I was involved in a comment section discussion for another blog post entitled “Breaking Sex.” The blog itself is a community for conservative Christians so it follows that they have a strong anti-contraception philosophy. Basically the author argued that contraception goes against the natural order of rolling the dice every time the urge to have sex is acted upon. Because the use of contraception goes against the natural order it is illicit and immoral. As evidence of the immorality of contraception the author points out the negative impact contraception has on the fertility rate and how a population that uses contraception will naturally be replaced by a population that does not use contraception and this is all indicative of God’s will.
It is always a little dangerous for me to get involved in comment section discussions, especially ones involving religion or politics. Although not my intent, people often interpret my view-point as hostile and accuse me (directly or through implication) of trolling. Once this happens it is easy to fall into the back and forth flame war type discussion. I used to relish this type of interaction but now I do my best to avoid them.
As I have stated many times before on my blog, these types of interactions are seemingly never about the actual ideas being discussed. They seem to always be about passive-aggressively shaming the other person. Of course this is always denied by both sides.
The Christian conservatives seemed to be arguing in favor of using shame as a means of enforcing morality on an otherwise immoral population. Specifically as to contraception one commenter argued life was better in the 1950’s when the use of contraception was outlawed both legally but also through shame and public opinion. I argued that shame is a poor means of motivating people to act morally because they will only do so grudgingly and with resentment. Further, when a person is shamed they tend to want to shame other people and it spreads like a virus creating a population of unhappy, repressed, dishonest and angry people.
This conversation does raise an interesting question. Is shame ever justified?
In his book Healing the Shame that Binds You author John Bradshaw argues that there is healthy shame and toxic shame. Healthy shame is normal and occurs when a person acts wrong and is repentant for acting that way. Toxic shame generally results from abusive situations and results in people carrying shame around with them wherever they go. They feel shame all the time in other words. I tend to overlook the healthy kind but I suppose there is a place for that. In my opinion most of the shame I see is the toxic variety so I have adopted a more sweeping anti-shame philosophy than probably John Bradshaw would espouse. Perhaps my situation is unique and my mindset is biased.
It is my observation that conservatives tend to be pro-shame as a glue that holds society together. Liberals use shame as well but generally to argue for freedom from an oppressive societal forces like religion or oppressive morality. My general feeling on the subject is that shame creates and spreads misery. In this respect I do not view shame as a fair trade-off for a well-organized society.