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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Manifesto

Manifesto for a New Mind and Morality

The Global Political Economy is failing. The dominant arrangements of doing business, creating and maintaining wealth, and providing the means of livelihood are now threatening humanity by threatening the very conditions of human life. 

The signs of this threat are:
  • The growing gap between the extremely poor and the extremely rich and a dwindling middle class.
  • The numerous popping bubblesof boom and bust stressing families and neighborhoods.
  • The reliance for profit on disasters including war and ecological adversity.
  • The depletion of earth, social, and political resources.
  • The rapid warming of the earth and change of climate threatening future generations.
  • The growing volatility within and among nations and groups.
  • The frequent resort to violence and militarism.
  • The loss of localism in business and commerce; and the increasing concentration of power in transnational corporations with little allegiance to the community or nation of origin.
  • The separation of owners, workers, communities, and the earth.
  • The dependency on massive financial institutions that control the supply and value of money.
  • The ideological clashes irresolvable because of the contradictions in the fundamental premises of the old global economy.
While the effects of this economy are already devastating to the extremely poor, the devastation to the human species as a whole is not that far away.  This argues for a sense of urgency to change our behavior profoundly and quickly. The rising appreciation of the destructiveness of the present global economy presents an opportunity to consider a different political economy, a sustainable or post-capitalism, by which humans would act more in concert with themselves, their neighbors and communities, and the earth, which is the primary condition of their life. 

Such a political economy would:
  1. Maintain the relationship between economy and ecology
  2. Support all the capitals of human being, not just financial assets, to build true wealth holistically.
  3. Represent an inside-out strategy that builds wealth on local, earth-based and community assets.
  4. Base itself on an ethic of integrity, which is neither relativist nor absolutist, but holds creative tension in all dimensions of human being.
  5. Nourish a politics of inclusion through interacting voluntary associations or publics to build a wealth in which all people profit.
  6. Use measures of success that relate to maintaining and growing true wealth and the personal and public happiness of persons rather than the accumulated capacity to use up or consume.
  7. Allow all persons options for livelihoods that are risky, creative, instructive, and satisfying of their deepest aspirations without the necessity of sacrificing the basic needs and conditions of life.
The highway to a new economy is neither incidental reform nor absolutist revolution. Reform that keeps the present arrangements and institutions or Revolution that brings in a utopian new order through force will not lead to a sustainable economy.  Acting for a living, humane economy must be systemic and holistic, i.e. an economy constructed on entirely new principles and consisting in totally new arrangements in the way we do business with one another, yet building on and with our present communities and institutions. It will come not from a powerful and enlightened elite the top, nor from radically dejected victims at the bottom.  It will develop from the inside out, within local communities, demonstrating the link of gaining livelihood and fostering the life processes of the earth in accords with the basic integrity of human existence and nature.

While the move to a new economy is urgent, it seems at times to be impossible.  There are overpowering delusions that are holding us back. These delusions include the myth of the invisible hand,some transcendent intelligence that arises out of and guides individuals working for their own selfish interests without interference from others or the community. Another is the collectivist utopiaunder the authority of some religious or governmental leader or party. Still another delusion is absolute truth,revealed by a World Spirit or Omniscient Entity, written in a holy book or constitution or philosophy that removes the human spirit from the responsibility of dealing with the messiness of matter.

More formidable are the institutions in which we have encased ourselves for our own survival that perpetuate the present economy: religious, educational, and cultural institutions, transnational corporations, and separate states whose officials are plutocrats or in the employ of oligarchs.

But this is not a time for the self-fulfilling prophesies of despair. It is the time for action out of hope in the regenerative ability of humanity.

A renewed political economy requires a new mind and a new morality that is happily revealing itself now in actual actions and events throughout the world. These acts of transformation are already transitioning our behavior towards a sustainable politics and economy.

These acts of transformation include:
  • New ventures in earth friendlymanufacturing and agriculture.
  • Renewable energy enterprises to displace carbon-emitting producers.
  • Urban planning and development for sustainable communities and agriculture.
  • Government agencies partnering with local communities and cities to develop green energy and transportation infrastructure, universally accessible internet, and public education accessible to all.
  • Private investment in community-building economic ventures.
  • Community-oriented businesses and cooperatives. Corporations accountable to workers and community stakeholders over shareholder profit.
  • Policies for security in meeting all basic life needs including nourishment, education, health, mobility, and shelter for all human beings.
  • Experiments in liberating education that fosters innovation in science and art, creative earth-friendly technology, entrepreneurship in producing the means of livelihood, and shaping a personal and communal path to knowledge that is not measured by financial accumulation.
  • Organization and development of voluntary organizations that promote a new, living economy and hold public and private institutions accountable.
Through these activities seeded, planted, and nourished in local communities, fostered by public and private investment and support, and exemplifying a new mind and morality, economic arrangements and institutions are organizing themselves that will replace the present unsustainable economy.

The mind and morality of the sustainable economy is founded on an emerging new image of human transcendence and a renewed ethic of integrity.  Our task is to promote these acts of transformation through personal engagement and public policy (including investment and taxation). Our task is also to contemplate and disseminate the new emerging image of human transcendence and the ethic of integrity.


Our task is urgent and daunting. There is no time or place for cynicism. We need to engage in and promote thousands of transformational acts, large and small, and build a movement through which we are in communication with each other to nourish the emerging mind and morality of the new sustainable economy. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Original Sin (Again)

The best instance,  illustration, and explanation of what theologians calls original sin or the sin of the world is the most recent (June 2014) cover story in The Atlantic, the Case for Reparations, by Ta-Nihisi Coates. (Watch his interview with Bill Moyers http://billmoyers.com/episode/facing-the-truth-the-case-for-reparations/).

White supremacy is built into our culture, our economics, our politics from the beginning of the nation and much before within the European and Western order. We are all, black, white, and brown, born into this social order which shapes our person and behavior. I won't even try to summarize Coates' thesis. He does it so well.

I would only add that we also need to make the link between racism in America (and elsewhere) with class analysis as did Michael Harrington in the 1960s. Our economic system and the politics that serves it and the culture which rationalizes it is inherently unjust and violates the very integrity of the human person and community. That's why it is important to read Piketty's book along with Coates (or watch the interview with him http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=11858#.U3eqmh2agzU.facebook).

Overcoming the sin of the world consists in both 1) transforming our social systems so that they are just, but also 2) repairing the damage to exiting families and societies that have been injured. Righteous patriots and defenders of the status quo, no matter their race or class, will oppose this in the name of their God and the original sin will go on despite the efforts of great non-violent change agents like Jesus, Ghandi, Oscar, Martin, Malcolm, Harriet, Su Kyi, and Nelson.

The hope for justice to overcome the sin of the world of racial, class, gender exclusion and oppression is the light of empathy and integrity that is born into every new child. That light stimulates questioning of existing habits and addictions, innovative experiments in new social orders, and connection to all that exists in existence itself. Let it shine!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

On Revolution

Isn’t time we had another revolution? If Jefferson said that every generation should, aren’t we way overdue?

Arguably all progress comes through revolution: agrarian, axial, protestant, industrial, scientific, democratic.  Not the absolutist Pol Pot kind that tries to wipe out the present for some unrealized past or idealized future, e.g. destroying sinners for the sake of Paradise. But the kind that, while dealing in the messy now, is indeed fundamentally transformative instead of just tinkering around the edges.

Recent revelations that the segregation of the rich has significantly increased since 1980, that the Federal Reserve and the Wall Street banks are steering the political and financial ship, that worker wages have decreased for the past 30 years, that the global economy is structured to foster inequality, that computerization will wipe out 37% of existing jobs, that a whole generation of young people of color have been effectively cut off, that we continue on the brink of war including nuclear, that Mother Earth is defending herself against our species, all these call for revolution which is more than an addition of a few new programs. 

And perhaps the revolution has already begun and we in our gated bubbles just don’t realize it.

A revolution doesn’t have to be violent. Some, however, would say ours already is if you consider the struggles in Arab and former Soviet Union countries, blowback by terrorist groups, the imprisonment and gang warfare linked to the war on drugs, and the run for guns to protect oneself from aliens.

But to be truly transformative, a revolution affects the three major dimensions of being human and the relations among them. Economy (the word comes from G. oikos or “household”): the system of behaviors that maintain and foster life and livelihood. Politics (from G. polis or “commons”): the system of behaviors through which humans achieve freedom and power. Culture (from L. cultivare or “cultivate): the system of behaviors in which humans find meaning.

Economy for life, politics for power, culture for meaning. Each relates to a fundamental motive for human behavior: self-interest, affiliation, and value—all linked to our desire for respect. And each has its own set of institutions.  Economy, the private realm, has markets, trade, business, and that great invention of the 19th century, the modern corporation. Politics, the public realm, has government agencies, parties, cities and states, communities, and voluntary associations. Culture, the realm of ideas has churches, schools, institutes, universities, media, and now think tanks. A revolution doesn’t destroy, but transforms institutions to their roots.

My generation tried in the 60s and 70s when protesting war, racism, and poverty. But we got stuck. The generation before built the labor and womens movement. We got some good programs, but hardly a transformation of the social order so that it would no longer require war, bigotry, and poverty. I am hoping that the new generation will. And I see some evidences for my hope.

The revolution is starting with threats and alternatives to the dominant economy, with organizations that challenge government and its priorities, and with the rewriting of the cultural narrative that gives meaning to our private life and public action. To be successful it needs to be all three.

Citizens start by fostering publics—free associations of persons through their neighborhoods, congregations, workplaces, schools, and businesses, which can build common spaces to hold government, banks, corporations, churches and all our institutions accountable. In the process they build relationships and acquire knowledge of the roots of problems, which they translate into actionable issues and policies.

Thoughtful economists, business and labor people start by identifying the fiscal, monetary, and financial social habits of production and consumption. Working with those left out, they will study how the existing economy, sanctioned by the predominant religion and ruling the political sector, is related to growing inequity among class, to war in protecting economic interests, and to residential segregation and its effects on education, employment, and ecology.

Philosophers, theologians, and artists will help publics critique the dominant ideology that is sanctifying the existing political economy. They participate in telling a new story that gives meaning to a transformed economy and politics. The new story re-imagines the meaning of work, the place of the sacred, and the human spirit.

Skillful organizers, thoughtful scientists, and imaginative storytellers need to converge to make the revolution come. And they are. I see them. I read them. I know them.

But change is not inevitable, nor is it quick, as revolutionaries of the absolute mind would have it. It takes patience, persistence, and positioning. Above all, it takes power, the ability of people to act together. Not the authority of pope or president, not the control of capital and labor, not the violence of state or militias, but rather people speaking and acting together to share their stories, to strengthen their households, and to shape their cities will bring the next revolution.

Come on fellow citizen revolutionaries! No time for cynicism. We can do it.

Rollie Smith April 10, 2014


Rollie Smith is a social activist philosopher.  He is finishing a book The Next Revolution. You can contact him at www.rolliesmith.us.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Original Sin or Blessing?

I am in a church community that stresses original blessing over original sin. Matthew Fox who wrote a book called Original Blessing and Telhard de Chardin SJ (Phénomène Humaine) were both criticized by orthodox theologians for not having an adequate theology of sin.

For this dialectical thinker of irony, original sin and original blessing are two poles of our existence-as-tension between past and future, self and other, person and community. In other words, it's not either-or, but both-and. (There are many of course who don't want to talk about "blessing" or "sin" at all but can still, I trust, accept the concepts of good and evil. Blessing is the recognition of good and sin is the recognition of evil in a person or society. Okay?)

What we affirmers of blessing object to with the sin-people is the myth developed by Augustine in which Jesus, as Son of God, is sacrificed to appease his wronged Father God. This story parallels the Hebrew story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac in obedience to Yahweh's demand. (BTW Many Hebrew Scripture scholars think that the story of Isaac was actually a way of stopping human sacrifice in Hebrew religion--though chickens, goats, and bulls need still beware.)

We don't blame Augustine for this story since he was speaking to a populace in which religion was often a matter of appeasing the gods through sacrifice. (Hell, I sacrificed some good gin in a libation to Pele once when we visited her bubbling Hawaiian Volcano.) But it does present an awful image of a blood-thirsty God--though I guess in line with the mysterium tremendum experience the fear of influences beyond our control. Christian salvation is achieved through a washing in the blood of the Lamb. "Eat His Body, Drink His Blood," we sing in the Sacrifice of the Mass. Ugh!!

Augustine's story also supports a social order of autocracy and pacification by a separate class of holy men under the authority of, well, the Authority. This may have been desirable as the authority of the Roman Empire was breaking down to perhaps help build some stability first with Constantine under a unified Christendom up to the Holy Roman Empire with Charlemagne and all that. It helps keep people in line.

Another image, which the original blessers took, is the "inner light." This was adopted by the Eastern Church from Gnosticism and the Gospel of John. Quakers and Universalists adopted this metaphor and it is very much a part of the Buddhist narrative. A divine spark is present in every one born but needs to be found and fanned to grow into the consuming conflagration of Love. In this model Jesus (and others, e.g. Buddha) are teachers and organizers who assist people find that spark and grow it. This certainly fits the contemporary evolutionary or development model. However, it can lead to the notion of inevitable progress so as the Detroit Edison Company used to say: "Progress is our most important product and every day in every way we grow better and better." Or it may lead to the individualistic Horatio Alger myth of pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps.

I think the synthesis comes when we drop the sacrifice narrative of Augustine and replace it with the Johanine and Pauline symbol of "sin of the world." This recognizes that while everyone is born with the "divine light," they are also born into a world that suppresses their light, that is, in established systems that keep people economically poor, politically excluded, and culturally disrespected. And, to  oppose the Horatio Alger myth, power is a collective noun: the ability to act in concert with others. Power is not authority bestowed from on high. It is taken through organized action.

In Jesus' day the evil was the rule of Rome with its vassal Herod and his high priests in a patronage system that oppressed the common-folk farmers and laborers. Dom Crossan and others think that Jesus was killed not to be a sacrifice to God, but because he attacked that dominating system by treating the common folk as the inheritors of the self-determining "Kingdom of God"--as opposed to the patronage reign of Caesar and Herod's. He associated with and cared more about the "least of these" than he did the patrons. To the ruling class he was a heretic, a traitor, an enemy of church and state. So his light was extinguished, but is illuminated again in every revolutionary community and person.

In our day, the sin of the world is an economic system that rewards the wealthy and penalizes the poor, a political system under the influence of the wealthy that excludes many from full participation, and a cultural system with a religion that sanctifies class, clan, race, sex, gay, immigrant exclusion. Even Augustine's sacrificial model of morality has been co-opted in this by urging people to suffer with Christ awaiting delivery in patience. That political economy which we have inherited and in which we all participate is the original sin that must be overcome by a true revolution which does not wipe out the past and its institutions, but uses them to radically transform the world and its institutions--including religion and its dogmas.

To overcome injustice requires organization among the have-nots, collaboration with sympathizers among the haves, and hope in the future. Combining our divine sparks and being attracted by the conflagration of Love in the future is the formula for human and world transformation. Letting my little light shine with others will light up the world or, if you want, open all of us to the Light to come.

______________________

A note: Narratives matter. (As do symbols and metaphors.) Augustine, opposed to the Gnostics, set the narrative for Europe and Western Christianity in both its Roman Catholic and Protestant forms. The soul is a natural light but needs to be upgraded by an illumination (grace) from God who is outside nature. This leads to the body/soul, object/subject, and nature/supernature split. Positive developments of this theology is recognition of nature and matter, the "world," as other, a force to be conquered. Science, industrialism, and capitalism is well supported by this western narrative--as MaxWeber illustrated.  But so is the ravaging of the earth.  Eastern theology, incorporating Gnostic insights, is more pantheistic, mystical, and relational in character. Its narrative supports more the evolutionary force from within nature towards greater connectedness and unity--and the inherent divinization of matter, humanity, and the earth.  I think the new narrative for our time and place needs to be attentive to both.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Notion of God

A good friend recently said, after reading my essays on religion and ethics, that my god is like that of the "Godless Capitalists and their state religion." My god, he said is "reason, rationality, and the ability to think out thoughts that are grand, just, all embracing, capable of growth and development, inviting others to enter and converse, politically correct, culturally acceptable, succinct, respectful, tolerant, fairly clear, and desiring acceptability."

Mine is a god "without any discussion of God, a world unto itself that is unreal and will never come to be because there are too many Taliban out there to allow its simple unspoiled existence." My god, he said, is as "faceless as idols and yet is a mirror reflection but afraid of the deeper heart that must be constantly evolving" and is "just as human as what Adam and Eve tried to construct." "And in the rising sea, fading coral, vanishing wildlife, and surging tide of have-nots clamoring at the tide of billionaires," my god "will breathe its last, because to put it simply, it is mortal and is too fearful to accept morality -- and surrender to a Higher Power."

In his assessment I find a very close unity with him in intent (or what philosophers call "intentionality" meaning existential direction or even vocation), though a clear disagreement in expression. To me, the former is much more important than the latter. I shout my solidarity with his intent and want to continue to engage him in our common directionality,  especially in dethroning the gods that now rule our culture, economy, and politics.  However, I first need to assure him that what he has described is not my god even though I do affirm many of the attributes he articulates.

I try not to have a god though I know that trying doesn't make me godless.  The struggle against the idols and illusions of our world never ends. But I generally have ceased God-talk because God is a symbol in a narrative that I have found has bad (even if unintended) consequences. That doesn't make me an atheist. Both theism (as mono or poly) and atheism are narratives that many have found useful over the ages in giving them a sense of meaning and therefore endurance in the trials of life. But when they become fixed doctrines with absolute symbols and defined rituals to which others must convert, I have no more patience with them.

With people for whom God-talk is still important, I sometimes employ the language of "Spirit of Love" or "Meaning of Life" or "Transcendent Unity." But even those terms can imply some Being out-there, all-powerful and all-knowing, who commands obedience, submission, surrender, and the acceptance of the truth He has revealed, which is written, interpreted, and managed by special representatives. That is the narrative I reject. It is a narrative that often sanctifies classes and autocracy, that rationalizes extraordinary clans, nations, and institutions, that puts responsibility for the discovery and creation of meaning outside the human collaborative, and that legitimates a few enlightened ones to call the shots.  (Terry Prachett in his "Discworld" series does a masterful job of dealing with this narrative; but I think that calls for a separate reflection.)

My meaning narrative (or, if you will, notion of God) is evolving. One key point in its evolution I recall was a series of sittings with Clarence Liu who was then a priest and vicar general for the Catholic Diocese of Honolulu and Rashi Tenoye, head of the Zen Dojo in Kalihi Valley and our sensei. Zen Buddhism is neither theistic nor atheistic, but a practice of sitting, breathing, meditating to quiet the brain chatter and open one's self for an encounter with -- and here you can name it if you want -- Spirit, Reality, Love, Wholeness, God, Interconnection with All, Universe, Singularity. Together the three of us read Meister Eckhart and discussed his illogical poetic expressions from Christian Mystic and Mahayana Buddhist perspectives.

I experienced that, through our words in sentences and stories, we can get back to the very act of speaking that defines us all and from which all the diverse words, sentences, stories emanate. That creative act of authentic speech at the very point of initiation reveals itself as not-words, not-expressions, not-symbols as words, expressions, symbols are being uttered. This singularity prior to, but simultaneous with, symbolic expression including speech, art, science, logic, philosophy is for me the point of connection with the All, Nothingness, the Transcendent, the Divine. The narratives, the koans, the rituals, the art and all the symbolic expressions that give meaning to the world originate here and now and with--the point of presence. This is the connecting point between humanity and divinity or of divinity in humanity. I learned not to confuse the spoken with the speaking, the symbols with symbolic act,  religion with the religious, and to never, ever accept a doctrine, a truth, a world as done, complete, absolute.

"Transcendence" became meaningful to me as an ongoing activity of innovation by using what has been given to us in order to critique it and pass on to greater understanding. Transcending existence is Lonergan's pure desire to know, Bergson's élan vital, Chardin's growth of consciousness through complexification, Merleau-Ponty's existential intentionality, Ignation spiritual development, Einstein's skepticism, Rifkin's empathic globalization, and so on and on.

I experience the singularity, which continually calls into question what we have just learned and said and which drives us to transcend, as the sense of presence here, now, and with. In everything I say and do, even when I am focused on persons, things, and happenings in the world, I have a background presence of my relationship with space, time, and others in the world which is also a reach for infinity.  It is in this relationship that the notion of God by whatever name appears. It appears in the tension of my existence, the point of contact to the inner and outer, spirit and world, self and other, reason and affection, a primal relationship which is not past nor future, not absolute nor relative, not being nor nothing, not virtual nor real, not image nor reality. It is the singularity where all the formulas and narratives begin and break down, encountered at the very point from and to which thinking and loving, reason and affection, nothingness and reality emerge and return.

My notion of God is the transcending existence that I am and that we are at the point of presence, here, now, with. My meaning narrative is the description of the emergence of being from nothingness that I experience in our journey beyond and before all expressions which I can inchoatively express in psychological and sociological, biological and historical terms. I need not prove an Absolute--like the Objective of Lonergan's pure desire to know, Teilard or Deutsch's Omega Point in evolution, Hegel's End of History, Aristotle's First Cause that winds it up, Calvin's Divine Monitor that rescues it. Nor can I. I need only affirm my and our own transcending existence and keep it activated. My faith surpasses all belief.

[I build my notion of transcending existence on the judgment that all knowledge is symbolic, that our encounter with the world is through symbols--ever complexifying images and models through which we achieve reality, meaning, truth. Imagination is the capacity that defines our species, that allows us to recall the past and map the future, to create a self and form a world, to feel an other and build a community. But that epistemology is matter for another essay.]

My notion of transcending existence is radical, heretical, and treasonous because it calls into question all belief. It undermines the foundations of all institutions. It denies the untouchability of any person, place, thing, society, nation. All culture including its religious content, the economic system by which life and wealth are sustained, and the public realm including its system of government are vulnerable to critique and change. Transcendence is discovered in the stories of revolution and the biographies of revolutionaries in religion, art, science, politics, economics, and philosophy. My notion of God is a stirring to revolutionary action that keeps me from surrendering to higher powers by stirring up power in those in lower ranks--the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, the disrespected--to take on those higher powers.

But that too--the call to revolutionary action--is matter for another reflection.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Abortion and Violence

Abortion is violence.

I developed my thoughts on violence in dialogue with political thinker Hannah Arendt along with theologians Paul Tillich and Reinhold Niebuhr, sociologist Max Weber, and more recently evolutionary biologists and psychologists like Paul Bloom, Aaron Goetz, DM Buss. Violence, the use of physical force, including the taking of animal and human life, is consistent with human nature as we have evolved. But also consistent with human nature is non-violence in avoiding and settling conflicts and building a non-coercive space for free interaction with living beings, humans, and the world.

Violence belongs to the realm of necessity. Non-violence to the space of freedom. We use violence to satisfy life's needs including production, consumption, reproduction, and the protection of our genetic future. But in the space of freedom where justice is pursued, the coercion of violence is not appropriate except to protect the realm of necessity. Thus violence may be necessary; and indeed it is to serve and protect life. But violence is never an end in itself and can never be justified in civil society. Civilization, the place where persons are citizens, seeks to minimize violence especially in human affairs.

Abortion, like any surgical invasion, is an act of violence and therefore should never be performed except when necessary. Nor indeed should cosmetic surgery, capital punishment, suicide, torture, the killing in war unless it is judged as necessary. But who makes the judgment of necessity? In the case of surgery and assisted suicide, it is the person upon whom the operation will be done (or his/her legitimate and informed guardian) who will make that decision. In the case of war and punishment (and possibly torture and other constraints on enemies), it is the state--the legitimate government of the public or the citizens in deliberative assembly.

Those who consider abortion as a medical procedure for birth control or for the good life of the mother usually do not support abortion because it is an act of violence, but recognize that the choice of necessity belongs to the woman who has been impregnated. They then act to achieve a public policy where abortion and indeed any invasive procedure is prevented through better education and healthy life styles. This includes universal health insurance as well as care of women

Those who want to make abortion a matter of public or state decision, rather than personal or private decision argue that they want to protect the life of another person--namely, the unborn child. And the fact that another person is present takes it from the private to the public sphere. And this is where the difference of opinion is cut. Is the fertilized egg or the fetus a human person? What makes an organism a human person?

Some say that whether or not you accept that the fertilized egg is a human person, it is on its way to becoming one and we have no right to interfere and stop the process. But that would argue to avoiding menstrual discharge or nocturnal or any seminal ejaculation since all eggs and sperm are oriented to procreation. Indeed, the ancient Hebrews who thought that the homunculus, the teeny person was contained in the male seed which was planted to grow in the female ground. Therefore that condemned the spilling of seed without implanting it. But that puts us on the road to absurdity.

In some religious traditions, a human person is constituted of matter from the earth and spirit from God. At the time of conception, the soul is "infused." So in the human sex act, as the sperm gets to the egg, is the act of God creating the soul. So any act to terminate the pregnancy after that infusion kills the human person and violates the act of God. St Thomas held that it was after three months that God infused the soul. Some said later. Anti-abortionists show ultrasound pictures of the fetus that has fingers and other characteristics of a human baby to be in order to prove that abortion is the killing of a voiceless human person.

And so the dispute is not between those who like and don't like abortion. It is between those who think that the state government should or should not prevent abortion based upon their definition of the human person. There are many who are sincere in thinking that the human person exists when God infuses the soul at conception and therefore government should protect the fetus. There are those who are sincere in their belief that the human person does not exist until the organism can communicate and interact with other human persons.

To be honest, I am of the latter persuasion. I do not approve of abortion, but I do not believe that  the government should make the determination of whether or not a woman should have an abortion or whether any person should decide surgery or even assisted suicide. I also believe that the best way to prevent abortions, other invasive procedures, and violence against the person is by establishing the policies that will allow people to have the best information for them to decide.

I believe that ironically those who are most adamant about opposing abortion are the ones who are most encouraging its practice by denying health care and freedom of information to the general populace. Unfortunately those who would deny women the ability to choose abortion and who deny agencies like Planned Parenthood the ability to assist these women are the ones who make abortion desirable and even necessary. They have not been able to move beyond the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom and justice.