Pages

Sunday, March 25, 2012

American Atheists convention: day 1

[Today's post is by Kelsey and Kristine!]


Kristine: Being a pro-lifer at an atheist event is a little like walking around with three heads. On the one hand, the moment I arrived at the Reason Rally I  felt myself at home with those who think as little of religion as I currently do.  And yet as I found myself cheering and laughing along to the speakers, who ranged from the famous Richard Dawkins to youtube celebrity vloggers, I was jerked back to an awareness of my three heads with shouts like “A woman’s womb is not property.  We need to stop those misogynist bigots who seek to enslave women and occupy vaginas!” 

Kelsey: I got in last night, and American Atheists had a party to celebrate the success of the Reason Rally earlier that day.  I was introduced to the music of Australian artist Shelley Seagal, who I would later learn is pro-choice but very open-minded and friendly.  This afternoon, the two of us wound up discussing abortion and the right to life for a good half an hour, after which we took a photo together.

This morning, before Kristine arrived, Michael and I were interviewed by an abortion advocate for Citizen Radio.  All was fine at first-- the usual debate about hypothetical scenarios-- but went downhill toward the end. The interviewer said that she had been accosted by some anti-abortion activists (who called her a whore) while she was getting her birth control, and essentially wanted us to apologize for the actions of these strangers. I told her that I found the protesters' behavior unacceptable, and Michael replied in no uncertain terms that "Calling you a whore is wrong," but she just would not let up.  She shut off the recorder and informed me that I'm a horrible person.  I'm sure there's a heavily edited version out on the internet somewhere.  But hey, you win some, you lose some-- and we definitely won some today.

Kristine: A particularly productive conversation resulted after I helped one couple recognize that abortion is in fact ageism and discrimination. After all, why draw an arbitrary line that says that we will only grant person to beings who have achived a certain point of function and development?  They would not concede that abortion ought to be outlawed, but were willing to grant that society's current approach to the problem is arbitrary. 

Kelsey: One elderly woman looked me in the eye and said "I don't understand how women could be so hateful to other women."  I was upset by the attack, but calmly responded: "I do not hate women.  No woman wants to have an abortion.  No woman wakes up and says, 'I'm going to have unprotected sex today, so that I can get pregnant and have some doctor put sharp objects up my privates.'  No one wants that.  And we want to make sure women don't end up in that situation."  That settled her down a bit and she walked away.

Kristine: Responses were varied as people passed by our table. Some dirty looks, some shrugs, and the occasional double-turn as though they were’t quite sure they’d read correctly. Some were convinced that we were in fact a front for a religious group and demanded to know who was funding us.

Kelsey: "Students giving twenty bucks at a time" is not a terribly exciting answer.

Kristine: It was a thrill to be able to give secular arguments to those who'd only ever heard Christian pro-life arguments. "I disagree with you but I’m impressed with you," said one young man.  "This is the first time I’ve ever heard some defend [the pro-life] view with reason and rational arguments."   Another young man stated after a lengthy discussion that while he still disagreed with me "It’s nice to be able to talk to someone who can articulate their position without throwing baby Jesus in your face."  


Kelsey: Our email list grew considerably today.  Most prefaced their sign-up with "I thought I was the only one."  That's why we're here!  

Kristine: One grandfatherly man with a most friendly smile politely informed us that one day when we realize we are wrong, they would forgive us.  He left me almost as dumbfounded as the woman who insisted that "religion ought to be kept out of my panties."  I smiled and asked her whether it was okay to put science in her panties.

Kelsey: That cracked me up.  But my favorite debate moment came toward the end of the day.  A pro-choice guy had been chatting with us, earnestly trying to understand our position, when a woman angrily walked up and thrust an "I'm pro-choice and I vote" bumper sticker at us.  The guy we had just been debating turned around and debated her for us, using many of the arguments we'd just used on him!

Kristine: The adventure continues tomorrow!

56 comments:

flamingo said...

You guys are doing awesome pioneering activism there! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

this is really awesome!!

M said...

You are amazing. Great courage and wherewithal to stay calm in the moment. Thank you for doing what you do.

M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kelley said...

You guys are doing great work!

Michelle Ye Zhang said...

"I smiled and asked her whether it was okay to put science in her panties."

Nice.

Jen R said...

'Our email list grew considerably today. Most prefaced their sign-up with "I thought I was the only one."'

<3 <3 <3

That always feels good.

AngelaG said...

Sounds like a great (and sometimes weird) time, keep up the great work!

Anonymous said...

The woman who called you a "horrible person" was Rebecca Watson of Skepchick and she's mentioned the interview on Twitter at her account RebeccaWatson and with her friend SurlyAmy who had a table selling necklaces near you who suggested that she do the interview.

http://twitter.com/#!/rebeccawatson/status/183963635050217472

Anonymous said...

They photographed you. http://twitter.com/#!/SurlyAmy/status/183938215219167232

Anonymous said...

Funny how you claimed you will be subject to a "heavily edited" interview, yet your account of events is also heavily edited. Sounds like you were waving around bloody photographs of fetuses in the faces of women? How disgusting.

I think you don't understand most people who are pro-choice. I for one would never encourage or even want a woman to get an abortion. But I also would never make a woman choose between staying alive for her family when the fetus is threatening her own life. Because of this, I feel we need to stay free of the temptation to overturn Roe v. Wade and then try to fill it with exemptions. We put privacy as well as access to a sometimes necessary procedure when we try to differentiate the "type" of abortion. It is better to make education and resources available, but not scare and gross-out tactics you are apparently applying much in the same way as religious pro-lifers.

M said...

Where on earth did you get the idea that the SPL reps used bloody photographs?

Stephanie Zvan said...

"And we want to make sure women don't end up in that situation."

You can't. That's not in your control. Nothing you can do can make sure that women never get pregnant when they don't want to. It's not even in their control.

The question is what happens then. That's when the test comes of how you feel about women. And if you insist that they have to surrender their bodies, their health, and sometimes their lives because you personally in all your smug "wisdom" think they shouldn't be allowed to safely and legally do what humans have always done (and what many other species do automatically), then yes, saying that you hate women is not a stretch.

Claiming you don't hate women doesn't make it so any more than wanting women to never get pregnant when they don't want to will stop rape or make birth control 100% effective. That's just magical thinking.

Jen R said...

"Sounds like you were waving around bloody photographs of fetuses in the faces of women?"

What do you mean, it "sounds like" that? Did somebody tell you that? Or did you just decide they must have been doing that because

Jen R said...

My comment got cut off. That last line should have been "...because all abortion opponents are the same?"

Anonymous said...

"I don't hate women, i just support policies that relegate them to the legal status of a state-controlled breeding vessel."

Ooooh i have a better one

"I'm not religious, I just happen to agree 100% with the christian fundamentalists on the abortion issue."

"I don't hate women, I just defend the VA transvaginal ultrasound bill whenever people call it state-sponsored rape."

seriously, this is how stupid you sound.

Vegan Atheist said...

Whether one likes religion or not, it's ignorant to believe that the involvement of religious individuals on an issue invalidates the arguments. Religious people - particularly Christians, the dominant faith group in the US - have either founded or taken prominent roles in almost every social justice movement in this nation's history - anti-slavery, civil rights, anti-war, anti-nuclear, death penalty abolition, poverty relief, anti-sex trafficking, First Amendment protection, ....

And to be blunt here, I've oftentimes found myself to be the ONLY atheist/non-believer at anti-death penalty meetings, anti-war vigils or at a homeless feedings.

Kelley said...

Being atheist does not automatically make one an open-minded person. Sounds like a lot of the people there are going along with atheist dogma and taking on stances on things because it is what their atheist counterparts largely do. I am not a religious person, but find it interesting and ironic that though many atheists would stand strongly against religious people for blindly believing in their faith, they blindly believe in an atheist truth without opening their minds to debate it.

M said...

http://blog.secularprolife.org/2010/12/control-and-misogyny.html

secularprolife.org said...

We did not wave any bloody fetus pictures at anyone. Rebecca was recounting her experience with some other anti-abortion group, and then attributed that behavior to us.

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, you don't hate women, or think that they are inferior, you just think that you know much better what they should do with their lives and bodies than they know themselves.
You really sound like my control-freak mother who always only wanted the best for me, provided that the best for me was actually what she wanted for me, regardless of what I wanted.
Worked fine, it's not like I'm in therapy or something because all my life somebody thought that they knew better what I wanted and needed than I myself and who enforced their loving control on me...

Jenna Carodiskey-Wiebe said...

Great work, ladies. It always shocks me that science has not ALREADY won the day for life. When we first saw those gorgeous intra-uterine films from NOVA I thought the abortion debate was OVER, and without religion.

Anonymous said...

It's always amusing when subhumans fight for "human rights"

Anonymous said...

Should I get pregnant, yes, I do *want* an abortion. I would prefer to be sterilized via insurance the next time I have a job, but abortion must be my failsafe until then should my other measures fail. Be pro-life, that's fine, but stay the hell out of my uterus. Respect the fact that I don't want to bring children into this world for any reason. Try to save the children who are already here and unwanted before you try to mess with those of us who don't have a lot of choices.

M said...

Actually, if you read the whole post, I point out that "a choice may be bad overall while not necessarily hurting the chooser." You don't have to hate someone to believe what they're doing is wrong and shouldn't be done. I'm sure it makes for a more comfortable narrative as you put the entire pro-life movement into one, ugly, easily-dismissed box, but that doesn't make it true.

M said...

http://www.zazzle.com/choices_keychain-146756778069498881

Kelley said...

I've always said, I don't care what you do to your uterus. Have a hysterectomy for all I care. What I DO care about is what you do to that living human inside of you. Murder should never be your choice.

Anonymous said...

Kelly is an Atheist when she's talking to pro choicers, a Methodist when she's talking to pro-lifers.

Sounds like someone's been learning a thing or two from Mitt Romney.

Anonymous said...

^This is how kelley justifies her persecution of women.

Jen R said...

Are you confusing Kelley and Kelsey? If so, that's hardly their fault.

Gordon said...

I'm ashamed there is such a thing as a secular anti-choice group. I thoughtwe were better than that

Anonymous said...

Well, since you think I am unable to make good choices because you disagree with my choice, it's you who puts yourself in a box.
And an ugly one it is.

Anonymous said...

@Gordon There are pro-life atheists, pro-life gays and lesbians, pro-life pagans, pro-life Muslims all with their own groups.....The Christians may get the most attention, but for most of us it's the facts of human development that make us opposed to abortion.

Anonymous said...

You know, as soon as that creature gets out of my uterus, it has my full support and protection.
As I deny the right to access my body to anybody without my consent, that is true for fetuses, embryos, blatocytes and people needing bone-marrow transplants alike.
Are you a murder because you still have both of your kidneys? After all, people die from lack of organs...

Anonymous said...

Oops my mistake thank you for correcting me on who in SPL is a terrible liar.

Hint: It's all of them.

Michelle Ye Zhang said...

What is your definition of "being an Atheist"?

Is atheist synonymous with secular thought now?

Anonymous said...

http://blog.secularprolife.org/2012/03/bodily-integrity.html

Anonymous said...

How did you get from "disagree with this particular choice" to "unable to make good choices generally"?

How did you get from "don't think some women are making the right choice" to "hate all women"?

MoronicProchoiceQuotes said...

Waaah, abortion has been legal for 40 years and still they shriek persecution-must be comforting to women in Africa watching their children starve that brave little warriors like anon can legally kill their children and all they can do is whine about how put upon they are. Typical 'empowered' feminist. Rawwwr.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Nope. That post doesn't address the issue at all. It just claims that abortion is inhumane. Saying so, like everything else you claim, doesn't make it so.

There is nothing inhumane about abortion. We've been doing it throughout our history. We are descended from animals that abort automatically under some circumstances--because it's good for the individual mother and good for the society in which it happens. It's evoluntionarily selected for.

Medical abortion just preserves that ability in an technological society. If you want to claim it's inhumane, you're going to have to explain how it goes from something that's good for individuals and species to something that's bad.

Until then, you're just claiming that your personal feelings on the issue are more important than the women affected. And that is telling those women they're less important than you. That's not exactly love, kiddies.

Anonymous said...

I'm not following how "this has been practiced throughout history" = "this must be humane and good." I can think of a lot of things practiced throughout history that we deplore.

Bryan said...

"There is nothing inhumane about abortion. We've been doing it throughout our history. We are descended from animals that abort automatically under some circumstances--because it's good for the individual mother and good for the society in which it happens. It's evoluntionarily selected for."

Stephanie, you're making an appeal to tradition and an appeal to nature. Like the anonymous person above me pointed out, just because humans do something naturally or have been doing something for a long time does not mean that action is right.

http://courses.csusm.edu/fallacies/naturalistic.htm

http://courses.csusm.edu/fallacies/tradition.htm

Unknown said...

<"I don't hate women, i just support policies that relegate them to the legal status of a state-controlled breeding vessel.">

Seeing as roughly half of the pro-life movement is women, that's an awful lot of women who are actively working to make themselves "state-controlled breeding vessels."

<"I'm not religious, I just happen to agree 100% with the christian fundamentalists on the abortion issue.">

Because if you agree with another group on anything, you must secretly be a member of said group.

I love vodka. Stalin loved vodka. Gah, I must be a closet communist!

Unknown said...

I don't agree with them, so they must all be liars!

Unknown said...

As a atheist pro-choicer, I am ashamed that you think you can dictate what other secular people are allowed to believe. I would much rather a person be pro-life, open-minded, and rational than pro-choice, close-minded, and dogmatic. The former is much more in keeping with the spirit of secularism.

Kelley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kelley said...

^ This is how you justify your persecution on the unborn. There is world of difference between giving a kidney and killing the unborn. One is the DIRECT act of ending a life, the other is not. The baby is no different the moment before birth as it is the moment after birth, and an abortion at that point is no different than killing a newborn. Many great atheist agree with me, such as Christopher Hitchens. The fetus is merely a stage in human development. A human is dying in an abortion. Unfortunately for the baby it is located in the most volatile and dangerous place on earth. It isn't justifiable to end a life because it happens to depend on you.

Patrick said...

Loved this! Secular pro-life makes me proud. I'm happy to know that some Atheists felt compelled to protect your right to an opinion even if it was contrary to their own. That is the true nature of a free thinker and it was quite shameful to come across so many inconsiderate fellow Atheists.

Anonymous said...

So Kelley, when does life begin? Most religious people say "life begins at conception." Ok, but weren't the cells that create the embryo alive before that too? Also, should we have funerals or issue birth certificates for every embryo that doesn't implant and is flushed out during a menstrual cycle? What about those that need IVF - what do we do about those frozen embryos? Do we force a woman to have every one created to be used?

Another case - why do we set the drinking age at 21? Are we really different at 20 years and 364 days old as we are at 21?

See the problem with taking a single choice or life stance is 1) the situation is not so black and white and 2) we make decisions all the time as to when something changes. Aborting a month-old embryo is not the same as a 39-week fetus. Taking the single stance to protect every fertilized egg takes on a whole host of problems (see above).

So as you speak to your vehement defense of all the "unborn," keep in mind it might not be as simple as that.

Wat said...

An organism of the species Homo Sapiens (a human being) beings with the zygote. The cells that created it were alive, just as plants are alive and amoebas are alive, so you can focus on the colloquial phrasing of when "life" begins, but it's just a dodge. A *human being* begins as a zygote. This is not a matter of religious belief; it is a fact.

Pantheroom said...

Yes, the beginning of a human organisms development is fertilization. This is fact. You imply that lesser development means less rights-- this may be true in terms of legal privileges. But not the right to life. Do infants have *any* less of a right to life than a 45 year old? Absolutely not. No change bases on developmental level. We seek consistency through all human development, as it is a basic human right.

Anonymous said...

I'm not implying anything. I am stating a fact that many fertilized eggs (zygotes) don't implant, and we don't have funerals, issue birth and death certificates, etc. In fact, the first week or so after fertilization the cell divides 100s of times, and yet in 50-80% of cases it doesn't implant. Yet they are living cells. So, I am asking, would you advocate for that? Should a woman be keeping all of her sanitary napkins so they can be tested for the presence of fertilized eggs?

Then the other issue is with "is all human life valuable?" Again, if a mother were in peril of dying because of the pregnancy, who do we choose? Should the mother be forced to die because of the embryo? So which life do we usually choose there?

Human rights are a funny thing. The most basic definition of human rights would be to be free from force and fraud. I have a right to my own body and my own property as long as it doesn't harm another person's right to the same. But we constantly control that. Well reasoned individuals understand the need to make decisions based on experience and the situation to make sure we protect as much of our rights and freedoms as possible, while still applying common sense. I can't just have a massive fire in my yard, it puts the neighborhood at risk - even though my fire doesn't cross over my property line.

An embryo putting the mom's life at risk, an embryo that doesn't implant, Plan B, mifepristone, etc are all pretty clear cut cases where we are making a reasoned decision.

Bee said...

Cheers to your organization! I came here through the LifeSiteNews website and I wish you all the best.

Libertarian atheist said...

Hi I just wanted to say I am a pro life atheist as well. I have had heated arguments with members of the local Pennsylvania non believer group about this issue. I began to realize they were just as irrational as the Christians the criticized. I went to the pro choice side after leaving Christianity for a while only because I thought it was a religious creation to violate the separation clause to legislate the prolife view in politics. But in my heart I have always been prolife. My Christian mother told me when I was about 5 years old I was told what abortion was and it made me cry because of what it entails. That was before I was ever in a church or read the bible. I think science is on the prolife side now more than ever.

What is ironic is atheists criticize religious people for rejecting evolution and yet those same atheists reject embryology if it proves their pro choice view wrong. Irrational thinking crosses all faiths or non faiths alike.

M said...

There is definitely a lot or irrationality with an issue as emotional as abortion.

Glad you found us. Please feel encouraged to join our FB page (facebook.com/secularprolife) so we can keep in contact. :)

Alden Smith said...

The article and the comments are hilarious.