On religion, hairdryers, anti-abortion lunacy, and Jacinta Collins

You may have heard this quib by Sam Harris before:

“The president of the United States has claimed, on more than one occasion, to be in dialogue with God. If he said that he was talking to God through his hairdryer, this would precipitate a national emergency. I fail to see how the addition of a hairdryer makes the claim more ridiculous or offensive.”

This is of course not a problem limited to US presidents, but applies to every person on the planet; many people justify the things they do or say by referring to a supernatural being. And yet unless those people claim to receive the missives from their invisible magic man through their TV unit or hairdryer, we don’t usually consider them mentally ill or incapacitated.

Religious delusions are quite common in schizophrenia for example, and I have never understood exactly how and where psychiatrists draw the line between mere “benign” religious belief and religious delusions, to me this is only a quantitative difference, not a qualitative one.

Which brings us to anti-abortion campaigners. Mammals have abortions, this is a fact of life, and it is an important mechanism to preserve the genetic fitness of a species and weed out deleterious mutations. It is estimated that 60-75% of all conceived human embryos are naturally aborted, a large number of these without the woman even realising. Presumably if god was anti-abortion, he would have come up with a way to conceive offspring without such a high failure rate. But try to explain that to anti-abortion lunatics. In fact, try to reason with them at all.

Then there is the issue of women’s autonomy when it comes to decisions about reproduction. It takes a religious, misogynist and authoritarian mindset to deny a woman autonomy over her own body in favor of a clump of cells.

Considering all of the above, we finally get to Jacinta Collins. Who, as Chrys Stevenson points out, has been appointed by PM Kevin Rudd as federal minister for Mental Health and Ageing. This Jacinta Collins:

In 2000, Ms Collins was one of three senators who threatened to refuse to oppose legislation that would stop single women and lesbians accessing IVF.

In 2002, Collins called stem cell research the “unprecedented sanctioning of destructive research on human life”.

In 2005 Collins was part of a group of conservative business and church leaders trying to put abortion back on the national agenda under the “pro-women, pro-life” banner. She has also been a member of the ‘pro-life’ Caroline Chisholm society.

In 2008 Collins wondered if there would be “blood on the Medicare card” if there was public funding for abortion. She also hinted that she endorsed the Catholic/pro-life propaganda which links abortion to negative mental-health outcomes for women; a claim which has been widely and definitively debunked by mainstream researchers.

In 2009 Collins expressed concern about Victoria’s abortion laws, worrying about clauses that force doctors to refer women for terminations even if their personal beliefs oppose abortion.

In 2010, she called on the ALP to embrace ‘traditional values’ and reject same-sex marriage, or ‘risk losing touch with its political base’.
Collins is, according to Susie O’Brien, also anti-voluntary euthanasia, which gives people with terminal illnesses right to choose to die with dignity. Quelle surprise!

Cat, meet pigeons. A minister for Mental Health who makes up negative mental health outcomes for women, and a minister for Ageing who is against the right to a dignified death.

Chrys Stevenson is too nice to Catholics in particular and religious believers in general in her article I think. In my view, holding a belief in an invisible man in the sky whose presumed laws and directives are to be followed, should automatically get you disqualified to hold any public office.

As to Jacinta Collins, I can not vote for a party that would have her in such a pivotal position in federal government after the next election.

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