"Every Sperm is Sacred" is the title of a song that I actually got the DJs to play at my wedding.

But it's more than just classic Monty Python schtick (released, among other places, as the B-side of the 1983 vinyl "galaxy" single, which was shaped like a fishbowl). This song highlights a deep, difficult issue that humanity is mostly quite content to be head-in-the-sand about. I'm referring, of course, to birth (and population) control, and specifically to Christianity (and other major religions') tendency to denounce it as evil.


On Machiavellian levels this argument does make sense. As a social organization, you (the Church or religion) want to maximize your member base -- numbers are power, and money. And arguably, the best parishoner is one who's been raised in your religion, because those stories from childhood really stick. Also, if you want to send some people to war, convincing them individually might be hard, but if your Authority is sacred to their brothers and mothers and grandmothers, well...

Of course we know now that the rights of individuals over their lives and bodies trumps any organization's desire to continue to exist. This is explicit in the modern political structure, which is, in spite of recent hiccups, overwhelmingly liberal in America and Europe--I mean "liberal" as in "liberal political theory", not in the more narrow, inter-system view of "liberal versus conservative". Technically speaking, "Liberal politics" includes things like freedom of speech and the rejection of sexism, slavery and racism, and is the opposite of things like Syrian divorce-laws and the Rwandan slave trade and the not-too-long-dead Christian view that women aren't fully human. On the liberal view, if an organization deserves to continue to exist--if it does good things for people--then people, as long as they are allowed to act freely, will most likely allow it to continue existing. And if it isn't, they won't. In other words, the Church can want to be big and powerful just as hard as it can, but our whole modern system of society and government says quite clearly that it's no longer allowed to violate fundamental rights to do so -- nor is it allowed to endanger humanity as a whole.

Dire Consequences

And of course, that's the rub -- unlike in the good old Dark Ages, we know now that our footprint as a species on the planet is becoming irresponsibly large. We have also noticed a huge variety of social problems that are directly or indirectly caused by unwanted or unraised children are epidemic, especially in developed areas. These include widespread drug addiction, spiralling imprisonment rates, teenage pregnancy, and psychological and physical abuse and neglect. It should be noted that some of these social problems are the actual causes of the "assault on family values" in modern times, yet the assault is usually co-opted by the pro-sperm lobby as something to blame birth control for.

What about "pro-life"?

The usual counterargument "for life" falls flat, faced with the simple fact that life--almighty Nature, which creates and governs all life--demands death, pruning, selection, and above all balance. There is nowhere in the living world that an example of this truth cannot be found. True, other animals do not practice proactive birth control. Instead, they practice a long-term version: They breed as much as possible until Nature, life-loving nature, steps in and culls a large chunk of them (or all of them), resulting in mass die-offs. That's life, you might say.

But is that how we humans want to do things? We are different from animals in only one way: We have the ability to think this out and write it down and take some action besides the simplest, besides that which comes most easily into our heads. Should we just forget about that, and do what the animals do, and breed as much as we can until, in effect, God brings out the Clue Bat again? Or might the creative force of Nature have given us those abilities for a reason?

That's the macrocosmic view. As you descend, there's the social view, where the most obvious solution to overcrowding, poverty and crime is to stop having the children that aren't wanted and won't be raised properly. It's doing everyone a favor, from the reluctant or incapable parents, to the child who would otherwise live a life that none of us would want, to the people who will later have to care for (or pay for, or be victims of, or incarcerate, etc.) that child. Great care must be taken to not intrude on individual rights from the other direction and become an Orwell story, with "the government" deciding who has the right to breed--I'm not advocating that at all. But birth control for people who know they aren't ready for kids, or who are obviously incapable of being parents, is the opposite of Orwellian--it's giving the individual more choice, not less. (What choice does a crack-addicted woman have who now has children to support? What choice does her family have?) Yet large portions of the Christian, Muslim and other major religious communities are dead set against it. They prefer hoards of suffering people who will pay tithings (and/or vote the preferred way) to less, but healthier and happier, people who might not.


Freed from the internal logic of religious dogmas and the weak excuses of tradition, their argument is indefensible.

The better and more available the basic birth control, the less abortion, and more importantly the less abandonment, the less brain-damaged and emotionally impaired children, the less crime and overpopulation and craziness and strain on future generations. Also less plagues, less famine, less war, less pollution...

Life is sacred, not sperm (or ova or blastocysts or embryos).

Life is done no favors by worshipping the conception process and neglecting the people who result from it.

Thank you, Monty Python, for making this something to sing about!