Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Chastity and Contraception

Michael Liccione over at Sacramenum Vitae links to a 1972 article by Gertrude Anscombe about contraception and chastity.

I will first ask you to contemplate a familiar point: the fantastic change that has come about in people's situation in respect of having children because of the invention of efficient contraceptives. You see, what can't be otherwise we accept; and so we accept death and its unhappiness. But possibility destroys mere acceptance. And so it is with the possibility of having intercourse and preventing conception. This power is now placed in a woman's hands; she needn't have children when she doesn't want to and she can still have her man! This can make the former state of things look intolerable, so that one wonders why they were so pleased about weddings in former times and why the wedding day was supposed to be such a fine day for the bride.

I think at this time people underestimate the amount of philosophical change that has been wrought on our culture by the availability of effective birth control. Those who have bought into the "contraceptive mentality" have a profoundly different understanding of what sexuality is what what the human person is than people at any other time in history. In this sense, birth control has changed our culture more than almost any other invention.

It's not just Catholics who have noticed this. In Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End, he posits that a race of super-intelligent aliens tried to "enlighten" humanity millennia ago, but things went wrong and they had to go into hiding because all cultures feared them. Their appearance gave rise to demonic imagery. (Red, horns, tail with point, etc.) When they show up again in the "present day" they provide humanity with two inventions, and then wait a few generations before revealing themselves. One of the inventions is a 100% effective means of birth control. I can't remember what the other was. (Any old SF fans out there remember?) The result is that all organized religions disappear within a few generations, and when the demonic looking aliens appear no one is bothered. (Clarke wasn't some RadTrad blasting birth control, he was an agnostic with Buddhist sympathies who thought the disappearance of organized religions would definitely be a positive thing.)

There's a lot of good food for thought in Anscombe's essay. I still haven't had the chance to finish the whole thing. (In case you couldn't tell, I've been pretty busy lately between work and family and such.) I post a few more bits of it over the next few days.

Here's the link:

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