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Gamers: Ethics & Religion Discussion of ethics and religion and what place they have around the gaming table. The point of this forum is to give space to all the ethical stuff that is or is not relevant that gamers insist on talking about anyway. Also much discussion of real-world issues including religion and politics. THIS FORUM IS NOT FOR THE THIN-SKINNED! You have been warned.

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  #11  
Old 03-23-2016, 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Mouser View Post
Here's an interesting article on Jewish positions on abortion...

http://www.haaretz.com/jewish/featur...emium-1.572647
Im going to pull a Kal, and ask if there is a copy whihc isnt behind a paywall?
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Old 03-23-2016, 05:12 PM
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I am following this with interest and hope to participate as soon as my currently overly busy schedule allows.
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Old 03-25-2016, 09:25 PM
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I have given some thought to the issue. It is Holy Week so I won't be able to put those thoughts down coherently until after Sunday. For now I will just offer a few comments.

Normally on the subject of abortion it is best to speak in terms of life, because that is a reality that everyone recognizes. The whole concept of ensoulment is one that many people (and perhaps a majority here) won't even recognize as valid. So this isn't anything that I go into expecting to convince anyone of anything.

The scriptures don't address the issue directly. There are passages recognizing the value or personhood of the unborn, but they are not specific as to the time of ensoulment. It does leave room for the argument that there is some period (40 days is mentioned) before ensoulment happens. It is then important to consider whether there was still condemnation of the abortion of an "unensouled" child. It is possible that appeals to life, or other moral considerations, might also affect views on abortion.
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Old 03-25-2016, 10:20 PM
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Here is a question that I have wrestled with and is probably one of the biggest reasons I have a hard time with Pro Life, I asked if it was appropriate to post and got an okay, so posting it

'Why is it, that, abortion being such a heinous crime, being a nigh unto genocidal murder of millions of the most innocent imaginable unborn . . . why then is it not acceptable to use force to quash it? Burning clinics, tar and feathering 'doctors' and the like, as Patriots did to tax agents of the Crown. In order to put a halt to a cause of death that claims more innocent lives than any one of cancer, heart disease, or accidents then why is it not a just war to stand against the government who condones it and those who carry it out? It is hard for me to see terms such as 'genocide' and 'murder' bandied about, yet the most vigorous response seems to be billboards, bumper stickers and facebook posts . . . why is not force acceptable? Why are those who have used force held up as scum and pariahs? It just seems that to consider it such a truly epicly horrible thing, but not actually use illegal force just seems to be cowardice quailing before the big bad government'

This isn't a jab aimed at Salah. I don't understand Salah at times, but Salah is a veteran, and Salah for his beliefs has gone to places like Guatemala and Lebanon, so the last thing that crosses my mind when thinking of Salah is cowardice
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Old 03-25-2016, 10:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Salah_ad_Din View Post
Normally on the subject of abortion it is best to speak in terms of life, because that is a reality that everyone recognizes. The whole concept of ensoulment is one that many people (and perhaps a majority here) won't even recognize as valid. So this isn't anything that I go into expecting to convince anyone of anything.
It's important to remember that when speaking of this history of ensoulment, the Greek and Hellenistic philosophers did not have an essentially religious meaning of the term soul.

Aristotle was a dualist, but in a similar way to a modern materialist might be, not in a religious sense. (The Stoics and their heirs were monists, but I'm not digging into them atm.) Aristotle held that the soul, the psyche, was indivisible from the body. In De Anima his interest was in the potential of the soul, the capacity of humanity to develop intellect and reason. He was dividing his idea between the concept of simple viable life (which animals have) and the ability of the conscious mind (which he assumed only humans possess.)

I don't know that this is that far off a central question of the abortion issue. In my opinion, the argue over the beginning of life is a poor choice, a misdirection doomed to failure. While the foetus is unique in potential, it is not unique in form or capacity. The question Aristotle considered was the potential of the human form to become something more than animal. I think that is still the essential question. When does that potential begin to emerge into something distinct? When does that potential demand recognition?
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Old 03-26-2016, 02:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Salah_ad_Din View Post
Normally on the subject of abortion it is best to speak in terms of life, because that is a reality that everyone recognizes. The whole concept of ensoulment is one that many people (and perhaps a majority here) won't even recognize as valid. So this isn't anything that I go into expecting to convince anyone of anything.
The beliefs of Christians affect us all at this point. I don't think we should avoid a discussion about the fact that their beliefs have not been this eternal, unchanging, fixed point in theological space.

I don't expect to convince you, either, if by "convince" you mean "change your mind."

But a little of the history of how we all came to this point isn't something I need to convince you about. Because it's not an opinion you can accept or reject. It's a historical fact. I just need to pull back the curtain, and if you don't want to address this point then nobody can force you to do so. From a historical standpoint, Christian doctrine has gone all over the map on this subject. What you accept as a fixed, immovable point in space has been anything but.
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  #17  
Old 03-28-2016, 06:32 PM
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First, thank you for your patience. Holy Week has passed (at least for those of us on the Latin calendar) and so I have a chance put some thoughts together.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Origen View Post
From a historical standpoint, Christian doctrine has gone all over the map on this subject. What you accept as a fixed, immovable point in space has been anything but.
Actually I don't accept it as a fixed, immovable point in space.

I submit that Christianity in it's earliest days had a very clear message of ensoulment at conception, and a very strict anti-abortion position. I will begin to lay out that case in this post. Like many things that should have been kept Holy, that went adrift and only later was reclaimed. In particular the Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Churches have held fast to their abortion positions while the Latin Churches have, as you said, "gone all over the map." They went all over the map on a lot of things, in fact.

Let me admit up front that I am more knowledgeable of the pre-Chalcedonian Church Fathers than I am of the later, and especially later Latin, fathers. My studies and reading are mostly confined to the earliest authors.

The scriptures speak of the sacredness of life, even in the womb, but those passages are not specific, especially with regard to the possibility of an early period of non-ensoulment. When John the Baptist leapt in his mother’s womb at the approach of the Christ child, he was further along than that. The passages from Psalms and Jeremiah are likewise not specific enough to answer the question of a possible “delay” of ensoulment.

The position of the early Church fathers (and I am using that term to mean Apostolic Fathers and those up the the time of Chalcedon) were anti-abortion and where it is stated, considered ensoulment to happen at conception. Two of the most important extra-Biblical documents in Orthodox Christianity (and I am not attributing to them the authority of scripture) speak directly to the issue:

The Didace (II.2) gives a blanket prohibition of abortion: “thou shalt not procure abortion, nor commit infanticide.”

The Epistle of Barnabas likewise says “"You shall not kill either the fetus by abortion or the new born.”

When Athenagoras wrote his appeal “A Plea for the Christians” to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius he said (Ch. 35):


Quote:
“How, then, when we do not even look on, lest we should contract guilt and pollution, can we put people to death? And when we say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder, and will have to give an account to God for the abortion, on what principle should we commit murder? For it does not belong to the same person to regard the very fœtus in the womb as a created being, and therefore an object of God's care, and when it has passed into life, to kill it; and not to expose an infant, because those who expose them are chargeable with child-murder, and on the other hand, when it has been reared to destroy it. But we are in all things always alike and the same, submitting ourselves to reason, and not ruling over it.”
I have mentioned elsewhere the similar position of Tertullian on the matter of abortion. In his case he does specifically grant full humanity to the unborn.

Quote:
"For us [Christians] we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter when you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to birth. That is a man which is going to be one: you have the fruit already in the seed." Apology 9:6
While none of the Ecumenical Councils speak specifically to the issue of abortion (so far as I know) there were smaller councils that took up the issue.

Quote:
Council of Elvira, Canon 68: If a catechumen should conceive by an adulterer, and should procure the death of the child, she can be baptized only at the end of her life.

Council of Ancyra, Canon 21: Women who prostitute themselves, and who kill the child thus begotten, or who try to destroy them when in their wombs, are by ancient law excommunicated to the end of their lives. We, however, have softened their punishment and condemned them to the various appointed degrees of penance for ten years.
Now, one might argue that this only condemned abortions done by adultresses and prostitutes, while the abortions of God-fearing women are not condemned. I find that argument weak because if there were to be a differentiation, it would be the offspring of these sinful unions that would be deemed unholy (1 Cor. 7:14). The more obvious interpretation of intent is to imply that only an adulteress or prostitute would seek abortion. The upright woman (as they might say) would never seek such.

This thought process that only "harlots" would seek abortion is evident in the writings of John Chrysostom, where he condemns not just the prostitute, but also the faithless husband for their promotion of abortion:
Quote:
Why sow where the ground makes it its care to destroy the fruit? where there are many efforts at abortion? where there is murder before the birth? for even the harlot thou dost not let continue a mere harlot, but makest her a murderer also. You see how drunkenness leads to whoredom, whoredom to adultery, adultery to murder; or rather something even worse than murder. For I have no name to give it, since it does not take off the thing born, but prevents its being born. Why then dost thou abuse the gift of God, and fight with His laws, and follow after what is a curse as if a blessing, and make the chamber of procreation a chamber for murder, and arm the woman that was given for childbearing unto slaughter? For with a view to drawing more money by being agreeable and an object of longing to her lovers, even this she is not backward to do, so heaping upon thy head a great pile of fire. For even if the daring deed be hers, yet the causing of it is thine. Hence too come idolatries, since many, with a view to become acceptable, devise incantations, and libations, and love potions, and countless other plans. Yet still after such great unseemliness, after slaughters, after idolatries, the thing [fornication] seems to belong to things indifferent, aye, and to many that have wives, too.

-Homily 24 on Romans
Basil the Great wrote in his letter to Anfilochius, Bishop of Iconia:

Quote:
She who has intentionally destroyed [the fetus] is subject to the penalty corresponding to a homicide. For us, there is no scrutinizing between the formed and unformed [fetus]; here truly justice is made not only for the unborn but also with reference to the person who is attentive only to himself/herself since so many women generally die for this very reason.
His brother St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote (On the Soul and the Resurrection):
Quote:
“There is no question about that which is bred in the uterus, both growing and moving from place to place. It remains, therefore that we must think that the point of commencement of existence is one and the same for body and soul.
The Church Fathers you mentioned in your posts here and elsewhere have certainly been influential in Western thinking, and their writings changed the course of the Church (especially the Latin Church) from this early position to what you described as "all over the map." From Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches, and from post-Reformation Christianity, you would get an acknowledgement that this is only one of many areas where (primarily) the Latin Church went astray.

It is getting late here, so I will take this back up when I have more time.
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Last edited by Salah_ad_Din; 03-28-2016 at 06:37 PM.
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  #18  
Old 03-28-2016, 09:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Mouser View Post
Here's an interesting article on Jewish positions on abortion...

http://www.haaretz.com/jewish/featur...emium-1.572647
This link isn't working.

Try this one:

http://www.aish.com/ci/sam/48954946.html
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Old 03-28-2016, 09:44 PM
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Are Abortions Legal Under Jewish Law?

Judaism has a long tradition of 'a woman's right to chose,' allowing Israel to pass some of the most progressive abortion legislation in the world.

read more: http://www.haaretz.com/jewish/featur...emium-1.572647

Israel this year liberalized its already liberal abortion policy, subsidizing elective abortions, as well as abortions in medical emergencies or cases of rape, incest or adultery, for women between the ages of 20 and 33.

At first glance, Israel seems like an unlikely place to find one of the world’s most liberal abortion policies. Founded in the wake of the Holocaust, and, according to politicians, threatened by a “demographic time bomb” that may soon make Arabs the majority population, the state has aggressively promoted fertility treatments and now boasts one of the highest birth rates among countries in the Organization for Cooperation and Development, with almost three children per woman.

Ultra-Orthodox rabbis also wield considerable power in Israel, both as representatives of a large and growing sector of Israeli society and through the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, which has authority in some areas of religious and family law. Last year, Israel’s chief rabbis, Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger, issued a statement in support of the Israeli anti-abortion group Efrat, announcing to the country’s rabbis that they would be embarking on a campaign to make “the wider public aware of the extreme seriousness involved in killing fetuses, which is like actual murder.” Yet even among the country’s most conservative rabbis, abortion is not the polarizing controversy that it is in much of the world, because, according to halakha (Jewish law), the procedure is neither prohibited nor condoned.

Unlike Christian doctrine, which claims that life begins at conception, even the most stringent interpretations in halakha do not view the fetus as a “nefesh,” or “human being,” before birth. Historically, “the whole rabbinic tradition stayed away from that kind of language and never ascribed the value of full humanity for the fetus,” says Jeffrey Fox, a modern Orthodox rabbi who heads the Yeshivat Maharat in New York, which trains women to be halakhic and spiritual leaders. Rabbis, likewise, rarely compared abortion to murder, he adds.

According to the halakhic stages of childbirth, the fetus is considered “merely water” for the first forty days after conception, says Fox. Some interpretations recognize the fetus as human — with all the associated rights and responsibilities — as late as the third trimester; and in rare cases, when the fetus may fatally threaten the mother’s life, it can be removed up until the crowning phase of delivery, he says. While abortion is never permitted for frivolous or cosmetic purposes, Fox says, an abortion performed within the first forty days, is generally treated like a menstrual cycle, and, therefore, according to the laws of childbirth.

Supporters of the theory that a fetus becomes a human being only after birth allude to a passage of Exodus (21:22) in which two men are fighting and one accidentally bumps into a pregnant woman, causing her to miscarry. As punishment, the man must pay the woman’s husband damages comparable to those incurred for injuring a limb or other body part, says David Golinkin, a Conservative rabbi and president of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, who points out that the man is not accused of murder, which would be punishable by death. Golinkin agrees with Fox that abortion can be performed if it becomes clear that a baby is endangering its mother’s life.

On the other hand, halakha does provide for the view that abortion is comparable to murder in the sense that the fetus possesses the potential to become a human being, says Golinkin. He cites the Talmudic source, Arakin 7a, which states that if a pregnant woman dies on Shabbat, you are allowed to violate Shabbat — which is reserved only for saving another life — by performing a Cesarean section to save the life of the baby.

“A knife may be carried on the Sabbath in order to aid in the delivery of a child,” Yoma 85b reads.

And while halakha is based on a religious-ethic system of logic, it has also been linked to sociological arguments. As far back as the 17th century, Golinkin says, rabbis, probably outraged at seeing wholesale abortion being used as a type of birth control, adopted a stricter view.

Yet, “because the fetus is not a nefesh, there are rabbis who were also more lenient,” he says, by expanding the “threat to the mother’s wellbeing” to include both the physical and psychological. Rabbi Golinkin points to several 17th century precedents, such as the ruling of Rabbi Joseph Hakim of Baghdad, who decided that a woman who was involved in impure relations, such as rape or adultery, was allowed to have an abortion because she risked the stress of being exiled from her community and of her child being marked a bastard.

The mother’s despair is also taken into consideration if her child is discovered to be ill with a severe impairment or genetic disorder. While some rabbis approve abortion for a “defective” fetus within the first trimester, Lithuanian Orthodox Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, considered a critical halakhic voice on the issue, asserted that the operation is forbidden in cases of abnormality, as Judaism does not differentiate between souls.

While halakhic opinions resist neat categorization, most rabbis agree that “in Judaism, a woman is not in charge of her body, as the body belongs to God,” says Rabbi Yaakov Warhaftig, of the Modern Orthodox Nishmat Torah Study for Women Center in Jerusalem.

And while Israel’s new law reflects one of a number of positions in the halakhic tradition, Warhaftig worries that it may take too lightly the implications of such a decision, and, “even, bring about other types of murder.”

In the Jewish state, the halakhic principle that abortion should be allowed only as a last resort does play a role in legislation. Abortion is considered legal and is included in the “health basket” of state subsidized procedures under the condition that the woman receives approval by a committee, which is granted in the overwhelming majority of cases.
read more: http://www.haaretz.com/jewish/featur...emium-1.572647
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  #20  
Old 03-29-2016, 12:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Salah_ad_Din View Post
First, thank you for your patience. Holy Week has passed (at least for those of us on the Latin calendar) and so I have a chance put some thoughts together.
One of the things I like about this forum is the ability of a few people here to carry on sustained thought. It makes me feel better, because I've gnawed on arguments from here for years at a time. Though I project forthrightness, that is not the same thing as certainty. I value your thoughts, particularly when I am able to see the marriage of conviction, scholarship, and thought. If my tone veers off-road or you feel disrespected, I hope you will check with me, because I'm trying focus less on the negative arguments that never go anywhere, and more on those people I can learn from. And they might, perchance, even learn from me now and then.

One thing that is worth pointing out is that we are moving away from my fairly tight and specific argument. In involves:

1. What the views of Christianity have been historically, over time, on the subject of ensoulment.
2. What the "majority" position is, as represented by time and major figures.

Both arguments touch tangentially on abortion, but I'm not really hitting abortion head-on. From a historical vantage, no major Christian church or denomination has been pro-choice prior to the 20th century. Belief in Augustinian/Platonic delayed ensoulment doesn't make anyone happy about abortion. Both Augustine and Jerome had some not-nice things to say about abortion. That's not the same thing, and should not be misconstrued to argue, that all of these people were pro-choice. Just as I will not argue that Christianity was pro-gay/pro-LGBT, I will not argue it was pro-abortion. I'm not someone who is fond of anachronism.

My ultimate point is simply that when the judges in Roe v. Wade quoted a divided past in Christianity on where a person's personhood began, what one might call ensoulment, they did so correctly. The doctrine of ensoulment currently embraced by American pro-lifers is not the historic view of the church, or even the majority view over time. By historic, I simply mean that if you weighed theologies in terms of years embraced, Augustine and others held the field from over a millenia. Closer to fifteen hundred years. They fell out of theological fashion in the 19th century. In the RCC, a pope had to literally drop the hammer of infallibility on all discussion.

At least half of your references come from the 4th century, and I'm not going to focus on those, right now. I don't feel the need, when I've got Augustine in hand, to dicker over the Council of Elvira.

I'll start by hitting your statement about ensoulment and murder in the early church head-on.

Quote:
Origen's allegorical method of interpretation makes it difficult to ascertain the specifics of his actual position. Nevertheless, working with the Septuagint, Origen distinguishes between the abortions of unformed and formed fetuses with their corresponding penalties of a fine or a life. That he accepts this fetal distinction as valid is probable but not certain, since he goes on to apply the passage not to abortion but to spiritual harm done to unformed (catuchumens) and formed (baptized persons).
That's some careful tapdancing, right there, but even Gorman admits the distinction Origen made probably applies here. (As it did with Augustine, and later Aquinas.) Gorman's clearly uncomfortable about that.

So, smack dab in the 2nd and 3rd century, we have one of the greatest theologians and exegetes saying exactly what Augustine said later on. Gorman tries to pawn it off on Origen's pagan influences, and I'm not trying to conceal that. Obviously, when a Christian says something you don't like in the early church, it's the fault of those damn pagans. That's from Abortion and the Early Church: Christian, Jewish and Pagan Attitudes in the Early Church: Christian, Jewish & Pagan Attitudes in the Greco-Roman World, by Michael J. Gorman, page 59.

But let's go back even farther. Let's go back to Judaism, and the passage from the Bible you strangely didn't mention: Exodus 21. (Gorman is speaking about Origen's homily on this passage, above.) In Judaic law, a civil penalty and a fine were imposed upon a man for striking a pregnant woman and causing a miscarriage. Rather than blood for blood, and life for life, a fine is adjudicated. Judaism has never sounded like Christianity in regards to either abortion or the ensoulment/personhood of a fetus.

So the question is, why is Augustine's or Origen's idea of delayed ensoulment pagan, when he could have just as easily gotten it out of the Hebrew Bible?
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