There is a secular argument against abortion

American Atheists' David Silverman (Image Credit: FOX News)
American Atheists’ David Silverman (Image Credit: FOX News)

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…”

Silverman’s correct.

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.

Read more:

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


PZ Myers: ‘Abortion reduces to simple question.’ Really?

PZ Myers

In a recent blog post, biologist PZ Myers argued that philosophical and scientific arguments concerning abortion are irrelevant because the matter of abortion reduces to “a simple question.” I argue, as someone who identifies as pro-choice with a background in philosophy, that the matter of abortion isn’t as simple as PZ makes it out to be.

Throughout my undergraduate studies in philosophy it became quite evident to me that arguments concerning many philosophical issues can be — and are — raised. What might appear to us to be simple or evident doesn’t appear to be so following closer examination. Concerning philosophy of religion, for example, a vast array of articles inside of and outside of jornals exist on the topics of miracles, the problem of evil, faith, and theological fatalism. Competing ethical frameworks in the domain of ethics such as utilitarianism, virtue ethics, and deontology exist which merely, in many cases, start discussions while specific issues such as suicide, euthanasia, and the death penalty are often later discussed in the light of various ethical frameworks. To note that a long-debated philosophical issue is ‘simple’ or otherwise reduces to one question — especially in the case of ethical matters — seems to be quite a foolish blunder.

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My protest of “Stand Up for Religious Freedom” rally in Scranton, PA

Here I am at the “Stand Up for Religious Freedom” rally in Scranton, PA with my protest sign also promoting the NEPA Freethought Society’s website. In this post, in a narrative fashion of sorts, I will provide some of my thoughts concerning the rally and recount some of my protesting experience. I can write for hours about the bad arguments (and responses to my arguments) posed to me, but I won’t do this and instead focus on some tidbits of my experience. Aside from my thoughts, the end of this post includes local print media coverage of the event via reporter Rich Howells writing for Go Lackawanna in which I was interviewed.

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Response to “Humans must embrace culture that respects life”

The Times Leader’s letter to the editor section has recently been a good source of fodder for this blog because it’s quite apparent that people have no idea what they are talking about and/or have simply fallen victim to religious propaganda.

One of today’s letters, “Humans must embrace culture that respects life,” contains several logical fallacies including but not limited to false dichotomies, strawmanning, and inappropriate appeals to emotion.

The letter reads:

Humanity is indeed at a crossroad. It must either choose to preserve human life or face a quite uncertain, unrecognizable and bleak future.

The Bible states that God abhors the shedding of all innocent blood. Yet, since the legalization of abortion in 1973, it is reported that more than 50 million abortions have occurred in our country alone. Who can be more innocent than a helpless child within the womb? God grieves.

Progressively, we have become desensitized toward the plight of the unborn. Many in the media play a major role in this desensitization. The agenda of many is clear: a war and genocide against the helpless and innocent unborn.

While I may not be able to change laws alone, as a matter of conscience, I appeal to your heart to choose life, as your mother did. I appeal to you to teach others not that abortion is so much a right, but something quite destructive to both mother and child. I implore you to embrace a culture that nurtures a respect for life from conception to natural death. Without these things, there is no future for humanity.

Nicholas Butrie

Landsford Read More