Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Modern Day Atrahasis

The ancient Babylonian flood story Atra-hasis actually functioned as overpopulation propaganda. It was meant to encourage people to limit their childbearing because having too many children would lead to catastrophic events. Books like Benatar's (a hopeless nihilist) reminds me that this is the same battle the images of God and the seed of the serpent have always had (i.e., whether the creation and perpetuation of human life and existence takes priority in one's ethical decisions--i.e., whether it is the duty of those who live to co-create and allow other humans to live through their sexual (and other) decisions--or whether those who now exist should hoard the resources of the planet and their current environment for themselves or some imaginary importance of a humanless creation).

This article reviews a couple books concerning this very issue.

The reviewer sums up where the latter leads.

Taken seriously, Benatar’s logic leads to what might be called the Conclusive Conclusion. If we all saw the harm we were doing by having children and put a stop to it, within a century or so the world’s population would drop to zero. For Benatar, this is an outcome devoutly to be wished. “Humans have the unfortunate distinction of being the most destructive and harmful species on earth,” he writes. “The amount of suffering in the world could be radically reduced if there were no more” of us. Cultures more attuned to the tragic dimensions of existence glimpsed this truth long ago. Benatar’s title refers to the passage in Sophocles’ “Oedipus at Colonus” in which the chorus observes:

Never to have been born is best,
But once you’ve entered this world,
Return as quickly as possible to the place you came from.

Of course, most don't want to see humanity wiped out. Many just participate in practices that would wipe out humanity if it were practiced all the time and by everyone. It's like murder being an anticreational act. It doesn't wipe out all of humanity for me to kill someone. It is simply a practice that if multiplied and practiced regularly by everyone at all times would eventually lead to the reversal of God's creation purposes to fill up the earth with humans. Hence, it is not evil because it accomplishes that goal (God is still in control and will not allow such to happen); rather it is evil because of what, through selfishness (i.e., the exaltation of the Self as being "like God"), it moves against (i.e., God's purposes and the love of other humans who might exist according to His purposes).

The reviewer rightly notes, however, that one is always choosing what the future will look like, not only for himself, but for others as well. In any case, one is always making a decision in terms of what purpose he ties to the sexual act as either something that seeks to sacrifice/share resources and those things that the Self likes to hoard so that others may live, or something that seeks to secure one's own gift of life for the Self by ensuring that a minimal amount of other human lives will not detract from those resources/pleasures. Whether one is in agreement with Genesis (which argues for the former) or he is in agreement with Atra-hasis (which argues for the latter), will largely determine the way he argues about the use of contraception.

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