What’s That? You Thought “Pro-Life” Meant Concern For The Unborn?

Posted on March 16, 2012. Filed under: Abortion, Atheism, Atheist Ethics, Pro-Choice, Pro-Life, Religion |

Many atheists I know, myself included, will from time to time express some empathy for the absract goals of the pro-life movement. 

  • They are trying to save lives, right?
  • Their “value judgement” is noble, if myopic.
  • The ultimate goal of a “pro-life” advocate is not entirely dissimilar to many pro-choice proponents.

I have at one time or another defended all three of these propositions.  What makes them true is that “the primacy of life” is a good thing to value.  Unfortunately for the greater “Pro-Life” movement, valuing life (and the primacy of it) is far from a forgone conclusion.

Surely there are those within the pro-life movement who think that the debate is only about the lives of unborn children.  There must exist those people.

Ahh, to be young and innocent….

Don’t be fooled though.  For the vast majority of pro-life supporters abortion is just one more extension of a religious culture war.  Do they support contraception? Not always.  Do they support social programs aimed at making pregnancy feasable for underpriveledged women?  Not necessarily.  Do they support arming women (and men) with the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions about their sexual health?  Rarely. 

If you are not against unwanted pregnancy then you are not pro-life.  You are anti-abortion.

It becomes even harder for me to believe that the real issue is the ultimate primacy of life if the lives you are so desperate to save are tools to forward a religious agenda.

I submit for your examination this “pro-life” article that appears on “LifeNews”, a “pro-life” website. The article is titled “Godless and ‘Pro-Choice’- So Happy Together For Abortion“, and as you can imagine, it is a clear and moving defense of the lives of unborn children.  Note how central the life of the unborn is to the authors argument.  Note  how the author puts the “priceless lives of children” above any kind of alternative agenda.  An excerpt:

Godless. Apparently, it’s a growing trend these days. In the 60s, America was fighting godless racism within our borders and godless Communism overseas. We were also fighting a godless, drug-filled, narcissistic sexual revolution refusing to accept transcendent morality, that found a leader in famed atheist, Madalyn Murray O’Hair.

As an attorney, she led a public crusade against what she regarded as society’s most potent evil—prayer. In the 1963 case of Murray vs. Curlett, she successfully convinced the Supreme Court to ban prayer from public schools. That’s not where the story ends. She spawned a movement that would get publicity like never before, thanks to her provocative obscenity-laced PR, and a media establishment that was growing more antagonistic toward religion. She founded American Atheists, an organization hell-bent on proclaiming God doesn’t exist.

Wait a second!  I didn’t read anything in there about unborn children, let alone how valuable they were.  Maybe I need to scroll down some…..

 We are a country, contrary to many atheists’ historical impairment, founded upon biblical principles that are infused throughout many founding fathers’ writings, including the Declaration of Independence. The AHA’s Humanist Manifesto I and II attempt to excise our country’s Judeo-Christian underpinnings and replace them with their recycled religion of humanism.

Advisory: No babies have been mentioned in the making of this message. 

Planned Parenthood’s history and present is rife with animosity toward Christianity unless the abortion giant can use religious folk to justify the mutilation of human life. American Atheists and the AHA believe that modernity is better served without religion. In fact, the AHA’s motto is “Good Without A God”.

No thanks. I’m an advocate for the marriage of reason and faith in a world where moral absolutes still exist.

Fun fact:  In the French language the words “reason” and “faith” are both feminine.  So at least this guy is for same-sex marriage….

 if only rhetorically. 





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20 Responses to “What’s That? You Thought “Pro-Life” Meant Concern For The Unborn?”

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Hey, are you suggesting that there is something wrong with the guys argument or simply objecting to the fact that he is talking about something other than unborn babies on a pro-life website?

I’m suggesting that atheists who feel that the Life/Choice debate is being argued with the best of intentions should be aware that this is not the case.
I’m suggesting that people who want to save the lives of children shouldn’t do it by trying to “other” people who have a different metaphysical belief system. Using human lives to score points in a culture war seems a little cold to me, that’s all.

How does the article you cited try to save the lives of children by trying to ‘other’ other people’s belief system and what do you mean by ‘other’ in the first place?

Also, are you suggesting that the intention of those arguing against abortion is not, in fact, to save babies?

Point taken. The article clearly isn’t trying to “save the lives of children”- it is using one groups feelings on abortion to criticize another group for an entirely unrelated belief. The danger is in the implication of a causal link between atheism and valuing life.
The reason why many (and I stress- NOT ALL) atheist happen to stand on the pro-choice side of the divide is not a question of how much they value life. There are many people who are both atheist and pro-life, there are groups that represent those people- one of the most popular atheist spokespeople, Christopher Hitchens, held to a mostly pro-life philosophy.

Atheism itself has nothing to do with being pro-choice. Atheists overwhelmingly tend to be pro-choice, for reasons ranging from the science surrounding the status of a fetus versus the reproductive rights of the mother to the lack of a strong non-religious argument against the procedure. Atheists also tend to be more concerned with evidence based assessments and don’t put much stock in dogmatic unevidenced opinion.

None of these things necessarily preclude an atheist from being pro-life. I’m an atheist, and I personally find the issue very difficult and multifaceted. I have been told by many pro-lifers that I’m “pro-life and in denial”.

The point of my post was to point out that the agenda of SOME pro-life advocates extends far beyond the lives of babies. If the lives of children was the single and paramount consideration of every pro-lifer, then I would say that the article I linked to is a fantastic step in the wrong direction. Villifying atheists is not going to save babies. Trying to paint them as “Godless heathens” hellbent on murdering the unborn is not going to do anything more than push the people on the fringes. The atheist is going to disregard your argument as a religious crusade and the already religious are going to believe that the answer is a religious crusade. Meanwhile, since we live in a country with a secular democracy, the government feels obliged to avoid your religious crusade and does nothing to save the lives of children.

Want to save unborn children? Try fighting for more comprehensive sex education, for accessible contraception, for free medical care for pregnant women, workplace daycare, financial assistance, flexible education programs and the like.

Abortion will always be around- legal or not. But if lives are what you care about then you need to advocate for a system that values those lives.

Firstly, I would like to make a point about what you think of atheists.

“Atheists overwhelmingly tend to be pro-choice, for reasons ranging from the science surrounding the status of a fetus versus the reproductive rights of the mother to the lack of a strong non-religious argument against the procedure. Atheists also tend to be more concerned with evidence based assessments and don’t put much stock in dogmatic unevidenced opinion”.

Your view of atheists is very rosy, for lack of a better word. The last sentence, especially, does not seem obviously true. Did you carry out a poll or is that simply your opinion? I don’t think such claims can be made about any group of people so it seems to me that such a view of atheists cannot be ‘evidence based’. If it is, feel free to share the evidence. It certainly hasn’t been my experience. The last sentence also seems to posit a [I can’t remember the word] i.e “atheists tend to be more concerned with evidence based assessments and don’t put much stock in dogmatic, unevidenced opinion”… as opposed to… theists?

Also, why do you think that the article is wrong (you definitely seem to)? Why do you think that there isn’t a connection between atheism and valuing life? In fact, I think that’s the point of your post. You seem to think that the article is wrong in suggesting that there is a connection between atheism and a lack of value for life. For that reason, it seems to me, that you see the article as ‘vilifying atheists’ when in fact it might be making a very good point.

I have had quite a few atheists tell me that life has no value and I have been unable to come up with an argument for the importance of life that does not presuppose God’s existence. Perhaps you have one. Would you like to share?

I don’t believe when I use terms like “reasons ranging from” that I am required to poll every atheist and itemize every individual reason for being pro-choice, but feel free to assume my argument is incomplete without me doing so.
Is my last sentence a veiled dig at the religious? Yep. Not gonna lie. Is it backed by direct research? Maybe, I don’t know. Is a good portion of that opinion based on opinion? Informed opinion, yes. The average atheist has a higher level of education, a better job, is more likely to work in the sciences, and more likely to be receptive to scientific evidence. There are studies that evidence those facts. Does this make it more likely that an atheist would “tend to be more concerned with evidence based assessments” and/or not “put much stock in dogmatic unevidenced opinion”. I certainly think it does, and guess what? That is an opinion based on evidence based assesments! So I guess it’s anecdotally true too!

Why do I think that there isn’t a connection between atheism and valuing life? Because there is no evidence, even anecdotally, that this is so. Anyone holding that opinion does so with no evidence. Professing atheists are less likely to be in prison for murder, rape, child abuse, and every other anti-social crime you can mention. So are you claiming that they are just smarter, and don’t get caught? Are you claiming that 40-50% of the population are really atheists and that when they get caught not valuing life they suddenly feign religion? What exactly are you claiming evidences your position? Fire away.

The idea that atheists ought not to value life is based on a warped opinion of what conclusions people might come to based on scientific evidence. So I expect you to evidence your point using “evolution means that everyone fends for themselves” or “if God doesn’t exist than life has no purpose” or some such bunk. All this proves is that we should all be glad that ogtracy is not an atheist.

This is a quick response for the time being.

1. I never said that atheists don’t value life. I said I haven’t been able to defend the value of life without presupposing God’s existence and you haven’t done it either in this conversation. All you’ve done is asked me why I think life doesn’t have value without God. I don’t remember making the claim that it doesn’t. I said, and I repeat, I haven’t been able to defend the value of life without presupposing God’s existence. Can you help me out?

Atheists may believe life has value if they wish to. My question is what evidence there is for that belief, which brings me to number 2.

2. Can you tell me what you mean by evidence?

I never said that you said that atheists don’t value life. I said that you implied that the author “might be making a good point” when discussing atheism correlating with a lack in valuing life. I expected that you might want to expand on why you feel that this opinion is “a good point”. I thought you might want to take a firm position on that opinion, that is all. Perhaps you don’t wish to share your position, and that is fine.

I assumed, when asking you why you think life doesn’t have value without God, that you thought life had value. Perhaps I am wrong? It doesn’t seem to me to be a false dichotomy to assume that if you cannot come up with any good reason to think life has value without presupposing God, that you have some good reason for assuming that God imbues that value. Am I wrong?

The only conclusion I can come to is that you think I ought to lay out “first principles” for every assumption I make in every post. I checked out your blog and noticed that you don’t seem to do that- so my question is: Why should I?

What I offered you was, I think, more than charitable. I’m offering you a chance to discuss what is an obvious difference in worldview. I’m happy to discuss my presuppositions, but I need you to show me the rules you want to play by. If you are going to spend any amount of time dissecting my presuppositions, is it not fair that I get the opportunity to understand and discuss yours?

I’ll start. I claim that it is not a given that atheists should not value life, and it is not a given that God (In any real sense of that term) is the most elegant explanation for why humans should value life. Do you assert a different position? If so, why?

I’m not entirely certain what to make of you quite yet. You can be sure that you are not the first Presuppositionalist to come to my blog. I’ve played that game, and held my own, more than once before. The two guys who tried it before, you will note, cut off their conversation midstream.
So what do I mean by evidence? Do you have a dictionary handy? They seem to be good at giving the meaning of words. Yet Tracy, you claim to make no assertions, so why do you care how I define evidence?

I do own a dictionary, but I asked how you define evidence because I wanted to know what you think about it. It’s mere curiosity. There’s no need to answer the question any longer.

I did not take a firm position on the issue because I do not have one. I’m still thinking these things over so I meant what I said. I do not know how one can talk about life having any value without presupposing God’s existence. You however, are an atheist and you think life has value so I wanted to know why you think that. I didn’t make any claims because I do not know. The best person to learn about this kind of thing from is an atheist, afterall.

I don’t think you have to lay out first principles for everything you say, but I do like to learn about why people think certain things.

So, you claim that it is not a given that atheists should not value life and that one does not need God to exist in order for a life to have any value. Then you ask me to defend my position if I assert something different. Well, way to put me on the spot. Don’t you think it would be nice to defend yours?

I’ll outline my thinking so you can better see where I’m coming from.
Christianity says that human beings are valuable because they were made in God’s image.
So, if Christianity is true, then humans are valuable.
If atheism is true, why are humans valuable?

Now, I’ll go find a dictionary and check out the meaning of ‘presuppositionalist’.

Hey, what in all of creation made you think I was a presuppositionalist?

I’m going to take you on your word that you are no presuppositionalist. The reason I got suspicious was the dual pronged “I make no claims” with “What makes you link life has value?”. You should read my several posts where I have dealt with those people. I you did, I’m sure you will understand how your comments could easily be construed as coming from the presuppositionalist playbook.
You will also note that using the phrase “I have never heard an argument for life having value without presupposing God’s existence” seems relatively presuppositionalist to me.
If you are not, fine. I’ll labour under the assumption that you are not.
My original post was predicated on the notion that there is no good reason to assume that atheists do not value life. The extension, as I pointed out, of that statement is that it is not a given that the existence of God is in any way the most elegant explanation nor a prerequisite for the value of life.
You claim to have no particular opinion on this premise, which seems suspect to me. You certainly value life, so either you do so instictually and have not questioned why- or you believe you know why you value life and are trying to deflect the question. I’m certainly doing the latter at the moment, because for me to begin defending my position without you doing the same is to start this conversation assuming you are the one holding the default position- and I don’t believe that to be the case.

I am a christian. I value life because I believe that God does. What I am trying to do is find out why you, an atheist, believe that life has value. It’s a question.

I do not have any opinion on whether or not there are good reasons to value human life on atheism so how can I hold the default position? You seem to believe that life has value so I’m curious as to why. It seems to me that you either have good reasons to think so, or you simply accept it instinctually, or you believe it because you see no reason to believe otherwise. Or perhaps you just never think about it.

If you won’t answer the question, do you know any other atheists I can ask?

How about this: I’ll write a post about it. You can ask questions and respond there.

I value life enough that I don’t feel I can do it justice in 400 words- or 12 words, for that matter. If I tried to do what you have just done, which is assume a position that presupposes a boatload of things- that God exists, the bible is inerrent enough to be trusted as the word of that God, and that we ought to act as God acts (among many other things)- well, that would be an invitation to be disregarded as either flippant or unreasonable. I would like to be neither.

The short explanation that best mirrors yours, and the one that I should like to defend in my post, would be:

I am a Human. I value life because I am both living and capable of empathy.

I’m sure you could inject God into my argument, and say that my conclusion presupposes God. Those, though, are your presuppositions- not mine. I could easily argue that you presuppose my worldview and inject God as a simple shorthand explanation.
Will you accept my non-theological shorthand explanation? I doubt it.

I would like you to write a post about it, yes. Sure, I could argue that your position presupposes God (if I thought that were true) and you could argue that I presuppose your worldview. We would simply have to find good arguments for our position.

As for your reply, you told me why you value life, not why life is valuable. Are they the same thing to you?

I don’t have to accept your explanation and I doubt it matters whether I do. I just wanted to find out what you were thinking. I don’t understand it, though. It’s not immediately obvious why being human and having empathy should make you value life.Perhaps I could come up with an argument for the idea if I think about it long enough, so I will.

I look forward to your post.


Just send me a message when you write it.

To answer your final request that I explain how life has value without God, I’d like to offer you a challenge.
Perhaps you would like to explain to me why the only value that humans have is granted to them by God, and not at all from any other source. When you do this, it will allow me to show you your presuppositions, and we can compare the two. Maybe we could turn this into a post of its own.

There are a lot of atheists who are also pacifists. That is in my opinion much more pro-life, than the argument over wether abortion should be legal or not. I agree with George W in that sexual education and acces to contraception are agendas that actually may have effect to the number of abortions made, not simply banning it outright.

As an atheist in third generation it is very hard for me to see how a god and the value of life are connected in any way. All creatures wether they have theological notions or not value their own life. Most social creatures value the life of their own species or at least the lives of their own social group. It is perfectly natural.

We humans have a capability to see consequenses of our actions and inaction further than most animals. Therefore we also should be able to judge our deeds accordingly.

The notion that only a Christian can value life because God does is as ridiculous as it is hypocritical. The Christians who forced conversions during the acquisitions and tortured and killed both Muslims and Jews during the Far-from-Holy Wars hardly valued life. One only needs to have compassion, reason, and a good heart to value life. God is a concept, an essence that is used to explain the unexplainable and to fill the void of unexplainable. God is the thread that weaves the fabric of time and the cosmos together. God does not instill piety in a person merely because of belief. There are enough children who have suffered death because “God told” the parents to cleanse the world of their evil.

As far as the abortion debate. There is an ignorant assumption that pro-choice means pro-abortion. I personally believe an abortion should only be performed in cases of rape, incest, or the mother being at risk. I oppose abortion as a method of birth control. That being said it is not my place to tell another woman what they can or can not do with their body or anything in it. It’s not the government’s place either. So, while my personal affinity is that of choosing life, I do not feel it overrides a woman’s right to chose.

I state this as a rational theist. Not an atheist or a dogmatic religionist.

Though I might slightly tweak your reasons why abortions might be ethically permissable, I appreciate your evenhanded opinion. You consistantly surprise me Nelson!

Are you talking to me, Nelson?

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