We Are Losing Our Religion:
Failing to Protect the Next Generation
Jason M. Roebuck
Northwest Christian University
This issue is important because even though more young people every day say they disagree with issues like abortion, they refuse to stand up for what they believe. This attitude is one that is born from a lack of understanding and limited availability of scientific research to young people about the reasons attitudes toward abortion and indifference toward the poor are so vehemently defended. It is important, because as a youth minister at a church in Springfield, Oregon, this research and my essay could serve to help me realize new and different ways to educate young people in and outside the church.
The issue of abortion has been a hotly debated in the United States for over 40 years. Since abortion was made legal by a decision in 1973 by the Supreme Court, there have been many studies done and research analyzed about the ways abortion is supported and the conditions of the culture that lead more and more people to come out in support of a woman’s choice to terminate a pregnancy. It is not as simple as whether or not someone was raised in the church. The issue is not just about feminism and your belief in women’s rights or even opposition to equal rights for women. What are the social conditions that have led to the abortion rights in America being vehemently defended?
The challenge to organized religion comes from indifference rather than atheism (Cheyne, 2010, p. 56). Because of this challenge, there are more people that consider themselves as having no religion, “Nones”, than ever before. The number of people that consider themselves atheist is significantly smaller than those who consider themselves as having no religion. Cheyne says, “There were only 1% atheists among the 15% Nones”. (p. 57) Tamney, Johnson and Burton (1992) state that the reason this is so important to the argument about supporting conditions that defend abortion is that without religion there is no class of people willing to stand in opposition to life issues (p. 33). The percentage of people who stand in radical opposition to faith is small, but still there is an ever increasing number of people that have no opinion on faith, because they have no interest in religion. Tamney et al. (1992) declares, “Opposition to legalized abortion finds its ideological justification in the religious tradition, specifically in natural law or puritanical doctrines.” (p. 34). Still, there needs to be more conversation between the conservative “religious” and the liberal “religious” in order to find out why abortion happens. However, it is this lack of religion that begins to explain the social conditions that are leading our country to a place of not being able to defend the next generation from abortion.
If there is a decreasing amount of religious people, there are less people objecting to immoral and unethical behavior. More directly, there are more people supporting behavior that would be seen by religious people as objectionable. Chang (2005) articulates that early pregnancy prevention efforts failed because of their connection to issues like socialism and feminism. All feminists or socialists are not going to support immoral or unethical behaviors, but without the balance of faith in God, their efforts will surely succeed to promote self-serving interests, rather than life-protecting issues, especially in areas of the country that are without religious affiliation (p. 228). Early adopting states in support of legalized abortion were in areas of the United States that were without the fervor of support from the Catholic Church that supports efforts to defend life, and no real feminist movement in the 1960s. (Chang, 2005, p. 228-229) So, the forces that would be a rallying cry for people who stand in opposition to unethical and immoral behaviors were non-existent in these, mostly southern states, which were early adopters of state legalized abortion. (Chang, 2005, p. 228) At the end of Chang (2005), it declares that religion is an impetus for conflict within a society (p. 230). It is that conflict that would allow us to see the real enemy in the disagreements over why abortion exists.
If someone accepts premarital sex and divorce as a part of normal life, it would be more likely that they would accept abortion. Marsiglio and Shehan (1993) have alleged “People who have more traditional views, such as opposition to premarital sex and support of legal restrictions on divorce, are more likely to oppose abortion.” Although, this is not quoted as the only reason for opposition to abortion in this article, it is posited as one of the strong factors in deciding whether someone is capable of standing in opposition to the action of aborting a child. Borgmann (2009) theorizes that the belief in “life beginning at conception”, which comes from a religious perspective, is only a part of the beginning of the conversation. It is only when reason and belief are considered together that we are able to come to a “reflective equilibrium”.
Religious freedom is being persecuted actively by secular societies that boldly claim that religious people are intolerant, because they won’t participate in activities that they object to on moral or religious grounds. Hodge (2002) brings to light the oppression or active targeting of religious values by a “new class” of people that want to do away with traditional values because they stand in opposition to their neutrality towards social issues like abortion (p. 404). However, it is only through the challenging of the issues that surround statements like, “life that begins at conception” that will help our society deal with the reasons that women choose to terminate a pregnancy.
Christians in the United States are seeing the level of persecution toward them on a much broader scale. It is no longer just Catholics that are targeted, but all Christians that are following the rules that are laid out in scripture concerning sexuality and morality. The conclusion drawn by Hodge (2002) is that “the oppression of Evangelicals and other people of faith should concern every social worker, for authentic diversity is an intrinsic good that enriches society” (p. 411). It should be a concern for more than just the religious, that people with religious conservative values are being targeted with oppression, because it threatens the whole of society when a good that enriches the society is subjugated. When the religious are asked to explain the reasons for their faith, real solutions to cultural issues can be found through an authentic dialog about why they believe and what that belief can do for them and others.
Some people in the modern world might say that we are becoming more self-aware, and not less religious. It is true that we have more access to knowledge today, because of the internet and the ability to find reference material from any number of outlets. However, it is also true that we don’t always choose to study the things that will enrich our lives and lead us to a moral truth that could guide our lives in a positive way. Cheyne (2010) relates that this is what happens when the modern person is left alone to search the internet for truth, only to end up putting together a lot of stuff that sounds true, but they would have no principled basis that led to that truth (p.58). People in today’s world are just so busy, it is difficult to make a commitment to slow down and listen to the wisdom that comes from any authority, even the authority that comes from their own church. It is easier to just find someone who agrees with your stance on the issues, than to find the absolute truth that would speak to the heart of even the most cynical non-believer.
Finally, the argument could be made that people are deciding to not affiliate with religion, which causes them to lean more on a truth that relates to them alone. Cheyne (2010) advances that a kind of “Religionism” exists among some of the believers that are found in our modern culture, where they pick what beliefs match their previously concluded understanding of faith (p. 58). Without a reliance on some absolute truth, it would be easy to find ways to justify all kinds of moral evils, especially if the evil doesn’t have an effect on the reality that we have created for ourselves. In addition, liberals are allowing themselves to be painted as evil and immoral, because they do not question the reasons that believers use statements like, “life begins at conception” as a reason for opposing abortion. Borgmann (2009) gives us a glimpse of how political discourse is almost too polite to really consider issues like abortion. The example of Barack Obama and John McCain’s answers to the question of when life begins, as a jumping off point for understanding why the question is not sufficiently answered. “For his part, Obama answered that ‘if you believe that life begins at conception, then–and you are consistent in that belief–then I can’t argue with you on that.” It is exactly that argument that needs to happen. The author says McCain would have to believe in murder, since he supports abortion in some cases, even though he proposes that life begins at conception. Card (2000) shapes the argument around the idea that some people believe that certain conditions need to be present to indicate a person exists, and it posits that in order to be a person, it must be able to survive outside the womb of the mother. The author suggests that the argument presented there is not without problems, but it is an important argument to have, in order to come to an understanding of how liberals can accept abortion. (p. 345)
The research done over the past 20 years says that it is a fact that the United States is becoming less religious. However, the reality of a less religious country may lend itself to bringing more reason and understanding to bear on a people that have spent too much time being divided on many social issues. Poteat (2012) shows through survey results that only people that do not have their identity tied up with their beliefs are able to see issues like abortion and same-sex marriage from a position of understanding (p. 62). The article states that more research could be done on a larger scale, but the idea of not being too polarized on an issue, in order to be able to see both sides of it, makes sense to this author.
The losing of our religion in America and the lack of willingness to discuss morality in the public square are important factors that contribute to abortion being vehemently defended by a majority of the population. However, it does not offer the solution to lowering the number of abortions performed. If conservatives and liberals are sincerely challenging each other on important issues, like abortion, that can help the culture find solutions to these important issues. “Only if you thoroughly reform your ways and your deeds; if each of you deals justly with your neighbor; if you no longer oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow; if you no longer shed innocent blood in this place or follow after other gods to your own harm, only then will I let you continue to dwell in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors long ago and forever.” (Jeremiah 7:5-7 NABRE)
Borgmann, Caitlin E. (2009). Symposium Volume: New Scholarship on Reproductive Rights: Belief and Reason in the Abortion Debate (Report No. 18 Colum. J. Gender & L. 551). New York, New York: Columbia Journal of Gender and Law.
Card, R. F. (2000). INFANTICIDE AND THE LIBERAL VIEW ON ABORTION. Bioethics, 14(4), 340.
Chang, P. (2005). Abortion, Religious Conflict, and Political Culture. Journal for The Scientific Study Of Religion, 44(2), 225-230.
Cheyne, J. A. (2010). The Rise of the Nones. Skeptic, 15(4), 56-60.
Hodge, D. R. (2002). Does Social Work Oppress Evangelical Christians? A ‘New Class’ Analysis of Society and Social Work. Social Work, 47(4), 401-414.
Marsiglio, W., & Shehan, C. L. (1993). Adolescent Males’ Abortion Attitudes: Data from a National Survey. (Cover story). Family Planning Perspectives, 25(4), 162.
Poteat, V. H. (2012). (Dis)similarity Between Liberals and Conservatives: Predicting Variability in Group Differences on Abortion and Same-Sex Marriage Rights Attitudes. Basic & Applied Social Psychology, 34(1), 56-65.
Tamney, J. B., Johnson, S. D., & Burton, R. (1992). The abortion controversy: conflicting beliefs and values in American society. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 31(1), 32-46.