Cleaning House

I’ve been aware of The Raving Atheist since before I created Daylight Atheism. For a time, his was one of the few atheist blogs I read regularly. However, I gradually soured on him, and by the time I had created this blog, I had decided that on balance he was a detriment rather than a credit to the cause of atheism, and resolved never to link to him.

There were several reasons for this. First of all, I strongly disliked his abrasive and arrogant tone. As readers of this site and of Ebon Musings should hopefully be aware, I believe atheists should make every effort to be civil and approachable. This is not to say that we should be passive in the face of religiously inspired evils or that we should withhold criticism. On the contrary, when it is merited, I strongly believe that we should speak out with force and passion. But when we call all believers stupid, ignorant or insane – something which is clearly not true – or when we ridicule them simply for believing, or when we act as if atheists are more intelligent than theists – in short, when we act like stereotypical “angry atheists“, we reinforce the noxious religious caricatures that encourage believers to ignore and dismiss us. I believe that we should instead shatter those stereotypes by proving that atheists are ordinary, decent human beings just like anyone else, which will win us far more support in the long run. The Raving Atheist, on the other hand, seemed to delight in playing right into those stereotypes, for example by frequently calling theists “godidiots”. This type of language does not help.

Worse yet was his vehemently anti-choice stance. I do not believe that opposition to abortion is an intrinsically irrational stance. I am certain that reasoned arguments could be made for it, even if I think the pro-choice arguments are better. But it seemed to me that RA was not even trying to defend his belief rationally. On the contrary, his arguments, such as they were, seemed like the religious anti-choice position without the religion, and if that seems contradictory and vacuous, so did he. The closest thing to a justification I ever saw him present was something along the lines of, “If my parents had had an abortion, I wouldn’t be here now”. Using this logic, we would also have to outlaw all contraception, so as not to deny any potential people their right to exist.

These reasons convinced me never to link to RA’s site. But the straw that broke the camel’s back has now been laid – in fact, two of them. Via Pharyngula, I learned today that RA has boasted of volunteering at a religious “crisis pregnancy center”, a type of institution whose purpose is to persuade pregnant women not to have abortions by bombarding them with misleading religious propaganda, or worse. (I wrote back in April about the horrifying depths to which some of these institutions have sunk.) And the second of those two straws was the following line written by RA, from the same post:

In honor of Ashli and my friends in the Blogosphere who share her ideals, I will never write another bad word about Jesus or Christianity on The Raving Atheist.

What in truth’s name can he be thinking? Even a person who is against abortion should be able to recognize that the Christian right, by its rabid opposition to the teaching and use of contraception, not to mention its equally fervent opposition to the social programs that help establish stable families, is going to lead to more unwanted pregnancies and thus more abortions. I strongly believe that abortion should be legal, but I also believe that an abortion is a terrible, traumatic thing and I wish that it was never necessary. And the best way to make it never be necessary is to give both men and women the education and support they need to control their own destinies. And to do this, we must speak out against the religious right – something which RA has apparently committed himself never to do again.

Even beyond the abortion issue, there are countless ways in which Christian belief has caused harm in this world. What about the apocalyptic beliefs in Jesus’ imminent return that inspire right-wing Christians to agitate for war and bloodshed and dismiss the necessity of protecting the planet? What about the teachings of intrinsic and inescapable depravity that degrade and pollute the human spirit? What about the numerous Biblical verses that teach hatred and violence? What about the teachings of theocratic hatemongers like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson? Will the Raving Atheist henceforth fall silent in the face of these evils?

If that is the case, others will have to step up where he has failed. Fortunately, there is no shortage of strong, independent atheist voices in the blogosphere and elsewhere who can carry out this task. Likewise, there is no shortage of voices who will speak out in favor of the rights and independence of the women RA would gladly subjugate. We can and we will. However, I believe that to continue to offer the Raving Atheist our support and endorsement in the meantime would be inappropriate. Just as with Larry Darby, the atheist white supremacist and Holocaust denier who recently ran for attorney general in Alabama, when a person who claims to be an atheist does not stand for the humanist ideals we stand for, we must make it clear that this person does not represent us or speak for us.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • SpeirM

    “First of all, I strongly disliked his abrasive and arrogant tone. As readers of this site and of Ebon Musings should hopefully be aware, I believe atheists should make every effort to be civil and approachable.”

    And that’s why I like this site, Adam, despite the fact that I sometimes find myself disagreeing with your politics and social agenda. (I tend to be opposed to abortion, for instance.) In fact, your site and Merle Hertzler’s are the only ones I visit regularly.

  • Philip Thomas

    Interesting. I have indeed noticed the civilised atmosphere at this site, and I hope my tribute site retains that aspect. The story of the raving atheist interests me another way: I am pro-life. Probably not quite as far as the raving atheist, but far enough that if somebody asked me to man a phoneline persuading pregnant women to carry their baby to term I would serious consider it (of course, I would be horrified to discover the phone line was masquerading as a pro-choice line, but thats another issue)…

  • Gathercole

    The forum I post on the most frequently is the Raving Atheist’s forum. Most people there have become extremely frustrated with RA’s stance on abortion, particularly because – as you mentioned – he doesn’t even try to justify it. Every time he posts a front-page post on abortion, the people who post in the forum, including me, always respond with, “If abortion is murder, then what should the penalty for it be, for women and the doctors who assist them?” RA, despite being a lawyer, has never answered this question despite seeing it repeated dozens of times in the comments section of every pro-life post.

    I also wanted to commend you for your constant politeness. In my personal life, I’ve seen simple politeness and personal ethics take a devastating toll on my friends’ theistic beliefs. More than any rational argument, setting a shining example of an upstanding atheist makes them doubt, to the very core of their being, if their religion is really necessary.

  • Philip Thomas

    Its a fair question, but I wouldn’t like you to think its fatal to the pro-life case. As a preliminary point, things don’t stop being murder just because it would be convenient if they were not murder.

    Firstly, as abortion is currently legal, no action lies against those who carry it out and do not breach the law.

    Secondly, if abortion (or certain types of abortion) was made illegal, this need not entail criminal penalties: especially not upon the mother. I personally would not want any penalties for the mother: but the practitioers of backstreet abortions should be liable to penalties (apart from anything else, they are endangering the mother!)

  • tobe38

    Before I was an atheist I was against abortion, and I continued to be against it for about a year afterwards, it was definitely the hardest thing to come around to. What finally turned my thoughts was the realisation that there are no perfect solutions in the real world, and that is what I think makes an atheistic approach to morality superior to a theistic approach – flexibility rather than rigid dogma. I agree with you, Adam, that an abortion is a traumatic thing and that in a perfect world, it would never be necessary. Alas, we don’t live in a perfect world.

    Incidentally, it was the blend of humility and dignity of your writings on Ebonmusings that played a major role in endearing me towards atheism. I had always held the stereotypical view of the arrogant, angry atheist, and your voice was one that dispelled that myth.

  • Philip Thomas

    tobe38, I take it you are now pro-choice? Are there any circumstances in which you think abortion should be illegal?

  • Katchen

    It’s unfortunate that the anti-choice movement isn’t on the whole, actually pro-life.

    One feels that if they were being honest about their true motives, they would be equally as fervent about other reproductive health issues; about promoting contraception, preventing unwanted pregnancies; making foetal and infant health a higher priority; and making men’s roles and duties in the health and well being of our offspring clearer. All these things can and have improved children’s quality of life, reduced the need for abortions and reduced the levels of infant mortality, in many different cultural settings.

    There have been suggestions by some in the anti-choice movement that women should be held to account if they suffer a miscarriage, and interviewed to determine if they are at fault; but that really reveals quite a difference of intent.

    The withholding of meaningful sex education, access to contraception and ultimately the denial of women’s right to control over their reproductive choices, is doing an excellent job of keeping women ‘barefoot and pregnant’ all over the world, and what constitutes half of our planets population is still specifically legislated against, worldwide, over their part in our species reproduction.

    The anti-choice movement frequently reveals itself to be concerned with exerting control over women, and little to do with promoting life.

    I haven’t read the RA’s blog I must admit, but frankly – if any opinion isn’t open for debate, how does that belief truly differ from dogma?

  • Philip Thomas

    The following is a satire:

    “Its a pity the anti-life movement isn’t, on the whole, actually pro-choice.

    One feels that if they were being honest about their true motives, they would be equally as fervent about other female emancipation issues, like the woman’s right to infanticide, to kill unsatisfactory sexual partners, and the foetus’ right to choose death for the mother.

    There have been suggestions by some in the anti-life movement that infanticide should be legal as well, and that really reveals quite a difference of intent.

    The witholding of common human decency, access to life-giving medical techniques, and ultimately the foetus’ right to remain alive is doing an excellent job in killing foetuses by the score all over the world, and what constitutes the entire future planet’s human population is still specifically legislated, agains, worldwide, over their part in female lifestyles.

    The anti-life movement frequently reveals itself to be concerned with killing unwanted foetuses, and little to do with promoting choice (how many choices would that foetus have made in its life?)”

    End of Satire.

    Maybe we can have a discusion about this which doesn’t involve the demonisation of the other side?

  • dhagrow

    Katchen’s comment may be a demonization, but in my mind it is an accurate description of the position held by many of the most prominent and vocal members of the pro-life movement. Those who are most likely get their opinions written into law. Of course it isn’t representative of all pro-life positions, as certainly seems to be the case with you, Philip. Still, we should be able to generalize here without having to point that out each time. Your satire is amusing, but I’ve never met anyone who was pro-choice and actually believed that abortion is, in all cases, infanticide.

    Abortion should be illegal in many situations, because there are times when it is murder. But there are many cases where it is not. To make it illegal across the board for a collection of cells that’s not even close to human just turns truly desperate women into criminals. What matters is that we do everything we can to ensure that it never needs to be considered. The pro-life movement just doesn’t seem to care about that effort (generalization).

  • Philip Thomas

    Of course, it is important to avoid unwanted pregnancy in the first place: and sex education and contraception can play a role here which is often unacknowledged by the pro-life camp. Providing better adoption and childcare facilities may help matters ‘at the other end’. But there will still be unwanted pregnancies, and the question about what should be done in those cases needs to be addressed. I believe that the life of the foetus should be a consideration in those cases, as well as the views of the mother.

  • SpeirM

    Philip, I think the point of the question is to expose the thinking of some pro-lifers. If they are going to call abortion murder, then they are going to need to tell us why they don’t think the crime should be punished like murder. Now, bean in mind that this murder would be premeditated. The woman plotted it and the doctor carried it out “with malice aforethought.” In many juristdictions that would at potentially qualify as a capital crime. Now, do pro-lifers really want women who have abortions and doctors who perform them put to death, or even considered for execution? (And don’t get sidetracked on the “put to death” thing. If you’re opposed to the death penalty, make it life imprisonment or whatever you deem appropos.) Well, you might actually find a few, but they’d be a tiny, tiny minority. Why is that? Is it possible that most pro-lifers, deep down, really don’t see abortion as murder? Could it be that they’re going a little “over the top” by calling abortion murder and, at some level, they know it?

  • Philip Thomas

    I am opposed to the death penalty, since I am pro-life.

    There are special circumstances attending on an abortion or infanticide which mean the mother should not face criminal charges. Probably murder is an inappropriate term and infanticide would be better.

  • SpeirM

    “Probably murder is an inappropriate term….”

    Then you’re probably not the one who needs to answer the question. I’ve asked it of people who assure me it is murder, and I’ve gotten about the same response Gathercole has: silence. And I suspect I know why they don’t answer–they haven’t thought through the implications very well. It bothers them that their philosophy is so internally inconsistent.

  • tobe38

    Philip, I am now pro-choice. I feel that the mother’s right to make the choice about her own body is insurmountable by the anti-abortion case. I think abortion should be legal up to 20 weeks and illegal after that point.

  • Azkyroth

    I consider myself “pro-life,” on the grounds that I oppose capital punishment; wars of aggression; terrorist tactics, even when employed by my own country or or its allies; and so on. Hence, I take issue with the appropriation of the label “Pro-Life” by a group of people whose uniting philosophy is not genuine belief in the sanctity of life but opposition to reproductive choice. While some of them may in fact belief life to be sacred, a plurality if not a majority of them support the items listed above, making any claims on their part to the label “pro-life” questionable at best and preposterous in many cases. The label they want, the one that is not a fallacious appeal to emotion (a borderline-fraudulent propoganda characterization of their position in most cases, and an implicit demonization of their opponents in any case) is “anti-choice,” and I refuse to refer to the anti-choice movement as a whole by any other label.

    I would characterize my position as “pro-quality-of-life,” since the core principle is that every person should have a life worth living. By extension, parents have an obligation to provide a decent quality of life for their children, and if they are personally or economically unable to do so, it is irresponsible for them to have children. Ideally, this should be accomplished by contraception; if contraception fails, than under some circumstances abortion is arguably the most ethical decision. I can attest to this, having personally witnessed the effects of being raised by unfit parents on people around me (notably, my wife suffered deep psychological scars due to a combination of her mother’s drug problems and the company she kept, and later her father’s irresponsible devotion to the whims of his girlfriend above the needs of his children). Not only do the children of these parents in most cases suffer greatly, those children often engage in criminal or otherwise irresponsible behaviors that cause those around them to suffer as well (two of my wife’s sisters have severe drug problems and have engaged in other criminal behavior including grand larceny in one case).

    Nor am I convinced that adoption is, in most cases, a better solution, given the conflicting things I hear about the situation with regards to adoption and foster care (some of that, perhaps, is more relevant to older children), the likelihood of unfit prospective parents (most of whom are not noted for making well-reasoned decisions) being “unable” (unwilling) to give their children up after carrying them to term, the already severe suffering overpopulation is causing to fully-formed and conscious human beings (as a side note, while I deeply question my ability to be a good parent to more than one child in any case, I am less unenthusiastic about the prospect of adopting a child from a third world country than about the prospect of having another child of our own, and I would encourage others to consider this as a possibility), and the potential of severe, crippling birth defects for the adopted child if their mother is unfit as a parent in part because of substance abuse and dependency.

    As a minor quibble, while I’m reasonably certain that no sane woman (or couple) would characterize the prospect or experience of abortion as positive, I’m not sure that calling it “traumatic” is accurate. I did a fair amount of reading on it about two and a half years ago, and statistics and surveys suggest that the majority of women do not find the experience traumatic. My perspective is perhaps limited; the closest I come to personal experience with abortion is my conversations with an online correspondant who had an abortion at 17 based on reasoning similar to what I described above. She characterized the abortion itself as unpleasant but not traumatic, but she later attempted suicide in response to the emotional abandonment and villification she was subjected to by her family and some of her “friends.”

  • Philip Thomas

    I am against capital punishment, wars of agression, terrorist tactics by anyone, euthanasia, abortion, murder, infanticide, suicide, etc.

    But if you want to call me anti-choice thats fine, what’s in a name?

    A majority of women don’t find abortion traumatic? So are we looking at a 40% trauma rate, or a 5% one? I admit that there are dangers in birth as well…

  • Azkyroth

    “Most” is the word that was used, I believe. I don’t have statistics off the top of my head.

    Yes, but unfortunately, most people who call themselves pro-life, in my experience, are in support of items 1, 2, and provisionally 3. Hence, opposition to reproductive choice is the philosophical point that unites them as a group.

  • lpetrich

    I’m not particularly interested in fetal-personhood arguments; instead, I find interesting the prospect of The Raving Atheist converting to some Xian sect. It is hard to find any such people; the best-known examples I know of are Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s son William and Cyril Edwin Mitchinson Joad. The latter gentleman had been very famous half a century ago in Britain, when he’d answer questions asked by listeners in the BBC’s “Brains Trust” radio program. He became famous for saying “It all depends on what you mean by…”

    But C.E.M. Joad suffered various setbacks, notably being caught riding a train without a ticket. This created a big scandal, and he was dismissed from the BBC. He got religion some time after that, even writing a book, “Recovery of Belief”, which contained arguments that in earlier years he would have dismissed as lame. And when Bertrand Russell debated him about religion, he reportedly lost rather badly.

    This asymmetry has been discussed at length by Steve Locks in his Asymmetry of Conversion pages and Brian Holtz’s Atheist Deconversion pages. They’ve tried to find some advocate of atheism who has converted to Xianity as a result of purely rational arguments — and they have failed.

    So will The Raving Atheist follow William Murray and C.E.M. Joad and convert out of irrational reasons?

  • Mary

    I have to say I remain very confused about pro-life versus pro-choice positions. I’ve heard variations on this many, many times:

    I strongly believe that abortion should be legal, but I also believe that an abortion is a terrible, traumatic thing and I wish that it was never necessary.

    I don’t understand: if it isn’t morally (or legally) wrong, why is it a terrible, traumatic thing?

  • Tommykey

    Mary, I think the answer to your question would be as follows: for a woman (whether teenager or an adult) to go through the process of an abortion can be a cause of many conflicting emotions such as shame, guilt, regret, anxiety and so forth. Even though she is making the decision that she has to terminate the pregnancy because she is not prepared to carry the pregnancy to term and become a parent, it would not surprise that a part of her feels sad because of the child that might have been. If the pregnancy is a result of intercourse outside of a relationship, such as sleeping with the captain of the football team at a keg party or similar situation, there are likely to be feelings of shame. And let us not forget, an abortion is an invasive medical procedure and almost everybody hates the thought of having to undergo any kind of invasive medical treatment, whether an abortion or having a probe go up your ass in a colonoscopy. Does that adequately answer your question?

  • Gathercole

    Mary, divorce is also a terrible and traumatic thing, far more terrible and traumatic than abortion. Most people who get divorces still show symptoms of depression ten years later, and many never recover. However, most of us think divorce should be legal, because of the restriction of personal freedom that the alternative would represent.

  • EnigmaOfSteel

    “There have been suggestions by some in the anti-choice movement that women should be held to account if they suffer a miscarriage, and interviewed to determine if they are at fault; but that really reveals quite a difference of intent.”

    A side issue but, what’s with the use of “the anti-choice movement”? Is it really necessary to play those re-define name games here? The groups generally call themselves pro-choice and pro-life, and are well known that way. Why not just argue on the merits?

  • EnigmaOfSteel

    I have indeed noticed the civilised atmosphere at this site …

    Yes I also want to commend Adam for facilitating these discussions and all those involved through postings. I was drawn to this site do to the civility in Adam’s writings, and his ability to implement strong critique without getting mean-spirited as sometimes occurs on other sites. Also I only know one real live atheist, so it’s been nice getting to discuss various issues with all of you.

  • Azkyroth

    A side issue but, what’s with the use of “the anti-choice movement”? Is it really necessary to play those re-define name games here? The groups generally call themselves pro-choice and pro-life, and are well known that way. Why not just argue on the merits?

    For two reasons, one of principle and one of practice. The labels “pro-choice” and “pro-life” are commonly employed, but, as detailed above, one of those is an accurate description of the position of the group to which it is applied and one is not. The term “pro-life” implies that its followers strongly believe that life is sacred or otherwise extremely valuable, which, as I’ve detailed above, is in many cases a bald-faced lie, and in any case not an accurate characterization of the general position of the movement, which is united not by a belief in the value of life (this conclusion does not lend itself to debate, given the range and extent to which many anti-choice advocates support, endorse, or at least tolerate, the killing of fully formed human beings, as summarized above) but by an opposition to legal elective abortion, hence “anti-choice.”

    As an explanatory example: in a similar spirit, I prefer not to refer to theofascist, kleptocratic, right-wing radicals as “conservatives,” since “conservative” is defined (relevantly) as follows:

    1. Favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change.
    3. Moderate; cautious: a conservative estimate.
    4. a. Of or relating to the political philosophy of conservatism.
    b. Belonging to a conservative party, group, or movement

    And “conservatism” is defined (relevantly) as follows:

    1. The inclination, especially in politics, to maintain the existing or traditional order.
    2. A political philosophy or attitude emphasizing respect for traditional institutions, distrust of government activism, and opposition to sudden change in the established order.
    4. Caution or moderation, as in behavior or outlook.

    Obviously, any kind of radical cannot be a conservative as the term is generally understood, and the use of “conservative” by TKRWRs is a cynical propaganda tactic designed to draw on the emotional appeal of the word to people who are used to it standing for the things listed above, and like that. The same is true of “pro-life,” designed to draw on the emotional appeal of the term to people who are used to “life” meaning life in general rather than solely the biological existence of embryos.

    Which leads into the practical reason, namely that it’s difficult to debate the merits of an idea when you have to be constantly explaining what you’re really talking about when you use the other side’s propaganda terms, so that the people listening not familiar with the debate don’t get an unwarrantedly favorable impression of the other side. And with “pro-life” it would be difficult for this to be any more blatant; perhaps if they labeled their side “the good guys.” Surely you wouldn’t expect their opponents to address them by that moniker…?

  • andrea

    I wonder if this RA person is having second thoughts about being an atheist because of encountering one’s mortality as one comes up on middle age and is looking to hide him/herself under the rock of religion. Not having known too many atheists, I don’t know if that affects “us” too much but it sure affects those pagans I have known. It’s a pity when decent loving people who happen to worship a god/goddess become radical evangelical Christians when they think that they should hedge their bets against a eternity of hellfire.

  • EnigmaOfSteel

    For two reasons, one of principle and one of practice. The labels “pro-choice” and “pro-life” are commonly employed, but, as detailed above, one of those is an accurate description of the position of the group to which it is applied and one is not. The term “pro-life” implies that its followers strongly believe that life is sacred or otherwise extremely valuable, which, as I’ve detailed above, is in many cases a bald-faced lie, and in any case not an accurate characterization of the general position of the movement, which is united not by a belief in the value of life (this conclusion does not lend itself to debate, given the range and extent to which many anti-choice advocates support, endorse, or at least tolerate, the killing of fully formed human beings, as summarized above) but by an opposition to legal elective abortion, hence “anti-choice.”

    There is very often some propaganda consideration when a group takes a name, and I would argue that is the case with the name used on both sides of this debate. People also try and rename for propaganda value. But that is really beside the point – it’s not up to you to now simply change the name. Pro-life is the name used by the group and has historically been used. You may think the name is not accurate enough – but that’s the name. By your logic, I think we can go around renaming all kinds of groups. Personally I make it a practice to use the name a group chooses to use, even when I may have some disagreement with the name, especially when the name has historically been used. One should be able to effectively argue against the position without having to rename.

    As for your other point about inconsistency, one can always choose the worst arguments or representatives of a particular group and then successfully debunk them. And that is sometimes easy when dealing with pro-life folks who make arguments based on the supernatural. But there are plenty of people on the pro-life side who show consistency and well reasoned arguments.

  • SpeirM

    “I wonder if this RA person is having second thoughts about being an atheist because of encountering one’s mortality as one comes up on middle age and is looking to hide him/herself under the rock of religion. Not having known too many atheists, I don’t know if that affects “us” too much but it sure affects those pagans I have known.”

    For me it was just the other way around. I didn’t even admit to myself that I wasn’t buying the Christian thing anymore until I was 48. If anything, the realization that Hell is an absurdity has been a great release. Faith in Christ is supposed to instill a fearlessness of death. But if you believe Jesus has saved you *from* something, that thing will always dwell someplace within your mind. And, tell yourself what you will, there will always be some tiny, lingering fear that “Maybe I didn’t do it just right.” (I would’ve denied that at the time. I would’ve done so sincerely, because I wouldn’t allow myself to entertain that kind of thought.) That problem simply doesn’t exist for me anymore.

  • lpetrich

    As I’d mentioned earlier, it’s very hard to find an atheist who has understood and used atheist arguments — and who has later converted to some religion.

    And even if one’s consciousness does survive the death of one’s body, there are LOTS of possible things that one can happen. Fundie Xianity does NOT have a monopoly on the possibilities. Some other sect of Xianity could be right, or some other religion altogether. We could be sent to some other religion’s hell, we could get reincarnated, or we could become ghosts. Perhaps with getting to haunt a house. :)

  • Philip Thomas

    I could play similar games with the ‘pro-choice’ label if I wanted: what unites the pro-choice movement is not comittment to ‘choice’ in general, but support of elective abortion. Indeed, I have friends who tallk about the ‘pro-abortion’ movement, something I usually try to discourage as unhelpful and not conducive to dialogue.

    I think atheist converts to Christianity are much less likely to make their conversion public than the reverse cases. Atheism is a minority cause and so new atheists often have to make much more of a statement than new ‘believers’. But I do know at least one person who converted from atheism to Christianity when an adult, probably on intellectual grounds (not including my own conversion, since I was an atheist for all of 3 weeks, which isn’t long enough really). I’m sure there are others out there.

  • andrea

    how can anyone convert to a religion because of “intellectual” grounds? isn’t that a bit of a contradiction in terms?

  • Philip Thomas

    Hi Andrea, I’m not sure I grasp your problem. The assertions of religion are at one level intellectual propositions: and accepting their truth as such can be a route to religous faith.

  • Azkyroth

    I could play similar games with the ‘pro-choice’ label if I wanted: what unites the pro-choice movement is not comittment to ‘choice’ in general, but support of elective abortion. Indeed, I have friends who tallk about the ‘pro-abortion’ movement, something I usually try to discourage as unhelpful and not conducive to dialogue.

    You could do that, but it’s a flawed analogy. The difference is that support for the availability of reproductive choice IS what unites us as a movement. “Pro-abortion,” to paraphrase one writer (I wish I remembered the name, Joyce something?) by contrast, implies that the people it is applied think abortion is a good and positive experience, one they’d recommend in general–which is plainly ridiculous; if anyone on earth feels this way it is a vanishingly small number. The majority of pro-choice advocates, according to everything I’ve read, are neutral on, or anti-, abortion, and pro-abortion-rights. Hence, the use of “pro-abortion” as a label for the group in general can be condemned on grounds of being factually untrue, in addition to being deliberately inflammatory and unconducive to dialogue.

  • EnigmaOfSteel

    The difference is that support for the availability of reproductive choice IS what unites us as a movement.

    I think one need look no further than the evidence of some postings on this very site, to see that pro-choice supporters are hardly united in choice. Some want unfettered abortion up to birth, others want no abortion after fetal pain, for others the test is viability outside the womb, and still for others some type of consciousness. Depending on the test, some so called pro-choice supporters are actually opposing the choice of others. So much for pro-choice.

    In contrast, pro-life supporters value the developing human life and do not want to see it destroyed, making pro-life a legitimate name for this group. While both sides have in part chosen their names for propaganda purposes, I would argue that contrary to your claim, the name “pro-life” is actually a more applicable name than “pro-choice”.

    But again I think that is really beside the point, because it’s not up to you or me to suddenly start renaming groups we happen to disagree with. (Although at the moment, I can think of a few sports teams I would like to rename, based on performance not living up to the name.) I think an honest look at this attempt to change the name of the pro-life movement shows it to be mainly for reasons of propaganda.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    I think one need look no further than the evidence of some postings on this very site, to see that pro-choice supporters are hardly united in choice. Some want unfettered abortion up to birth…

    I admit I’ve had some difficulty keeping up with comments this week, but I haven’t noticed anyone taking that position. Do you have a citation?

  • Azkyroth

    In contrast, pro-life supporters value the developing human life and do not want to see it destroyed, making pro-life a legitimate name for this group.

    Um. Did you even read my argument?

    I repeat: a majority of people who call themselves “pro-life,” even if they are consistent in their opposition to abortion, endorse the killing of fully formed, conscious human beings under circumstances which vary from person to person, including but not limited to capital punishment, wars of aggression (the Iraq war qualifies, by any reasonable standard), and acts of terrorism committed by the US or its allies. The last has an especially wide range, including but not limited to those expressing opinions on desirable policy for interaction with the middle east that literally consist of “NUKEM TILL THEY GLOW!!!” to more articulate expressions of the same basic sentiment, to those who defend the actions of the American soldiers in Iraq accused of murdering civilians, to those who are unconcerned about the question of whether people have actually died under torture in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and similar US-controlled prisons, to the people who smiled and nodded their heads when the Reagan administration was training Osama bin Laden (‘member him?) and his merry men to undermine the Soviets’ aggression in Iraq by any means necessary, and supplying guns to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua along with CIA-produced manuals detailing how to destabilize a society by tactics including murdering doctors, teachers, and other public figures, to people who think Lt. William Calley was a great American hero and/or a martyr, to Ann Coulter (need I elaborate?) and those who swallow every hateful lie she tells as if it were cyanide-laced Koolaid…the list goes on and on. Not to mention the large volume (in one or more senses) of people who consider themselves pro-life and are also opposed to intelligent use of birth control, which guarantees a much higher death rate because more children will be born than can be fed, and those whose adamant opposition to spending on social welfare and benefits programs approaches the “let them eat cake” level, no matter how many people starve or die of perfectly preventable diseases or escapable disasters.

    These are the people you expect me to believe consider human life to be sacred? Come on. Opposition to reproductive choice (“anti-choice”) is indeed the principal thing they have in common with people like Philip Thomas who (allegedly) considers life to be sacred and opposes taking it under the circumstances described above.

    I think one need look no further than the evidence of some postings on this very site, to see that pro-choice supporters are hardly united in choice. Some want unfettered abortion up to birth, others want no abortion after fetal pain, for others the test is viability outside the womb, and still for others some type of consciousness. Depending on the test, some so called pro-choice supporters are actually opposing the choice of others. So much for pro-choice.

    Your attempt to muddy the water by exaggerating the disagreement within the pro-choice movement is rather transparent and evidentially wanting. The pro-choice movement’s uniting philosophy is that, to a degree that varies between subgroups, women should have access to safe, legal abortion services. To my knowledge, all pro-choicers agree that abortion should be legal until some point toward the end of the first trimester. Where they draw the line varies, that’s true. However, the fact that there is some debate within the movement does not mean that there is not a consistent, core position, and it is accurate to describe this as support for reproductive choice, with some reservations. That’s a mouthful, so “pro-choice” will do just fine.

    As I believe I alluded to in the past (was “global warming” the subject?), this is not the first time your rhetorical tactics, and your relative position on an issue, have reminded me strikingly of those habitually employed by Creationists. As I recall, in the first case it was cherry-picking expert opinions and misrepresenting the consensus status of the science. Now you’re exaggerating disagreement within your opponents’ position to create an artifical controversy, perhaps falling short of presenting the pro-choice movement as “a movement in crisis” but definitely trending that way. I’m wondering whether this is intentional…?

    I also second Adam’s question about your source for one of the position examples you’ve used. I’m unaware of anyone who feels that way except specifically in cases of rape or incest, though I imagine that some might be inclined to add an exception for cases where a women who wants an abortion has been prevented through fraud, forcible restraint, or other illicit means from seeking one until after the legal deadline. I’m not sure I agree with that, though I support and am inclined to suggest as a bill specific laws forbidding illicit interference with another’s reproductive choice (in the fashion described above) and carrying very harsh penalties. Any comments from the others?

  • Philip Thomas

    Ah, well that is one difference between us. Why do you put a legal limit on abortion at all, if you are prepared to grant exceptions to it? If after a certain time the foetus is to be considered as being human enough to outweight the right of the mother to choose, why would this change due to the circumstances mentioned?

  • EnigmaOfSteel

    “I think one need look no further than the evidence of some postings on this very site, to see that pro-choice supporters are hardly united in choice. Some want unfettered abortion up to birth …”

    I admit I’ve had some difficulty keeping up with comments this week, but I haven’t noticed anyone taking that position. Do you have a citation?

    Yes I also have trouble keeping up with the thread volume – a testament I think to the success of the web site. Looking at the abortion discussion in the thread titled “Onward Christian Soldiers”, a poster who uses the screen name Montu wrote:

    “I think women should be allowed that choice before the FETUS is born.”

  • andrea

    hi Philip, Very much on the risk of taking this thread way out of its purpose :) I don’t see how any assertions of religion are intellectual, if you mean that word to mean based on the rational i.e. deduction and evidence. The main assertions of religion are a deity or deities, and the idea that the deity interacts with us. There is no proof of this anywhere, except in myths. And in that myths seem to always have universal themes, it is more likely that humans are hardwired to think in such terms rather than there are a zillion deities out there. Any religion is just as unprovable as the next. You might use emotion to deal with religion but not reason. Just my opinion.

  • EnigmaOfSteel

    Um. Did you even read my argument?

    Yes, I did read your argument. I felt there were some extraneous things which didn’t warrant commenting. As in your current post, where you include the following:

    Osama bin Laden, capital punishment, Iraq war, acts of terrorism, Ann Coulter, middle east, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Contra rebels, CIA

    Your attempt to muddy the water by exaggerating the disagreement within the pro-choice movement is rather transparent and evidentially wanting.

    Particular versions of so called choice infringe on other versions ability to choose. So much for choice if one can’t choose. I merely pointed that out. Trying to divine break points for abortion is a significant issue in the pro-choice community, so I do not need to exaggerate it. As for who is trying to muddy the water, I give as evidence the items listed above that I found in your post.

    As I believe I alluded to in the past (was “global warming” the subject?), this is not the first time your rhetorical tactics, and your relative position on an issue, have reminded me strikingly of those habitually employed by Creationists. As I recall, in the first case it was cherry-picking expert opinions and misrepresenting the consensus status of the science.

    I think you are confusing me with someone else. To my recollection I have not commented on global warming. I don’t feel I have enough expertise in the subject, and am actually trying to get up to speed on the issue. But for the record, I am highly concerned with global warming. It seems something that would be difficult to reverse, and so we should take the warnings very seriously. I am also not a creationist. That would be funny, considering I’m the guy who last Christmas gave out booklets from the National Academy of Sciences on evolution as gifts. Heck, I even gave one to the Mormon missionaries who visited me after they gave me the Book of Mormon.

    I also second Adam’s question about your source for one of the position examples you’ve used.

    I provided the source in my previous post above.

  • Philip Thomas

    Andrea, to be breif, I meant by “intellectual propositions” propositions of a kind which could be discussed using reason and evidence For example, the suggestion that an intelligent being created the universe can be discussed on the basis of the content of the universe. Or the suggestion that there was a historical figure called Jesus of Nazereth can be analysed in terms of the historical sources available. I don’t limit to propositions arrived at using reason and evidence- since you can always accuse your opponent of deriving his propositions some other way, its a bit pointless.

    At the risk of seriously derailing the thread, I seriously believe that reason and evidence point to the truth of Christianity. If I did not, I would not be a Christian. However, this particular view of mine has been examined at length in a recent series of responses, so let us not repeat ourselves.

  • Philip Thomas

    That set of responses is under the entry Atheism as a Positive Worldview , if anyone is interested.

  • Oz

    Adam:

    I seem to remember Clinton vetoing the partial-birth abortion ban way back when. If that’s not “unfettered abortion until birth,” nothing is.

    Also, have you noticed the marked change in RA’s attiude of late? He’s sworn off sarcasm and mocking religion, it seems. He’s taking a lot of flack for it, too, and there is much speculation as to his motives. You may want to go look, since you brought up the complaint.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Actually, as I recall, that ban was vetoed because it included no exception to protect the life or health of the mother, which is virtually the only reason a late-term abortion is ever performed. As for RA, I’m through with him for now. Swearing off sarcasm is one thing; swearing never to criticize a religion for any reason is quite another.

  • Philip Thomas

    Late term abortions in the UK are sometimes carried out because of disability- there is express provision for that in UK abortion law. The ‘health of the mother’ is a pretty broad category, at least so it has transpired in the UK. But obviously if the bill didn’t protect the mother’s life Clinto was right to veto it. Incidentally, surely in partial birth you can always save the foetus if you want to, given its halfway out already?

  • Oz

    You are correct, Phillip. The only difference between a birth and a PBA is whether the baby lives or dies. I’m not aware of any conditions where birthing a live baby will kill a woman but birthing a dead one will not, but if anyone cares to enlighten us, feel free.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    As far as I’m aware, late-term abortions are never performed on healthy fetuses just because the woman suddenly no longer felt like bringing her pregnancy to term. (Think of the logic behind that: After already consenting to carry a pregnancy for over half a year and dealing with all the attendant effects, a prospective mother would suddenly decide to end it just because she felt like it? Why would anyone choose to do that?) D&X abortions are usually performed for reasons such as that the fetus has already died in utero, or that it has severe genetic defects that would render it incapable of ever living outside the womb anyway.

  • Philip Thomas

    People’s choices are strange things. For example, the mother’s financial situation may have altered drastically so that she no longer feels able to support the child while maintaining her own standard of living. Or she may just have been told the results of medical tests which say the child is ‘disabled’. Disabilities for which late-term abortion is permissible in the UK include Cleft Palate and Club foot as well as a whole range of more serious disabilities, up to ones that would indeed result in death on birth. In some instances the test merely indicates a high probablility of disability.

    If the foetus is dead, I would not call an operation to remove the material from the womb an “abortion” and it would be monstrous to forbid it under anti-abortion laws. Anyway, if it is dead, there is no need for Partial Birth, you can take the corpse completely out of the womb.

  • http://www.jaundicejames.blogspot.com/ Jaundice James

    I was not previously aware of the Raving Atheist, nor have I read his site.
    However, I think that ridicule is a perfectly acceptable weapon against religious zealots.
    The things they believe and push for ARE ridiculous in the literal sense of the word. Ridiculing, making fun of, and making jokes at their expense helps make that clear.

    There are many, many atheists out there using science and reason as a weapon. Most, like you, are very polite and civilized about it.

    I, however, choose to make fun of them and shine a big spotlight on how foolish (and awful) they can be. Ridicule is my weapon of choice. It’s my schtik. It works for me.

    -JJ


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