One of the things that always strikes me about the pro-life movement is how incongruously materialistic it is. Here you have people who, for the most part, fervently believe that people have souls and/or spirits, made in the image of God, and that these souls/spirits are “the real us,” the part of us that lives forever and for which the fleshly body is merely a temporary abode (and not infrequently a snare and a source of soul-threatening temptations). In almost any other context, this supposed “immortal soul” would be what makes us people, individuals with value and worth and significance, at least in their eyes.
Let the subject of abortion come up, though, and suddenly these same people have the most materialistic and reductionistic definition of personhood you can imagine.
Invisible, intangible things like souls and spirits are right out the window; the real definition of a person is nothing more than a certain pattern of nucleotides on a double-helix, plus some fluids and proteins inside a membrane. Suddenly, humanity is nothing more than a particular chemical formula, and metaphysics be damned!
Why is that? The two points of view could hardly be more opposite, yet the same people hold them both.
My stray thought for the day is that perhaps people hold them both because they are so opposite. Almost every other dimension of religious experience is based on believing things that aren’t tangibly present in any sort of verifiable way. In fact, a lot of things you’re required to believe are downright silly, gullible, and/or naive. You have to believe, for instance, in the infinite power and love and goodness of a God who, somehow, is universally unwilling or unable to say “Good morning” when you wake up, or “Happy Birthday” once a year. And you have to believe that He rules sovereignly, wisely, and justly over a world in which every tiny detail is under His absolute control, even though the world is full of violence, injustice, crime, fraud, heresy, poverty, disaster, and disease, which are not His will.
My guess is that this is a burden. Constantly having to believe in silly, spiritual, subjective nonsense, despite all worldly evidence to the contrary, is “spiritually rewarding” (as they keep reminding themselves), but it’s a huge and relentless effort. Perhaps it is something of a relief to be able to be dogmatic and narrow-minded about something so strictly and irreducibly materialistic. Perhaps it’s because they’re so tired of being “spiritual” all the time that they get so caught up in embracing such a downright chemical concept of personhood. What other opportunities does faith give them to be dogmatic about things that are actually real?
So that’s my stray thought for the day. Maybe, apart from the latent desire to control female sexuality, pro-lifers are driven by a kind of psychological compensation, a rebound effect from the strain of having to maintain faith-based spiritual beliefs in the face of a contrary reality. Perhaps they take materialism too far because they’re coming at it from so far away.