By Ann Wilcox
One evening I was at dinner with my philosophy discussion group. The talk turned to politics and current events, and the man next to me began to complain that his wife was a “one-issue voter.” “She just votes for the candidate that’s pro-choice, without thinking about their position on anything else,” he said. I could feel my ire rising, but I couldn’t figure out why his words bothered me so much.
I care about the economy. I care about education. I care about global warming, and a host of other issues. But I side with that man’s wife. Why?
I can argue all day long about how women’s (and men’s) lives are changed by having children, especially unwillingly: changes for their families, their careers, their health, their futures, their finances etc., and all of those things matter, deeply.
But when it comes down to it, no issue is bigger to me than my right to chose my own beliefs and act on my conscience. No one else has the right to dictate that to me.
I was raised in evangelical Christianity, where I was taught that it was God’s divine plan for women to be submissive and obedient. We were fourth in God’s hierarchy, after God the Father, Christ, and then men, to whose authority we submitted. The well-intentioned people who instilled this in me were certain it was the truth: their Bible told them so (“For a man…is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.” 1 Cor. 11:7; “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence…” 1 Tim. 2: 12; “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands.” 1 Pet. 3:1). But it was a degrading and repressive dogma, and I am still trying to undo the harm it inflicted.
I was also taught that my basic nature was sinful and corrupt, so I could not trust my own thoughts or feelings. If my opinions contradicted the Bible, then they should be dismissed and replaced with obedience. Otherwise I was claiming authority over my own life, which was rebellion against God. Evangelical Christianity’s attempt to silence my heart and mind almost destroyed me, but no one had any compunction about asphyxiating my life. On the contrary, they were once again certain that they were following the will of God. It’s the strangest phenomenon to have the nicest possible people try to kill you…
My exit from evangelical Christianity was long and sometimes formidable (you can read my story – “A Personal Exodus” – in Women Beyond Belief). As I tried to free myself from their indoctrination, the thing that outraged me over and over again was that they had tried to extinguish my right to think and question, to form my own opinions and beliefs, and to determine my own life, all of which were vital for me to create a sane and satisfying life.
So here we are in 2018. Millions of evangelicals (including my friends and family) and other well-meaning religious people are again certain that they are right, this time about abortion. They’re certain they have the only truth about when life begins, because the Bible tells them so (it’s astonishing how much God-ordained butchery, including of infants and children, evangelicals have to rationalize in order to claim that God is pro-life).
But certainty and truth are not the same thing. For millions and millions of thoughtful, moral Americans, the answer to “When does life begin?” is not simplistic. Millions of us disagree with the religious right. And our right to decide what we believe and to follow our own conscience is at the heart of personal autonomy. It’s fundamental to a sound democracy, as well as to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Even evangelicals understand this. They are fighting for their right not to serve the LGBTQ community, because it violates their beliefs. They want the government to protect their right to believe and to act on their conscience. At the same time they want the government to abolish my right to form my own beliefs about abortion and to act on my conscience! This is rank hypocrisy.
But evangelical Christianity and many other religions and ideologies contain a built-in arrogance, the certainty that they cannot be wrong because their Bible tells them so. What they think is no longer a personal belief: it’s THE Truth. This architectural arrogance allows them to trample my beliefs if I disagree with them. And it still, even in 2018, tells them that women should be submissive and obedient.
They are once again trying to take away my authority over my own life. It takes an amazing hubris for the religious right to try to dictate to me and millions of other Americans our deeply personal lives – our families, our futures, our careers, and our well-being, and above all, to try and abolish our right to decide and follow our own conscience.
That’s not democracy – it’s theocracy.
I’ve already been there. It’s hell. And you’re damn straight I’m voting against it.
July 7, 2018