Monday, February 22, 2010

Bob Marshall levels with us

Now this is charming- legislator Bob Marshall of Virginia visited the recent convention to protest funding of Planned Parenthood and mentioned that

The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children...In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There's a special punishment Christians would suggest.

Now, this is just an attempt to threaten women away from exercising their reproductive rights. At the same time it's also a friendly reminder that a mother's "first fruits" had better be dedicated to the lord. Just a great illustration of the fundamental reliance structures of religion have on controlling the reproduction and early parenting practices of women. By structures, here I don't simply mean concrete religious institutions, which have shown a remarkable skill at creating large, widespread systems that are fairly efficient about terrorizing children into the faith (Obviously the Irish reform school scandals come to mind, but religious control of education has been by far the norm and not the exception throughout history).

More than that, I think this is a component of religion as a general epistemological structure, one that has been exaggerated at times due to historical circumstance; a feature of what world-systems analysts like Immanuel Wallerstein and Richard Lee would call a "knowledge structure." Religions are knowledge structures that function as ideologies, but even moreso than most ideologies their claims are without material force and increasingly easy to rationally refute. Thus they are very reliant on getting to possible adherents when they are young. If you want to channel a bit of Daniel Dennett, this can be considered a "memetic feature" that was selected for as religious institutions came down through history, and I would bet it has been amplified as science and materialism made faith less ubiquitous in the last few centuries.

After all, if you want to encourage a child's overactive sense of agency-detection and prime them to accept arguments from authority it's crucial to start early- and the way to the child and to controlling the child's early environment is by controlling the mother. So, in a way, religion is still asking us to be Abraham and put our Isaac up for sacrifice, only this time the mind instead of the body.

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