by Marcia Mueller
We continue our carelessness and destruction of the planet, ignoring all the science that warns of catastrophe, both for human beings and even more for other species, many of whom we have already driven to extinction. And for all the arrogance about our human exceptionalism, intelligence, and capacity for rational thought, we go down the path of destruction placing more on faith in institutions that are becoming dysfunctional than on the accumulating evidence. We need to evaluate if we can afford to act on past beliefs in an imperiled world.
First, there is religious faith. As noted in an excellent article on this blog, the Church continues to enforce its past doctrines and dogmas. The Catholic faith bases its ban on contraception on its belief in Natural Law and that belief rests on two foundations: The first is that all things need to work toward their natural end; the second is that God created sex for the purpose of procreation. Thus, interfering with that natural end by using birth control is immoral.
The Church ban on abortion is based on the belief that at the moment of conception a human life with an immortal soul is created. These dogmas obviously cannot be proved and are matters of faith, which the Church continues to promulgate and which many Catholics follow regardless of the consequences of overpopulation: poverty, resource depletion, habitat destruction, species extinction.
Other fundamentalist religions essentially follow the same belief system, banning abortion, banning aid programs might provide family planning in foreign countries, and trying to legalize personhood for fertilized eggs. (All this while devaluing nonhuman lives and ignoring the extinction of whole species!)
So with its dogma-driven population policies, we cannot rely on Religion to play a part in controlling human reproduction.
Then there is faith in the family. The family has been the building block of society in producing and raising children. Yet we see more family breakdown, more children in poverty even in wealthy countries, more need for foster care in the light of abuse, addiction, and abandonment, more family members needing multiple jobs to survive. All make family life more precarious.
In poor countries with high population, unemployment, few social safety nets, and little access to family planning clinics or public education, the family may also be unable to fulfill its duties. Ill-cared for and undereducated offspring have little hope for better lives and can add to the discontent and strife we see in multiple areas of the world.
There are cultures that promote large families so that the children can provide for their aging parents. Yet studies in some countries, such as India, increasingly reveal that the old customs are breaking down. Elderly people are left homeless and without care as the younger generations seek better lives and more opportunities without the burden of elderly relatives.
So with all the social and economic pressures in the face of population growth, we cannot place as much faith in families to function as they have in the past.
The old injunctions to procreate come from a time when the earth was sparsely populated and mortality was high. But the social taboos and dogma against population control continue. They are reinforced by economic ideology (capitalism) that focuses on the need for continued growth and development, no matter what the consequences for the earth and for those left behind without the chance to participate.
Reviewing the problems of overpopulation in the light of climate change, environmental destruction, and the suffering and extinction of other species, we should ask ourselves if “clinging” to our faith in the institutions that are becoming more dysfunctional is working. Abandoning dogma, adopting children already here who need families, foregoing children altogether and developing lifestyles that do not revolve around parenting, and forming other types of families are options that can benefit everyone, including other species and the planet.
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