Recently, while browsing through the groups, I came across a Pro-life group. It has only one member-it's founder, and that got me to thinking...Are there any pro-life atheists out there? And being that most, if not all arguments I've heard against abortions are usually religious in nature, what would be the atheists argument(s) against abortion?

Personally, I am pro-choice. I fully support every womans right to choose.

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Wiseguy1970 wrote on December 31 I have recently read a book by George Smith titled "Atheism - The Case Against God". He gives a poignant refutation of agnostics, in relation to atheists and theists. He went on to state that there is no middle ground between atheists and theists. You either believe in god, which makes you a theist, or you lack a belief in god, which makes you an atheist.

I’m familiar with this argument, of course, but the definitions Smith uses, while not exactly obsolete, are declining in acceptance. Most organized atheists no longer use the terms atheist and agnostic as mutually exclusive. The terms theism and atheism describe a position on one’s belief in god(s), while agnostic refers to one’s position on whether knowledge of gods is possible. If you want more information, I suggest that you read the Wikipedia articles on ‘Strong Atheism’ and ‘Strong Agnosticism.’ The definitions have moved beyond Smith’s usage because atheists need more refined concepts to explain their position. I am a weak agnostic, but a strong atheist.

Wiseguy1970 continued In the same light, abortion can be clearly defined as the willful destruction of a human embryo or fetus. If you believe the destruction of a human embryo or fetus is acceptable, then you are pro-abortion. If you do not believe the destruction of a human embryo or fetus is acceptable, then you are anti-abortion. Whether you are pro-abortion or anti-abortion, if you believe a person may choose to have an abortion (which is clearly the stance for someone who is pro-choice), then you are clearly accepting of abortion is some cases, which makes you pro-abortion. As Richard Dawkins said, "Agnostics are Atheists with training wheels." In my opinion, Pro-Choice advocates are Pro-Abortionists in sheep's clothing.

Again, you are relying on terminology that has been abandoned because it has no analytical utility. By your definitions, a person who would approve of abortion only when it is necessary to save the mother’s life, a person who approves of elective abortion at any time, and a person who approves of abortion only when ordered by the state are all equally pro-abortion. Your conceptual breakdown tells you nothing about the reasoning that a “pro-abortion” person would go through to decide whether any particular pregnancy should be aborted. It divorces the question of abortion from any ethical context. The only advantage that I can see to the definitions that you propose is that it renders the ‘anti-abortion’ group to be so small and discredited that it is easy to exclude them from the moral and legal discussion.

Wiseguy1970 wrote on December 31 The only specific fact that matters in abortion is whether or not you choose to destroy a human embryo or fetus.

This is ridiculous. By this standard, the fact that an abortion is necessary to save a woman’s life does not matter. The anti-abortion position as you define it is so morally repugnant that it does not deserve serious consideration.

Wiseguy1970 continued Whether a woman becomes pregnant out of love or rape does not increase or decrease the intrinsic value of the human embryo or fetus. Whether a woman is affluent, well-educated, immature, poor, scared, or unprepared to become pregnant, none of these circumstances neither increases nor decreases the intrinsic value of the human embryo or fetus.

On what is this ‘intrinsic’ value based? A Christian will not hesitate to answer this – it is because god ‘ensouled’ it. But on what do you, as an atheist, base your claim that its value is intrinsic? You seem to think that this value should be obvious to everyone, as if it were a universally accepted fact of the world, but I would love to see you prove that. Rather, it is surely your individual, subjective moral taste. I suspect, too, that it is a product of religious influence from which you have not yet freed yourself.

Wiseguy1970 continued Another way pro-abortion advocates try to sway your opinion to their way of believing is by dehumanizing a clearly human embryo or fetus. Comparing plant life to human life is just plain wrong. Calling it a clump of cells, saying it has no feeling, and calling yourself pro-choice are all ways to desensitize your conscience to make the destruction of a human embryo or fetus more palatable.

Why is it so clear to you that the conceptus is a human? After all, a “developing human” or a “potential human” is no more a human than a presidential candidate is the president.

For the purpose of an ethical discussion, of course, our concern is one of assigning what we call “human rights” to an organism. Most people consider it ridiculous to speak of a fertilized ovum as having rights. It is true that many of them, if not most, are receptive to assigning human rights at a later stage of the pregnancy, but the arguments that they offer cannot be generalized to every fertilized ovum.

Your moral preference is to assign human rights at the time of conception. Why should anyone else be persuaded by this subjective, individual moral taste?

Wiseguy1970 continued There are only two questions that arise when it comes to abortion.

1. Is a human embryo at the point of conception a human life?
If the answer to question 1 is yes, then that life should be given equal protection as would any human life.

This is an example of the naturalistic fallacy. A value statement cannot be derived from statements of fact alone. ‘At the point of conception’ a zygote is genetically complete, and undergoes cell division. These are medical facts, not moral values. That it should be given ‘equal protection’ with every other human is a value that cannot be derived from its medical status.

Wiseguy1970 continued 2. At what point should the embryo or fetus be recognized as a human life?

When you come up with the point that human life is recognized, then a woman has no right to choose to have an abortion after that point. The whole issue of abortion is contigent on this point. When does human life begin? In my opinion, it begins at conception.

By the terminology that you choose, you are disguising an act of moral valuation as if it were a medical fact. The question should be phrased, “When should we value the conceptus as a person, and confer upon it the rights that we claim for ourselves and attribute to each other?”
I think Wiseguy is being black and white as christians are. I had explained my bit, which he hasn't bother responding to. And there are many people that should be responding to. I am also wondering if Wiseguy is an alt of somebody else that posted.
Wiseguy, the heart of our disagreement is over what we consider to be the source of ethical value. There is a major division between deontological and teleological systems. In deontological ethics, you begin with actions or rules or character attributes that are asserted to be intrinsically good; in teleological ethics, an action or rule is good because it leads to consequences that are beneficial in peoples’ lives. God-declared ethics are deontological, while the best-known teleological ethical system is utilitarianism.

To a believer in Christian religion, it is self-evident that human life and fetal life are valuable because god ensouls people at conception. Christians often deride atheist ethics, believing that without god, there is no objective basis for ethical value and truth, so that they have to make up their morals. They chide that atheist ethics cannot move beyond equating moral right to “whatever feels good.” I think that teleologists have a very good answer to this, because actions have real consequences in peoples’ lives.

But you seem to be both an atheist and a deontologist. How do you respond to the Christian challenge? What is the source of your values, other than just “making them up,” selecting anything that you like?

I have responded in earlier posts to your preoccupation with the question “when does human life begin?” To use medical facts to establish moral obligation is a naturalist fallacy, overlooking the essential step of moral valuation. You are trying to answer the question “when should we assign value to the human fetus?” beginning with the assumption that the fetus has the value that merits what we call “human rights.” That is circular reasoning.

I certainly understand you love for your daughter. My own history is nearly the same. When my wife became pregnant, I had a lot of anxiety because of our insecure financial position. We had my daughter because my wife deeply wanted the baby and because I was adamantly opposed to abortion. She was our only daughter, although my wife had a second child in a later marriage. She obviously stopped at two children because she did not want a larger family. I presume that she avoided pregnancy beyond her two-child plan by contraception.

Is your daughter’s mother’s story not similar. Did she not decide at some point that she had had enough children, and stop reproducing? If that is the case, your daughter’s birth stopped the birth of a child at a later time, after your partner had completed her education, achieved some financial security, and gotten married. That child would have had a much better chance for a happy childhood and a productive life. And, if you were the father of this child, would you not have loved her just as much as you love the daughter you had?
According to your criterion, anyone who finds it acceptable to abort any fetus you classify as ‘pro-abortion.’ That is how you describe yourself.

How do you feel about extreme fetal deformity? If a woman’s doctor diagnoses the fetus with ancephaly, it may live for a couple of days after birth once it is removed from the natural life-support system of gestation. But to what end? For other afflictions, you know that the baby’s short life would be one only of pain. Would you justify the cruelty to the baby of the anti-abortion position in such a case?
Wiseguy wrote: Maybe I can clarify for you with an analogy the redundance (sic) of being pro-choice when referring to being pro-abortion or anti-abortion. If a person smokes one cigarette a day, is that person a smoker? Yes, by definition that person smokes so that person is a smoker. It may not be as frequent as a person who smokes two packs a day, but they are equally, by definition, smokers. When it comes to abortion, if you support the destruction of a human embryo or fetus for any reason, you are pro-abortion.

The hidden implication of this argument is that if you support or engage in an action at any one point in time then this characteristic sticks with you for the rest of your life.

By this simplistic logic, if you pick your nose once in your lifetime then that makes you a nose picker. If you have ever drunk alcohol then you are an alcohol user. If you ever chewed your nails then you are a nail biter. If you have ever been rude to someone then you are a rude person. If you think it is O.K. to kill someone for any reason (in self-defense, in war, when your government tells you to, as capital punishment) then you are pro-murder. If you think it is right to act in a manner which causes pain to yourself or another person at any time then you are pro-pain.

You imply that the stances are mutually exclusive. According to your style or reasoning, if you believe that abortion is immoral or inappropriate in some circumstances then you are anti-abortion. But your logic also implies that that if you believe that abortion is moral and appropriate in some circumstances then you are pro-abortion. These last two logical syllogisms can apply to the same person.

Moral reality is much more complex than this. An action which is moral in one circumstance or point in time may not be moral in another. Complex moral reasoning requires the person to consider as many consequences and implications are they can before acting.

Take your own case as an example. You acted in a manner which you knew could cause the commencement of the process which leads to the development of a new human consciousness. You apparently did so without taking reasonable step to minimize or avoid all of the risks and ramifications of this. Does that mean you are pro-irresponsibility?

The flip side of the “forced pregnancy” stance of most self-styled “pro-lifers” if not the “pro-choice” stance of most moral debaters of the subject but the authoritarian “forced abortionists” who argue that forcing women to have an abortion is in the best interests of the potential life of the fetus and of the community, nation or world as a whole. This is China’s current stance. In such cases the first choice is always prevention of conception. The paradoxical position of most anti-abortionists is the denial of effective, reliable and easy availability of contraception and the suppression of programs which teach men and women how to utilize it. It seems that you may have been caught in one or other of these traps yourself or you would not be admitting to fathering an unplanned child.

Even if you don't like abortion, or you think it's wrong, if you would permit someone else to have an abortion you are pro-abortion. Many things aren't black and white, but abortion clearly is.

This is a stupid argument because it falsely assumes that withholding a medically induced abortion (as opposed to the far more frequent “natural” abortion) prevents the destruction of human life. There are many cases where this so-called “moral” stance requires that the life of the woman be destroyed, either instead of the life of the developing blue-print for human personhood or as well as. The most morally repugnant condition is where the woman is forced to continue with the pregnancy in spite of the fact that there is a high risk or complete certainty that this course of non-action will kill both her and the developing life-form within her. This is barbaric.

Rosemary, you are strong in your beliefs and I accommodate you for that. That doesn't give you the right to say that I am "misnamed" because I disagree with your point of view.

I can’t see why not. I am not calling you names. You gave yourself the Wiseguy name: I did not supply it. It is your responsibility to demonstrate that your choice of pseudonym is appropriate and, ahem, wise

If you had called yourself Dickhead and then proceeded to develop an elegant argument against the right of a woman and her doctor to decide to terminate a pregnancy in some circumstances then I would have questioned the suitability of that self-description also.

What I am complaining about here is that the profile you present does not match the name you have chosen for yourself. I did refrain from suggesting that the alternative meanings of “wiseguy” might be more appropriate. {Google them} That would have been an attack on your personality rather than your reasoning style and the difficulty you have seeing and assessing the complexity of situations.

The usual definition of wise is the possession of superior education and the ability to weigh up possibilities and think carefully through a variety of theories and scenarios before coming to an conclusion. This is something which seems to be difficult for you. You demonstrate problems when it comes to seeing multiple interacting harms and benefits in what, to you, appears to be one simple situation. You generally demand that both the questions and the answers to be in simple either-or, yes-no, black-and-white terms.
This type of “narrow category” thinking is a cognitive style which has benefits in combat and law enforcement fields but is not suited to the complications inherent in health and human relations fields. The problem is that you are arguing about an issue which fits in the latter field set.

Narrow category thinking is not a cognitive style which is common among deconverted atheists because deconversion from a religion requires that one question authorities, indulge in suspension of judgment and cope with a great deal of cognitive uncertainty for long periods of time. This does not seem to describe you so I guess that your atheism was arrived at by other means.

I respect you, so please respect me.

I respect your right to have opinions which differ from my own and your right to express them. This is what higher level education is all about. What I do not respect is the harm you feel justified in causing others by applying the ones with unpleasant consequences in real-life situations.

When I was 22 years old, I was dating a 19 year old woman for about four months and I got her pregnant. …. We were neither financially nor emotionally prepared for a child. It would be a huge inconvenience for us both, but I never once considered abortion as an option. She chose to have the baby, and I supported her every day through the pregnancy.

Considering your beliefs about the person-hood of a freshly conceived human embryo, what process of moral thinking allowed you to indulge in behavior with a high risk of commencing such a life under the circumstances you describe? I award you moral points for supporting your girlfriend through the unplanned pregnancy but I would have far more respect for you if you had been sexually responsible in the first place.

You do not explain what happened to your victim after she gave birth. Did you abandon her and the baby on the grounds that your job as protector of new life was done? Did you marry her and have a problematic life together? Did you father other children with her or someone else? How does your daughter view you and your part in her existence?

Of course, I do not know all of the circumstances and I may be being unwittingly cruel by posing these questions. But that is exactly the point I wish you could understand. Situations involving pregnancy and birth and embryos and babies are quite complex. You cannot come to a wise decision about what to do on the basis of a simple formulae which only wants to know whether a fertilized human egg is ‘human life”.

. .
I would like to add a pen picture of a counseling case from my professional file.

A prominant right-to-lifer asked for a referal to a doctor who would perform an abortion on her pregnant teen-age daughter. The girl had been actively involved with her parents in distributing anti-abortion leaflets around the neighbourhood and regularly and prominantly marched in pro-life rallies. If the child's pregnancy were to continue it would bring shame and redicule to this staunchly Catholic pro-life family.

This posed a moral dilemma for the therapist. What effect would an abortion have for a child who was expected to continue living in such an environment? How would she deal with family and Catholic community pressure to continue her involvement in the anti-abortion movement after having had an abortion? What would do the most damage to the pregnant child in these circumstances: carrying a forced pregnancy to term or having the pregnancy terminated? How far along was the pregnancy? And, most importantly, what did the child see as options and what kinds of conflicts did she have about them?

What factors do you see as important here?
Rosemary, you are strong in your beliefs and I accomodate you for that.

"Accommodate"?! How condescending!

As a fellow Atheist, I believe that my life on this earth is all that I have. When it is over, it's over. I respect my life and the lives of all human beings the same way. The point that all of our lives began was at the point of conception, and I think it is out duty and obligation to protect that life.

Do you even remember your life in the weeks and months immediately following conception? Why does life have inherent valuto you? What makes life important? As I've said before, a zygote or an early-term fetus would go from feeling nothing to feeling nothing if it were killed.

Why should a woman be forced to live by your morality, your feelings of duty and obligation? What makes them superior or correct?

And no, toenails and tumors are not at all to be compared to a human embryo.

You've said things like this several times, but you have yet to explain why. Toenails are a stretch and nobody here has compared them to fetuses as far as I can tell, but the tumor thing still stands. We're not trying to be mean here, we're just pointing out that a fetus is exactly as alive as a tree, an animal, and a bacteria. What makes human fetal life more important than any other form of life?

[Regarding the personal story you posted about the conception and birth of your daughter.]

That you had a happy ending when your partner carried an unwanted pregnancy does not mean that it will turn out alright for everyone else. This story is irrelevant to this debate.
@George Kane: I would not support abortion of the disabled; the disabled still have a right to live. There is a big moral diffenence between killing and letting die.
Who benefits by giving birth to a child that the parents know will be doomed to a brief life in which it will know only agony? That is either cruelty or blatant indifference.
As acts of kindness, the disabled person has the right to die and the potential person-to-be has the right to not live.

I qualify as a "disabled person." One of the things that worries me considerably, as a resident in the USA, is that I might end up in a hospital somewhere, in useless pain, in a coma or in some la-la world between the two, because some group claiming to represent my "rights" will not let me die.

I had major spinal surgery shortly after the Terry Shiavo case was in the news. The stance taken by an American group claiming to represent the Rights of the Disabled during this case worried me so much that I discussed the ramifications with my surgeon. I was almost more worried about what such a group could do to me and my family than I was about the risks of the surgery itself.

I pleaded with my surgeon, that if anything went wrong, and I ended up as a semi-vegetable, that he was to shield me and my family from such people and allow me to die. I informed my husband of the same thing.

A staff member told me that the hospital had recieved an avalanche of requests for personal directives as the result of the news about this groups' activities. It seems that I was not the only one who was horrified that they would be given "rights" that they emphatically did not want. I view such people as "rights Nazis".
The worst that can happen to someone is not to die, but to live in agony.
So the guy a friend of mine told me about who was born without an external layer of skin. he lived on a stretcher and was in constant pain as if he had a bad sunburn.




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