Posted inSex & Gender

Religion’s Talons Grip from Birth to Death

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Bert recently contributed a piece the other day discussing how religion can get its grasping talons to exert their painful pressure on adherents lives from birth to death. Juniper, in the comment thread, had this set of personal accounts to add to Bert’s piece, reposted with kind permission:

“A woman’s body is just a receptacle to them.”

My (estranged) parents are extremist anti-choicers. We went to dozens (hundreds?) of anti-choice protests. One of my earliest memories is of standing next to a poster, taller than I was, of a disembodied third trimester fetal head with a small piece of spine protruding below. My father told me that he didn’t exactly agree with people who bombed “abortion clinics”, but since those places were the site of “the modern Holocaust”, he understood where bombers were coming from.

One day my father was griping that people were “overreacting” to news that Bluebell Creameries had repeatedly violated cleaning protocols, leading to several known and probably many more unknown outbreaks of listeriosis.

“Miscarriages,” I said, “Listeria causes miscarriages. Bluebell probably caused thousands of miscarriages.”

“Well,” he shrugged, “I think people are overreacting.”

And I realized that, for all his talk about “the modern Holocaust”, he could not care less about embryos (“babies”) dying. So what did he care about?

My parents are the no-birth-control kind of Catholic. My mother had already told me about 2 times that my father had r***d her. Later, she revealed that 3 of my 4 siblings were conceived by sex of, at best, dubious consent.

My father once told me that the problem with welfare is that it lets women leave bad marriages. He is furious when women win civil suits against sexual assailants. My father cares about preserving the right of men to use women against their will.


My uncle tricked my aunt (my father’s sister) into her first date with him, and didn’t reveal the truth for decades. After a few months of dating, they had a shotgun marriage. My paternal grandparents were so ashamed of the pre-marital conception that they didn’t celebrate ANY milestones (no anniversaries, no birthdays) for years after the shotgun wedding. I don’t think my aunt or uncle have ever told their children the truth about their first child’s conception.

My mother told me that she and my aunt (also a no-birth-control Catholic, also a mother of 5) used to commiserate that they had “the horniest husbands in the world.” Now why would that be a problem unless…oh.


My maternal grandmother lost her fifth pregnancy (in 8 years). She was living with her husband and children in a trailer, and the pregnancy was deeply unwanted. With the full weight of Catholic misogyny on her, she blamed herself for the loss and vowed to “want” every additional pregnancy. She had 11 children in all, each one very much loved and very much neglected, because no one can actually parent 11 children. She bled heavily when she lost the 13th pregnancy. Her doctor warned her not to get pregnant any more. It was too dangerous. She lost the 14th pregnancy while taking a nap. Her teenage daughter found her lying in a pool of her own blood that stretched from one end of the double bed to the other. She survived, barely. That’s when my grandfather stopped impregnating her.

My grandfather loved living in the country, and my grandmother hated it, so she lived most of her adult life on a lonely country road. The month my grandfather died, she moved to the center of the nearest town.


So that’s how three, unrelated men handled the power of being raised by the Catholic Church to believe that women’s bodies are just receptacles for their use.

Patriarchy corrupts men. Deeply patriarchal religions corrupt men into monsters and turn women’s and children’s lives into hell.

I always appreciate Jennny’s contributions, who replied:

We were fundy and embraced with a passion the idea of setting up a branch of a national anti-abortion helpline and counselling service in our UK town some years ago. We were delighted that god had ‘led’ us to buy the right house for this a year before, with a spare room with a separate entrance for ‘counselling’ and a storeroom for donated baby clothes, cribs, buggies etc to help pregnant women financially if affordability was the reason they considered an abortion. So, I actually began to meet real pregnant women and realised how naive we were, there were some for whom having a child was just not, not, not possible, I won’t go into details. And I secretly admired those who were brave enough to own and choose what they did with their own bodies. (Some in that category who had no intention of keeping a baby, used us, because we offered free pregnancy testing in the days before these were available over the counter, they didn’t want to have to go to their GP for testing.) I have to admit it was with some relief that my husband’s job moved us out of the area a few months later and hubby got involved with other x-tian charities and I quietly forgot about joining any anti-abortion ones…keeping the dissonance hidden for a long time that I was actually pro-choice, a very wicked feminist, hoping no fellow x-tian ever asked me about my stance!

Juniper added:

I always admire people who don’t let their dogma interfere with their empathy.

I had to reject the whole system first. I started looking for evidence of the existence of God at age 7, and at age 22 was finally able to fully entertain the thought experiment that maybe the appearance of a lack of evidence did NOT stem from my own moral failings. Maybe there was no apparent reliable evidence for the claim because the claim was untrue.

It took me another 1-2 years to fully examine the harm caused by the anti-choice movement and realize that their claims that pro-choice politics lead to wide scale dehumanization are the exact opposite of the truth.

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...