The New York Times has a commentary at its website in which the author commemorates the 40th anniversary of the Roman Catholic Church's condemnation of birth control which is outlined in the Papal Encyclical Humanae Vitae.
The declaration was made by Pope Paul VI on July 25th, 1968 and declares that every action to prevent procreation, from abortion to sterilization to contraception, is forbidden by the church.
Natural family planning methods that are approved by the church are allowed. Those used outside the church's sphere are not and can lead to a Catholic Church member's excommunication from the faith.
I think the author and others who remain church members yet question their denomination's leadership on this issue, may want to take into account the true nature of declarations such as this.
Ayn Rand rightly understood the need for individuals to be free to make choices in their lives in order to further their own existence which is grounded in a person's ability to make important decisions in their own lives (i.e selfishness).
The same logic applies to women who have unintended pregnancies or decide not to have children.
She saw religion as similar in many respects to the communists in whose rule she fled. As opposed to the communists who held man should sacrifice his life to the will of the collective or state, religion preaches that man should sacrifice all or part of his life to the greater glory of God or the church.
Both philosophies, in some form or another, deem a person to be a means to an end rather than an end in itself.
According to declarations, like Humanae Vitae, not only is a woman considered to be a means to an end but also introduces the fear of unwanted children into relationships, damns the pleasure felt during sexual acts and, its obvious The Catholic Church deems sex to be used only as a means of procreation, this regarding the act of sex itself as evil.
This as well as the other evil encyclicals such as Populorum Progresso (on Population Development), and Fides et Ratio (on Faith and Reason), in one way or another are all designed to make people feel inferior, worthless, incapable of living while, at the same time, fostering a culture, not of life, but of death.
As a recent de-convert from religion (I was an Episcopalian), I had to ask hard questions about my ownership of guns and my, now former, denomination's stance on the issue which is one that supports gun restrictions.
While in the end, I may have been forgiven or the priests may not have looked down upon me for my doing so, the way I read The Episcopal Church's logic is that in order to be acceptable in the church's eyes, if attacked, I had to be completely disarmed and could only defend myself with anything other than a firearm.
This is also true of other religious denominations, such as the Roman Catholic and Presbyterian churches as well as the Unitarian Universalists, who advocate similar positions on gun ownership all of which are deemed to condemn one thing most important for mankind to exist on earth: the inalienable right to life.
All religions have embraced the view espoused by Pope Innocent the Third who said:
As God placed two great lights in the starry heavens, a greater light to preside by day and lesser by night, so He established in the realm of the Universal Church two great powers, one to rule the souls of man and one to rule their bodies.
Extreme attacks on the human ego should be rejected by all since success and happiness in this life is ultimately one's goal and it is clear that religion and the god(s) they worship do not have a person's best interests in mind.
Rather than subscribing to philosophies hostile to human existence (like religion), instead people should embrace a philosophy, such as Objectivism or even libertarianism, that holds reason as man (or woman)'s means of knowledge, holds a person's true right to life and usage of his mind as his own life as an end in itself.