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Connecting the dots between unbelief and abortion

A recent entry on my discussion forum illustrates with crystal clarity the arguments I confronted in my book We Chose Life: Why You Should Too.   If you happen to get a hold of my book and you’re wondering if there are real people who hold those views, that example will do.

That’s not what I want to talk about.  The ‘person’ in question (I use the term ‘person’ here loosely, as definitions can change over time 😉  ) is an atheist and secular humanist.  His position on abortion follows naturally from his atheism.  I’m not saying it follows logically, as in my book an atheist who subscribes unconditionally to Darwinism would recognize that abortion flies in the face of most evolutionary principles.  After all, if our biological purpose is essentially to reproduce, hundreds of millions of humans thwarting that purpose by the droves would seem to be quite contrary to our evolved nature.  So, not logically, but naturally.

Why naturally?  Because if you take God out of the equation and you believe that morality is an evolving thing as well and that there isn’t any objective right and wrong, it follows logically that Man himself, and each individual man and woman, becomes the sole arbiter of what is right and wrong and the sole arbiter of how one defines ‘person.’  On these terms, an atheist can believe whatever he wants about anything he wants.  In short, the atheist acknowledges a final regress:  himself.

It is no surprise that the majority of pro-lifers are religious people and that the majority of pro-choice ‘persons’ are not.   This list of every country and its percentage of pregnancies terminated in legal abortion reveals some pretty straight forward trends.   Is it a surprise to anyone that the former bastion of institutionalized atheism, Russia, aborts more than 50% of its children while the thoroughly Roman Catholic Panama comes in at .02% ?

The pattern doesn’t hold perfectly, but it is definitely there.

These types of considerations drive me to paint a different picture of the current situation in America on the subject of abortion than normally presented.  What if aiming at passage of pro-life legislation is only a small component of the solution?  What if aiming to persuade people to a pro-life position is aiming too low?  What if in fact we Christians should be focusing on creating more Christians and retaining the ones we’ve got?

A Christian does not believe, like the atheist, that he is god.  A Christian understands that he is the product of a Creator and that Creator has the right and privilege of defining right and wrong and defining ‘personhood.’  A Christian knows that he cannot dispense with another person because it is inconvenient to someone or to a nation, and simply arbitrarily defining someone as a non-person doesn’t affect what they actually are.  All this comes in automatically once one adopts the Christian worldview.   Even Christians who vote pro-choice don’t generally approve of abortion, generally, and would like it reduced.

I made a similar argument in this Worldnetdaily article suggesting that apologetics– ie, bringing people to faith and retaining the ones you’ve got- is a key answer to the abortion crisis.

There is no real hope of persuading atheists to a pro-life position because most of them are secular humanists who have an entirely different concept of the world.  In their eyes, we are the sculptors of our own reality and if we want ‘peace and harmony’ we just need to get people to rely on ‘science’ to secure our ‘peace and safety’ and get all the experts together in one room (in the United Nations) to chart the way to a utopian future.  I am aware of no corrective to such thinking except to point out that such thinking has already been tried and shown to be bloodily wanting.

No other corrective save one:  skip the attempt to convince them to a pro-life position and instead persuade them to meet the Living Savior.

And in the meantime, stem the flow of young people leaving the Christian faith and throw ourselves into discipling them (and other Christians) and robust evangelism.

While we still can, of course.



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    • Matthew Ackerman on March 17, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Warning: Tangential comment which ignores the main purpose of your post.

    \I’m not saying it follows logically, as in my book an atheist who subscribes unconditionally to Darwinism would recognize that abortion flies in the face of most evolutionary principles\

    I hope every one will avoid the naturalistic fallacy, atheists and theists alike. I like to dissuade people from this one by pointing out that evolution, unlike God, has no concern for your well being. Doing what evolution impels you to do will not make you happy, fulfilled, or any successful (with one exception: it will likely increase your reproductive fitness).

    I don’t honestly pay that much attention, but I recall correcting only one person who was sincerely arguing using the naturalistic fallacy: A devout Mormon attempting to convince me that it was natural for the mother to stay at home with the children and for the father to be the provider.

    At the time, I attempted to correct this fallacy by pointing at the infanticide is extremely common in mammals: nursing young usually delay reproduction, and so it benefits males to kill the offspring of competitors in order to decrease the time until females become fertile.

    If we argue that something is good BECAUSE it is natural, then logically it ought to be the case the infanticide (of non-relatives) is good since it is evolutionarily advantageous.

    • Anthony on March 21, 2009 at 9:30 am

    Hi Matthew, can you clarify for me whether or not you think that I am committing this fallacy?

  1. As the ‘person’ in question, I would like to endorse Matthew’s point. I have never taken the position that my pro-choice position follows naturally from my rejection of belief in gods. Moreover, the majority of pro-choice people are religious. Atheists are a growing minority, but still a minority.

    Finally, I must also reject Tony’s gratuitous claim that atheists consider themselves God. I do not worship myself, and all my attempts to perform miracles have failed thus far. Atheists do not consider their behavior under scrutiny by a “higher power”, but they still manage to refrain from rampages of killing, raping, and looting most of the time. And when they do succumb to such bad behavior, they usually don’t try to claim the endorsement of a divinity. 🙂

    • Anthony on March 22, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    Are you a ‘person’? 😉

    As for your pro-choice following from your rejection of belief in gods the critical point is that as an atheist, you can adopt any moral position that you like. The assertion is not that atheism is definitively linked to a pro-abortion stance. The assertion is that under atheism all bets are off.

    Your assertion that the majority of pro-choice people are religious I think requires substantiation. However, it is only slightly relevant, as I know you would agree that pro-life people are almost never atheists. I am aware of exceptions but we both know they are just that- exceptions. Clearly there is a connection between unbelief and abortion. How that connection works out in real life I am not foolishly asserting is simple, straight forward, and always easy to detect. But there is a connection.

    Moreover, you fail to appreciate my point in describing atheists as gods. Obviously, atheists would not knowingly say that they are gods. However, given the definition of God put forward by Christians and given the prominent place that atheists give their own take on the world, they may as well see that they are in fact believing that they are God. God is the final regress, the ultimate ground of being, the final say on moral matters, etc. The atheist does not believe there is a God, hence they become the final say on moral matters (at least in their own lives) and hence take on the position of God.

    • Matthew Ackerman on March 23, 2009 at 9:04 am

    I do not think you are commiting this fallacy.

    My own reading of what you are saying is that trying to get moral guidance from an impersonal universe is doomed to produce moral subjectivism. (“….there isn’t any objective right and wrong….each individual … becomes the sole arbiter of what is right and wrong….”)

    This is a much more interesting point that I was really responding to. For rhetorical and social reasons I would not turn this into a claim that ‘atheists have no reason not to murder and kill’; however, I think most atheists and agnostics would substantially agree that their morality is subjective, and that it is something that they decide to hold of their own free will without externally imposed standards.

    To Copernicus: Snt. Johnny is not advancing the idea that atheist believe that they are metaphysical gods. I’m sure he could more clearly communicate his ideas, but this is always true of everyone, and I hope you will try to interpret what he says in a way that makes the most amount of sense to you, not the least.

    Moving on, I can also report that atheist are generally aware of the problem of subjective morality (see Dawkins) or make the problem even worse by abandoning a moral view of reality.

    It is one thing to acknowledge that perhaps, in some absolute sense, we have no right to impose our western liberal values on a tribe of native people in the Amazon rain forest, but it is a much worse problem if you think we shouldn’t try to stop these people from murdering and raping each other simply because there is no absolute moral authority in the world.

    In other words, it is much beter to be an atheist who views themselves as the final arbiter of morality and is willing to impose that morality on others, than to be an atheist who disavows all civic and moral responsibilities.

    In my personal experience, there are more atheists who fall into the former category than the later, but I have met both.

    • Matthew Ackerman on March 23, 2009 at 9:08 am

    General cautions apply to trying to govern people for their own good. Watch Rabbit Proof Fence, and remember just how recently most of the western world has been engaged in systematic atrocities.

  2. To both Anthony and Matthew. It is important to distinguish between the general categories of atheism and theism, on the one hand, and specific moral doctrines that atheists and theists adhere to, on the other. It is my humanism, not my atheism, that informs my moral code. Neither atheism nor theism promotes any specific morality. They are just categories of people that hold different beliefs about the existence of gods, and both are consistent with just about any code of moral conduct.

    Now let’s just think a little more carefully about this subjective/objective morality distinction. Many Christians like to characterize their own morality as ‘objective’. That is, it remains fixed under all circumstances, and it is fixed by God’s will. The problem is that Christians hold such different opinions about God’s nature and his will. So it is not surprising that the behavior of Christians is as varied as the behavior of atheists. It is just that Christians rationalize their behavior in terms of what they believe God to want, and humanists rationalize theirs in terms of what they consider good for humankind. Since Christians tend to believe that God wants what is good for humankind, there ends up not being much difference between Christians and atheist humanists on matters such as murder, rape, and pillage. They might, however, have a much different view of matters pertaining to reproductive rights, gay rights, death with dignity, etc. The reality is that Christians tend to exhibit a broader range of opinions on those matters, because they divide up into so many different religious groupings with different opinions on how God approaches such matters.

    • Matthew Ackerman on March 23, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    I realize that not all atheists adhere to the same moral system, and would not dream of implying otherwise.

    I entirely agree that what may look like ‘objective’ morality from a abstract metaphysical standpoint, is essentially ‘subjective’ morality from a practical personal perspective. I think that is why I find so much sympathy with the views of existentialists. In a very real sense each one of us chooses our moral system for ourselves, regardless of what anyone in the world tells you, and this is an immensely wonderful and important thing to understand.

    It is a temptations for any person, whether theistic or atheistic, to pass the responsibility of choosing that moral system off to religious body, government, mob, or what have you.

    Your assertion that \Christians tend to exhibit a broader range of opinions on [morality]\ I think begs the question. If you can cite a reliable source I would be willing to examine this opinion, but in general it is poor form to describe a nebulous personal opinion as ‘the reality’ of a mater.

    Some atheist are moral relativists, who quite honestly believe that we have no right, and no responsibility, to interfere with other cultures (or to engage in cultural imperialism, in their words.)

    I would simply like to reiterate how important it is to avoid this moral relativism.

    I want other people to assert that their moral systems are superior to my own, because I want to engage them in an honest dialog and I want them to stand behind what they assert. I doubt that someone who honestly believes that they have no right to tell me I am wrong can have any self respect.

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