Thursday, September 11, 2008

An Error in Pro-life Tactics

Perhaps the single biggest folly the pro-life side of the abortion debate has committed is to religionize the abortion issue. Yes, a great many of us are motivated and influenced by our Catholic teaching - that's actually something wonderful. But can you be a committed atheist and maintain a pro-life perspective? Absolutely. The problem is that we have alienated people who are not religious or who hold religion in contempt by attaching words and customs that are inherently religious in nature. Subsequently, those individuals who dislike religion are catapulted to the pro-abortion side not because of a shared ideology, but because they instinctively follow the "befriend my enemy's enemy" doctrine. Like I commented on another blog with a post of similar subject matter, it's like voting for Obama not because you like Obama, but because you hate George Bush (or McCain).

This is why I think it's foolish for anyone in the pro-choice camp to claim they've won over a majority of Americans through more appealing and robust philosophical presentations. That just simply isn't true. A substantial number of those who camp at the "choice" side of the argument are not actually there because of homogeneous ideologies, but rather because of significant and wedging differences between themselves and religious institutions over issues that have nothing to do with abortion.

The irreligious have never even had a chance to consider the pro-life argument as logically humane without the distraction of religious symbols and comportment. Until we change that strategy, we will inadvertently be working to increase the number of followers of the culture of death .

Sadly, even if we were to completely secularize the pro-life argument, it would still be "above the pay grade" of certain individuals to understand.


paramedicgirl said...

I'm not sure about that Tom. The sanctity of life is really best understtod from a religious perspective. If one does not believe in God or hold the view that all life is sacred, why would they care if an "inconvenience" otherwise known as a pregnancy was terminated?

Diva Mom Vicki said...

I agree with you, Tom. I think framing the pro-life argument from the basis of science - that DNA is present from the moment of conception, which continually develops until a natural death - would go a long way to changing the minds of those who call themselves 'pro-choice'.

I also believe if it were mandatory to have an ultrasound done before an abortion was performed a vast number of mothers about to abort their babies would change their minds. To see a 9-week-old in the womb, with a beating heart, 2 arms, 2 legs, tiny little hands and feet, reacting to the pressure from the ultrasound wand - I can't imagine a woman could then go ahead and have that little person destroyed. (But it's more easily done when a woman is told the 'fetus' is 'just a clump of cells'.)

Kathleen Miller said...

Interesting post! Lots of food for thought.

Katie Alender said...

I agree, Tom. I definitely considered myself to be an atheist in college, but I found my way to a pro-life philosophy through atheism.

This was my argument:
If this one short life is all there is, then taking the life of another person--born or unborn--is robbing them of absolutely *everything*. You are revoking the single miracle of an atheistic world--existence. Fleeting though it may be.

Steve said...


I believe that argument is why organizations such as Atheists for Life exist. It's a very profound argument, and should startle the most ardent pro-choicers among us. Why it doesn't is yet more evidence for original sin.

I also agree with paramedicgirl that the sanctity is best understood from a religious perspective. In fact, every aspect of our existence is best understood from a religious perspective. However; using a religious argument on an atheist is simply a non starter. We have to talk to them on their terms in order to get them to listen at all. Thankfully, even on their terms we have the better argument.

Steve said...

"sanctity of life" that is.

Shirley said...

What if people thought of themselves as a fetus, a clump of cells- which as a pro-choicer they once were; I wonder if they can imagine themselves in the place of a baby about to be aborted.

paramedicgirl said...

Interesting comments from everyone. Steve, your explanation of Katie's argument is very revealing. I suppose that would be the best approach to take with an atheist.