Friday, January 20, 2012

Pro-life Atheists

Can atheists be pro-life? There are a few. Nathan Hentoff is the classic example. But the fact that there is one classic example means it is pretty rare. I wonder about that. Atheists are very rational, counter-cultural thinkers. Why would they not be pro-life? Thinking about what Paula Kirby wrote about original sin made it more clear. Being pro-life means having to face the reality of grave evil. When innocent children are being killed by the millions and it is being defended by people who are otherwise find upstanding citizens that is big time evil. You can't contemplate that much evil sanctioned by that many people without believing in sin. I mean really believing in sin. Not just saying "nobody's perfect" but accepting that there is something deeply wrong with the human person. That we have a great capacity for denying evil or pretending we just don't see it.

Atheism just does not have an answer to that kind of evil. The kind of evil that can take the mind of an intelligent person and twist it so he can't see what is right. Atheism is essentially salvation by human reason. So it cannot deal with facts that show evil winning out over human reason. Intelligent people who do stupid things because they were overcome by pride or anger or lust or greed. They are all over the place. Atheists need to see that as the exception and not the rule. They must believe that the power of human reason can remain intact. That society won't just come off the rails and embrace evil. That is why they can't contemplate the Nazi holocaust. For the same reason they can't process the modern holocaust of abortion.

You hear this from people who are doing crisis pregnancy ministry. The women involved are not typically atheists but they are often very secular in their thinking. The ministry does not try and evangelize. They try and make the mother see her child is already human and deserves to live. But the two are tied together. When a mother chooses life she often also chooses faith. They typically go back to church and make many positive changes. If you accept sin then you have to accept grace. Otherwise you end up in despair.

Some will make a choice for life and still deny that it was a moral choice. They will just say they personally could not do it but they don't think it is wrong for anyone else. They almost treat their inability to have an abortion as a mental defect. Sort of like an irrational fear of flying in an airplane except this is a phobia about killing your child. In truth it is an irrational fear of transcendent moral principles. That happens but it is not the argument crisis pregnancy people make. They say it is wrong for everyone despite the fact that millions have done it. You can't really process that if you don't believe in grace. Grace for those who have had abortions or pushed other to have them and must account for their actions some day. Also grace for those who choose life and have to face all the challenges that come down that road.

The cross of Jesus is really the only answer to sin that makes sense. But if you don't really, seriously believe in sin it will never make sense. Then taking up your cross and following Jesus won't make sense either.


  1. The timing of this post is good, because I'm hopefully going to be talking to an atheist this week.

    On one hand, I feel they could admit that from a scientific view that life begins very early on (though not necessarily conception). But I feel they ultimately will say that even though they admit life begins that early, that abortion is still acceptable. This is where I'm stumped, because I don't know how to really go from there. The majority are against murder, but they make this an exception without any second thought. Hmm.

    I do like how you said that religion is surely tied into this though, for at the very least they should stop and see it's the Catholics who are the only group who have been defending life before it was fashionable.

  2. All you can do at that point is to point out how arbitrary they are being. Anyone can make an exception based on race or gender or whatever. How is an exception for the unborn any different? But there are implications. If they admit that is arbitrary and most atheists do it then how can they avoid admitting that all atheist morality is arbitrary? It is easy to see that a morality you can change in any way that suits you has little value. So if they grant you your point the dominoes start falling and pretty soon their whole world and life view is in ruins. So they will either face that or run back to their previous place of comfort. The ladder option is way easier.

  3. mmm There's a LOT more than one.

    Kristine - another pro-life atheist

  4. Kristine,

    Great to hear you are pro-life. I didn't meant to imply there was just one pro-life atheist. Do you have any idea what percentage of atheists are pro-life?

    BTW, how do you reconcile the problem of our progressive society embracing the grave evil of abortion on a large scale with atheism that says people can be good without God?

  5. I'm atheist and pro-life. I'm also pro-woman. The issue is do we legislate morality? If we do are we going to provide for these unwanted humans? Do we want women to be subject to legislation on their reproductive rights. This s hard thing for atheists to come to front on- it is for me. I have a lot of cognitive dissonance on this issue...I'll explain why. As an atheist one of my dislikes in theism is the God creates life, knowingly creates sin and free will ... then punishes with death and all sorts of wicked things such as hell and so on. To me this is no different than a woman who places herself knowingly (consensual) in a position of conceiving - forcing a life to be dependent upon her, then killing that life. She, the mother placed that child in a delicate postilion of dependency of her - then decides to punish this new unique member of the human species for being just that...I have a strong moral issue with this. I believe in intrinsic value, which is where life has a value in of itself. Meaning my value is not dependent on you, god or anyone else external to me. Only I can remove my value and society responds to that. I reject external valuing due to religion, slavery ... rape ... genocide ... So then I have to rethink my views on rape - why is this life worth less? I'm attaching value to this life, and violating my intrinsic value of life. It's a hard thing to combat for many atheists who think as me ... So instead I support woman's right - while not devaluing life and I push for scientific intervention, health care, economic assistance... I disagree with Randy above - his morality is arbitrary.It comes from an arbitrary God. Mine is developed through empathy and experience and a succession of live that has cultivated secular morality. Had your God said it was immoral to eat berries on Sunday ... you'd think so. Me? I'd say ...That's ridiculous. Morals aren't developed by religions, religions mimic the morals of a society as it develops. Hence it's ok to eat berries on Sunday.

    So yes, pr-life atheists exist ... It's just complicated.