Why do the leaders of some religious groups like the Catholics and now even evangelicals oppose contraception, to the extent of even objecting to health insurance policies covering it? After all, access to safe, reliable, and easy contraception has to be one of the most beneficial advances that society has made. And the fact that 99% of all sexually active women use some form of birth control suggests that women are quietly ignoring the words of their religious leaders.
An interesting article by Mano Singham. Let me say upfront that I think the idea of religious leaders sitting in back rooms consciously plotting in some machiavellian way to grow their religion with contraception bans is silly.
However, Singham has a point in that doctrines promoting procreation are one of the reasons for the success of the current world religions. This isn’t due to any conscious strategy, but due to the fact that religions, like all cultural mechanisms, are naturally selected.
Religions that promote celibacy tend to die out over the long haul, for obvious reasons. Religions that promote procreation tend to do better over several generations since most believers stick with the faith they were brought up in. The best way to grow a religion, and for it to endure, is for the believers to have children.
Social psychologists, such as Jonathan Haidt and Ara Norenzayan, as well as many anthropologists and evolutionary psychologists, have discussed these theories in their works.
The problem for modern religions is that the doctrines are now largely being ignored by their adherents. Contraception gives women control of their lives in way few had throughout history, allowing them to choose for themselves how much of their life is dedicated to being a mother.
This is a good thing in a world with a population growth problem. I think it’s arguable that the number one problem in the world is population growth, with most other problems being details of that one problem. In every society where women are given reproductive freedoms, population growth tends to level out, or even to become negative.
It also reflects realities in modern life. In olden times, having lots of extra children insured that at least some survived through childhood, and provided much needed help on the farm. But in modern economies, children are an economic responsibility. It’s not surprising that most families in developed economies stop at two.
Religions were nicely in synch with the old dynamics. The challenge for them is to deal with these new dynamics. Change will happen eventually. The fact that virtually all of their adherents ignore the anti-contraception doctrines insures it.
- At Last Minute, Justice Blocks Obamacare Contraception Mandate (politicaloutcast.com)
- Hispanic evangelicals support Obamacare (politico.com)
- Sotomayor delays mandate for Catholic groups (msnbc.com)
- Lions to the left of me, Christians to the right (conradlucy.wordpress.com)