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Friday, March 30, 2012

Atheists don't believe in us.

This past weekend was both the Reason Rally and the American Atheists Convention. SPL spends a lot of time advocating for secularism in the pro-life movement; last weekend was a great opportunity to advocate for pro-life positions in the secular movement. SPL arranged to have a table at the convention in the hopes of reaching other “in the closet” pro-life atheists and engaging in thoughtful debate with the opposition. I was delighted to hear that both of these goals were accomplished.

But of course, not all parties were pleased. Apparently SPL’s presence bothered some people.  Like…really bothered some people.  It bothered some people so much, in fact, that, rather than try to hear our arguments and engage in rational debate, they’ve not only run madly to the “you all hate women!” blinders, they’ve also added on a “and you’re all secretly Christian!” bonus.* 

I have to say, that second part caught me by surprise. I didn’t realize that acknowledging some of the most basic facts of human development meant that I believe in an all-knowing all-loving all-powerful Being.  Weird, right?

If anything, this knee-jerk reaction to any pro-life perspective further emphasizes the need for groups like Secular Pro-life.  It seems religious affiliations have become so intertwined with the pro-life movement that some people refuse to believe pro-life secularists exist at all!

A rare photograph of the Pro-life Atheist.

*To be fair, the linked blog post didn't specifically claim we are Christians.  It just said we “weren’t entirely atheist or secular” and “lied about being atheist,” and was followed by an extended conversation about excluding “religious organizations” such as Secular Pro-life from secular events. I suppose they could be implying that we are a bunch of closet pro-life Hindus or something. 

54 comments:

DiscountDeity said...

To be fair, the organization's religious affiliations are apparently muddy enough that Kelsey felt the need to make a post clarifying her current stance just days ago.

"It seems religious affiliations have become so intertwined with the pro-life movement that some people refuse to believe pro-life secularists exist at all!"

I think it's more that people have yet to hear a really solid non-religious pro-life argument: at some point, the equivalency between a zygote and a person usually requires some sort of arbitrary spiritual, emotional, or philosophical judgment call, as far as I can see. I've been talking to folks here for a few days, and I still haven't heard one that I think really holds up under scrutiny.


Between these points, and the fact that there is an established history of religious ideology trying to masquerade itself as secualar reasoning in pursuit of greater public acceptance (specifically, the Intelligent Design creationism movement), I think a bit of skepticism is not unreasonable.

JoAnna said...

Well, you definitely have Christian supporters (of which I am one!), so maybe that's what she means. But that makes me wonder if she'd also oppose groups that partnered with Christians in order to feed the poor or stop child abuse, or something.

Anonymous said...

@ D.D>

A philosophical argument is not a religious or 'spiritual' argument

- An atheist philosophy student

Anonymous said...

I read the linked blog post and comments. It seems to me that the problem is that Secular Pro-Life is not atheist, only secular--we see religion or lack thereof as entirely irrelevant to the issue, while the blogger and others 1) apparently believe that opposition to abortion can only stem from religious conviction, and 2) only actual atheists should be setting up tables at their conference. Honestly, I agree with them on point #2. A specifically atheist pro-life group would satisfy point #2 and challenge point #1. Our group's unifying principle is that religion doesn't matter when it comes to abortion, whereas religion DOES matter greatly to atheists. While secularism is religion-neutral, atheism by definition is anti-religion. Being secular wasn't enough to justify our presence at this conference, especially with so many in attendance embracing the pro-life = religious model. A pity.

Anonymous said...

DiscountDiety:
There are plenty of really solid, non-religious arguments in support of the pro-life movement, unless you count things like respect of human life as only in the jurisdiction of religious thought.
And I really have to wonder whether you have heard really solid arguments in favor of defining person-hood rigidly at birth. Life is quite obviously a continuum, so if we define the line somewhere post-conception, where then do we draw it, and why? I have yet to hear a solid argument for any arbitrary point one could choose.

Michelle Ye Zhang said...

I'm tired of hearing this secular=atheist notion.

Makes me wonder if people know the definition of "secular"

Jen R said...

"I think it's more that people have yet to hear a really solid non-religious pro-life argument: at some point, the equivalency between a zygote and a person usually requires some sort of arbitrary spiritual, emotional, or philosophical judgment call, as far as I can see."

I would argue that *any* line you draw about which human beings are or are not considered "persons" is a spiritual, emotional, or philosophical judgment call. It does not follow from that that any claim that human beings should be considered persons over the entire course of their lifespan must be religious in nature.

"I've been talking to folks here for a few days, and I still haven't heard one that I think really holds up under scrutiny."

And I haven't heard an argument for why personhood should begin at birth that I think really holds up under scrutiny. That doesn't automatically make "personhood begins at birth" a religious position, nor does it mean that anyone who holds it and says that they are a non-believer must be a liar.

Jen R said...

I'm just trying to figure out where all the "God-speak" is that is supposedly all over the SPL website.

Michelle Ye Zhang said...

I kind of agree with Anonymous regarding the 2 points.

Michelle Ye Zhang said...

Some of the comments on the blog has "God-speak".

Are we there yet? said...

Could it be that SPL's goal for being at the atheists' conference--reaching out to possible "in the closet" pro-life atheists--was not clear to the atheists? It doesn't appear to me that SPL was trying to claim an alliance with atheism, just trying to share some common ground. Apparently people who practice atheistic religion are just as distrustful of SPL as those who practice Christian religion. This, too, a pity.

Jen R said...

Well, OK, but ... those are comments. I've seen people talk about God in PZ Myers' comments, too. (Though admittedly they don't tend to last for long.)

SkepticalOne said...

It's worth noting that "secular" can have several different meanings, from "not religious" to the more general "not affiliated with any particular religion." I think they take as deceptive the perceived claim that Secular Pro-Life is nonreligious, considering that its president is Christian. ("[Secular Pro-Life] counts many Christians among our membership, including me." -Kelsey Hazzard, Founder & President of SecularProLife.org, May 2010 http://www.standforlife.net/2010/05/secularprolifeorg-making-secular.html )

It can be difficult to take seriously the claim that you represent a particular group's philosophy when you yourself are not a member of that group. It's like having an LGBTQA group comprised almost entirely of straight people--no matter their intentions, it seems a bit deceptive. But even more so if they advocate positions that are counter to mainstream LGBTQA thought and considered somewhat derogatory to its members--e.g., if they go around denouncing gay sex and promoting lifelong celibacy.

You can see how other LGBTQA people might be offended by this, and why they might not want this group at their conferences.

DarkCougar555 said...

SkepticalOne-- that's old news because it was 2010. Her belief is changed, anyway. So, I don't see how big deal is...

secularprolife.org said...

Your info on Kelsey is outdated; in any event, major decisions are made by consensus of the leadership board, which is mostly non-Christian. We do have supporters from a wide range of faith backgrounds, and of course we never tell anyone that they can't support us. Anyone who defends the right to life is a friend of mine. But we only sent atheists to man the table at the convention, for essentially the reasons you cite.

JoAnna said...

Go go Gadget reading comprehension!

http://blog.secularprolife.org/2012/03/personal-note.html

SkepticalOne said...

Thank you, secularprolife.org, for the correction. Good to know.

JoAnna, thank you for the ad hominem attack. Yes, everyone who fails to read every blog post that Kelsey writes obviously lacks reading comprehension. So astute. You obviously passed at least the sixth grade...

JoAnna said...

Ad hominem? How exactly did I attack your character to negate your claim? Rather, I negated your claim myself while commenting on your ability to find a blurb from 2010 to support your belief while failing to notice the post from several days ago that directly contradicts it.

Perhaps you shouldn't use phrases unless you know what they mean.

Vegan Atheist said...

Equality California just hired a straight woman as interim president....just sayin'.

http://lgbtpov.frontiersla.com/2012/03/06/meet-equality-californias-new-interim-executive-director-laurie-hasencamp/

Vegan Atheist said...

I can't believe how little investigative work the "skeptics" commenting on Surly Amy's blog post have done into SPL and the science/philosophy-based arguments against abortion. It seems like the majority are taking presumptions posted by others as fact, and it's like watching a ridiculous game of telephone.

I know I'm not the only one out there listening to Skeptics Guide to the Universe, Quackcast, Skeptoid, or Point of Inquiry...do your research before forming opinions on SPL and non-religious pro-life thought, folks!

SkepticalOne said...

I assumed the attack on my reading ability was part of your attempt to undermine my argument. My apologies. In retrospect, it's clearly just superfluous insult. What would Jesus do, right?

Regardless, I don't understand the need to sneer at atheists who are skeptical of an organization that is A) based on a perspective that is most often religious, and B) founded by a Christian, that nonetheless calls itself "secular." Especially considering the number of Christian posts I've seen in its comment section. And regardless of whether its president still labels herself a theist or not.

But clearly, if you *say* you're secular, you must be! How dumb of atheists to even question that...

And again: No, I don't read everything that Kelsey--or SecularProLife--posts. I happened to have seen Kelsey describe herself as Christian before, however, and I thought a citation might aid your understanding of the skepticism your group is facing. That's all.

JoAnna said...

It's not an insult at all, merely an observation. If you were offended, then I certainly apologize.

As has been pointed out by other commenters, mentioning God in a combox doesn't make the entire website Christian. By that criteria, P.Z. Myers and Richard Dawkins are Christian as well.

Perhaps a better way to judge an organization is to look at the actual *content* provided. Can you find any content on their website that promotes Christianity (or any other religion) in any way, shape, or form?

Michelle Ye Zhang said...

What about someone who is "Christian" but lives a secular life and is pro-life due to secular reasons?

Like say Kelsey. Just because someone is "Christian" doesn't mean they aren't secular.

SkepticalOne said...

Well, hopefully you won't be offended yourself when I observe that your own reading ability makes me wonder if you dropped out in middle school, or if you waited until high school. I can't think of another explanation for a post that ignores the main thrust of my argument to focus on an side note about the comment section.

But I didn't come here to get into a pissing contest with the Christian members of "Secular" Pro-Life. Call yourself whatever you like. But I don't understand pouting when the atheist organizations push back. It's like calling your group Vegan Chocolate Lovers and going to a vegan convention, when half your members aren't even vegan, and your president has gone on record saying that she wasn't vegan when she founded the group. And then being baffled at why the vegans don't embrace you wholeheartedly. Regardless of what's being blogged, "secular" doesn't just describe ideas, and "vegan" doesn't just describe recipes--both are descriptions of *people* and their lifestyles, too. You may have meant "non-vegans who love vegan chocolate," or you may have meant "Christians who advocate secular pro-life arguments," but you can't blame people for assuming otherwise. Or even for seeing it as confusing to the point of being deliberately deceptive.

But go on. Tell me how clear it is that "secular" doesn't mean that your *members* have to be secular, and how uneducated and unintelligent people must be to think otherwise! I'm sure you have a few more kind, Christian observations for me before you go.

JoAnna said...

Ah, sweet irony. I'll just let your comments stand, because they make my point better than I ever could.

MoronicProchoiceQuotes said...

In my humble Catholic opinion, you don't owe anyone an explanation as to why you're atheist and prolife. No one demands such explanations of proaborts, religious or no. Abortion is a civil rights issue, not a religious issue. Stand your ground.

secularprolife.org said...

All right, you two, don't make me pull this car over!

JoAnna said...

But MOM! He's LOOKING at me!

nicky said...

I don't need two numbers separated by a colon to tell me that killing the innocent is wrong!

nicky said...

I would actually think that atheist and other non-religious people would be even more adamantly against abortion than the religious. Most Christians believe that children up to a certain age who die will go to heaven regardless....I'm not sure what the term is called...
Athiest and agnostics on the other hand don't have such an opinion...it's just strait up death, and then who knows what happens...so it seems like they would be actually MORE against it to me.

Anonymous said...

It's pretty clear that secular pro life is "secular" only when it thinks that portraying itself as secular will convince people to accept right-wing anti-choice policies, like the forced transvaginal ultrasound bill that was killed in the Virginia senate. When SPL talks to it's religious comrades, it makes every effort to mention the presence of a belief in Jesus Christ.

SPL is the Mitt Romney of "Pro-Life" organizations.

MoronicProchoiceQuotes said...

My thoughts exactly-this being our one and only shot at life, regardless of what happens afterward. Most atheists I've known have been cool headed, thinking people. Great to have their voices in the prolife movement.

MoronicProchoiceQuotes said...

Your opinion is noted and ignored.

Michelle Ye Zhang said...

Teehee..."thrust"

/immaturity

Michelle Ye Zhang said...

I'm just saying, it's there if people want to just focus on it.

Simon said...

As a contrarian strong atheist in my experience atheists are no better than worse than other groups. They have their share of irrational biggots or individuals who couldnt reason their way out of a wet paper bag. Many may actually be worse because they think as a group that they are all rational and scientific in one area that means they are the same in all areas. On the flip side the 'irrational' theists are so wrong on homosexuality and sex that it's 'obvious' they are on abortion as well. So they don't have to come up with sophisticated well thouight out arguments to back their own side up. Having said that many Pro-Lifers do something similar.

Anonymous said...

Don't let it bother you, keep up the good work. There are plenty of others like you out there and sadly, atheists, or even liberals in general who can't comprehend that someone could be progressive, open minded, and pro-life, belong in the same category as uncompromising, rabid tea partiers.

Psh said...

Point #1 is simply ignorance. SPL is by no means the first group to put forth non-religious pro-life arguments. Saying only religious people can be anti-abortion seems to imply atheists and agnostics can't believe all humans have value, which is clearly untrue.

As to point #2, SPL *did* send actual atheists do the conference. Kristine and Michael are both atheists, even if Kelsey is more nebulous. It's not like Kelsey's history somehow negates all of the atheists/agnostics in the SPL community, much less negates any secular arguments SPL puts forth.

"Let's just call them all religious so we can ignore them!" Total dodge.

Anonymous said...

Stand your ground?

Don't you mean "seek confrontations and shoot people dead when those confrontations escalate"?

Ah i see a pro-life supporter of stand your ground legislation.

Anonymous said...

SPL isn't secular, it's not pro-life, it's a young republican activist organization that's trying to get republicans elected in Virginia.

You'll never see anyone from SPL supporting or endorsing a single pro-life VA democrat in any meaningful way. The republican candidate will always be favored. The defense of Bob McDonnell's clear anti-secular policy initatives proves that Secular Pro-Life doesn't care about being secular at all.

M said...

I'm secular. I'm pro-life. I don't live anywhere near VA. I don't know who Bob McDonnell is.

But I suppose I am young, so...1/5? Good job.

Anonymous said...

Bob McDonnell is the Republican Governor of Virginia, who wrote a thesis for Pat Robertson's Reagent university in 1989, when he was 34 years old. It is a fundamentalist right wing manifesto for subverting the separation of church and state. On numerous occasions i've seen SPL staff jump to the defense of Bob McDonnell and his anti-secular policies.

if you don't believe me you can check this blog post, which has a link to McDonnell's original thesis.
http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/08/in_thesis_mcdonnell_slammed_gays_unwed_mothers_and.php

SPL cannot claim to support Bob McDonnell and also claim to be secular. It's a terrible lie.

Wat said...

Where did SPL claim to support Bob McDonnell?

Simon said...

LOL I'm a strongly left leaning atheist who votes Green.

MoronicProchoiceQuotes said...

Ah, the old 'all prolifers are violent terrorists with bombs in their pockets' strawman. Number of people killed by prolife extremist violence since '73: 8. Number of human beings slaughtered by abortion since '73? 55 MILLION in the US alone. Your entire ideology is based on using violence and killing to 'solve your problems' and you're calling us violent? Laughing in your face right now.

Stuart Prior said...

Pro-Life isn't an intrinsically right-wing position, though it may be advocated by the Right.

I see SPL as an attempt to draw the argument away from religious dogma which clouds the issues and which polarises people based on religious/non-religious identities.

TAA's anger is mostly based on their false assumption that "We are atheists + we are pro-choice = all atheists are pro-choice".

When presented with pro-life atheists this messes with their sense of identity and so therefore they will seek to prove that pro-life atheists are not "true atheists".

What is it again?
"All Irishmen drink Guiness"
"My dad's Irish, and he doesn't like Guiness"
"Well, all TRUE Irishmen drink Guiness".

Kristine Kruszelnicki said...

I'm truly sorry, Sir. When I converted to atheism, no one told me there was only one way for atheists to vote, one position for all atheists to take on all moral issues. I really thought I'd left absolute dogma behind when I left religion. Pray tell: who is atheist pope to whom we should all be in absolute submission?

abolitionist73 said...

Those negative atheist reactions say less about the pro-life movement's association with religion in the popular mind (which is certainly noteworthy, though), and more about the character of popular (new) atheism. It's not so much about philosophy or science or rationality as it is about being blindly anti-Christian, holding opposing opinions on whatever Christians are perceived to care about. Either way, their opinions are being determined by "religion." http://antiabortionmemes.wordpress.com/

abolitionist73 said...

So glad to see you guys advancing these arguments. I've long been a pro-life Christian, and I've long been annoyed at the way the most visible Christian prolife activists (esp. the Catholics) try to use religious appeals to non-religious audiences. Especially since Christian prolifers *are* advancing some fantastic, easily shared pro-life arguments (like S.L.E.D.) that are relevant for anyone who shares the common ground of universal human rights.


(Ultimately, I'd argue that objective morality and the intrinsic value of human beings ultimately fail philosophically without a theological grounding, but there's no need to slow the prolife tide with that disagreement. For a particular cause, we can stand together on the common values we claim, regardless of whether or not we think the other has coherent reasons for claiming those values.)

Alden Smith said...

I was distrustful of SPL in the beginning because my experience with secular people on the internet. But I love this group now.

Alden Smith said...

Yeah we do, but for me I have been in NICU and saw babies struggling to live and how it torn their parents apart. No parent should have experience that. Every human being regardless of faith or no faith has the right to life.

Alden Smith said...

If you are pissing someone off SPL you are doing your job right.

Rachel Anne Enders said...

I've never seen any mention of Jesus done by secular pro-life.

For example, look at this pic

https://scontent-a-ord.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn2/1453383_620634128001941_1955984133_n.jpg

Rachel Anne Enders said...

Kelsey considers herself agnostic now.... Or can she not change her belief system