Friday, January 15, 2010

A compilation of my 'Your Say' letters

Occasionally while reading the Your Say section of my local paper, I find a letter that just gets under my skin. Usually it is some gross misrepresentation of the facts or outright lies. I figured I would make a compilation of those letters for those who either missed them or never had the opportunity to read them at all. I must point out that there is a word limit, so my responses are not as extensive as I might have liked.

06/02/09 – This letter was in responses to one that was complaining about ‘Satanism’ being part of a human rights declaration protecting religion.

“RE: Freedom of Religion (GA, 6/2). I always find it amusing when I hear or read people like Mr. Clapinski’s misguided views on Satanism.

Before I go on, I would like to point out that I am not a Satanist, or ever have been. If questioned, I identify myself as an ‘agnostic humanist’. I just like to know about viewpoints other than my own.

A Satanist, as it was originally envisioned by Anton LaVey, is an individual who follows a belief system that in no way involves an attack on Christian beliefs. In fact, one of the main doctrines of Satanism is tolerance (Rules 1 and 11).

Another common misinterpretation is that Satanists actually worship Satan. In actuality, most Satanists are atheists or agnostic. The ‘Satan’ of their religion is more a symbol of their beliefs (individuality, self indulgence etc.), rather than an actual being.

I will concede that there are some followers of Satanism, albeit, misguided ones, who think that it is the goal of their religion to undermine and destroy Christianity. But these are extremists, in the same way that Islamic terrorists use their religion to justify their actions. You wouldn’t say that Islam should be excluded from the HREOC because of the actions of a minority?

I understand that Christians may feel a certain level of fear from Satanists, being that many of their beliefs are in direct opposition. But trying to bad mouth and exclude them from things like the HREOC will only lead to more ‘extremists’.”

NOTE: I have since changed my how I convey my position. I now identify as atheist, not an agnostic. My views have not changed, just my interpretation of those words (thanks Non-Prophets).

14/03/09 – This letter was in response to an individual comparing Barrack Obama to Osama bin Laden. This was just after Obama announced he was lifting the regulations Bush had put in place regarding abortion. The comparison was that Obama would be killing more people than Osama, so he would be remembered as the worst of the two.

“RE: Who will leave the worse record? (GA, 14/3). I found Mr. Westaway’s comparison of U.S. President Barrack Obama to terrorist Osama bin Laden to be quite crude, and frankly, downright inaccurate.

The topic of abortion will always be controversial, but blaming it all on Obama is unfair. The global abortion rate has been estimated at forty six million a year. However, only twenty six million are performed legally. So it appears to be quite clear that abortion will happen, regardless of its legal status.

Even if those twenty six million abortions could be stopped by Mr. Obama changing his position (which they couldn’t, because a lot of them are European countries that the US
has no control over), that still does not make him solely responsible for them. The choice to have an abortion still rests with the individual, as it rightly should.

As to Obama ‘forcing’ medical workers to provide information on abortions, regardless of conflict with their own beliefs, this is already common practise. It would be entirely unethical for a medical worker to leave out information of any kind, based on their personal beliefs. They should, and as far as I know, are required by already existing law, present patients with all their options. This allows the patient to make an informed decision based on their own beliefs, not those of the medical worker.

I personally think the world will be a better place when Barrack is done in the oval office, so I would say Osama will be the one who leaves the worse record.”
NOTE: After this letter and another two expressing similar sentiments, the Your Say section was full of letters for the next few weeks in dealing with the whole abortion issue.

19/04/09 – This letter was in response to a specific letter that attacked my position directly, imply ideas along the lines of ‘repent or burn’.

“In Mr. Guinane’s letter to the Your Say section (GA, 9/4), he states that individuals who support abortions are forgetting the rights of the child. I think there are a few scientific facts that he, and the public in general, should be aware of.

Before I do though, I would like to say that I personally do not support abortion (as in, I would never suggest to a partner that they should have one). I think that people should more take care to avoid unwanted pregnancies. I do, however, respect a woman’s right to choose.

The first fact I would like to bring up is that up until a certain time, foetuses are incapable of survival outside the womb. So, if a woman doesn’t want to have a baby, she would be forced to carry the baby to term, causing unwanted emotional and psychical problems.

The second fact I would like to illustrate is that the subject of fetal pain is, at best, debatable. Much scientific research has been done, with the general consensus being that fetus does not develop the ability to perceive pain until near full-term. The movements of a fetus during the early periods are no more than reflex actions (i.e. a movement that is not controlled directly by the brain). Being that pain is perceived in the brain and that the connections to brain are not developed until near birth, the fetus would not be capable of feeling pain.

The final, and I believe most important fact, is that not everyone follows your religion (which I am guessing is Christianity). Yes, from your point of view, God is the creator of all laws. But not everyone shares your view.

My point through all of this is simple: if you don’t support abortion, don’t get one.”
19/04/09 – Every response to the letters I and others expressing a pro-choice viewpoint was along the lines of ‘God forbids abortion’. This is why I chose to respond in this way.

“In the letters I have written into the Addy over the past few weeks, I have avoided comment directly on religions. This is because I respect that individuals are allowed to believe whatever they want to believe. However, every letter that has been in response to mine and others who have written that women have the right to choice in having an abortion has ignore the facts and arguments we have put forward and simply return to the argument that ‘God does not want it’.

I have had many discussions with Christians about why they believe what they do. Some have actually thought about it and even agree with me that it is impossible to tell if what they believe is right. Others, however, maintain that they are 100% right. Even I don’t claim to know for certain that my belief is perfectly accurate (that there is no god).

When I ask these ‘devout’ Christians how they know that God is real, the most common response is ‘because the bible says so’. This no more proves that Christianity is true than it proves Islam, Judaism or any other religion with a sacred text is. And even if we could somehow eliminate all the other religions from being true, there is still the issue of authenticity.

For example, in 200 years, someone could read the Harry Potter books and decide to believe that it is based on true events. When told it was written as a fictional story, they would counter with “no, JK Rowling was really a witch writing about her own world”. When asked to prove that this is true, they could respond with “If I gave you proof, the wizards could make us all forget because they can do magic”.

The bible doesn’t prove anything, so if you are going to believe, at least think about it rationally.”

01/05/09 – This letter was in response to a letter suggesting that I enjoy the idea of ‘innocent babies dying’. I’m not entirely sure if this was actually publish or not, but I will still include it.

“In Mr. Guinane’s letter (GA 1/5), he suggested that I supported abortion by supporting a woman’s right to choose and that I should further investigate the subject of fetal pain.

Firstly, my position of not personally supporting abortion, but still believing that woman have the right to choose is because I believe that, in any free nation, we should not be able to impose personal views on others who do not share them.

The more important point is that neither Mr Guinane nor I are female. How can we, as men, tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her own body?

The reason I don’t support abortion personally is that, if I was in the situation of an unwanted pregnancy, I know that, given my situation in life (financial, family support etc.), I would be able to give the child a decent life.

Secondly, my source of information regarding fetal pain is a meta-study (i.e. a review of all the other studies that had been done) conducted by the American Medical Association, entitled “Fetal pain: a systematic multidisciplinary review of the evidence”.

The conclusion of this review was that fetal pain was not likely to be developed until the 29-30 week mark. Being that the current Victorian law allows abortions up until 24 weeks, this gives a five to six week margin of error.

I would actually have to agree with Mr. Kavanagh (GA 28/4) in that, until we know for certain, pain relief should be given as a precautionary measure.

My point, as it has always been, is that it is up to individuals to make the choice themselves.

I would also like to add that I will no longer be responding to letters in relation to this topic, as I feel I have addressed all the relevant points.”
As a final point, I have actually changed my views on abortion slightly. Not only do I think that it is a choice that everyone women should rightly have, I think it would be a more preferable option to adoption. My reasoning for this is that the world is beginning to overcrowd as it is. We face a future where one-child laws like China has may one day be the international standard. I would much prefer that people practise safe-sex than to have an abortion, but it is definitely the preferred option once conception has occurred (again, I still think it is a choice that we should leave up to the women involved).

Lord Bishington.

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