is.

  5. rmsc says

    Does he favor contraception for sex outside marriage, or does he favor imprisonment for those who have sex outside traditional marriage?

  6. says

    In fact, children became not only unimportant for marriage, but they became important only if having them made the parties to the marriage happy.

    Because what child wouldn’t want to be born to unhappy parents who didn’t want her or him?

  7. raven says

    Orsi the priest:

    However, in every society regardless of religious belief, marriage was determined to be based on the natural law.

    What is unnatural is anyone listening to or taking seriously the twisted, none too bright, old men who run the Catholic church.

    In reality, almost no one does.

    Contraceptive use among US Catholic women in relevant cohorts is 98% and the same as the general population as is their average family size at 2+.

  8. Who Knows? says

    The Bible, in the Book of Genesis, commands men and women to be fruitful and multiply.

    The reality is we have been just too damn good at this. We have been so fruitful and multiplying that we are going to multiply ourselves right out of existence if we are not careful. Shit, it may even be too late. But maybe not, certainly some event will come along and thin the heard.

  9. dan4 says

    There’s some crazy person (“zlop”) in the comments section of the linked article ranting about a “zombie virus” (and s/he doesn’t seem to be kidding, either).

  10. dingojack says

    Christians have always recognized children as one of the main purposes, or at least properties, belonging exclusively to marriage.”

    Clearly the writer is unaware that one can have children without being married! (Yes i know, imagine that!)

    The Bible, in the Book of Genesis, commands men and women to be fruitful and multiply

    Too bad he never married them. (or perhaps luckily since Eve screwed her own son after he killed off his brother but before he was banished to outside Eden here he had sex with ??? [animals]). Ah traditional christian marriage following ‘natural’ law.

    However, in every society regardless of religious belief, marriage was determined to be based on the natural law.”

    Except where they practiced polygyny, polyandry (rare), incest and many other kinds of relationships from concubinage to simply ‘shacking-up’. The ‘natural’ law is that there is no ‘natural’ law apparently.

    As for turning children into commodities, is he aware that until Victorian times the concept of ‘a childhood’ was not recognised. It was ‘down t’Pit’ at 5 or 6 otherwise the family starved. Aided and abetted by the church, of course.

    Dingo
    ——–
    So much wrong so little time.

  11. Randomfactor says

    Raven #4,

    4. If God really hated masturbation, my arms would’ve been much shorter.

  12. calgor says

    I once attended a lecture about the history of marriage at university. My presence there was due to an attempt to try to chat up a fellow student (failed) so I cannot claim accuracy but given the present issues I would dearly love a reference…

    The two points that I do remember were that marriage has its origins in inheritance law and had no connection with religion, and the only reason that organised religion has anything to do with it now was that for many years priests were the easiest locatable people that had writing skills necessary for contracts and that the church activily fought against the responsibility for many decades…

    Hence I see this issue about marriage being divine as just an other theocratic lie.

  13. laurentweppe says

    However, in every society regardless of religious belief, marriage was determined to be based on the natural law. It was the means for the continuation of the human species and ordained for the good of the state.

    The worst part is that he’s absolutely right: pretty much every “civilized” society of yesteryear have seen mariage as the way to continue aristocratic bloodlines and produce more plebeans to plow the fields, man the armies, settle the conquered lands, so the nobilities rents remain big and secure, while using the classic “it’s the natural order/the will of heavens” excuse to justify themselves.

    Birth control is the single most important development in history for the emancipation of women

    I’d say that this honor still belongs to the bicycle.

  14. laurentweppe says

    Why is this guy’s God such a total sadist?

    Because the God of Tits and Wine was too busy proselytizing hippies and french people

  15. Pteryxx says

    Contraceptive use among US Catholic women in relevant cohorts is 98% and the same as the general population as is their average family size at 2+.

    ^ This. If they’re so sure marriage is all about unbridled conception, why do they only have a few kids instead of 12 or 19, like the Quiverfull folks do? “Natural family planning” isn’t THAT effective by far.

  16. Pteryxx says

    Or popular, apparently.

    Use of NFP in developed countries is low, even among Catholics. While Catholics made up 24% of the U.S. population in 2002,[22] of reproductive age American women using birth control, only 1.5% were using periodic abstinence.[23]

    CDC citation via Wiki

  17. Synfandel says

    But maybe not, certainly some event will come along and thin the heard.

    War is the customary remedy for localized overpopulation. I’m sure we’ll find a way to apply it to the problem of global overpopulation.

  18. machintelligence says

    marriage has its origins in inheritance law and had no connection with religion

    It could also be cogently argued that marriage was instituted (evolutionarily) to provide a stable economic platform for the rearing of children (and a longer term one than the pair bond, which in humans seem to last between three and seven years.) This would have been particularly valuable after the invention of agriculture.
    Once the institution was in place, other functions could have been exapted.

  19. tbp1 says

    The RCC, at least in my lifetime, has prioritized controlling other people’s sex lives over pretty much everything else (well, besides accumulating wealth and power for those at the top of the hierarchy and protecting criminals in their ranks).

    They talk a good game about social issues and occasionally even do a little good (although it’s worth noting that a lot of the good they do, in the US at least, is with taxpayer dollars to start with; they just act as the conduit). But when push comes to shove, if there’s a conflict between actually doing good and maintaining their irrational positions on all things sexual, they’ll choose the latter—e.g. stopping adoption services in Massachusetts because they would be required not to discriminate against gay people.

  20. dingojack says

    RE: Natural Law
    Perhaps Orsi thinks people’s propensity to marry is proportional to the inverse of the square of the distance between them*.
    Dingo
    ——-
    * contrary to the RCC’s beliefs, mass doesn’t come into it.

  21. Trebuchet says

    This is about what you can expect from one of Tom Monaghan’s trained monkeys.

  22. busterggi says

    Hmm…yet Paul, the founder of Christianity for practical purposes, opposed marriage and having children as giving in to base desires of the ungodly world.

    Odd how Christians ignore their real founder.

  23. John Pieret says

    The elimination of children as one of the purposes of marriage cleared the path for sterile, homosexual marriage. After all, don’t homosexuals have a right to be happy, too? Shouldn’t same-sex couples have the right to adopt children if it adds to their bliss?

    I was married to my late wife for 31 years, 10 months and 13 days (but who’s counting?). We married in our thirties and decided early on that that we didn’t want to inflict our genes on unsuspecting children.

    FUCK Michael Orsi, the horse he rode in on and the theology that would make him so stupid! My wife and I had and exercised out rights as human beings to be happy as we saw fit and proper. And FUCK ANYONE who would demy anyone the same right just because of their gende or sexual orientation.

  24. Synfandel says

    Right there with you, John Pieret. My wife and I are 15 years happily married and have never had plans to have children. Our reason is based on health risks, but the decision is, in the end, a choice.

    I unleashed an angry tirade on this subject in this blog’s comments a few months back and said essentially the same things as you have. Whether we choose to have children, and whether we can or can’t have children, is our business and absolutely no one else’s and it has no bearing whatsoever on the validity of our marriage. The same goes for any couple, fertile or not, straight, gay, or otherwise. People like Professor Orsi can just mind their own damned business.

  25. fmitchell says

    I can think of no clearer example of religion turning reason into insanity than its attitudes toward sex throughout history:

    Problem: Post-pubescent humans want to have sex. Having sex sometimes produces children, who need someone to care for them. The mother of a child is obvious, but the father might be anyone the mother had sex with. And he has all the money.

    Sane People: That’s awful. Maybe we could pitch in …?

    Religion: A man and a woman should NEVER have sex unless a rabbi/priest/etc. blesses the marriage, because a man MUST care of the woman, because GOD.

    Problem: Sex sometimes propagates diseases.

    Sane People: Wow. Be careful out there.

    Religion: NOBODY can have sex with more than one person in their lifetime, because GOD.

    Problem: Rape sometimes produces children.

    Sane People: That’s awful. Maybe we could pitch in this time …?

    Religion (old): The woman must marry the rapist and care for his child while he provides for them, because GOD (and what could go wrong?).

    Religion (new): No it doesn’t, because GOD.

    Problem(?): Two people of the same sex want to have sex.

    Sane People: Uh, that’s strange. Doesn’t hurt me any, though.

    Religion (old): KILL THEM, because GOD (and ewwww!).

    Religion (new): Marriage is between a MAN and a WOMAN, because GOD (and still ewwww!).

    Problem(?): Hard labor in the fields gives way to handicrafts and shuffling paper, which even a pregnant woman can do.

    Sane People: Maybe women and their children don’t need a man to take care of them.

    Religion: Women MUST NOT WORK except in their home, because their children and their husband and GOD.

    Problem(?): Humans invent abortion, a way to stop unwanted children from being born.

    Sane People: That sounds a little … wait, you remove a tiny clump of cells? That’s not so bad.

    Religion: Abortion is MURDER, because life begins at conception, because GOD.

    Problem(?): Humans invent birth control, a way to reduce or eliminate the chance of conceiving children when having sex. (Unless it’s the Rhythm Method, which only works for ascetics and masochists who are good at math.) Some forms also reduce or eliminate chances of disease.

    Sane People: Yay, more sex (as long as we’re careful).

    Religion: Birth control is FORBIDDEN (except the Rhythm Method), because GOD.

    Problem(!): There’s too many people on this planet!

    Sane People: Let’s stop making so many. But we can keep having sex, right?

    Religion: 19 and counting … (because GOD)

  26. smrnda says

    Yes, in the present we actually think that people should be able to make choices that make them happy. We don’t get married and have kids for the good of the state (that sounds like a fairly fascist idea) – the state exists for our convenience, not the other way around. There’s also no shortage of people who want to have kids.

    If the issue is that the human race needs to continue, there’s a point where having more kids, particularly for people in first world countries where people consume the most per capita resources, starts to actually be detrimental to human survival.

  27. John Pieret says

    Synfandel:

    People like Professor Orsi can just mind their own damned business.

    I’d go a little further. They can take their “concerns,” roll them into a tight little cylinder and shove them up where they will do the most good.

  28. amyjane says

    It’s not birth control but control of women. The freedom of women terrifies these people. White men are losing control. Control of women is a very important part of the Abrahamic religions.

  29. John Phillips, FCD says

    As Rachel Maddow repeatedly points out on her show, the life begins at conception laws that rapeublicans in many states keep trying to foist on their citizens would outlaw the pill, the morning after pill and some types of IUDs.

  30. bybelknap says

    “That’s what the elimination of birth control does, it enslaves women to be nothing more than incubators with no control at all over when or if they give birth.”

    emphasis added

    Michele Bachman’s floor speech supporting the 20 week ban with the “infographic” of a swollen belly and a fetus is a great visual reminder that Ed is quite correct. Michele keeps saying “this woman” and pointing to the pregnant belly, which fills the entire panel of the graphic. That ain’t a woman, it’s a pregnant woman’s belly, but that’s the only important part of her apparently.

  31. whheydt says

    Orsi needs to closely examine the policies and statements about women and their place in society propagated by the German regime from 1933 to 1945. He should then be asked if he agrees with various other policies of that same regime, and does he wish to be associated with them in regards to their positions on women.

  32. mudpuddles says

    By separating life-giving and lovemaking through contraception, marriage became more focused on the couple’s happiness…. In fact, children became not only unimportant for marriage, but they became important only if having them made the parties to the marriage happy.

    This is one of the most bizarre and twisted statements I have ever read. Orsi suggests that there is something wrong with getting married purely for reasons of happiness. He sounds like someone who would champion the idea of arranged, loveless marriages as long as they produced lots of children. Even here in fucked-up Ireland, people have long married because their chosen life partner is someone whom they love, and someone with whom they want to spend the rest of their life… because they make each other HAPPY. You know, like normal people. I note a similar theme to Orsi’s in the words of Pat Robertson, who not so long ago suggested to a woman that if she was unhappy in her marriage it was her own fault and that she should focus more on dressing nice, making sweet etc for her husband. Because as a wife that’s her fucking job, doncha know. Their utter contempt for women is sickening.

  33. M'thew says

    But theocrats like Orsi can’t separate the church from the government because they view them as one and the same thing.

    If that does not spell out Christian fascism to you, then what would?

    I suppose there’s something to the idea that “things go in circles, ya know”, but I find the upsurge of these ideas very disturbing. I can only hope it’s the death throes of a very intolerant ideology, but there seems to be a fascist streak in humanity that will never be completely eliminated.

  34. caseloweraz says

    Orsi: “Shouldn’t same-sex couples have the right to adopt children if it adds to their bliss? Homosexual relationships as such have now become accepted as part of a new code of sexual ethics accepted by many churches. This is evident in churches that have devised rituals to bless same-sex unions.”

    I wondered how he would answer this question. But he doesn’t answer it, so it must be rhetorical. And therefore I think it’s safe to conclude that he opposes adoption as well, because that’s the only place he mentions it.

  35. Thumper; Atheist mate says

    The fact he sees marriage “becoming more focussed on the couple’s happiness” as a bad thing tells me all I need to know about him. No need to read any further.

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