ethics philosophy www

pro-life atheists

In a very interesting find, this is a site of atheists (and agnostics) who are pro-life.

I think their arguments are (mostly) excellent, though of course it would be interesting to a) see how non-pro-life atheists would respond to them, and b) converse with them concerning things like how they determine (judge/establish/discover) the nature of human worth/value/dignity.

28 replies on “pro-life atheists”

This interesting comment on their guestbook shows an example of at least one kind of atheist response to the ‘godless pro-lifers’:

The notion that humans are somehow inherently different from other animal species is one that is rooted in religious, rather than rational, thought. I see no rational basis for your implied contention that human embryos are any more valuable than cattle embryos. Your attempt to place humans on another level is logically inconsistent and ultimately undefendable without resort to religious arguments.

That’s pretty cool. As a side note, I recently saw a blog containing pro-life arguments by a young lady who describes herself as: a feminist, a libertarian and an atheist. She doesn’t really fit ANY of the stereotypes.

One guess regarding (b):

From what I’ve seen, some of these pro-life atheists are libertarians who don’t believe it is right to aggress anyone and that our human rights are inherent within our humanity. (Without subscribing to the rationalisations that the fetus or zygote isn’t human/sentient/a person.)

“There are no ‘rights’ of special groups, there are no ‘rights of farmers, of workers, of businessmen, of employees, of employers, of the old, of the young, of the unborn.’ There are only the Rights of Man — rights possessed by every individual man and by all men as individuals.” – Ayn Rand

What the hell is the news value in this? Surely there is no necessary contradiction between being an atheist (not believing in a supernatural god) and opposing abortion. How can we say that one excludes the other? Similarly why assume that a theist is naturally an opponent of abortion – surely there are plenty of theists who have used this method?

After all Christopher Hitchens (of very forceful God is not Great fame) has often publicly expressed his opposition to abortion and non one has expressed surprise at that.

I can’t see what the fuss is here.

Dale, in point A you use the term “non pro-life”. Isn’t this normally regarded as pro-choice?

Pro-life is short for pro-liferate religious beliefs.

I wasn’t aware that Hitchens was ‘pro-life’ (I hadn’t heard him comment either way – thanks for informing me). I’d always wondered that surely there must be at least some atheists that were, but hadn’t seen any until then. So that’s why it caught my interest. I’d also love to know if any atheists reason against homosexual actions (same-gender sexual stimulation to be specific)? I suppose there’s no reason why an atheist couldn’t be so inclined? And just to clarify, theists are always against abortion, though some/many say it could in some cases be the lesser of two evils.

Words. :) (see comments to Rev)

Rev, 24/7,
In a sense, everyone from all sides are all both ‘pro life’ and ‘pro choice’. Clearly the problem with those terms are that they imply that others are either ‘anti life’ (pro death!) or ‘anti choice’ (pro force!), which isn’t the case :) I admit I used the phraseology reflected in the website’s title, though I do recognise the problems with the terms.

General comment:
Most of all, I find the conversation between the perspective of the ‘godless prolifers’ website and the perspective reflected in comment 1 (from their guestbook) to be very interesting.

It’s a tactic of attempting to encourage division among the ‘enemy’ to weaken them. Both theists and atheists are guilty of it but I think it distracts from the core questions.

i.e. when creationists say that Gould’s punctuated equilibrium concept goes against the concept of gradual evolution it doesn’t get us any closer to establishing the real point which is whether evolution exists. And when atheists point out that it is ‘interesting’ that people like Geering don’t believe in a literal resurrection in contrast to most other Christians it doesn’t actually address the question whether Jesus literally rose from the dead. And when you say it is ‘interesting’ that there are atheists who think that abortion is wrong it doesn’t deal with the question of whether it is actually wrong and what the reasons are these beliefs.

The only thing that unites atheists is a lack of a belief in a god/gods. It’s hardly surprising that people who don’t believe in the concept of a god can be divided in their opinions on abortion, politics, charity, crime, etc, etc.

I find it particularly fascinating that equestrians are divided on the topic of abortion. Discuss.

Wow. So I’m not allowed (as a person interested in moral issues) to be genuinely interested in that discussion? So I’m automatically trying to use disagreement to weaken the atheist position?

Could it not be possible that I’m actually interested in the reasons/arguments for these beliefs? In particular, I’d be interested to see how the various atheists who comment here would respond to those points of view (a bit like an atheist might genuinely be interested in how different Christians respond to an issue of biblical interpretation or soemthing); whether they would align with the perspective/argument of those on the website, with the perspective/argument of the ‘pro-choice’ position, or another kind of response.

Yes, I do think there could be questions raised about whether or not one’s moral argument is consistent with their worldview, but at least for the moment, I’m interested in the argument.

I do note that the tone of the words quoted in comment 1 are essentially challenging the ‘godless pro-lifers’ that they are using ‘religious’ rather than ‘rational’ reasoning. I would have thought that some atheists here might want to defend the ‘rationality’ of the argument of the ‘godless pro-lifers’?

That’s my concern. Not “Ooh, the atheists are diagreeing! Yuss!” But rather “I’m pleased to see yet another person offering fairly rational argument against abortion. There are at least some atheists who think it isn’t rational, though. Hmm… I wonder how my atheist acquaintances would feel about the ‘rationality’ of their argument?”

Dale – I actually don’t feel that I should spend time looking at their arguments. For a start the site hasn’t been touched for over 2 years (and the forum for over 5 years). So hardly a live issue.

Secondly, it’s an old discussion for which I can see (and have experienced) both sides. I myself have gone from someone who would have opposed abortion to someone who is not happy about it but accepts it in many situations.

One of the reason I turned away from blanket (or almost blanket) opposition was the experience of attending a meeting (around 1971) where the pros and cons of a law change were being discussed. I was shocked to find I was on the same side as a very hateful and hysterical man who justified his position on biblical grounds. Hardly a rational basis.

I personally feel that many of the people who opposed abortion at that meeting (and who thought similarly to me) have in the intervening period adjusted their thinking. Realising the situation is more complex – and especially gaining an appreciation of the changing life of women.

I think discussion of abortion as such is pointless these day. Legal abortion is here to stay (or at least I hope so realising how many women have lost their lives when it hasn’t been available). There are of course reasonable debates to be had around limits and availability – but I don’t think a blanket oppositional viewpoint helps with those.

Where we will probably have to have those more absolutist debates is around issues like stem cell research, use of discarded IVF blastocysts, genetic testing of blastocysts and embryos, etc.

But in these discussion the question of participants being atheists or theists should be irrelevant. The fact that it sometimes isn’t is the point I make about religion sometimes encouraging moral relativism where a separate authoritative justification is imposed relying only on religious scripture and their interpretation

Discussion of abortion is hardly pointless – ever. It truly is a life and death topic – definitely a ‘live’ issue. Few other topics have this kind of urgency. It all matters, and it should all be up for discussion.

I’d still love to hear your specific views on the specific question about whether or not the perspective/argumentation of that website reflects ‘rational’ or ‘religious’ reasoning, etc.

I thought I’d jump on in…

When you ask ‘whether or not the perspective/argumentation of that website reflects ‘rational’ or ‘religious’ reasoning, etc.’, what do you mean? Are you suggesting that religion and rationality are mutually exclusive?

Firstly, I cant see any practical difference between worldview and religion – they are synonyms. Both affect how one behaves, and what someone REALLY believes is revealed in their behaviour. A persons worldview is their realized religion.

Thus, I say that no-one speaks from an irreligious perspective.

And what of rational reasoning? What is that? And what is irrational reasoning (an oxymoron)? I think what you mean is whether the arguments put forward are internally and externally coherent???

The views expressed on the site seem logically consistent with a humanist perspective heavily influenced by Christo-Judaic ethics (i.e. anyone who has grown up in the USA). It seems the US constitution plays the significant role in the positions held by the site.
The key point of difference with a staunch pro-choice position seems to be that the site takes the preborn baby to be a full inheritor of the constitution rights afforded humans.
Having taken this position everything seems to flow logically.

Sadly the abortion debate is currently polarizing – you can be only one or the other, pro-life or pro-choice. I want to be pro-choice and pro-life. To live in that place where people are free to make the choice but never feel/have the need to do so. (And yes I know thats an unreachable nirvana..:-)

I suppose the polarizing is what happens when its lawyers who become judges – the rules dominate, rather than using some wise old people to make case-by-case determinations.

Life can be too gray to live only in black and white.


Heya Wayne,
I agree that all perspectives (and ways of reasoning) are ‘religious’ (in the general sense of the word), though the person (atheist) quoted in comment 1 is using ‘religious’ in a different sense. ;)

I think you’re also correct about the website’s view and the US constitution, etc. For me, I’m interested in how atheists “work-out” their morality, specifically in this case seeing how athiests would engage with one another regarding the issue of abortion. ((i.e. what reasoning leads one atheist to say that ‘this’ kind of abortion is OK, but not ‘that’ kind; and what reasoning leads another atheist to say ‘all/most’ abortions are wrong; and (possibly?) what reasoning leads yet another atheist to say that ‘any’ kind of abortion is OK?))

Of course, Christians don’t agree exactly on abortion either; and I find it interesting what reasoning they/we are led by as well… But for the moment, I was just interested in the differences in atheist reasoning :)

We’re all ‘victims’ of our upbringing…

My desire to be pro-choice and pro-life comes from being raised in a liberal home, where individual freedom of choice is highly prized. That and my 2nd ammendment rights (even though NZ doesnt have a 2nd ammendment I just like the idea :-)
My pro-life stance comes from a decision I made that after implantation into the uterine wall the fetus can develop and hence must be afforded protection that he/she can have opportunity to make choices.

I suspect ultimately it is these ‘external’ factors that influence the final position of an individual. Not necessarily anything to do with abortion itself (or any ethical stand really).


Dale – I meant to take you up on your comment: “And just to clarify, theists are always against abortion, though some/many say it could in some cases be the lesser of two evils.”

I had never seen it that way – it’s a bit like saying that all Catholics are opposed to contraception when we know many, if not most, use artificial contraception methods.

However, the recent news (President Obama outraged by slaying of abortion provider George Tiller | News Updates | Wichita Eagle)of an abortion provider being murdered while attending church does indicate that one can be a theist and also an “abortionist.”

I am not commenting on who killed him or why. It could have been a rabid atheist who killed him because he was a theist! We don’t yet know.

Heya Ken,

it’s a bit like saying that all Catholics are opposed to contraception when we know many, if not most, use artificial contraception methods.

No, I don’t think it’s like that at all. Anti-contraception Catholics using contraception is a matter of saying one thing and doing another; while theists who see abortion as the lesser or two evils are not saying one thing and doing another.

And sorry, but the horrible news of George Tiller’s murder does not over turn my statement about theists being against abortion. His case is anything but representative, that’s why it’s so controversial (in other words, only if no other christians/theists thought it an outrage that he carried-out abortions, would begin to be in tension with my statement).

“only if no other christians/theists thought it an outrage”

That’s a bit extreme isn’t it? There’s always going to be one who is outraged about everything.

Whatever… The point still stands. Quite apart from his sad and needless murder, George Tiller’s abortion practices (and I’m presuming views) are miles from even beginning to be representative of a Christian view of abortion, and your reference to him was opportunistic.

So, it’s opportunistic to point out that you had made an unsupportable sweeping claim about theism and abortion??

Come off it.

Ken, it goes back to this comment by you:

Similarly why assume that a theist is naturally an opponent of abortion – surely there are plenty of theists who have used this method?

To which I replied with a fairly careful and non-sweeping statement: “…theists are always against abortion, though some/many say it could in some cases be the lesser of two evils.”
That was not opportunistic – that’s just a simple/basic clarification.

in 9/11 it did not matter if there were pregnant women. That was no carefully considered. They just flew the planes in anyways. But they sure did believe in a “god” . . . they just call him Allah.

Comments are closed.