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    Mourdock's Crime is Theism

    Republicans can't seem to keep from diving into the nexus between rape and abortion during this "jobs, jobs, jobs" election.  Aside from the obvious - that this is probably a bad political play for a party that has a big gap with women voters nationally - it's been quite common during this cycle.  The latest such comment from a running GOPer comes from Richard Mourdock, the Tea Partier who primaried Indiana's Dick Lugar.  Mourdock recently made comments that have people comparing him with Missouri's Todd Akin.

    Todd Akin probably made the biggest such splash so far this year.  Of course, his comments about a woman's body shutting down pregnancy in the case of "legitimate rape" - a phrase which is troubling on its own, even out of context - were so biologically off base as to be laughable.  And laugh we would have, were the gambit not so obvious: if a woman's body shuts down all pregnancy in the case of "legitimate rape," then no woman who gets pregnant has actually been raped, at least not "legitimately."  In other words, her claims to the contrary must be bogus.

    But even if Mourdock's comment angles at the same policy proposal as Akin's, it is not the same.  Here is what he said:

    "I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."

    First of all, we should note that he is not making the horrifying and willfully ignorant statement about biology that Akin did.  He is not saying rape cannot lead to pregnancy.  On the contrary, what he is saying is that it can and does.  He also correctly regards rape as a horrible.  His comments do not offend because because they are scientifically ignorant or because they fail to put the proper weight on the act of rape.  Rather, these are the honest expressions of an earnest theist.

    Mourdock is essentially grappling with the problem of evil.  For those of you a few years out from philosophy 101, it goes a little something like this: if we allow that god is omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent as is claimed, how can evil exist in the world?  It's a philosophical doozy not easily reconciled.  Still, there have been myriad attempts.  Some have argued that there is a divine plan beyond their comprehension.  Some argue that evil is a test of faith.

    Like many of his contemporaries, Mourdock appears to believe that life, such as it is, begins at the very moment of conception and that it is the spark of divinity regardless of where or how it flickers.  This is the essential problem in the abortion debate.  If someone truly believes that an immortal soul is brought into existence at the moment of conception, can we be that surprised when they object to terminating it, whatever the grounds?  Regardless of someone having been raped, that would still be murder, would it not?  Even in situations where the life of the mother is potentially threatened by continuing the pregnancy, you're looking down the barrel of having to choose one soul over the other.  And a soul is a soul is a soul.

    Core beliefs like this, especially when held by people who hold their faith - essentially committing to hold the belief regardless of whatever comes - as the highest human virtue, cannot and will not be reasoned with.  In no way will you or should you be able to debate them away from their position, unless that debate should result in nothing short of a dissolution of that faith.  In that sense, Mourdock is nothing but a common, earnest theist, no more a monster than millions of his fellow Americans.



    It's true.  It can't be discussed.  You might as well tell the guy that he doesn't like ice cream.  But his theology is all kinds of messed up for a thinking, educated adult.

    I agree.  The trouble is that he truly represents a significant portion of Americans that genuinely share his belief.

    Yeah, it's a hard reality to face.  And I agree with CVille Dem below that one person's passionately held personal beliefs shouldn't be foisted on others.  But when part of that passionate belief is that it should be, and you've got a nation of millions at your back, well...

    Good thing we have a Constitution that's clear on a lot of things.  Too bad that abortion isn't explicitly mentioned and that the best the Supreme Court has done for us is a "right to privacy" argument that probably won't hold up forever and ever.

    Though really I think that conservative rich people are a big problem here.  They'll support biblical candidates because they know that whatever social legislation is passed will never truly affect them or their families.  They can just hire a doctor or go to Grenada or whatever.  It's the poor or middle class that have to live with the consequences of beliefs they might not share.

    But, you know all this.  We all do.  Feel like I'm shouting into the wind...

    I know the feeling!  But somehow I suspect that silence is not a superior alternative.

    Yup, that is exactly the problem.

    That strange woman who ran for the Senate against Reid--

    If you find yourself  with a lot of lemons, make lemonade.

    A much less appropriate phrase attached to a pregnancy caused by a rape; but the same sentiment.

    But if I understand the repub platform, even the likely death of the mother is not enough cause to allow abortion.

    No there is no Augustine or Aquinas in any of this reasoning; for sure.

    But deep down if one were to believe that a mother is simply the host of a gift from God; well you should be against abortion.

    From that angle we see a perspective on women that could find itself in a 14th century Mosque.

    Women are not people, they are temples.

    Ah, yes.  Sharron Angle.  Harry Reid beat her 50% to 45%.  As nuts as she was, she still almost won a Senate seat.

    I think Wisconsin's Roger Rivard probably wins Rapefest 2012:


    Another US Republican politician is under fire for remarks about rape, in this case saying, "some girls, they rape so easy".


    Wisconsin representative Roger Rivard first made the statement when discussing the case of a local high school student who'd been charged with sexual assault for having sex with an underage girl.


    The Chetek Alert paper quoted him in December as saying his father had warned him "some girls rape easy" - meaning that some girls could decide later that sex wasn't consensual.


    He doubled down on the comments in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Wednesday, saying he took his father's warnings about the dangers of premarital sex seriously.


    "He also told me one thing, 'If you do (have premarital sex), just remember, consensual sex can turn into rape in an awful hurry,"' Rivard told the paper.


    "Because all of a sudden a young lady gets pregnant and the parents are madder than a wet hen and she's not going to say, 'Oh, yeah, I was part of the program.'


    "All that she has to say or the parents have to say is it was rape because she's underage. And he just said, 'Remember, Roger, if you go down that road, some girls,' he said, 'they rape so easy.'


    "What the whole genesis of it was, it was advice to me, telling me, 'If you're going to go down that road, you may have consensual sex that night and then the next morning it may be rape.' So the way he said it was, 'Just remember, Roger, some girls, they rape so easy. It may be rape the next morning."'


    "Some girls, they rape so easy" is going to be hard to beat.  It's folksy; rolls right off the tongue.

    I agree that it is of no use to try to persuade;, but it is clearly a personal, religious belief. Those who don't share that belief should not be subject to laws based on someone else's religion.  

    I concur.  The trouble is that I don't think there can really be any debate with this sort of belief.  It really reinforces the all-or-nothing mode our politics increasingly operates in.

      I'm glad to read a sympathetic treatment of anti-abortion, which is a respectable position, although it isn't mine. If you really believe that the fetus is a human being,then you can't sanction abortion, except maybe if the woman's life in danger.

    Although I am personally not all that sympathetic to the particular view, I did indeed try to give a fair reading to Murdock's comments, so I appreciate the recognition for that.  I honestly get no sense from him that he's acting out of malice, which I think does distinguish his comments from Akin's.  You can't say what Akin said without willful ignorance of human biology and a transparent political agenda.

    On the other hand, even though Mourdock's political agenda is effectively identical, I really do think that he is expressing his views in earnest.  I even think that what he is saying makes sense if you grant what he happens to believe.  And I also know that many other people share his beliefs - people, for instance, who live and vote in the state of Indiana.

    With the little I have to go on in this particular case I think you are right. Mourdock looks to be a rarity among politicians who campaign around religious beliefs. On the abortion issue he is being intellectually honest as to what is required in order to live up to the 'truths' his faith has taken him to accept as God's command. 

    God save us from true believers. 

    You state the dilemma too broadly. I believe that the fertilized and emplanted embryo is a life, and its forcible ejection before independent viability is a "killing". I still believe that the decision to accomplish that end must reside solely with the embryo's host because of the evils that flow inevitably from any alternative legal structure.

    I think this is an interesting way to look at it.  It occurs to me that I see life in terms that are at least somewhat different.  Life appears to me to be far less discrete than the typical frame allows.  Gametes are life.  All cells are life.  Life is actually a broad continuum of as yet unknown origin.  I know that doesn't really work from the perspective of litigating the rights of discrete human entities, but I still think it's true.

    I sort of apply the common law rule regarding an "attempted"crime, viz., the accused has done all sufficient acts that barring some additional change of condition the crime will result. Put in reverse, an implanted embryo represents a situation in which all obtains that is necessary to produce a person, barring some change of condition.

    What most people don't realize is that conditions change at least 30% of the time. 30% of confirmed pregnancies after implantation end in miscarriage. Now most anti abortion zealots define "life" as the moment sperm meets egg, conception, not after implantation as you seem to. Factoring in the number of fertilized eggs that do not successfully implant, 75% of pregnancies end in miscarriage.

    Seems to me "god" aborts far more little "baby" fetuses than women. "God" makes them and wastes them like they are trash. Many doctors recommend waiting until after a women misses a menstrual cycle to test because so many of these darling little "babies" get flushed down the toilet by "god."

    A zygote is not a baby. A personhood amendment to the constitution is the stupidest idea I've ever heard.

    The only purpose in looking at Murdock's and other abortion foes views is to come to the realization that there is no middle ground compromise or win/win solution with these crackpot zealots. One side will win and the other will lose, there's no other solution.

    Mourdock can believe anything he wants, he can believe a Rape God sanctions life, that Jesus rode on dinosaurs, that the End Times are imminent, or that a magic uterus can shut itself off.

    He has made it perfectly clear he is running for the Senate to impose, by law, his religious beliefs on others. His 'core belief' is that he has the right to sit in judgment on, and use the law and government, to interfere with the health care of assaulted, raped, pregnant women.

    In doing so he is no different than other religious fanatics who, over the centuries and today with the Taliban, wish to dominate others with 'true faith' as justification.

    I agree with you, NCD.  I don't want to live under anyone's religious regime.  However, I do think that the distinction between Mourdock's comments and Akin's comments is germane.  Mourdock doesn't believe a rape god sanctions life.  He believes something that many other other people believe, quite a few of whom will be voting in the state of Indiana next month.

    A majority of Americans still favor abortion only in certain circumstances.  Pro-life identification is on the rise as well.  Quite a few of those people share Mourdock's beliefs.

    Mourdock and Akin are the same tribe, same beliefs, same mission.

    They are the flip side of the coin from the Sharia enforcing Mullahs in Taliban country, they hate gays, want to dominate women and unbelievers, and think they have a direct line to the Almighty. 

    They are dangerous people unhinged from reality, and their ilk have caused unbounded evil throughout history. Our framers knew this, which is why they banned state religion. The legislating of personhood for blastocysts, is the deranged folly of religious zealots.

    While I generally agree, I refer again to the polling data I linked previously.  A fifth of Americans want to ban abortion outright.  The majority want to restrict it.  That's plenty of true-believers in this two-party system.

    Disagree. While every good theist has wrestled with the problem of evil, it takes a certain kind of fanatical mind to believe that one has a good solution. Even those who do usually take a generic approach with broad references to the inscrutable will of God. Some people do deal with their own sense of loss by saying, for instance, God has take him/her to Heaven. But it's a rare motherfucker who would say: God intended your child/wife/husband to be murdered.

    Somehow I doubt that Mourdock made it this far in politics with that sort of attitude. Since he has no such qualms about telling people that God intended them to be raped, it suggests that he views rape with quite a bit less horror than most of us--much like "theists" the world over.

    I think that what Mourdock was saying is even more simple-minded than you suggest:  my reading of his comments is this --  "Rape is terrible," (no message that God was involved or even knows about that particular part of the event, because surely an all-knowing being wouldn't let it happen in the first place) BUT!!!!! "Once that terrible thing does happen, if a child is conceived, it is a GIFT from God and should be considered as some kind of holy intervention."

    The contradictions in this line of  speech occur all the time by the religious right and are rarely, if ever, challenged.

    Thanks, Cville. This makes some sense to me. It hinges on the meaning of "it is something that God intended to happen." If by it, Mourdock only meant the conception (after the rape), then I think your interpretation is right. I was reading it as the whole thing, as in God arranged or allowed the rape in order to create a child. But your reading does sound more plausible.

    Every sperm is sacred. The bitchez? Not so much.

    This has been a Reader's Digest condensed debate.

    I disagree with your reading and agree with CVille below.  I do not think Mourdock is saying that rape is divinely sanctioned.  Rather, he seems to be taking a view that, at least in my experience, is very common among a wide swath of Christians in contemporary America.  The general notion is that we somehow have free will, but we are expected to choose to be good.  The rapist is not heaven sent; rather, it is the arrival of the child, even in light of the tragedy of rape.  In other words, the Lord works in mysterious ways.  I think this is not only an accurate reading of Mourdock's comments, but it also the fairest reading.

    My larger point is that his view is not at all uncommon among many contemporary American theists, particularly Christians.  This is simply a part of our social, cultural and political reality.

    Fair enough, see my reply to Cville. I would only add that in that case, Mourdock's reasoning is not an attempt to address the problem of evil. The problem of evil asks why God allows rape and other miseries to occur. Cville's interpretation only raises the question of why God allows children to be conceived by rape, which is quite different.

    I think the way they're addressing it is that God has a plan.  He has intent beyond our comprehension.  Mourdock isn't saying that explicitly, but I'd bet that's what he'd say if asked.  That's certainly what his apology-ish speech seems to imply.  I don't think it's a satisfying answer to the problem, but I also think that St. Anselm gives me the giggles.  It's still an answer, it's just not satisfying to people who don't buy that there is an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving god who intervenes not to prevent rape, but to, as Dick Day so eloquently put it, make lemons out of lemonade as part of a design that is fundamentally beyond our comprehension.

    As I understand it, God allows stuff like rape because we are still believed to have free will.  I think that's the real hole in the logic.  If you grant everything they want to grant to god, it's absolutely no problem to say, "Look, this dude is infinite in ways your mind just can't grasp.  What you judge in your limited reason as evil acts are part of a plan you can't fathom."  What is a problem is to say that god can be both omnipotent and omniscient and that the rapist is still making a free choice.

    I guess you could try to stretch the answer to cover the free will problem as well, which is usually where the appeal to faith tests comes in.  Obviously, if god knows a rape is going to occur and has the power to stop it, but doesn't, then he might as well have committed the rape himself, right?  In my experience, the answer here is usually that god is allowing us to choose good or evil in order to test us morally.  Of course, that's just as maddening because it doesn't really work.  Either god knows what we're going to do before we do it - ie, god is omniscient - or does not.  If god knows what we're choosing, how can it be a choice?

    At any rate, I know this is well-worn territory.  My main point is that I think Mourdock's comments are actually far less impolitic and far closer to the actual views of a lot of Americans than some of the other noxious comments we've heard this year about the same issue.

    I think they're confusing it with pederasty, where young boys can be screwed from here to Sunday at Bible camp, Boy Scout camp, Penn State football camp, and they never get pregnant, God be praised.

    It's strange that these folks have such an "Inch'allah" mindset yet they abhor Islam. And I'm willing to bet they have no sympathy about prison rapes, and as many have shown, equate extramarital sex with rape and debauchery. Or just Rush's slut-shaming re: the use of contraception (which was actually about hormone treatment, but nevuh-mind)

    I'm typically supportive of religous folks having their beliefs in public and can sympathize with counter-positions on abortion, but sometimes when little minds try to unite primitive religious thought with issues of health, morality and acts of inhumanity, the mind simply boggles. Of course if we're daily confronted with morality tales of asses that talk back, wrestling with angels so you can kill the first son, and stoning disobedient sons, (the aptly named Charlie Fuqua here) you can sympathize with their agitated state of mind. 

    It's truly bizarre that so many so-called Christians are enthralled with the Old Testament but seem profoundly ignorant of the New.

    Dude. Good to hear ya. A quibble.

    Ok, ok, a fundamental disagreement. ;-) 

    Your headline - catchy though it is - is, to put it reasonably, "Jackshit crazy hepped up on drugs and in no fucking way supported by reason."

    See, Mourdock may be a frigging moron. (Is.) And his particular set of beliefs, which he attaches to the term "God," may be frigging moronic. (Are.) 

    But. Mourdock... is not.... theism. 

    Now, I know what you're getting at. But after a bit, I find I'm getting really frustrated with the debate in the States. Atheists are (quite rightly) incredibly frustrated with having to deal with freakazoid fundis like Mourdock, who are always (lately) pushing this idiocy in the public square. 

    That said, this is not the only kind of theism available, nor the only kind of Christianity. And some stances, even some built around faith, are entirely and completely able to engage with you, and other God-hating treason-loving morality-free atheistic punks, such as Destor. (Or whatever bullshit name he's calling himself these days. "Michael?" Yeah right. There's a real name. Snicker.) 

    Really, theism isn't a crime. Nor does theism necessarily bring in its wake defences of rape, or opposition to abortion.

    As a comparator, I could walked into some looney-tunes atheist strongholds over the past century - think Stalin's USSR or Mao's China - and seen some really astronomically evil approaches to child-bearing, rape and abortion. This should not be written off against "atheism."

    Please remember. People like Martin Luther King were theists. Just because this segment of American life has been driven from the public square is no reason to assume they don't exist, and no reason to think they think like Mourdock.

    To be clear, I am not accusing Mourdock of a crime or even generalizing theism as a crime.  I did use the word for effect in my title, but by it I only mean that he's currently being raked over the coals and besieged by demands for apology and repudidenounciafication, as has become the custom.  He has certainly committed the crime of the Kinsley gaffe.  I think my treatment of his views was reasonably fair.

    I completely agree that this is not the only brand of Christianity or theism.  It is, however, incredibly common - significant enough to have impact culturally and politically.  The point here is that while it indeed takes all kinds, Mourdock is of a kind, not some lone nut rambling out of turn.  He is earnestly expressing a belief that a lot of Americans hold.  That's a fact.

    Again - and we've disagreed about this before - I don't agree with you that cults of personality are non-religious.  The fundamental flaws in reason are actually identical in religion and in the regimes you mention.  Look at modern day North Korea.  Is it atheistic?  It has no resemblance to contemporary secular humanism whatsoever.  I see why you present it as a counter-point in that it's just as ridiculous as claiming all theists are criminals, but I definitely do not mean to claim that.

    I have mad respect for MLK.  There are many people who can be fairly classified as theists that I admire.  The ultimate problem, as I see it, is with anyone who puts beliefs before all else.  If you arrive at the answer first and then go find the evidence, you're doing it wrong.  You're also firmly outside of the realm of the reasonable, regardless of whether you're a theist or not.

    Anyhow, I hope that makes more sense.  Glad you're still haunting this place.

      The obvious retort when people talk about the killing and persecution religion is responsible for is to say "what about the atheist regimes like Communism and Nazism?" But we don't have to choose between theocracy and secular totalitarianism; there is a third option: liberal humanism.

    Quite right, although I, like my friend quinn, would quibble.  First, as I mentioned above, Communist regimes bear far more resemblance to a religion than they do to atheism.  If you read Marx on religion, he is rejecting it as a dogmatic power structure.  Stalin essentially put himself in the place of god in a nearly identical structure.  At any rate, to act like there's no daylight between Stalin and Dawkins is as daffy as conflating Stalin and Obama.  The issue, whether we're talking about an official religion or not, is dogma versus doubt.

    On the Nazis, I'm always confused as to why they are categorized as atheists.  Hitler referenced God and Christianity repeatedly in his writings and speeches.  The Nazi party also had a fairly cozy relationship an interesting relationship with the Catholic church.  Also, no atheist I would recognize would wear this:

    I know that no one wants to claim the bastard, but he was no atheist.

    "Jackshit crazy hepped up on drugs and in no fucking way supported by reason. 

    You gotta problem with that? Gettign old, buddy, getting old...

    Apologies. Was trying to fake a "voice of reason."

    Can't seem to suss it.

    No prob, we got your desk dungeon saved for you anytime you want it back. You were always our most enthusiastic worker, made it worth the extra liability coverage.

    Mourdock's crime is not his theism, it's the fact that he's a politician. 

    Statesmen/politicians who want to impose their religious viewpoints on the rest of us don't belong in politics.

    I'd love an America where everyone who runs for a governing position is agnostic. 


    Better yet, how about one where all acknowledge and respect another's right to have their own religious beliefs (or none), as well as strictly adhere to separation of church and state?!?

    I enjoyed reading this blog, thanks, but please do permit my dissent.

    I am a theist, and have have found myself all over the map--including a long stint of anti-theism--in my 53 years (this week is my b-day--no gifts please!).  I do not now and have never believed that G-d's will stands behind every transgression committed by human beings.  Heck, even the theists who subscribe to the Bible can't believe that because otherwise Cain's assault on brother Abel would have been thwarted by some magic wind or whatever.  Remember G-d wasn't too happy when he couldn't find Abel.  Why didn't he know what was happening?  Or did he know and he was just messin' with Cain's head? wink

    But in the end I  don't care what is the source of Mourdock's inhumane perspective on rape and abortion; I do care and am deeply concerned that he seeks to apply that perspective in the public realm.

    I'm not an expert on Judaism, but I do dabble in the faith more than most around these parts I suppose, and at least with respect to that tradition (and maybe other theistic faiths), to question and to doubt and to debate is fundamental (no pun intended).  So perhaps you're generalizing a bit to the extent you believe that faith is necessarily synonymous with an intransigent belief system.   

    And to make this less personal and to swerve into the political, how do you reconcile the asserted criminality of theism with the MLKs of the world whom you admire?  I'm not sure I understand how you do that.

    Thanks.  Always a pleasure to read your stuff.



    Thanks for the comments, Bruce.  I am generalizing, but I think fairly.  I am, after all, writing about the social and political in contemporary America.  By my understanding, most Americans identify as Christian.  Furthermore, there's a significant swath of those Christians that are, for the lack of a better descriptor, of the evangelical variety.  What I mean by this specifically is that there are those Christians who hold faith to be the thing.  This is not true for all Christians in America, but for those that do it is a significant factor.  They believe that salvation comes from adherence to faith alone.  They do not take to heart what Paul wrote in Corinthians when he said that the greatest virtue was love/charity.  They don't believe that salvation is in the work.  Faith is it, all else be damned.

    A brief aside on Judaism: from my personal experience, I have noticed a difference in the culture with respect for doubt and debate.  I have had some interesting and rollicking debates with Jewish friends over the years.  Though I really have any face time with a rabbi myself, I frequently found myself regaled in these discussions by accounts of very interesting debates with rabbis.  It just always struck me that it seemed a much less dogmatic environment and conversation.  Having that said, it's a different culture than that of evangelical Christianity.

    I want to perfectly clear on the point that I am not accusing Mourdock or theists in general of a crime.  I used to the word crime because it seems to me to fit the way he's being publicly pilloried, as was Todd Akin.  However, unlike Akin, I think he is expressing his genuine views and that those views are shared by a significant number of Americans.  I don't mean that theism is generally criminal at all.  So, that's how I reconcile it!

    Anyhow, good the hear from you, Bruce.

    Good post.

     I think we over rate flesh. Flesh is fungible, in my view, and souls are what matter and are distinct. Souls are not in infinite supply and the higher power assigns them in a manner which will never become explicit and for purposes of his own amusement.

    A grown man who fanatically defends a clump of cells which might be detained elsewhere by virtue of an interruption in its attachment to a womb is , in my opinion, self absorbed with the thought---"...what if that clump of cells had been me?"  This question speaks to the desire of a child to be omnipotent and may be an indication of a less than fully adult person. 

    My segue is a more lengthy work in progress, so I'll just jump to my conclusion: 

    Mourdock is a juvenile. 

    You might say that he's a dreamer, but he's not the only one...

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