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


Jezebel and Lindy West fail at social justice

Writing for, Lindy West mocked Caucasian Jeopardy contestants adding nothing to what could have been a productive discussion.

Lindy West, author at, recently wrote a piece titled “Last Night On Jeopardy No One Wanted to Answer Qs About Black History” [see here without giving Jezebel pageviews]. This piece ridicules “all-white” Jeopardy contestants, as she makes sure to mention, who selected the category ‘African-American History’ as their final category in the Double Jeopardy round. West claiming contestants “avoided” the category and, through the title, did not want to answer the questions.

West writes,

In other words, these kids were more confident in their knowledge of weird animals in New Zealand than black human beings in America.


When ultimately faced with the category, the kids got three out of five answers correct (missing questions about the Scottsboro Boys and the 1st Rhode Island Regiment).

The article — while it could have been a productive launch point for a productive discussion about Black History Month and the importance of African-Americans throughout history — mocks contestants and makes various dubious assumptions.

Rather than considering various plausible hypotheses such as ‘contestants selected this category last by chance,’ ‘contestants did not study Black History Month in preparation for the show and instead answered other categories first,’ and ‘contestants thought the questions would be difficult,’ West seems to find a problem which might not actually be a problem…and never really mentions what the problem is.

This is the type of ‘social justice’ frequently on display from feminists like Lindy West and websites like ridicule people, imply that there is a serious problem although plausible hypotheses suggesting there is no problem exist, offer nothing productive, and shame people. West contributes nothing positive, offers no solutions in her article, and fails to start a productive conversation.

Maybe I am unaware, but I hardly see individuals who claim to work toward social justice engaging in real-life activism such as working with community groups and volunteering for events. While writing can indeed lead to change in society, it often pales in comparison to on-the-ground work in communities…especially when writing is snark, ridicule, and shaming rather than educating, offering positive solutions, empowering people, etc.

Perhaps West could have instead written about problems which specifically impact the African-American community such as high secondary school dropout rates, incarceration rates, etc. Maybe she could have spoke about the lack of education about African-Americans in high schools. Hopefully West, in the future, will elect to — instead of ridiculing and shaming people — offer positive contributions.

As always, feel free to comment below.

When feminism is incompatible with skepticism

Some feminists within the ‘atheist community’ continue to claim that their particular approaches cohere with skepticism, but words betray their claims.

Julia Burke, writing for the organization Secular Woman, dubs 2013 as The Year of Speaking Out, a “remarkable year saw an unprecedented level of public conversation about harassment, inclusion, intersectionality, and what it means to be a feminist.”

2013 was indeed a year which saw a high level of public conversation about feminism. One such conversation, for instance, saw Secular Woman saying, “Feminism isn’t up for debate in our organization.” We saw feminist Amanda Marcotte refusing to honor her own debate challenge and suggesting that websites like Storify ban users who are critical of feminists.

We saw Donglegate. We saw a feminist shame a man for having sex while denying agency of women and bringing up the fact that she was his friend through times of suicidal thoughts and mental illness in what almost certainly was an attempt to make him feel guilty [as if he somehow ‘owes’ her something for a non-negotiable act of kindness expected from any true friend]. We saw feminists who advocate for strict following of conference policies violating conference policies and complaining while seeming to not even care about reading the policies. We saw ‘Big Red.’

Many, including myself, in responses to these public conversations, had rid themselves of the feminist label because many who claim to represent it have polarized people who have a more rational approach to gender equality and humanism. The pie-in-the-sky ‘movement for equal rights of women,’ at least approached by many in the ‘online crowd,’ has been anything but.

Burke, in her piece, talks about what she considers harassment and some questions and/or conversations surrounding harassment. Various questions Burke proposes are antithetical to a skeptical approach, privileging an ideology and pre-established beliefs, especially under the umbrella of “trust, but verify.”

If someone claims to be a victim of [sexual] harassment, a proper investigation — cohering with a skeptical approach — which is disinterested (that is, looking to arrive at truth rather than arrive at a particular pre-established preferred conclusion) ought to take place.

Burke, though, in her piece, proposes the following question which suggests anything but a skeptical approach: “At what point is evidence adequate, and at what point does the search for adequate evidence protect, and harbor, misogyny, and how do we change that?”

image credit:
image credit:

If [sexual] harassment has occurred, a disinterested search for evidence should lead to the truth. Wondering whether a search for evidence ‘protects’ or ‘harbors’ misogyny suggests anything but a disinterested perspective and instead indicates that an inquirer is not interested in truth because other concerns are more important, interfering with concern for truth.

If you are interested in whether an incident has occurred (and think it has), you should welcome investigations rather than questioning whether they should take place to begin with. If collected evidence shows that harassment has not occurred (or if there is no evidence supporting a claim), an honest inquirer ought to simply accept the results of a fair investigation [rather than claiming after-the-fact or before an investigation occurred that the investigation protected or harbored misogyny]. After all, a proper investigation would confirm a pre-established belief that harassment has occurred.

The feminist, suggesting that a search for evidence may protect or harbor misogyny, is not interested in truth, but rather is really interested in protecting or harboring a cherished belief – behaving very much unlike a skeptic.

A skeptic starts with the question, “Is there good reason to believe a claim?” A skeptic does not say, “Should we investigate this matter at all if the results might not show what we believe is true?”

A skeptic says, “I am willing to change any and all of my beliefs given sufficient evidence, argument, and reason.” A skeptic does not say, “A search for truth shouldn’t happen because it might lead to results I find to be unfortunate.”

Feminists should do themselves a favor and perhaps instead talk about why they believe a search for evidence may be compromised by particular beliefs rather than suggesting that a search for evidence would harbor or protect misogyny.

Feminists ought to also stop pairing sexual harassment with misogyny because cases exist in which men harass men, women harass women, and women harass men. Pairing sexual harassment with misogyny subtlety, as one may say, ‘render people invisible through language.’ Additionally, sexual harassment — regardless of the alleged perpetrator’s identity — might have nothing whatsoever to do with misogyny.

As always, feel free to leave your comments below.

Video: My online reputation management panel

Online Reputation Management panel at NEPA BlogCon 2013 Photo: Karla Porter
Online Reputation Management panel at NEPA BlogCon 2013
Photo: Karla Porter

Video of the NEPA BlogCon 2013 online reputation management panel discussion I participated in is now available!

I was invited to appear on a panel discussion at NEPA BlogCon 2013 — a Northeastern Pennsylvania conference held at Luzerne County Community College concerning blogging, social media, and technology –about online reputation management. The video was recently released and is now available for the general public.

Appearing alongside Megan Beste (Director of Marketing and Special Projects at Fitzpatrick Lentz & Bubba, P.C.) and Lissette Santana (Social Media Manager for PPL Electric), I answered questions from panel moderator Jonathon Knepper (Internet Marketing & Community Consultant) and audience members.

As someone who has received a tremendous amount of criticism and hatred — mainly from Christians and online feminists — I have a good deal of insight into online reputation management. While I may have erred in the past, responding to vitriol impulsively, I believe I have improved – having more patience, staying away from some drama, not taking things so personally, and focusing on ‘positives’ rather than ‘negatives.’ Hopefully readers agree.

Here is a sample of explored topics:

Why is online reputation management important?
What is a troll?
Should people respond to negative criticism and/or trolling? If so, how?
What are some ways you can build a positive image online?
How can one, if they can, proactively prevent trolling?
How can people monitor what is being said about them online?

I extend thanks to co-panelists Megan Beste and Lissette Santana; moderator Johnathon Knepper; NEPA BlogCon attendees including those who asked questions in this session; and ‘Fearsome Foursome’ conference organizers Karla Porter, Michelle Davies, Mandy Boyle, and Leslie Stewart.

I look forward to attending NEPA BlogCon 2014 and would be honored to present once again at what is becoming, or already is, a great annual tradition!


Video description:

One tweet, one status update, or one post can make or break your online reputation. In this session, this panel of professionals will present advice for bloggers, businesses, internet personalities, and users of social media on building trust and a strong online reputation, including covering topics like handling positive and negative feedback, managing your internet image, and how to respond to criticism through various approaches. Attendees will leave the session with realistic and positive approaches to building a positive online reputation.

As always, feel free to comment and share. If you are commenting on specific points in the video, please indicate a timestamp. Please comment here because I may not notice YouTube comments.

What are your thoughts on online reputation management?

I value feedback from readers. Consider attending NEPA BlogCon 2014. I hope to see you there!

Brave Hero Radio: EllenBeth Wachs

ScreenHunter_295 Jul. 05 15.27EllenBeth Wachs – church/state separation activist and immediate past president of the Humanists of Florida Association – joins Karla Porter and Justin Vacula Saturday, July 6 at 8PM Eastern.

As always, callers, no matter their viewpoints, are welcome to join the discussion. Call the number on your screen, 718-766-4598, or click the Skype-to-call button on the show’s page when the show goes live to join the caller queue.

Listen live, join the live chat, and use the same link following the live broadcast to stream and/or download the archived show.

Opening music is provided by Break music is provided by Phil Giordana.

Like what you hear? Brave Hero Radio depends on support from listeners. Please donate!

Click here to listen to the live or archived show!