Monday, November 28, 2011

We want your feedback

Welcome back! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

As was mentioned a while back, our friends at the Life Matters Journal are seeking submissions for the journal's second issue. I am writing an article that is more or less adapted from the presentation that Secular Pro-Life gave at Liberty University. Since it is not due until December 7, I thought I would share my opening paragraph in order to get some feedback from our members. What points would you like to have included in the article? Do you think that this is going in the right direction? (Note: copies of the journal will be distributed at the Students for Life of America conference in January.)

We systematically vilified the Catholic Church and its “socially backward ideas” and picked on the Catholic hierarchy as the villain in opposing abortion. This theme was played endlessly. . . . And the media drum-fired all this into the American people, persuading them that anyone opposing permissive abortion must be under the influence of the Catholic hierarchy . . . An inference of this tactic was that there were no non-Catholic groups opposing abortion. The fact that other Christian as well as non-Christian religions were (and still are) monolithically opposed to abortion was constantly suppressed, along with pro-life atheists' opinions.

~Dr. Bernard Nathanson (1926-2011), former abortionist and co-founder of the abortion lobbying group NARAL.[1]

For the past forty years, the battle over abortion has been situated within a broader culture war, pitting godless liberals against right-wing theocrats.[2] As the above quote by the late Dr. Nathanson illustrates, this understanding of the abortion issue has been deliberately encouraged by abortion advocates, who utilize religion as a distraction from the fundamental human rights claims at stake. Their approach has been remarkably successful. Pro-life victory depends upon the re-casting of abortion as more than a mere “religious issue.” Today’s pro-life students, who are more religiously diverse than previous generations, have a unique opportunity to challenge stereotypes, change the course of the debate, and make abortion unthinkable.

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<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[1]<!--[endif]--> [Citation to Nathanson's book.] Dr. Nathanson became pro-life while still an atheist, and was an atheist at the time of this quote. He converted to Catholicism later in life.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[2]<!--[endif]--> Additional battles in this culture war include same-sex marriage, evolution/creationism, school prayer, and the role of religion in civic life.


Anonymous said...

absolutely spot on

Paige said...

I understand that you are stressing that the pro-abortion movement wants to keep religion in the argument, and you approach why this is not good from a secular perspective. Will your paper also treat it from a religious perspective? In other words, you want to have the abortion discussion be on secular terms when appropriate, and seem to be saying why this is good for the pro-life movement, but do you say why it might be good (in several senses) for a theist to do this? I know this seems like it may be getting too far afield, but I mean, good for a theist not only in support of the pro-life issue, but good in terms of their beliefs.

This question is not meant to antagonize, but what part have religious pro-lifers played in obscuring any purely secular pro-life views?

I do not claim a religion, so I am going to say some things that might seem ridiculous to a Christian, but these are questions that I thought of, and to which I don’t know the answers. Do we want/can we ask religious people to restrain themselves from one of their primary tasks, if they believe that sharing the word of God is something they are called to do? If a religious pro-lifer acknowledges reasoning apart from divine authority, does that undermine their beliefs?

I am thinking that if ultimately a Christian, for example, thinks that the basis of morality is God, that to allow someone has correct moral views without relying on this source would be giving up something essential to their ideals.
Is there a hierarchy to a particular Christian’s tasks? Perhaps, share the word of God, worship, protect the vulnerable? If protecting the vulnerable means delaying the sharing of the gospel, is this acceptable?

I found an interesting site on how to prove God exists to an atheist, that I think might shed some light. (Obviously far from your goal.) Realizing that you probably don’t want to tell someone what is ok according to their faith, this page has biblical quotes that talk about sharing the gospel gracefully.


“Colossians 4:5-6 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Your conversation with the atheist must always be full of grace and, “seasoned,” with, “salt.” In biblical times, salt served many functions, however, just as it does today, this basic mineral was used to enhance the natural flavors in a variety of cooked foods. …When you are sharing your faith with anyone; just as you would season food to bring out its flavor for enjoyment, so too, God’s word admonishes us to season our words with grace. … The overuse of salt makes the food tasteless and downright nasty and it must therefore be discarded.”

Perhaps this is not something you can fully answer in your paper, but I am wondering if you approach it. I imagine it depends on your audience. Of course, you probably have thought about this, and I am not saying anything new. Just wanted to share my musings.

And thanks for being an amazing person! said...

I wouldn't ask anyone to compromise their religious beliefs. However, based on statistical trends (youth being more pro-life and less religious), we can expect secular and single-issue pro-life groups to become more prominent. That doesn't mean there won't still be a place for religious groups like Priests for Life-- but it does mean that we will need to cooperate, and that will be difficult if people see those of other religions as "the enemy" even though the pro-life values are the same.

Paige said...

So, it seems that you view your audience as primarily secular.

It doesn't seem that they would need much convincing to keep religion out of the debate. Perhaps then your goal is to just increase awareness in the secular side in order to promote it among the secular?

And of course I wouldn't think of religious people as the enemy, I am not the militant atheist type and have quite a bit of respect for people's religious beliefs.

I think to clarify what I was saying, not that I think that you SHOULD ask anyone to compromise their religious beliefs, but are you in fact doing that by asking them to keep religion out of it?

If you aren't speaking to people with religious beliefs, then it is not a problem. But it seems that your work might be received by some, and that rather than the task of - not making enemies - you might consider how keeping religion out of it CAN be compatible with their religious beliefs.

This is probably way outside of the scope of your project at the moment. I really like the secular pro-life focus, and it seems necessary to me.
I think you want to keep it inclusive, it seems you are accepting of religious pro-life stances. So apart from the necessary part of bringing secular pro-life to the forefront, I am wondering how you can decrease the divisive effect of separation?

This is why I thought acknowledging that some people might see proselytizing as a priority, and giving some thoughts on how they could approach that from within their religion, might be a good entry.

Of course, if you don't share their religion, then it would be difficult, but maybe just an acknowledgement, an aside, about how they might talk to their religious teachers about incorporating the secular arguments.

So if you want to keep religion out of pro-life debates (mostly) you necessarily have to talk about religion. And you can focus on it as a tactic of abortion advocates, but it seems also necessary to at least think about the fact that religious people WANT to talk about the religious basis of their stance.

So, if BOTH sides want to talk about religion, and you have the secular pro-life group, growing but small, wanting to keep it out... well, it seems the people who are most likely to come to your side are the pro-life religious.

Acknowledging, respectfully, their thoughts/feelings on the necessity of discussing religion might help. But again, perhaps I am misunderstanding the project, and I am probably focusing too much on this one thing. I just wanted to explain a little more.

Not making enemies, but making friends. Does pointing out that religious people want to talk about religion make secular pro-life an enemy?

It's early and I may not be explaining myself well.

aimee said...

Paige -- i really hope you check out Life Matters Journal if you haven't already -- most of our writers are religious of some sort, yet are by and large willing to write from a secular perspective (or at least without their religious views sounding dogmatic) to hold the conversation on the same playing field. Check it out!

Paige said...

Thanks Aimee! I will check it out, definitely.

My comments are from the point of view of someone pretty much completely unfamiliar with the topic, if they seem naive or knee-jerk that is probably why. I was reacting to the snippet in isolation from the larger view, definitely, but also in isolation from the context of the rest of the paper, whatever it will contain.

My thoughts were a reaction to a small piece of a piece of something larger, so maybe they are unfair. But it's what this newbie first thought of. :)

I'm one of those willing to make myself look foolish in order to give perspective (which might not happen) and to get information.