A Christian Calls Out the Church for Avoiding Contraception

I know there are a lot of Christians who oppose abstinence-only sex-education, but rarely is it ever phrased this honestly (and in a Christian publication, no less!):

… if I were an unmarried Christian considering sex in my intimate relationship, church would not be my go-to place for contraceptive consultation. Information is readily available online, from peers, a doctor, or a local drugstore. By presenting young adults with choices that shut down conversation and relationship (either do it God’s way, or your own way that is so depraved we can’t bear to discuss it respectfully or extensively), churches don’t prevent people from learning about or accessing contraception, nor from having premarital sex… If church support is available only when abstinence is practiced or professed, many will either go elsewhere or feign chastity in order to avoid shame or even expulsion. When unintended pregnancy happens, church may then be far down the list of potentially helpful places to go, and deservedly so.

A lot of that same arguments could be made in regards to the Christian church’s anti-science and anti-gay stances, too. The more church leaders distort scientific truth and treat same-sex relationships as if they’re somehow immoral/evil/wrong, the faster young people are going to leave the church. Kids know better than that. It’s so easy to find the truth these days and the church can’t keep them sheltered forever.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Mike

    “…
    the faster young people are going to leave the church. ”

    Let’s hope the church doesn’t wise up any time soon then.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/FVZZGUNKDN7SFK77ATIFMNNJJA Jeff Xeno

       That’s what I’ve been thinking recently Mike.  I’m hoping the old white guys running churches just get more and more insanely conservative in their positions on every subject so as to push more and more young people away from the churches.  Stats seem to suggest it’s been working for the past 10 to 15 years at least.
      http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2009-03-09-ARIS-faith-survey_N.htm

    • Alchemist

      Not just more conservative, but also more obvious about the extent of their madness.
      Where I used to inwardly groan everytime I heard or read about some pastor, minister or grand-poh-bar going wingnut on some issue or another, now I can barely contain my glee.

  • TheAnalogKid

    Keep thinking. Maybe soon you’ll give up that bullshit completely.

  • Ggsillars

    I hope Richard Dawkins is right, that we have reached a tipping point in this country, but the theists, especially the clerics will not go quietly.  Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

  • Muxika

    I remember watching an episode of All-American Muslim and one of the religious leaders said wearing the hijab would improve possibility of conception. It goes against biological facts to rethink a veil will solve pregnancy issues. It shows that both Christian and Muslim authority have unnatural concepts of women’s health and, as the quoted writer says, shouldn’t be sought.

    • DG

      So you watched a fabricated television reality show that had one Muslim saying something and concluded that two faiths centuries old with billions of followers have unnatural concepts of women’s health?  Plus, if Christians shouldn’t be sought, and the writer above that you are referencing is a Christian, then shouldn’t her view about the validity of anything relating to the subject not be sought? 

      • Patrick

        Fallacies used: straw man, red herring, ad numerem, ad hominem. Regardless of whether the show is fabricated, the fact remains that authority figures in both those faiths teach utter nonsense. It does not matter how many followers either faith has, nor how old they are. Nonsense is still nonsense. Moreover, the author does not say christians should not be sought. She states (correctly) that churches are not a good resource for advice on reproductive health. 

        • DG

          So Muxika wrong in saying that’s what the author said?  By the way, my post was none of the things you mention.  It was simply asking if he was saying what his post suggested he was saying.  Asking to clarify is fair game in most discussion.    

        • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

           You forgot one: ad nauseum.

          • DG

            How was my question that?  Please explain.

      • Patterrssonn

        The centuries old part would explain the unnatural concepts of women’s health.

        • DG

          I’m not sure that centuries old automatically equals unnatural.  Especially when the modern answer to problems relating to current approaches to sexuality include heavy reliance on artificially manufactured synthetic products and chemical and hormonal meddling in the human body.  

          • amycas

            I think by “unnatural” Patterrssonn meant that since these religions are centuries old, and most of their concepts of sexuality and women’s health were formed before the advent of modern medicine, that their concepts are not based on biological facts about how the human body works. Also, chemicals and hormones are not necessarily unnatural. It all depends on how it’s defined though.  This is why I usually don’t go down the route of “natural” vs. “unnatural,” there’s no good definition for either word. I mean, technically, humans are animals and we are part of the natural world, so anything we do is natural. The only thing that could be unnatural would be something that completely goes against the known laws of the universe.

            • DG

              I would agree that framing the argument in natural vs. unnatural won’t help, especially if advocating for certain things like condoms that are certainly not ‘natural’ in any of defining the term.

  • DG

    Rarely?  It depends on which branches of the Christian faith you listen to.  Compared to some, this is tame.  There’s actually quite a left leaning movement within the faith.  Always has been.  So this isn’t anything new.  That’s like saying rarely does an atheist not think like all other atheists, as if all atheist think alike and I should be shocked when one doesn’t. 

    • asonge

      I actually have a lot to say on this. There is a kind of ecumenical truce of silence among moderates and liberals and they are underrepresented, but they do make up only a minority of Christians. The RCC claims to speak for all Catholics and that’s 50% right there (even though most of the older Catholics I know used to be left in their politics until about 15 years ago). Conservatives make up at least half of the rest, and mainlines + liberals probably make up 20% or so, with many conservatives in the mainline sects (conservative Episcopalians are looking to secede right now over gay clergy, and make up a sizable minority).

      I find myself spending as much time challenging atheists’s notions of Christianity by offering alternate theologies, exegesis, and the ways non-fundamentalists believe. In many areas of the country, these liberal and moderate churches prefer the ecumenical silent truce with their conservative brothers than defending their space in the perception of Christianity. The evangelical fundamentalists and the Catholics each own half of the public perception of Christianity right now, and the mainlines need to get off their ass and get to work because they’re dying.

      • DG

        You are right that the mainlines, and so many branches of the more moderate to progressive branches of Christianity, are numerically dying.  Just how to change that is something that those various expressions haven’t been able to figure. 

    • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

      True, the vast majority of moderate and liberal Christians have no problem with contraception. I do find this article impressive because the author seems to be a conservative evangelical, and that subculture is the one that is most noted for its anti-premarital sex, anti-birth control stance. So I think it’s good she’s calling out conservative churches for their behavior, even though she’s not taking on (and apparently agrees with) the underlying problematic belief. Perhaps this is damning with faint praise, but I expect so little from evangelicals that I take any sign of moderation as an improvement.

      • DG

        Actually, only the Catholic and Orthodox Churches have any problem with contraception, the Orthodox being against it, but in some cases I’ve read they might default to the couple in question (depending on the church, but don’t quote me on that).  The Catholic Church is the only one known to be flat against it in any case other than for certain therapies.  Others, including fundamentalist and evangelical conservative, are open to contraception – though some in recent years have begun to question the level to which it is used, especially in light of countries in Europe with birth rates falling too low.  

        The idea that this is some Christian-wide movement, even if confined to the more conservative traditions, doesn’t gel with the facts.  The support the Catholic bishops received from other denominations, as well as other religions (that also don’t have issues with contraception) was based more on the idea of the federal government mandating that Catholic Churches provide something against its deeply held beliefs.  It isn’t that they are all against contraception. 

        • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

          Most American Catholics ignore the church when it comes to both premarital sex and contraception. I mentioned evangelicals and fundamentalists because they are more likely to actively believe that premarital sex is wrong, bad, sinful, etc.  The author of the article still believes that, but at least she’s calling out the church for its shabby treatment of unmarried people who are sexually active. I find it more impressive for her to do that, rather than, say, a Catholic, because Catholics who disagree with the church are a dime a dozen and usually aren’t shy about expressing it. 

          About birth control, the anti-contraception movement has been gathering steam in recent years. Yes, most conservative Christians use birth control, but there is a growing number of people who equate contraception with abortion. Almost the entire anti-abortion movement is also anti-contraception. There is no major “pro-life” organization in the United States that has taken a positive stand in favor of contraception. Many actively work against it.

          If anyone is interested in further reading, I would recommend [b]Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement[/b] by Kathryn Joyce and [b]How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America[/b] by Cristina Page for more details on how anti-contraceptive beliefs have been working their way into conservative and even mainstream Christianity.

          • DG

            I don’t know.  She seems to be coming from a more progressive tradition, many of which have little to nothing at all to say about the topic of premarital sex.   I’m not sure what growing number of conservatives equate contraception with abortion, except those I know who admit that the two stem from a similar philosophy about sexuality and procreation.

            As for pro-life organizations and contraception, it is often not mentioned at all.  Typically those associated with the Catholic Church will, but others don’t.  Again, even in supporting the Catholic Church over the HHS mandate, I’ve seen conservative Christians make sure it is understood they have no problem with contraception itself, and can even support its use. 

            Though you are correct about more of those questioning modern contraception usage.  Again, citing low birth rates in Europe (and the problems that has brought about, and several European governments scrambling to impress upon their people the need to have babies), plus debates and discussions on the topic itself (which is always a good thing no matter what the topic), has brought some to at least question the complete open-endedness of the modern embrace of contraception, especially in light of other problems that seem to stem from our modern approach to sexuality that contraception doesn’t help, but could have possibly emboldened.  So that’s true, to a point.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Maddman75 James Justice

    It isn’t anything new, though its a great point.  Shoot, St. Augustine said the same thing about knowledge in general 1500 years ago – if Christians go around insisting that things are true that clearly are not everyone is going to think Christians are a bunch of morons.

    He might have phrased it a little more eloquently than that.  :)

    • Patrick

      As I recall, that is pretty close to Augustine’s phrasing.

    • Stev84

      Though it should be noted that much of Christianity’s screwed up and unhealthy attitude towards sexuality comes from him too

    • DG

      That’s a paraphrase from De Genesi ad litteram, isn’t it?

  • PJB863

    So many religious institutions behave as if they exist in a vacuum.  They don’t.  It’s funny that after millennia they haven’t wised up.

  • Ajean73

    The Unitarian Universalists have an awesome sex ed program for all age groups from kindergarten to adult. It’s called OWL (Our Whole Lives). It is a secular program with an *optional* Unitarian Universalist supplement. It provides the real info that kids today really need to know. This is not an ad! Just a satisfied parent.

  • http://www.wineandtours.com/ Italy Food Tours

    Church must be enough wise to keep the future generation with it. They must adopt new concepts to attract next generation. 

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

    I’m confused about what type of “support” a Christian expects to find when they approach a priest or pastor.   Surely, you’d get all that specific church’s dos and don’ts by reading their literature or attending a few weeks of sermons.   If by support you mean money to help afford an unplanned pregnancy, good luck.  Like health insurance companies, churches are good at passing off their liabilities to the care of the hated secular government.

    T

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    Even without the absurd views on contraception, by simply refusing to acknowledge that social sex is a normal, vital part of being human, and has nothing to do with the social construct of “marriage”, most churches are forcing their youth to act one way and speak another. This often causes people to actually think, which is the first step in leaving religion behind.

    • amycas

      Yes thank you. I was just expressing the same general idea to someone in an argument about gay marriage. He said one of the main reasons humans were “put” here was to procreate. I explained to him that just looking at the biology of the human sex organs alone (and ignoring studies in sociology and psychology) we can see that human sexuality is meant for much more than mere procreation. I also explained how this is something that sets us apart from other animals. As I understand it, there are very few species that have sex for anything other than procreation. So, to me, reducing human sexuality to a mere act of procreation is both demeaning and factually wrong.

      • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        Social or non-procreative sex (both hetero and homo) is extremely common in the animal kingdom, from insects on up. Most tellingly when it comes to considering human behavior, it is common in many monkey and ape species.

        • amycas

           I know that there are some forms of social sex in other animals, but it’s most apparent in humans, and we’re one of the only animals who will almost always have sex for the social bonding and for pleasure instead of for procreation (for instance, I’ve had a lot of sex and it’s never been for procreation, the same goes for most sexually active people). Sorry I wasn’t clear about that. I think bonobos and dolphins might be the best examples of animals who engage regularly in non-procreative sex. Bonobos (to my knowledge) are the only other primates who will face each other during sex as well.

  • Dan Dorfman

    It’s all about choking off access to information. Free exchange of knowledge amongst people is absolutely terrifying to religious institutions, always has been always will be. People start lifting up the blinders and they start getting ideas of casting off the sexual, economic, moral, behavioral yoke that the church has strapped on their backs since childhood, and that result is what makes the religious leaders oppose anything but ignorance. 

    • lozen

      I agree one hundred percent.

  • Mek0411

    “Maybe we often rely on shame and fear because it’s hard to believe that people would say no to something as tantalizing as sexual pleasure if they didn’t stand to lose something extremely valuable such as honor, the affection of family and church, or even eternal life.”  Look at that! She admits that yes, in the past, shaming and scaring people into following god’s way has been the main tactic in controlling people to do what the church wants (which isn’t always what is “right”, as in: abstinence isn’t always 100% the right thing to do!).


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