Via Feministe, I’ve come across a post called A request for advice, on a blog titled Contraception and Christianity. The author, Contraskeptic, is an evangelical Christian wrestling with the issue of whether it is a sin to use birth control.
As Contraskeptic explains, his wife has been through three difficult, stressful pregnancies, all three of which were C-sections. The third pregnancy was unplanned, and occurred despite their efforts to avoid it by restricting sexual intercourse to the one day per month his wife thought she was least fertile. When she learned that she had become pregnant anyway, she was devastated; she had strongly desired to get out of the house and return to work, and feared for her health both physically and mentally. After finally giving birth, she laid down an ultimatum – no more sex unless her husband was willing to get a vasectomy. He has refused to do this, since he believes it would be a sin.
As a result, their marriage has been devoid of affection for over a year. Neither of them have lost the desire for intimacy, but his wife cannot face the prospect of another pregnancy, and has taken to sleeping on the couch and avoiding physical contact so as to steer clear of temptation. The author writes that the lack of sex has become a wedge between them, and he fears a diminishing of their love which would be harmful to the three children they already have.
Contraskeptic’s dilemma is not a new one. It’s the very same dilemma that couples have faced for thousands of years: suffer through a loveless, celibate marriage, or risk having more children that they aren’t prepared to care for and that could destroy their partnership both physically and emotionally. The difference is that, now, after long effort to understand the world through reason, we have developed simple, effective solutions to this problem, solutions that would so easily free Contraskeptic and his wife from the cruel dilemma in which they find themselves.
And yet, because of dogma – because of beliefs based in faith, unsupported by evidence – this man is refusing to reach out to and take hold of the simple, obvious solution that hangs right in front of him. He is refusing the one measure that could very likely save their troubled marriage, restore their happiness and the intimacy between them, and guarantee a stable and loving home for their children, not because it will cause any harm to himself or to anyone else, but because he holds a belief that a supernatural being which watches over his marriage has decreed that this should not be done.
This is another example, like the others I wrote about in the post “Why Do We Care?“, of how irrational beliefs harm real human beings. Contraskeptic and his wife have chosen to be evangelical Christians, and though I disagree with the beliefs of that worldview, I still want them and their children to have all the love and happiness they can possibly get from life. Sadly, the non-evidence-based beliefs they have adopted are standing in the way and preventing them from seeing what they should do. More than anything else, I want to see human beings freed from the superstitious fetters that impede rational actions to seek their bliss.The commenters on Contraskeptic’s thread have offered some heartfelt and sound advice, such as this especially eloquent comment from one Bruce Godfrey that perfectly encapsulates the self-chosen nature of Contraskeptic’s dilemma and the easiest step toward ending it:
One human being to another, my heart goes out to you. But intellectual courage may lead you out of this cage; you built its walls, its bars and its doors and the key is in your pocket.
Or this one, from “Mighty Ponygirl”, which draws such a sharp and clear contrast between the irrational demands of religion and the genuine needs of real human beings:
What about the children you have together already? Are you willing to make them suffer watching their parents grow cold and distant to one another in the name of being better Christians?
I have some advice of my own for Contraskeptic. If he should read this (I’ve left a mirrored comment on his site), I hope he’ll accept it not as a personal attack, but rather in the spirit of sincere concern in which I offer it.
You, sir, are being selfish and uncompassionate, and the fact that this behavior is motivated by your religious beliefs doesn’t excuse that. Your wife has already suffered through more, and borne greater burdens, than she or anyone else should have to bear. After all she’s been through in the name of her marriage and her family, what she needs is a husband who can love her, who can comfort her, and who can give her the intimacy and emotional closeness she deserves. You are the only one in the world who can give her that, but you are holding back, you say, out of fear of offending God. Do you believe in a god who wants you, your wife and your children all to suffer in a loveless, disconnected marriage? Do you believe in a god who wants your wife to assume almost all the serious risks both physical and emotional associated with sex and pregnancy while you assume next to none of them? Those are both unconscionable options. You have the power to bring about a far better one.
Although I’m an atheist, I won’t bother to argue that you should become one as well. However, I ask you not to let your religion overcome your humanity. Even if such a being as God did exist, he would need nothing from us, nor could anything we do harm or diminish him in any way. On the other hand, your wife and children can be harmed by your actions, and they do need something for you: for you to be there for them, to give them the love they need, and if necessary, to make a sacrifice for the well-being of your family. There can be no motive more impeccable than that. If you fear that God will punish you for doing it anyway, then I suggest that your own moral sense is superior to that of the being you claim to worship, and I invite you to consider whether such an arbitrary and cruel set of commandments deserves to be followed.