What bothers me most about the Todd Akin scandal is the deep and unbridled ignorance and the contempt for reason his statement about "legitimate" rape showed. Akin has the right to believe what he will. But should he be elected to office for his beliefs? I would argue with Akin’ opposition to abortion on any day of the week, but I would not deny him the right to believe what he believes. I wouldn’t deny him the right to run for public office. I would never vote for him. And long before coming to his stand on abortion, I would vote against him because of his fundamental indifference to logic, reason, and sanity. His thinking borders not only on stupidity but on the very brink of sanity.
Akin believes, apparently (though he now insists that he meant nothing of the kind—I’m not fooled) that forcible rape does not cause pregnancy because under the circumstances of rape a woman’s body “shuts down” and makes pregnancy impossible. There is no scientific evidence anywhere that supports his view. All the scientific evidence available supports the fact that rape (I do not say forcible rape because by definition all rape is forced) can cause pregnancy.
Akin’s willingness to make distinctions about “legitimate” and “illegitimate” rape suggests his underlying belief that many instances of rape are really “voluntary” or the result of alcohol and/or drug induced stupors. In one way or the other, in his view, such instances of rape can be blamed both on the victim and the victimizer. After all, isn’t every woman a seductress? Is that St. Paul whispering in his ear?
Akin believes what he believes, at the baseline, because of his religion. And his religion isn’t everyone's religion. At least I hope not. His religion is one where you can say whatever you want as long as it supports a particular and narrow interpretation of God’s law. It’s OK to blow up an abortion clinic because God wants us to, it’s OK to make the teaching of science in public schools a carnivalesque evasion of the truth (global warming, evolution) because God wants it that way. It’s OK to execute murderers but not OK to terminate pregnancies. It’s OK to pray for someone’s recovery from illness but not OK to use stem cell therapy to effect a cure. The list goes on and on.
I’m not anti-religion. I was raised in the Southern Bible Belt. I attended church and took communion. I think in terms of the Judeo-Christian vocabulary—sin, guilt, redemption, forgiveness, charity. At some point when I lost my religion, I stuck with that Christian ethic and morality. It still makes sense to me in a secular world.
But now I struggle with the idea that extremist religious thinking, poor education, weak minds, all go together to create a singular void into which all of our American values and ideals are being sucked.
I see no conflict between belief in God and belief in a just and humane world. Belief in God shouldn’t lead automatically to rejection of science. Belief in science shouldn’t lead to rejection of God. And belief in God shouldn’t turn one into a moron.