The Bible Encourages Abortion

The Bible Encourages Abortion April 10, 2009

Next time a Christian talks about abortion, consider bringing up this verse from Ecclesiastes:

Again I saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun. Look, the tears of the oppressed—with no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power—with no one to comfort them.

And I thought the dead, who have already died, more fortunate than the living, who are still alive; but better than both is the one who has not yet been, and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 4:1-3)

In other words:

  1. The dead are better off than the living, and
  2. Those who have never been born are better than the dead and living.

A morbid, depressing teaching. But it’s not my holy book.

When an abortion is performed, the child is never born. Or if you’d rather, they are dead. Either way, according to this passage, they are better off than us.

In other words, the Bible teaches abortion is better than living.

Who are they to argue with God’s Holy Word?

(For the record, I don’t think abortion is usually better than living. I’m just teachin’ the holy word of Jeebus!)

Update: It seems my point is being misunderstood. If the Bible is taken literally as the “Word of God,” you can’t only take Jesus or Leviticus literally. You have to take Ecclesiastes, too. To me it seems obvious the writer of this was just having a bad day or really overstating his case (just like I did here). But it’s just an old book. I don’t have to agree with it. The literalist, on the other hand, must care about this because they believe this is the very words of God.

And if that is so, then what does this passage teach? Is it not that those unborn and dead are better off than the living? And don’t other passages say similar things? Don’t Christians look forward to heaven, which will be better than our current sinful lives? When people die, don’t they say they have gone “to a better place”? It’s the same logic.

What happens when this logic is applied to abortion? If Ecclesiastes is right, then aborted babies are better off than if they had lived. The same logic applies if babies go to heaven — they instantly go to a place of joy and don’t run the high risk of being sent to hell forever.


Browse Our Archives

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Graham

    But “the one who has not yet been” is why the godtards talk about life beginning at conception rather than when being born. They never explain why the majority of pregnancies abort spontaneously in the first month before anyone is aware of it. Perhaps ‘god’ hasn’t got over its desire to kill young children.

    • Jesus Freak

      Have you ever experienced death.? NO! Yet you probably know of someone who has died. Yes. Now what would you’re life be like if you’re mother had been killed before you were born. YOU WOULD NOT EXIST! There is an ultimate plan for this world and you despite your beliefs. You are part of it too. You cannot comprehend the wisdom and knowledge required to rule an earth of our magnitude yet my God (Yeshua) or Jesus Christ does that without blinking. Have you ever heard of sin? Obviously not! It is our fault that children (babies) die without being born. God is love, but you will never understand that until you enter into a personal relationship with him. God has a purpose for you and he is seeking after you, all you need to do is look for him too. God loves you!

      • K

        It seems as if you’re saying that God exists because a person wasn’t aborted by his/her parents. Do you really believe that this is sufficient “evidence” of God’s existence? That statement doesn’t even make sense! Not that I would expect a reasonable argument from any religious person, but damn. You could do better than that, I’m sure!

        If you really want people to explore Christ, try explaining away all of the hatred, violence, brutality, and sheer nastiness contained within the bible. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t follow Christ/God/whatever you wanna call it even if there WERE concrete evidence supporting it. I’d rather burn in eternal hellfire than kiss the ass of some egocentric tyrant.

  • trj

    I think you’re stretching things, Daniel. These ruminations are not an endorsement of abortion.

    Instead, look to Numbers 5:11-31 which is a solicitation for abortion coming straight from God. It tells that if a man suspects his wife has lain with another and become pregnant, he shall take her to the priest who will put a curse on her and make her drink dirty water.

    If the woman is guilty she will abort and become barren, otherwise she will conceive the child (5:27-28).

    So clearly God approves of abortion. You might even argue that he’s the one effectuating it (5:21).

  • J. Allen

    wow trj, that example is much stronger. I agree that Ecclisiastes left room for ambiguity clearly the penalty for adultery is abortion(makes sense in a tribal society, bastard children muddle the hierarchy). Though xtians seems to differentiate punishment from standard actions, it is still a slap to the face of the ‘carry the child at all costs’ crowd.

    Of course, you could say that all that is needed is to contradict ‘thou shalt not kill’ (which I believe is the main trumpet of anti-abortion, though I rarely hear them quote scripture) and of course that is done easily when reciting ancient punishments.

    I guess if the one of the punishments for adultery is abortion then it’s even worse than ‘eye for an eye’, if you believe the fetus is quantifiable for murder.

    I suppose Christ was supposed to cancel out all these old testaments rules (do not say ‘eye for an eye’), but if so the blanket ‘thou shalt not kill’ is obsolete also.

  • andyb

    I think it follows logically from Christianity: a great way to get to heaven is to die before having the opportunity of sinning. Why, then do dead babies* not make Christians happy?

    *or in the case of abortions, fetuses. fetuses are not babies.

  • Miguel

    If God likes abortion so much, howcome Christians are the leading opponents of abortion?

    You guys sure have an argument for everything.

  • andyb

    Miguel, the point is that many Christian’s do not even know what is in the book that they claim to follow.

  • Jer

    Ecclesiastes is one of the few books of the Bible that really feels a lot different than the rest of the books. It’s also the one that says

    “So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun.” (8:15)

    Nothing is better for a man than to eat, drink and be glad. Really not what the rest of the Bible teaches at all. And Ecclesiastes is full of stuff like this.

    But yeah, I agree with others – it’s really a stretch to say that that passage is in any way a defense of abortion. It’s more of a “the world is a terrible place, full of suffering, and there’s no real explanation for why” lament.

    I love this verse from the same chapter, actually:

    “There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. “For whom am I toiling,” he asked, “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?” This too is meaningless— a miserable business” (4:8)

    Totally the opposite of the “Christian work ethic” – toil for the sake of wealth and denying yourself enjoyment is a meaningless, miserable business. I love Ecclesiastes.

  • BTW, if you disagree, explain why. Show why this logic is wrong. It doesn’t matter one way or another to me, as it’s not my holy book. But as far as I can tell, my argument is logical.

  • Somegreencat

    Another thing the anti abortionist claim is that it is murder. I am to lazy to find the verse in the OT, but doesn’t one talk about the death pregnant women is murder. If her fetus dies from any cause it isn’t murder as long as she lives.

  • Sunny Ng

    Egg-clay…Gah, how do you pronounce Ecclesiastes?

  • Sunny Ng

    This is the King James Version:

    4:1 So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.

    4:2 Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.

    4:3 Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.

    Which version is that up there?

  • wazza

    just be glad it’s not a soft C

  • God has no problem with killing babies.

    When the Samarians rebelled, God proclaimed “they will be killed by an invading army, their little ones dashed to death against the ground, their pregnant women ripped open by swords.” (Hosea 13:16)

    And let’s not forget all of the firstborn children he killed as indirect punishment to a stubborn king. (Exodus 11)

    Maybe god is pro-choice after all.

  • Blah Daddy

    You guys are missing something. . .babies have to be born so they can be baptized, otherwise they don’t go to heaven. Whether or not they go to hell or purgatory is up to your particular flavor of Christianinsanity, but they all pretty much agree they have to be baptized first. My solution: holy water douche pre-abortion (‘course it’d never really get past the cervix.)

  • Roger

    Woo, boy. This promises to be a high-comment thread. I’m predicting at least 300 posts by Tuesday. God told me.

  • The quality of a society may be judged not by how it treats it’s strong, beautiful, superior people but by how it treats its weakest members, the lame, the blind, those still in the womb. The womb should be the safest place on earth but in some societies it is not safe.

    Do you really want to talk about abortion, social issues, things that matter, or just looking for an excuse to vent your anger?

  • @ Daniel

    Daniel are holy rollers (theist of any kind) allowed to send you articles to post, I’m asking out of curiosity.

    Because I would think that if they are really serious about the existence of god. They would use this forum to spread gods word and to make the case for their invisible sky daddy.

  • Donny

    I find it amazing how people will twist the word of God to try and make themselves right with their sinful ways. Murder is taking of a life and life begins long before a child is born. Abortion is taking of an innocent life.

  • This argument, like the debate over abortion in general, hinges over the the when the moment is that life begins.

    If you hold that life begins at conception, then under no circumstances (from the passage originally quoted) would abortion qualify as someone never being born (as they are already alive at the moment of conception)

    If you hold that life begins at a certain developmental stage of a fetus, then only partial term abortions would count.

    If you hold that life begins at the moment of birth (successfully leaving the womb by vaginal birth or c-section) – then any abortion would count.

    Also, there is also something to keep in mind when addressing scripture – regardless if you feel that the Bible was divinely inspired there is compelling evidence for the historical placement of the text (that is there is good evidence that the Bible was a collection of texts compiled over a long period of time). That being said, there is good reason to believe that all scripture was written with a specific context.

    That is, it was written by someone, to a specific audience, for a specific purpose. I say that out of curiosity – is that something you consider in your posts?

    • Konraden

      You’re missing the point entirely! The passage says those that are not born. It says nothing about life or conception: Just birth.

  • jedward706

    Guys — such a sad ranting — you are missing the amazing beauty and joy of knowing Christ. All of Scripture points to Christ! An inductive study of the bible — not some rigid “literal”, legalistic, out of context, “fools” approach — would open your heart to receive God’s grace and wisdom. There are many great Christian thinkers and writers for you to read…but, you are choosing lame, culturally debased arguments to attack here. The truth will set you free (Certain that you’ll be repeating that phrase back to me ;) — Peace and blessings! I leave you with the following passage.

    I Co. 1.18-31
    18For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written:
    “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
    the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”[c]

    20Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

    26Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him. 30It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”[d]

  • jedward706

    nathanrelson — Yes ! each book — a specific message to a particular group of people in a specific cultural context — this must be understood to sift out relative vs. absolute truths — Exegesis –> Hermeneutics

  • When my dad was growing up int he 1950’s, his older brother’s wife had a series of miscarriages. My dad was a young boy and deeply distressed at the “death of these babies”. His evangelical and fundamentalist parents assured him that these “babies” were not really babies and they did not have a soul since they had not yet taken the “breath of life”. They then went on to quote bible passages throughout the Hebrew scriptures to prove their point that life does not begin until God’s spirit is breathed into a person.

    Interesting how the fundamentalist position has changed over the last half century. Makes me wonder if their current position is not more political than theological.

  • There is an old joke about easing yourself into a conversation in a party. If you want to join in, all you have to do is walk up and say “yes, but where do you draw the line?” There is little in the world that is truly black and white — almost everything in our experience is a continuum phenomenon — but everyone seems to have an opinion about where one thing ends and another begins.

    Sexuality: people aren’t always ‘totally gay’ or ‘totally straight’. There is considerable overlap, but we try to shoehorn everyone into two exclusive, and therefore oppressive, categories.

    Morality: we all agree that killing is wrong, but there are certainly cases where killing is justifiable if not expected. For example, shooting a plane out of the air that would bomb an orphanage. Again, it’s not black and white.

    Biology: when does speciation happen? What line needs to be crossed? There isn’t one, which is what creationists don’t get. There isn’t a magic point at which animals can’t interbreed anymore. It’s just a matter of mounting independent changes which make interbreeding more and more difficult. We all agree that horses and donkeys, camels and llamas, lions and tigers are different species, but all of these can interbreed. Speciation isn’t black and white, it’s a grayscale.

    Language: at what point does a dialect become a language of its own? Is it a matter of mutual intelligibility? Because if that’s the case, Spanish and Italian could be considered different dialects of the same language. Hell, sometimes I can even understand German. Again, there is no strict dividing line between dialect and full-on separate language (some joke that a language is just a dialect with an army and a navy).

    Anyone who tries to give you a hard-and-fast rule for delineating things in a spectrum is a fool, and the same holds true for abortion and ‘when life begins.’ There is no ‘magic line’ to tell when a clump of cells becomes a human. If someone tells you otherwise, I promise you, they are wrong.

    • Konraden

      We consider it viablilty. Somewhere between 20-27 weeks, the fetus ranges from 20-99% viable. I would say life “begins” around here.

      One could also make the argument that life begins around the same time brain function does, which occurs roughly in the same period of time.

  • timothy mark

    The dead are better off than the living, and
    Those who have never been born are better than the dead and living.

    Taking such liberty concerning the authors intent and espousing an accurate interpretation like this is beneath you.
    As one who has formally studied scripture you know, fully well, the difference between exegesis and eisegesis.
    But, just in case you have forgotten, Hermeneutics is the discovery, understanding and use of linguistic and literary principles followed in order to to understand what an author is saying to his readers.
    Obviously your’s was not an attempt to develop anything close.
    None the less, I continue to benefit from the individuals here, how they express themselves and their ideas adds insight after creating desire for answers to difficult questions.

  • ” One of them is that human beings spend far too much of their lives chasing vanity and meaninglessness — and sometimes even evil. ”

    Why wouldn’t god just give actual non exaggerated examples of this vanity you are referring to.

    Why use metaphor when there are real life examples that would cover this, such as Solomon and his thousands wives.

    You gotta be extremely vain to even consider marrying 1000 women.

  • J. Allen

    The story of Job of course is an ancient Babylonian story, rewritten by Jewish priests to fit their religion.

    http://www.piney.com/BabTabuBel.html

  • rodneyAnonymous

    “With or without [religion], you’d have good people doing good things and evil people doing bad things, but for good people to do bad things, it takes religion.” — Steven Weinberg

  • Nick DLP

    I think you are misinterpreting what the verse says. Saying that one is worse off (less fortunate) than the other, by itself, does not imply that death should follow.

    Assuming that souls are waiting to be born and that heaven exists, this verse only talks about how varying situations compare and makes perfect sense. Unfortunately, the initial assumption is where the bible and this verse fail.

  • A fundamentalist would respond that those verses do not condone the taking of an unborn life anymore than they condone the taking of a born life simply because it is better to bed dead. In other words, you can use the same line of reasoning to condone the murder of any live person.

    I am not a fundamentalist (or a moderate or liberal believer), but I think that there are probably better arguments and passages for this kind of thing. :)

  • timothy mark

    It also says in Eccl:
    Do not be quick with your mouth
    Do not be hasty in your heart
    To utter anything before God.

    God is in heaven
    and you are on earth
    So let your words be few

    As a dream comes when there are many cares
    So the speech of a fool when there are many words.

    The journey of thought I believe, describes the mind of Solomon.
    The book can be viewed as the questioning skeptic who ultimately never let’s go of his faith in God.
    A man is allowed conjecture, meditation and thoughtful contemplation regarding the value and meaning of life.
    To share his doubts or skeptisism would be to deny his human nature. To draw a conclusion such as yours and avoid the concluding statement or verse denies the reality of his ultimate faith.
    Those that were burdened and without an understanding of God’s love had no one to comfort them. It is a mournful statement lamenting the absence of light or hope. It indicates not all were oppressed, the writer himself does not seemingly classify himself as such.
    The worthiness of living with God as the core of his existance; in spite of life’s turmoil, injustice, disappointment, evil, and grief, was the only thing allowing joy and contentment and a sense of purpose to abide in his heart.

  • You are totally wrong about what the Bible verse means. get a real bible and really read what that verse says.
    God does not approve of abortion, in fact he hates abortion. God has made us in the image of Himself and we say that God is zombie from the sky. Dude! look at a pregnate woman she is caring a creation of God in her womb! many people are motivated by doing evil. the verse in Ecclesiastes means that it is better for a child not to be born so that the child does not see the evil things we are doing. the dead who are dead would more than likely be very glad they are not alive to see what we are doing. we have become evil and are starting to corrupt our nation. we who are still living are not happy because we are the ones who are killing each other. God is so not pleased with us. He I’m sure is very disappointed in us in fact. may be you should watch the “silent scream” on utube

  • ravenmaster451

    Any time someone looks at Ecc. they have to realize that it is written with the preface “under the sun” referring to the natural world or a world without Holy Spirit enlightenment. In EVERY case where someone dies without a saving faith in Christ it is better that they had never been born than to suffer an eternal judgment. Ecclesiastes chapter 12 verse 13 and 14 cannot be ignored.

  • ravenmaster451

    Sorry, I didn’t know I was yelling – thanks

  • I think some people (like you) get tripped up by the Bible or by a particular verse cos they fail to look at the Bible as a whole. If you read Leviticus, without reading the Gospels, it makes little sense. And the way I interpret Ecclesiastes–the ruminations of a believing man in despair and the depths to which he can descend in spite of his ‘belief’ in God. For me, it’s not a case for abortion, but a case for consolation-it’s ok for me to feel this way-God isn’t gonna condemn me for it cos hey!here it is in the Bible!

    • Konraden

      “It’s not the parts of the bible I don’t understand that scare me, it’s the parts I do understand” – Mark Twain

  • Karleigh

    “Don’t try to mislead people by just reading into a few verses what you want.”

    Yeah, because religious leaders trying to influence people NEVER try to do that, do they??

  • A little food for thought, although I’m not sure I can reach any conclusions about this:

    It’s interesting that Ecclesiastes says that those who have never been born are better off than those who have been. This isn’t unlike the claims of Hellenistic mysticism that matter is intrinsically evil and that it is best not to allow children to be born. (Much later, this notion ended up in many forms of Gnosticism in the Christian era and was even part of the philosophy of the medieval Cathars, their spiritual descendants.)

    However, this link may just be an appearance. Ecclesiastes is dated by textual analysis as having been written in something close to its present form around the middle of the 4th century BCE. (Many fundies and literalists believe it was written by Solomon, but generally this ideas isn’t taken seriously.) Thus, Ecclesiastes predates the Alexandrian age which opened up the Hebrews to Greek culture.

    Of course, Hellenistic mysticism had been around since around the dawn of recorded Greek history, so this idea predated Ecclesiastes, but unless Ecclesiastes was written later, around the turn of the 3rd century BCE or later, I doubt its author got this notion from the Hellenes.

  • claidheamh mor

    I have Miguel’s number.

    It’s 58.

    58. ARGUMENT FROM ARGUMENTATION
    (1) God exists.
    (2) [Atheist’s counterargument]
    (3) Yes he does.
    (4) [Atheist’s counterargument]
    (5) Yes he does!
    (6) [Atheist’s counterargument]
    (7) YES HE DOES!!!
    (8) [Atheist gives up and goes home.]
    (9) Therefore, God exists.

    Unless it’s 73.

    73. ARGUMENT FROM EXHAUSTION (abridged)
    (1) Do you agree with the utterly trivial proposition X?
    (2) Atheist: of course.
    (3) How about the slightly modified proposition X’?
    (4) Atheist: Um, no, not really.
    (5) Good. Since we agree, how about Y? Is that true?
    (6) Atheist: No! And I didn’t agree with X’!
    (7) With the truths of these clearly established, surely you agree that Z is true as well?
    (8) Atheist: No. So far I have only agreed with X! Where is this going, anyway?
    (9) I’m glad we all agree…..
    ….
    (37) So now we have used propositions X, X’, Y, Y’, Z, Z’, P, P’, Q and Q’ to arrive at the obviously valid point R. Agreed?
    (38) Atheist: Like I said, so far I’ve only agreed with X. Where is this going?
    ….
    (81) So we now conclude from this that propositions L”, L”’ and J” are true. Agreed?
    (82) I HAVEN’T AGREED WITH ANYTHING YOU’VE SAID SINCE X! WHERE IS THIS GOING?
    ….
    (177) …and it follows that proposition HRV, SHQ” and BTU’ are all obviously valid. Agreed?
    (178) [Atheist either faints from overwork or leaves in disgust.]
    (179) Therefore, God exists.

  • Brian

    /in that time/. :/ jeez.

    He’s saying that in those times, it was so miserable that it was hardly worth it to live.

  • I’ve always hated listening to theists put a ‘spin’ on the words from their preferred religious text to support their own agenda. (think Landoverbaptist) It stings even worse coming from a non-theist.

    I can hope you were trying to be clever, and pointing out what most atheists have already discovered, that being that the bible, or any other ‘holy’ text, is generally written so ambiguously that it can be twisted to support damn near anything.

    I’m going with the latter, so I don’t have to stop reading your articles, mmkay?

  • John

    Shopped. I can tell by some of the pixels and by having seem quite a few shops in my day.

  • Don’t forget friend, Isaiah 40:8 says, “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.”

    Literalists can’t say “that doesn’t apply any more” either.