Abortion: An Atheist’s Take (Part II)

Part Two, The Value of a Human Life:

Pretend for a moment that you are sitting at some diner and a stranger randomly sits down at your table.  He’s one of those muscle-bound guys that’s about 6’4”, 280 pounds, with  tons of tattoos.  For no reason you can determine, he starts talking to you about the fact that he just got parole after doing 15 years in jail for raping a small child.

“Why are you telling me all this?” You reasonably ask.

He laughs, and explains that he spent all day trying to find you because he wanted to see the look on your face when he tells you that he’s done it again, only this time it’s your four-year-old daughter. Being a psycho, he’d decided to find you so he could laugh as he told you the story.

He’s far more powerful than you are, and you have no chance of restraining him. You will call the cops, but by the time they get there he’s going to be long gone.  He’s laughing at you now, entertained by the shock and pure rage on your face.

“Hey… You had two kids didn’t you?” He asks “You know where the other one is? Cuz I do…”

With that, he gets up and jaunts toward the door, a belly-laugh echoing through the diner. Just as his hand reaches for the handle you remember the pistol that the cook keeps under the till.  You run for it, push the waitress aside, and are elated to find that it is loaded and the safety is off.

Now, explain to me again how all life is sacred and must be protected.

Like all supposedly black-and-white statements, the idea that ‘all life is sacred’ is crap and should never be used in discussing abortion.  The truth is, there are thousands of reasons that would drive any good, Pro-Life Christian to commit murder with a clear conscience.  What they really mean to say is “We consider innocent life to be sacred”, and that’s a whole different kettle of fish.

As an atheist, the idea of an inherent value to life (or anything) has to be determined by rational thought and cause-and-effect, not by Holy dictates. There’s no fantasy of a God who judges you or a Jesus that wants to protect the ‘innocent, unborn child’.  But that’s not to say that all atheists discount the idea that a gestating embryo has worth. In fact, many who are atheist do side with the Pro-Life side.  It all depends on how you interpret the cause-and-effect, and therefore how you view the worth of a fetus. Here are the rational arguments that an atheist must weigh:

  1. Whether or not a fetus is a human life does not matter. What’s really being debated is: “Is it OK to stop a process that will otherwise result in a new, independent  human life?” It’s like putting all the ingredients into a bread-maker and trying to decide if you should turn it off before it’s done. You’re not trying to decide what the dough is, you’re trying to decide whether or not you want bread.   Same with a pregnancy: You have to set aside all the arguments about personal freedoms or moral values and face the question for what it really is: Do I want a child?  Any other argument is, IMHO, dishonest.

  2. “Yes” and “No” are both perfectly good answers.  People make decisions based on their circumstance.  A teenage mom who opts for an abortion can readily become a crusading Pro-Lifer in her mid-30’s, just as a Christian outreach minister can change their view when faced with the desperation, sadness, and misery that the streets offer. For the most part, though, I find that society celebrates the “yes” and demonizes the “no”.  Those that want to be parents are considered loving and giving, while those who don’t are thought of a selfish and narrow.  It’s this social stigma that I think causes most of our problems with abortion.   Those that don’t want kids are looking for any excuse not to be the villain, while those opposed to abortion have to pretend that they care deeply for a child that, were it born, they’d want nothing to do with. Rationally, though, the answer to procreation has to be personal and situational.  Which brings me to thought #3:

  3. Despite the Christian imperative, neither answer is permanent. While that specific child with those specific genes will never come to fruition, the parent will always have the chance to come back later and have a kid if they choose to (and often do).  That may not be the strongest argument for those what feel the unborn child is divinely graced, but it is a rational argument.


Ok, I’m going to stop there for now.  I know that I never read really long blog posts, so I always assume that no one else will either.  Part III of the abortion stuff will be up in plenty of time for my October 31 deadline.

And please… feel free to comment. I would never post about abortion and not expect to be lambasted, so scathing responses are expected and encouraged.  As long as they’re pertinent, they will be up on the site.  [Note that Spell-Checker doesn’t catch most of the things Christian commenters are going to call me. Please do a manual check before posting. It just doesn’t sound as good if you’re calling me a ‘lucking whit head’.]



Abortion: An Atheist’s Take (Part I)

Written by Wm. Hopper,

author of “The Heathen’s Guide to World Religions”

Not for Sheep


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4 Responses to “Abortion: An Atheist’s Take (Part II)”
  1. Anita says:

    1) To reduce a fetus to a process is vile. This child is already a new, independent (unique) life, and was since conception. Many people will gladly adopt your child if you are unable/unwilling to care for it.

    2) Abortion is always fatal to one person, and often damaging to the mother physically and emotionally. Many women who’ve had abortions go on to have other children, but there also many who become unable to have children due to the physical damage the abortion caused. Also, just because you have another child doesn’t mean you ever stop mourning the loss of the child you aborted.

    3) Your Part I warns against being too “emotional” about abortion. But the death of an innocent person has emotional ramifications. Wisdom on an issue doesn’t necessitate that emotions be left out. Pro-choice people bring tons of emotions to the table too.

    4) You’re article doesn’t bring anything new to atheists. They are already familiar with situational ethics. The bottom line is, you can provide pro-choice individuals with all sorts of information on fetal development, ways in which mothers of unplanned babies can be supported during their pregnancy, health risks to the mother of abortion (including a higher risk of breast cancer); but their argument boils down to: “I want women to be able to have sex without consequences. I want them to be able to do what they want to do to their fetus when they get pregnant.”

  2. admin says:

    Anita: First, NO… most children are not adopted when born to parents who don’t want them. The parents either keep them and become miserable, abusive parents or give them up to agencies that warehouse kids in Foster Homes because there’s no “market” for the kid unless it’s blonde-haired and blue eyed. Not sure what the latest Catholic propaganda is, but the numbers are staggering for how many children do not get adopted. FAR, FAR more than do.(especially non-white from a developing nation)

    2. I know many women who have had abortions and don’t “mourn” the fetus. You only mourn it once you are convinced that you’ve killed a child. Outside of the thin religious vein that holds that to be true, most women who have abortions never really put much thought into it again.

    3. Since when does the death of an innocent actually have ramifications? Innocent people are killed in hundreds of ways every day, but I don’t see the Pope getting terribly upset about it. Tortured and burned protesters, small children raped and killed in pretty much every country with no ‘ramifications’. If an aggressor is caught (in a country with a fair judicial system) then there is may be punishment, but once out of the headlines the story fades and dies. For the vast majority of murders in this world, though, the killer goes on with their life unimpeded. “Ramifications” are the invention of the religious to scare people out of doing ‘bad’ things.(Truth is, the only way to stop someone from doing something wrong is to let them know it’s in their own self-interest not to do it.)

    4. ALL ethics are situational. If you’re doing something because it’s ‘good’ or to get into some heaven, it’s not an ethic. It’s a carrot-stick reward system. And actually, yeah, I do want women to be able to do as they please. But it’s a bit more than that. Not going to get into it yet as it is the subject of the third and final part of the series.

  3. Anita says:

    With respect to your first point, what is your basis for such a sweeping statement? It’s true that some older children with disabilities have a harder time finding a permanent home. But our discussion centered on newborn babies. There is a definite shortage of newborns available to parents who wish to adopt. In any case, the argument that a child who experiences a miserable or abusive existence should never have been born is ridiculous. How can you possibly predict the future for children? There are many miserable people in the world, but it’s not usually a permanent condition, and with an active faith-filled life built on a culture of life, rather than your culture of death, their lives can become happy again.

    Do you really think the Pope has no feelings or just that he can’t effect much change?

  4. admin says:

    You believe in a SHORTAGE OF NEWBORN CHILDREN!?! UNICEF estimates the number of unwanted orphans at approximately 210 million and growing, and STILL I keep hearing that old line about how “wanted” and “loved” every child could be if only the adopted parents could get to them. Like SOOOO many other nice, warm thoughts, the idea of orphans being cared for is ludicrous. They show you pics and videos of a few couples who want but don’t have a child, and ask you to deduce from that that all children are wanted. Check the data. Google it, research. HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of children are orphaned, unloved. unclaimed, and likely to be forced into military or sex-trade occupations (and die before they are 25). THAT is the real world. More unwanted children doesn’t help this, and yes I believe an aborted child is better off than a live one born into the third world.

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