There are a few articles floating around the intertubes about Toni Braxton saying that she believes her son’s autism is due to the fact that she had an abortion. I shared a link to the story and commented that her believing that God gave her son autism shows to me that her God is huge dick who punishes innocent children for their mothers’ mistakes.
I got a couple of comments on that post saying that I shouldn’t judge a fairly good religion by what some of its celebrity members have to say, or that not all Christians are crazy that way.
I shared the article again with the following reply:
This isn’t a knock at Christians, or believers of any religion. This is a comment on how someone can hold a deity in high esteem that is obviously not what most people would call moral. I know that not all Christians are like that, but the ones that open their mouths, the ones that are out there spouting this stuff (many are politicians and celebrities) are doing all Christians a disservice by representing their God as a merciless, capricious psychopath. I don’t think that Toni Braxton is a bad person, but I do think that she is deluded into believing that somehow she is to blame for her son’s condition. This puts unneeded guilt on her, and can’t help, to some extent, transfer some how to her son. This particular belief is causing emotional harm to her and possibly her son. These are the things about religion that gall me. I don’t personally care what anyone believes. What I do care about, and what I will continue to speak out about, are the harms, big and small, that come from irrational thinking like this. This includes people who try to spread beliefs like this using their positions (celebrity, politician, etc), and who push their beliefs on others, especially in the form of laws and social constructs.
A very interesting part of the story that isn’t hinted at in the headline is why the decision to have an abortion was a very difficult one.
The Raw Story mentions that she had the abortion because:
“…she found out she was pregnant when she was taking the powerful acne drug Accutane.
The drug, which shrinks and eliminates sebum-producing cells in the skin, was first used as a chemotherapy drug for pancreatic and brain cancers. Women are urged not to take the drug if they are pregnant or may become pregnant because the chemical attacks rapidly reproducing cells like those of a developing fetus. Embryos exposed to the drug can have severe birth defects.
The risk to unborn children is so great that doctors often prescribe two forms of birth control to women who take Accutane.”
That her decision was so wrought anguish is likely true of almost all women who have abortions and is something other articles I read about didn’t even bother to mention.
At the end of The Raw Story there is an update:
UPDATE: A reader pointed out that Braxton later said that her son’s autism diagnosis was incorrect. SFGate reported that the singer told People magazine, “I thought I was being punished for having an abortion. But I realized there is nothing wrong with my baby. He just learns differently.”
This, of course, is an inexcusable, but common, occurrence in today’s media. Salon included those details. The HufPo included the quote, leaving out the fact that her son doesn’t actually have autism, and mentions nothing about Accutane being the reason she decided to have the abortion.
There are two major things that bother me about this whole incident.
The media sucks at their job, assuming their job is to accurately report news. This, however, isn’t the reason I am writing this.
The really important, and disturbing, thing is that Toni Braxton berated and punished herself because she believed that an all knowing, all seeing, supposedly merciful deity saw no problem punishing her innocent son because she had done something it didn’t like. This is one of the places where religious belief and magical thinking can cause harm. Most religions pile guilt upon followers for all kinds of acts, many harmless. This guilt can taint a person’s entire outlook on life, how they feel about themselves, and affect how they relate to others.
How we feel about ourselves affects everyone around us. This, in turn, can affect people around them. Guilt, depression, anxiety all conspire to eat away at the chances we have to experience joy and love. Now, I’m not blaming religion for all the unhappiness in the world, but as this case shows, religious belief can cause anxiety and unhappiness, and needlessly so.
Featured image by davecobb