"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Hellish Overcrowding

The Los Angeles Times ran a long piece profiling a 70-year-old veteran abortionist from Fayetteville, Arkansas. He has personally dispatched 20,000 souls back to the big waiting list in the sky.

Apart from the bland horror of this urban abattoir, I was struck by this astonishing excerpt:

For the few women who arrive ambivalent or beset by guilt, Harrison's nurse has posted statistics on the exam-room mirror: One out of every four pregnant women in the U.S. chooses abortion. A third of all women in this country will have at least one abortion by the time they're 45.

"You think there's room in hell for all those women?" the nurse will ask. . . .

What heights of crassness and jejunity! What an insult to God and Man! What utter absolute irredeemable idiocy! A rape of the mind and the heart and the soul.

Not that it's necessary, but let us enumerate:

1) If a thing is wrong, it is not excused by its being commonly done.

2) If a thing is wrong, it should not be done, even if the perpetrator has a Get Out Of Hell Free card.

3) If people are sent to Hell by an infinite God for wrong behavior, and since every human being is given a choice of right or wrong behavior, then by definition there is room in Hell for every single human being, should they choose wrongly.

4) A variation on that point: if Hell has a limited capacity, then that might work to get you off on cold-blooded murder of a person who is walking around, too. Overcrowding, you know.

5) If you think that a vast number of people, by agreeing to all do a particular sin, can force Hell not to admit them, then why not do this for regular murder as well?

6) If large numbers doing a thing automatically make it into a good thing, does Islamic terrorism become a good thing, too? Or at least not a bad thing.

All in all, to make a remark like this to a person pondering a weighty decision with moral implications is the zenith of human crassness. Uggh.

35 comments:

Hunter Baker said...

Reform Club readers may be interested to know that William "Bill" Harrison has been writing me for about four years now. He regularly sends emails trying to convert me to a "pro-choice" point of view. These are accompanied by a slew of conspiratorial missives about Bush's motives for entering the war.

We even exchanged reading assignments. He read my law review article attacking Roe v. Wade. I read his novel "A Bomb in Gilead." It's pretty much the standard worst possible presentation of pro-lifers ever, ever, ever. Some of our commenters could read that puppy and go to bed smiling each night secure in the cross-bred, fundamentalist stupidity of their foes.

Jay D. Homnick said...

He slew all right.

connie deady said...

I don't believe that my church considers abortion to be a sin - at least it didn't years ago.

This is where people like me get annoyed at pro-life.

Amy & Jordan said...

The real question (not really) is where do the babies go? Limbo might not be there for them anymore...

Kathy Hutchins said...

I read his novel "A Bomb in Gilead."

For the benefit of those readers who were not, like Hunter, Sam, and me, brought up in a Protestant church, to whom the above reference is unclear: "A Balm in Gilead" is a staple hymn of old-style revival meetings; it was in the old Methodist hymnal in use when I was a child. It begins: "There is a balm in Gilead, which makes the wounded whole." My sister and I, who like all good little Methodists were trying to drown out the choir long before we could read, thought for years that it went: "There is a bomb in Gilead, that makes a wounded hole." And apparently, if I take Dr. Harrison's career for what it seems to be, there is.

Jay D. Homnick said...

Kathy, that is absolutely hilarious - both your reminiscence and how you worked it back into this subject.

To take our readers back to first sources, we should go to Jeremiah (8:22): "Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Then why has the health of my maidenly nation not been restored?"

Rashi (1035-1105) comments: '"Is there no balm in Gilead?", i.e. are there no righteous people for them to emulate so they can improve their ways?'

And perhaps Jeremiah's next verse (23) applies here as well: "Who will give water to my head that my eyes be a fount of tears? Then I would cry day and night for the corpses of my maidenly nation."

(In my translation I substitute "maidenly nation" for the more commonly used "daughter of my nation" which does not get the point across correctly.)

Tlaloc said...

"2) If a thing is wrong, it should not be done, even if the perpetrator has a Get Out Of Hell Free card."

This part rather struck me because I think you got it precisely wrong. According to Christianity there is absolutely nothing more important than the state of your soul after death. The only purpose of life is to earn that ticket through the pearly gates. And hence it would seem that by a strict Christian perspective that yes indeed a wrong is quite fine to do if it doesn't put you in some jeopardy of eternal damnation. Indeed by a Christian conception of the universe it's an oxymoron since wrong is only defined by thos things that imperil your soul. Anything else is a lowly material concern.

Wakarimaska?

Jay D. Homnick said...

I hope you're wrong about that, Tlaloc, but I am insufficiently conversant in Christian doctrine.

The Jewish Code, of course, is as I described. You do the right thing because it's right, regardless of the fact that you know you have a way of evading personal punishment. I think that American law is informed by that selfsame ethos.

Tlaloc said...

"The Jewish Code, of course, is as I described. You do the right thing because it's right, regardless of the fact that you know you have a way of evading personal punishment."

And I always respected that about Judaism. Christianity has always been a carrot and stick routine though (at least in the mainstream, there are of course some very different sects out there).


"I think that American law is informed by that selfsame ethos."

God bless the separation of church and state, huh?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Actually, the ideal in this country is becoming the separation of conscience and state.

Very interesting that Dr. Harrison should so doggedly seek your approval like that, HB. Perhaps, as he attempts to justify his means with his ends, he's turning to your estimible self for a GOOHF card.

Jer 8:23 is aptly quoted, Jay.

Courtesy of the Wiki, John Paul II:

"The images of hell that Sacred Scripture presents to us must be correctly interpreted. They show the complete frustration and emptiness of life without God. Rather than a place, Hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy."

As we can see by the dourness of many around us, there is indeed Hell on Earth as well.

Matt Huisman said...

And the flip side is true as well. Christianity is just as much about enjoying the 'carrot' today as it is in eternity. We believe in doing the right thing because 1) we believe that our creator designed us to best operate that way AND 2) we do so out of love and respect towards Him. The point of this life is not merely to suffer through it until we are finally rescued into heaven or to get away with this or that before pulling out the magic GOOHF card - the point is to be part of God’s purposes while here on earth, all the while savoring the process of becoming more than a mere dust particle.

Jay D. Homnick said...

Thank you, Matt, for helping with that; my intuition told me that must be the case.

Matt Huisman said...

You're welcome Jay. Actually, I was just about to thank you (and Kathy) for the Balm of Gilead references...great stuff.

Apparently Dr. Harrison is not much into holistic medicine. Another fine example of the integrity of the medical profession, that's for sure. Exactly who's best interest is he looking out for when advising women in a vulnerable position that way?

Kathy Hutchins said...

Jay -- I was going to give you the explanation that Matt gave you, but he did it better. I just wanted to add that Catholics define a hierarchy of contrition. If I sin and repent of it because I am afraid I'll go to hell, that is imperfect contrition. Confessing sin in this frame of mind remits the eternal, but not the temporal, punishment due to me (i.e., I don't go to hell, but I do go to purgatory). If I repent a sin because I am horrified that I have offended God, whom I love above all things, that is perfect contrition. It is held that a sin for which I am perfectly contrite is washed away entirely; if I died at the moment of such contrition for all my sins, I would go straight to heaven.

One aim then, of a sincere Christian, is to cultivate the habit of mind that invites perfect contrition. A lot of Catholic devotional practice is directed at things like this -- the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, for instance. All the agnostic theorizing that Catholic sacramental confession amounts to limitless Get Out Of Hell Free cards just misses the point completely.

Tom Van Dyke said...

And thanks for the contrition refresher, Kathy. It's been awhile. ;-)

Jay D. Homnick said...

Kathy, the Jewish concept is virtually identical.

The Talmud (Yoma 86a) explains that when a person repents out of fear of consequences, he receives some clemency in the current moment. If he repents out of love of God, the sin is erased retroactively.

Further in the discussion (86b) it adds this point: If the penitence is based in fear, then the forgiveness only commutes the status of the sin from "wilful" to "negligent", which still requires some purgatory.

However, when the penitence is founded in love of God, then not only is the sin deemed to have never existed - the person is rewarded for having grown from the process!

(For a pitifully underperforming Jew, I still remember a thing or two from my studies - and I'm grateful for that.)

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Tom Van Dyke said...

Now that's some righteous spam.

(Altho I'm sure the praise of Mr. Homnick was quite sincere...)

(The security code I needed to type in to post this just now was "elijahe." Coincidence? I don't think so, Mr. Homnick.)

mdvoutlook.com said...

I saw this post this afternoon, but didn't have a chance to comment. I'm blogging about it myself. What blew me away was the ability people have to justify pretty much anything. The man himself admits to "destroying life" but continues to go at it with gusto, because that life to them is not as valuable as the mother's life.

You get the sense reading the piece that people didn't have to try this hard to justify abortion say 15 or 20 years ago. At one point they mention an ultrasound image of a little person, oops, I mean fetus, in a woman's body soon to be sucked out. "He sees the curve of a head, the bend of an elbow, the ball of a fist." Next ultrasound after the suction and presto, the "problem" is gone. Religious or not, Americans are increasingly ambivalent about abortion, because everyone knows just like Mr. Harrison (he ain't no doctor) that abortion destroys life.

Tlaloc said...

"The man himself admits to "destroying life" but continues to go at it with gusto, because that life to them is not as valuable as the mother's life."

Life means a lot of things. Every cell on your body is alive and every second of the day you are killing dozens or hundreds of them. Cellular life however is not something we worry about. It is organism life that concerns us. Guess which an early fetus is...

tbmbuzz said...

Cellular life however is not something we worry about. It is organism life that concerns us. Guess which an early fetus is...



And when does the transition from cellular life to organism life occur in the case of human beings? Is it when the baby is completely born, as so many extreme pro-abortionists claim?

mdvoutlook.com said...

Hogwash! Life doesn't mean "a lot of things". Life only means "a lot of things" to somebody who wants to justify taking it.

Tlaloc said...

"And when does the transition from cellular life to organism life occur in the case of human beings? Is it when the baby is completely born, as so many extreme pro-abortionists claim?"

I wouldn't think so. I've argued previously that the fetus transitions to an organism when it could (if removed from the womb) survive without being attached to life support.

Tlaloc said...

"Hogwash! Life doesn't mean "a lot of things". Life only means "a lot of things" to somebody who wants to justify taking it. "

I'm afraid you are wrong.

life ( P ) Pronunciation Key (lf)
n. pl. lives (lvz)

The property or quality that distinguishes living organisms from dead organisms and inanimate matter, manifested in functions such as metabolism, growth, reproduction, and response to stimuli or adaptation to the environment originating from within the organism.
The characteristic state or condition of a living organism.
Living organisms considered as a group: plant life; marine life.
A living being, especially a person: an earthquake that claimed hundreds of lives.
The physical, mental, and spiritual experiences that constitute existence: the artistic life of a writer.

The interval of time between birth and death: She led a good, long life.
The interval of time between one's birth and the present: has had hay fever all his life.
A particular segment of one's life: my adolescent life.
The period from an occurrence until death: elected for life; paralyzed for life.
Slang. A sentence of imprisonment lasting till death.
The time for which something exists or functions: the useful life of a car.
A spiritual state regarded as a transcending of corporeal death.
An account of a person's life; a biography.
Human existence, relationships, or activity in general: real life; everyday life.

A manner of living: led a hard life.
A specific, characteristic manner of existence. Used of inanimate objects: “Great institutions seem to have a life of their own, independent of those who run them” (New Republic).
The activities and interests of a particular area or realm: musical life in New York.

A source of vitality; an animating force: She's the life of the show.
Liveliness or vitality; animation: a face that is full of life.

Something that actually exists regarded as a subject for an artist: painted from life.
Actual environment or reality; nature.

adj.
Of or relating to animate existence; involved in or necessary for living: life processes.
Continuing for a lifetime; lifelong: life partner; life imprisonment.
Using a living model as a subject for an artist: a life sculpture.

But more to the point: when you have say your appendix removed you are killing living human tissue. Is it then murder? Of course not because we distinguish between life at the cellular (or even tissue or organ) level and life at the organism level.

Jay D. Homnick said...

Hey, MDV, I was gonna comment over at your place, but the comments were "off".

Nice piece.

But you scarfed my Isaiah quote that I used here on Veterans' Day in a blog called Call Me Ishmael (While I Burn Your Car). Well, you did add one more verse, and I don't suppose I have a monopoly on Isaiah.

Again, very nice piece.

mdvoutlook.com said...

Thanks, Jay. I turned the comments off because I was spamed a lot (get it), and it was becoming a huge pain. I need to take some time to figure out how to get comments without the other stuff.

And as for you Mr. tlaloc, more hogwash. You can be cute all you want and refuse to deal with the issue. What we are talking about is a unique human being, not plants or whatever other "life" you insist on confusing the issue with. The only reason that person will not become exactly like you or me is because somebody arbitrarily has determined that it is perfectly OK to kill that living being. Period.

Tlaloc said...

"And as for you Mr. tlaloc, more hogwash. You can be cute all you want and refuse to deal with the issue."

I am dealing with the issue MVD. You claimed life meant only one thing, I gave you both the dictionary and a logical proposition that say otherwise.



"What we are talking about is a unique human being, not plants or whatever other "life" you insist on confusing the issue with."

Alright, tell you what why don't you give me the definition you think works for "unique human being" and I bet I can show you how it either
A) doesn't include a fetus, or
B) includes a lot of things that we both know it shouldn't

put up time.

mdvoutlook.com said...

I might also say it's shut up time. You can show me anything you want. Intellectually cynical types like you (sorry to label you, but I've read lots of stuff here by you and you always seem to condescend to we mere mortals) always want to create difficulty and confusion where most of us average folks just don't see it. I never claimed life meant only one thing. You should be more careful. I am talking about a specific kind of life found in the womb of a pregnant woman. THAT life, I claim, is worthy of legal protection, because it is the life of a human being. It is incumbant upon those who think abortion is a fine and dandy thing to justify why drawing a line at 20 weeks or 24 weeks and a day or birth or whatever is somehow the right line to draw. Can't do it. Impossible. Oh of course they can do it, but it's completely arbitrary. I err on the side of life that says that a pre-born human being is life that is worth protecting. You should too.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Don't devalue yourself, mdv. We are all above average, each in our own way. You're doing just fine.

The definitions game is part of what the Greeks called sophistry, using words to win a point instead of the force of ideas.

Words are only the imperfect representation of ideas, and a clever sophist can use the limitations of words to strangle thought.

To hit the dictionary is the sophist's admission of defeat. When someone says they destroy life, we all know what that means.

Don't let the sophists intimidate you or get you angry. Stay gold, Ponyboy.

Matt Huisman said...

I'm alson not sure how far you can go with the idea that we're only concerned with life at the organism level, not the cellular. The reason that I'm not all that upset about losing a few skin cells is due to their particular function or essence. No matter how they are assembled, combined or multiplied, they will never become anything remotely like a person. The essence of the 'cells' up for discussion here is of infinitely greater significance.

Matt Huisman said...

Just following up on that last thought for a second...

The whole abortion debate is merely an example of the great divide in thought between the secular and religious. Our side is serious about this 'infinite value' concept - the life in question is going to exist in eternity and is therefore more important than the temporal interests of a mother or a state that will only exist for a limited time.

But what about you secular folks? Why is organism life more valuable than cellular life? All we're talking about is a few slightly different configurations of cells (my understanding is that 75% of my DNA – about 100% of my waistline – is similar to that of a pumpkin). The foundation here seems a little wobbly. But even still, organisms have at least some sense of directed self-interest going for them, and that should count for something. The hard part is that when you look at it that way, there are implications for how we should value things. Logic dictates that a person that lives only 80 years is certainly less valuable then a state or a civilization that may last for hundreds or even thousands of years. This is just another way of saying that your life as an organism is akin to that of a cell in the larger organism of civilization. And, of course, all we’re really concerned about is organism life – which is significant because…

Boy, meaninglessness is a bitch.

mdvoutlook.com said...

Thanks, Tom, for your kind words. I certainly don't devalue myself. The one thing I do not lack, just ask my family, is self confidence. My point was that intellectually very nimble people are often the dumbest people on the block. Common sense eludes them. Simple concepts, like life, must be complicated and esoteric. As you call them, clever sophists. Very good. What is confounding about such people is that debating them is completely worthless. They are professional agnostics. You say it's white, they say it's black. You say up, they say down. Like spitten' into the wind. All the while they bask in their own cleverness, while they descend into the meaningless of which Matt speaks so well.

Anyway, thanks again. Mike

Jay D. Homnick said...

Mike, you're making a very valuable point - about intelligent people often becoming sophists.

I am in the process of writing an article on a related point. But for here let's some it up by saying that there are certain uber-ideas that inform all others. If a person does not accept the premise that life is sacred or at least mysterious enough that it should not be messed with short of crystal-clear overriding priorities, then that person is entering the debate with a paradigm that will not allow for communication with the likes of you and me.

Jay D. Homnick said...

Oops, "sum" it up.

mdvoutlook.com said...

Jay, I can't wait for your article. Let us know when it's published. A thoughtful exploration of this subject will I am sure be a help to many. Thanks.