David Silverman, president of American Atheists, is right. There is a secular argument against abortion.
Confusion arises as people continue to conflate their atheism — lack of belief that any gods exist — with philosophical, political, and social beliefs.
Individual atheists — for various reasons (I won’t speculate about their motives in this piece, but I have some hunches) — continue to assert that atheism entails other positions, is compatible and/or harmonious with other positions, and that atheists should or should not have particular social and political beliefs.
While a large percentage of atheists may — for example — vote for members of the Democratic Party, agree that global warming is occurring, support decriminalization of marijuana, and support legalization of gay marriage, this is independent of one’s lack of belief in any gods; a lack of belief in something does not entail a positive conclusion on another matter – especially when non-religious arguments are offered to support particular stances.
…which brings me to abortion.
Certain bloggers are lambasting American Atheists’ president David Silverman for saying, “I will admit there is a secular argument against abortion. You can’t deny that it is there…”
While it is true that many religious individuals oppose abortion appealing to theological reasons, not all opposition to abortion is based on appeals to supernatural entities [and not all religious people are opposed to abortion]. If all religious individuals were to suddenly not believe any gods existed, there would still be people who oppose abortion.
One secular objection to abortion — without any religious appeals — is the ‘future like ours‘ argument put forth by philosopher Don Marquis in a 1989 journal article. Others will oppose abortion on ‘precautionary grounds’ – that because they are unsure about whether abortion is ethical [or because it is very difficult, if not impossible, to identify when human life begins], abortion should be opposed.
Neither the ‘future like ours’ argument or the ‘precautionary grounds’ appeals include appeals to supernatural entities. Regardless of whether you agree with the previously mentioned positions, one cannot deny that secular arguments for abortion exist – and it matters not whether the arguments are persuasive. Indeed, not all people hold justified true beliefs…but the matter in question is not the strength of secular arguments for abortion, but rather is whether the arguments exist – and they clearly do.
Atheists are not all alike; while a majority of atheists may tend to believe certain propositions — unrelated to whether they believe any gods exist — there is diversity among atheists.
The lack of belief in supernatural entities cannot lead one to the conclusion ‘abortion is a moral act and should be legal’ … and it also cannot lead one to the conclusion ‘abortion is an immoral act and should be illegal.’ One’s beliefs concerning abortion are independent of whether they believe any gods exist. Not all atheists support abortion. Not all atheists oppose abortion. Some atheists are agnostic on whether abortion should be legal and/or immoral.
As always, feel free to comment below.
“Atheism has nothing to do with feminism or pro-choice positions” – Justin Vacula
“Can an atheist be anti-abortion” – Notung
“Okay, let’s talk about abortion” – Massimo Pigliucci
“Young Women Against Abortion” – Jeremy Stangroom
“David Silverman and the scope of atheism” – Massimo Pigliucci