With Roe v. Wade‘s reversal, we can finally have a real debate about abortion in the United States. From what I’ve seen on social media since Dobbs — mostly lies about ectopic pregnancy, marriage equality, and the like (with a healthy dose of ableism and classism) — I’m inclined to agree with this tweet:
But that doesn’t mean we can just pat ourselves on the back and trust the marketplace of ideas to sort itself out. Sometimes, our own allies muck it up.
Our executive director, Monica Snyder, recently appeared on an episode of the Equipped for Life podcast with our friends at Equal Rights Institute. The topic: dealing with difficult pro-lifers. The episode was recorded pre-Dobbs, but the advice is evergreen. The episode covers four types of pro-life debaters who can do more harm than good: (1) Bible verse guy, (2) “Keep your legs closed” guy, (3) the reductive “pregnancy is easy” guy, and (4) the person wanting to convert you to Christianity.
[Special thanks to volunteer Samantha S. for her transcription work. If you’d like to volunteer to transcribe or translate, please fill out our volunteer survey.] Stay tuned for part 2 on Wednesday!
Josh: Welcome to the Equipped for Life podcast! I am so excited to have a bunch of special people on this episode. So Emily’s back, my co-host Emily is back, it’s been awhile.
Josh: So good to have you back.
But also we have Andrew Kaake from our team: he is our lead editor, he is our main philosophy guy, he is our main research guy, he edits all of the articles that go out, he writes a lot of the articles and even some of the video scripts that we do.
And then, finally! We’ve been talking about doing this for well over a year, it is finally time: Monica Snyder, Secular Pro-Life’s new Executive Director. She’s finally working full time in the pro-life movement like I’ve been wanting happen for a half dozen years. Monica, so good to have you on the podcast as well.
Monica: Thanks for having me!
Josh: I thought it would be good to have all four of us here for this particular topic, because there is a pretty wide diversity of experiences in the room.
So you know, Monica is a really good friend of mine, she is one of my closest friends so we talk a lot just behind the scenes, talking shop like a lot. And I’ve noticed that the kinds of pro-choice people that she has to deal with at Secular Pro-Life are pretty different, oftentimes, than the pro-choice people that we deal with at ERI and even also sometimes the pro-life people that she is dealing with are different than the pro-life people that we deal with. And so when we got this question of how to deal with difficult pro-life people (or pro-life people with whom you just are on a different page on like the tactics or the approach) how do we deal with that, which is easily one of the most common questions that we ever get asked. So it is finally time to–
Emily: It’s come up at least five times on our social media comments. I run our social media comments now and it has come up so many times. And I was like, we need to do a podcast on this, guys.
Josh: Well I get asked all the time on Q&As. I just think there are a lot of pro-life people, that if they’re kind of on our page–and I am using the royal, like Secular Pro-Life and us, we’re all working to kind of shape the pro-life movement, I think in a certain more effective way than, you know, what it maybe has been in the past. So a lot of people, if they’re kind of on that page with us, they’re like, so not everyone is on our, on this page. So what do I do? It is driving me crazy.
So like, Sidewalk Counseling Master Class. We put up the Sidewalk Counseling Master Class and easily, by a factor of two or three, the most common question we get is, “I am trying to sidewalk counsel here at this clinic, and there is this dude over here with a bullhorn and he is yelling Bible verses at people as they walk into the clinic. What do I do about this?”
Monica: “Help me.”
Josh: “Because that dude is making me less effective, and it’s just a big problem. And it really matters.”
So it’s kind of a touchy topic, it’s a little hard to talk about, and certainly one I have spent basically my entire career thinking about it and I have kind of gone from, you know… I have been on different parts of that spectrum and I’m still kind of trying to find my way.
But let’s start with, I just want to start with opening comments and I am going to pass it to you guys for general thoughts that you have before we go into specifics.
But we just want to remind everyone that this have never been like an anti pro-life movement podcast. Like, we know that the people we are going to be talking about today probably all mean well. They all hate abortion just as much as we do and they are trying to fight it in kind of the way they feel is going to be most effective. Now, I think we are going to basically disagree with all the tactics that we are talking about here. We think they are not as effective. But these people don’t realize that. It’s not that they’re bad people, it’s not that they’re mean or something like that, or they’re stupid it’s just that. We are coming from different places and none of the people are doing these bad things like intentionally. I think they all mean well. So we are all on the same team. We are not trying to have a big in-fighting war with other pro-lifers. But we do get asked this question all the time. So it’s time to talk about it.
Emily, any other general thoughts from you before we dive in?
Emily: I think you are absolutely right that most pro-lifers who are engaging in one these behaviors aren’t really doing it on purpose, they think they are being effective. And I think the real question here, and the way it is coming across in social media comments of people asking me this question is, “Is it really different to talk to a pro-life person you disagree with than how you behave for a pro-choice person you disagree with?” And typically ERI is talking to pro-life people about how to engage with pro-choice people, and pro-choice people that are using different ways of explaining their position, maybe they’re being hostile towards you or whatever, and how do you deal with that?
So, is talking to a pro-life person you disagree with the same, or is it inherently different somehow? Is it ok to be more snarky with a pro-life person than you would be with a pro-choice person? Those are kind of all the questions here, but I think it relates to how we at ERI teach people how to engage with a pro-choice people, as well.
Josh: And I think that is a super interesting question. Should you engage with other pro-lifers differently than pro-choice people? So we will definitely get to that. Monica and then Andrew, any general thoughts from both of you?
Monica: Yes, I wanted to emphasize a point of commonality. So there are a lot of pro-life people who approach things in a way that I wouldn’t, or even have arguments that I wouldn’t use. But I try to keep in mind that they are coming from the subset of people who care enough about this to try to do anything. Most people–At SPL, we’re trying to get people on the fence more involved. We’re trying to get people on the fence leaning pro-choice to think about our view, and people that are on the fence leaning pro-life to do something about it. So everybody that we are about to talk about today, they are already to the point where they care enough to try to do anything, and as far as I am concerned that very much gives us some common ground. And that actually draws from a smaller subset of people. And I admire people who care enough to bother to try. Even if they way they’re trying, I don’t think is necessarily the way I would do it.
I also think that–and we can talk more about it in a second–but as far as the question: do you approach pro-life people differently than pro-choice? If your goal is to pursuade, whether it’s about pro-life or pro-choice, or abortion or something else, alot of the tactics will be the same. So if you are trying to convince someone of a view they don’t hold, whether it is to be pro-life or pro-life in a different way, I think it is going to be very similar, actually.
Josh: Yeah that’s basically my view too, I think. Andrew?
Andrew: Yeah I think… so because of both my bent, and kind of my training, I have less dialogue experience, I think, than everyone else on this podcast. So I like to think that my main qualification for speaking about difficult pro-lifers is having been one.
Emily: [laughing] Wow! Humility time, okay!
Josh: [laughing] This is great. Talk about that. Talk about that!
Andrew: Yeah, I mean. So for me, my first published pro-life writing, I did things that I quickly learned were not great or effective moves. Like, you know, making a Holocaust comparision. Because I wanted to just convey the scale, it’s like–
Josh: Yeah, me too, I’ve done that.
Andrew: That backfires.
Also, I just am a more confrontational person by nature. Not because I enjoy confrontation, or at least not like I did back then, but because I’m like, well you can’t just shrink from it, you have to be willing to say the hard things. And a dozen or so years later, I’ve gotten a little more perspective about best how to do that. And I, you know, hope, at least, that helps me to engage with people who are difficult sometimes, or who don’t realize quite what they are doing, in a way that is helpful to them.
Josh: Yeah well I would say in your defense, Andrew, you have a lot of experience dealing with difficult pro-life people, because you’ve been having to deal with a lot of the ones on our Facebook page for quite a while.
So like in ERI history, in the very beginning, I was the one dealing with all the comments. That was completely me for probably the first couple years. And at some point in time I delegated those to Tim and Rachel, because I was giving to busy with speaking and stuff. And they kinda hated it–not kinda, they really hated it.
Emily: It’s not that shocking, I don’t like it either, no one wants to have that job.
Josh: Yeah. So then at some point, it was Rachel and Andrew. And then Emily came on, and then I was liike let’s have Emily do as much of this as possible. And I think you are still punting to Rachel and Andrew for the really philosophical ones, or whatever. But pretty much, if ERI responds to one of your comments, almost definitely that is Emily.
And so everyone has had some experience even just online, of dealing with people online who really don’t like what we are doing. Or don’t like an argument we are making, or whatever. In a comment, they want to make sure that we know that and make sure that everyone else knows the way that they think about it. And so we have had some experience on social media, as well as–
I mean, we’ve had to deal with this in person, too. I’ve dealt with very, very annoying pro-life people at outreach. You know, I’ve told the story before about Gabriel. Like that was literally his name, he was not the angel, it was just a different thing, at Portland Community College. He was so annoying, and super confrontational, and really smug and condescending in the way that he talked to pro-choice people. Like I, for the first–I had never done this before. I actually tried to trick him into getting away from our outreach.
Josh: Like act like he didn’t have the right to be there. Which he totally saw through. And he hated me so much that he hung out just to spite me. For like four hours! And just like–it was a thing.
So like, we’ve had to deal with people–trying different things to find out what works, what is effective. As well as online.
Monica: Quick question, does ERI have a policy of having to respond to your social media comments? It sounds like you guys put a lot of effort into it.
Josh: Good question. Generally speaking, I haven’t had to do much since Emily got here. But certainly since before Emily got here, I have been the main one saying we should be responding to at least some comments. And there have been some staff, who I won’t name…
Andrew: [waving, smiling]
Emily: Andrew is calling himself out.
Josh: Who have been like, why are responding to any of these people? Why aren’t we just making the things?
And there’s me, just mainly coming from–when we started ERI, I was paying attention to others outside the pro-life movement, bloggers, content creators like Micheal Hyatt and stuff like that. People who were running small businesses, just trying to figure out what kind of strategies could I bring to the pro-life movement that maybe a lot of groups have been lacking. And so one of the things that I felt like I learned from those guys is: this is Web 2.0. People expect you to interact with them. And there’s a comment section of you blog, it’s weird to not respond. If you don’t want people to respond, then just take out your comment section. But then we are saying, we just want you to hear from us we don’t want to hear from you. And we didn’t want people to feel like that. I have been the main guy who said we ought to respond to some comments. But then for sure, it’s always a struggle. Like, Emily and I were just talking before we got online about, you know, now, Emily, we have added Tiktok now. So now we’re doing Tiktok.
Emily: Go follow us on Tiktok. Please. Please! [laughing]
Josh: Go follow us on Tiktok. I can’t believe I am saying this out loud that we are on Tiktok now. But it’s a thing. And Instagram. So you’re are spending a lot of time making those thing. And we are getting really good results right away, and you’ve kind of figured out it is definitely more important for me to make this stuff than responding to every comment. So now what? You are like picking and choosing?
Emily: Yes. I respond to really thoughtful comments. I respond to things that I think maybe do need clarity, like it really wasn’t explain that well in whatever the piece was, if it was a blog article or whatever. If someone is asking something that’s easily explained in the piece of material, I am not going to respond to that. I think it also depends on which platform we’re on. So platforms that are getting a lot more engagements, if there’s a lot of people seeing this particular post that is getting lots of likes, that bumps it up on my priority.
So if you’ve made a comment on one of our pieces and I didn’t respond, I am sorry. I don’t have time to respond to everyone and clearly yours was not on the top of my priority list that day. But that’s nothing against you or necessarily your comment.
I will say one of my favorite things to see is when other pro-lifers who clearly follow our content, are clearly familiar with our material, will jump on and respond to questions for me. You cannot– you cannot understand how happy that makes me. So if you are one of those people, I am applauding you right now. And if you could be doing that please do it. It is so helpfully because A, I don’t have all the time in the world and B, it means more coming from other pro-life people than from this like generic, who is actually responding to this ERI comments? It is way more personal if a pro-life person is able to respond to a real pro-choice person’s comments or something like that.
Josh: Monica, what is the Secular Pro-Life policy? Do you respond to some of your comments, do you respond to all of them none of them, what do you guys do?
Monica: There is no official policy. It’s whatever we want to do. But 90-95% of the time, if Secular Pro-Life is responding to you, it’s me. I actually try to spend a lot less time responding to comments. I am very tempted to do it regularly, and then I find myself I getting sucked into these conversations, and all the other things I need to be doing never end up happening. And that would be ok, depending on the context.
So, my rule of thumb is not unlike Emily’s. First of all, the more I believe a lot people are going to see the conversation, the more open I am to having it. I’ve had people say let’s move this to private, and I am like, absolutely not. Then I don’t care at all, sorry. [laughing]
And secondly, there are two kinds of pro-choice–well actually, pro-choice or pro-life–there’s two kinds of comments I think are worth debating. And the first on is, particularly thought provoking or interesting or intelligent arguments. And the second one is particularly common ones. They may or may not be the same, they’re usually not. But if you see something that comes up so often, that you may think is ridiculous or obvious, it might not be to everybody and if it comes up frequently enough it’s worth addressing. But even then, usually what I try to do is figure out my response and make it original content. And not a comment response.
As far as the individual people I am talking to, I am very much of the philosophy that the person I’m talking to online is not going to change their mind, but people the reading might. So I am always thinking in terms of about how persuasive I am to the audience that I think is there. And so I try to stay pretty dispassionate, automatically link to sources, be relatively respectful, I might get a little snarky if the other person is, but I try not to do that too much.
But there are rare occasions that the person I am talking to themselves I think might be pliable. What suckers me in is if they are really polite. It doesn’t even matter if their argument is good or not. If they’re really polite, and I think they’re sincere. So two things: if they’re really polite and I think they’re sincere. I will go much longer, sometimes on and off for weeks before I decide whether to drop it or not.
Emily: That’s true for me, too. If you are polite you have a much better chance of getting a response.
Monica: But it doesn’t happen very often, frankly. I actually think answering comments is useful as far as it lets other pro-lifers who are watching get information. Otherwise, not so much. I don’t feel any obligation to respond just because you are on my platform or just because we have comment section, at all. Not at all. But we have a pretty active comment section where I don’t usually have to respond and somebody else will. Usually. Now whether their response is what I would have said? I don’t know, maybe, maybe not.
It’s just very very time consuming. There has to be an added incentive other than just the politeness of having a platform. You could have four people do that all the time. Just that. In fact, our volunteers who repost our content to Instagram, Reddit and a couple of other places, I gave them specific instructions to literally never respond to any comments at all. Don’t even bother. And that liberates them to put the content up and go to do something else. [laughing] So.
Josh: Right. Sometimes there is a time thing, too. What would sometimes happen to me. I remember something by Micheal Hyatt, I think at some point who said: even if you have a couple hundred comments, try just responding to a few people. Give a few people what you wish you could give to everyone. Even if you can’t respond to everyone. And I liked that idea.
But as I have gotten busier and busier at ERI, and as my, kind of task list has grown, I am having to do that less.
So like, I am so bothered about something that happened last year. Where Johnathon Van Maren and I recorded these two podcasts about abolishing abortion. Those are out, we’ll link to them in the show if you’re interested. But I think Johnathon seems to be the biggest expert on AHA and I had gotten a lot of questions on AHA and so we decided to do a couple podcasts about it. So there was a kid from AHA that reached out to me. And I think literally–I think he was like 16 or 17. Looks like it was like a homeschool kid, super polite, super respectful. Emails me and says, I watched the shows, I appreciated some of the things you said. I’m not convinced by some of the things, would you be willing to have a dialogue with me. And I’ve just kind of generally had a rule of like, don’t debate with AHA people. But it was just like, he seems so sincere! It just goes back to like the Monica thing. Like if you’re really polite. And so I told him if you really, if this is just between us. This is where Monica and are are different, I was like, I don’t want this going to AHA leadership. Like I’m not, I don’t have the time to edit these at the level that I would if we were having a public debate. But if it’s just between you and me, I would–I’m interested in having a dialogue. And unfortunately, after a couple of back-and-forths, I got too busy. And I really wish I wasn’t. Like, I feel bad. Every time I think about this kid that I kind of ended up functionally ghosting–
Monica: But it’s kind of a huge honor that you spent that much time on an individual person. I’m not trying to be rudem but we talk to thousands of people, you know, a week or a month or whatever. I have this guy on Twitter, I muted him a long time ago. I mute so many people on Twitter.
Monica: Just like hundreds of people. I don’t block anybody, but as soon as I see that their arguments are too insincere or too repetitive or too dumb, I’m like, I can’t re–I don’t time for this. But there was this one guy, where he would comment and if I didn’t respond within like 30 minutes, he assumed I was afraid to respond to him. I don’t even check Twitter more than once a day sometimes! And when I do, I don’t respond to most people! The audacity. Like, I just–
Emily: We had a person like that on Instagram about three months ago that I was forced to do that to, because they had the exact same thing. If I did not respond within 30 minutes, there was a series of about five more comments accusing me of not having the guts.
Monica: Like you’re the only person in the world? Are you kidding me?
Emily: Yes! Do I do anything else in my day?
Monica: Also your arguments are terrible. Like, why–what’s in it for me?
Monica: I don’t get it, so.
Andrew: Analytics are what’s in it for us. That’s it.
Josh: [laughing] Seriously. So everyone is getting an interesting behind the scenes glimpse of a couple of pro-life organizations. Which is a fun thing that I wasn’t even expecting to have happen.
Before we get into some like, how to deal with this stuff, we all have some thoughts of how to deal with difficult pro-lifers, let’s get specific. So we’ve all come up collectively with eight types of difficult pro-life people that we want to kind of specifically kind of note. Like, here are some, kind of examples of things. Maybe if you do this, maybe don’t do this. Maybe it’s not as effective as you think it is. So, you know, apologies if you are in this list. I’m not trying to offend you, but at the same time, maybe reconsider what you do.
So eight types of difficult pro-lifers. So one, the Biblical one. These are the people who won’t stop quoting bible verses at you, and it is their only argument against abortion. So like, I reference: there are sidewalk counselors or clinic protestors who have a bullhorn and basically the only thing they’re doing is yelling bible verses. And maybe occasionally, things like, don’t murder babies or like something like that. And they feel like: hey, the Bible basically says, that, you know, if you quote it’s not gonna, it’s not going to return void, and that it is going to be like this intrinsically powerful thing. And then they’re just yelling verses at people. And I am not going to say it never works. I think people are super complicated. So I think all these guys have is probably a couple of anecdotes of a time where it worked. You know, if some, you know, Chrisitian was walking into the clinic and you said the bible verse and they felt convicted and decided to not have the abortion. I’m just saying it is not gonna be the thing that works the most often. It is not very appealing to most people, especially if we’re talking to pro-choice people who don’t believe in the bible. Any other thoughts on this one?
Monica: It’s not just about if it didn’t work, it can also work backwards. You could be undermining the work other people are doing.
I did want to say, though, it is ironic because, you know, we’re at Secular Prolife are our whole thing is to remove religion from it. I never see pro-lifers quoting the bible, ever.
Josh: That so interesting.
Monica: At all. I mean, I suppose if we did sidewalk counseling I might. But in terms of our platform– I won’t say literally never. Every now and then somebody will bring something up. But usually,if they do at all, it’s in direct response to us mentioning pro-choice Christians. So I feel like it kind of got brough up already. And certainly, never to us. Ever. It got to the point were I was wondering if that was just kind of an exaggeration made up by pro-choicers.
Josh, Emily: [laughing]
Monica: Because they always complain about pro-lifers. But it’s selection bias. We have a lot Christians that follow us, but they’re the kinds of Christians interested in advancing secular arguments. And so we’re just–the circle we run in, we’ve like, created this buffer of secular people and the types of Christians who want to do secular arguments. We just don’t see it as often at all.
Josh: I don’t think this happens super often anymore. I think this was more common ten or twenty years ago. I’ve definitely seen it online, too. I remember as some point I grabbed screen shots. I don’t think I put it ever in my faulty pro-life arguments talk, but I think I had plans to. I definitely base one of my faulty pro-life arguments– I was like, the Bible is pro-life is, like, a faulty pro-life argument. It’s not terribly persuasive. And I had screen shots of someone. I don’t remember what page–I think it was on, it was on Live Action’s page. And all they were doing was bible verse stuff in response… you know, like back and forth with a pro-choice person. And finally, the pro-choice person basically said: this is not a theocracy. I need better arguments from you than just bible verses, because we don’t base our laws directly on bible verses. This is not convincing to me, try something else. And then the conversation just went away. It definitely happens. I hope it happens less often than it used to. I think more and more especially younder pro-life advocates kind of know this is not going to be the most effective to reach a non-Christian. But it certainly happens.
Monica: I wonder if it happens more in person than online, maybe?
Josh: I think so. I’ve definitely seen it at outreach alot.
Emily: Yes, I’ve seen it alot at outreach, as well.
Andrew: I was just gonna say, I think the context is definitely a part of it, because I run into this even if it’s not directly: oh, we’re just going to say Bible verses to people who are pro-choice. It’s very clearly their reason for being pro-life is just that. They believe a couple bible verses justify a pro-life position. Or that, like the only real argument for them is: well, we were created in the image of God. It’s very much like, you know, church, Sunday school class for better or for worse, that’s kind of the attitude. And maybe because it is an older demographic as well. That’s the place where I primarily see it.
Emily: I think it’s important that we be very clear about what we’re saying and what we’re not saying here. If you are a pro-life Christian, you should still know what the Bible says about abortion. And we at ERI have several article, materials, stuff with the pastor pledge, where we want to make it very clear that if you are a Christian, and you are talking to pro-choice Christians, like, you should know what the Bible says about abortion. We can be very clear about what the Bible says about abortion. The problem is when people use that as their only argument.
Emily: And to Christians who are not pro-life.
Emily: And that’s the only thing they’ve got, that’s the reason they think that abortion should be illegal, But we don’t live in a theocracy. As you said. So we do think it is important for Christians to know what the bible says about abortion and to be equipped to talk about that. But that should not be even close to your only argument. And if it comes across like that’s your only argument, no one is gonna take you seriously.
Josh: And it’s this weird thing where, a lot of times I try to help pro-lifers understand, like what if this was done to you? What if a Muslim person came to you and said I am going to prove that your religion is wrong just with the Quran? Okay, let’s open up and let’s read together. You are probably not going to be convinced, because you probably, unlike him, don’t think the Quran is like this kind of perfectly inspired book and completely accurate, right? And so that is not going to be convincing to you. If you bring an atheist Psalm 1:39 and Jeremiah 1:5 and John the Baptist kicking in his mother’s womb in the presence of first trimester Jesus, it is just not that convincing of an argument, if they don’t think that the Bible is the inspired word of God.
Monica: When pro-life Christians try to talk to pro-choice Christians, from what I’ve seen, a lot times the pro-choice Christians–either they will argue about what the Bible says, or they’ll say: well, yeah, I personally agree with you, but we can’t push that on other people. And so, at least in the circles I run in, I’ve very rarely seen biblical arguments be helpful in almost any context. But I again, I also hardly ever see them get brought up, so. I don’t know.
Andrew: Yeah, I’ve written a bit about the kind of disagreements about how to handle and interpret text that lead to usually more theologically Liberal people who identify as Christian kind of denigrating the Biblical text when it doesn’t suit the pro-choice argument. But–and also Quick Response Video 21 link in description.
Josh: Okay. Emily, tell us about the second type of difficult pro-life person.
Emily: Okay, this is a fun one. We’ve all seen this before. It is the misogynistic pro-lifer, or the one who comes across as misogynistic. I truly don’t think that any of the pro-life people who are behaving like this actually think that women are lesser. Or that they actually want to have a patriarchal society in like the worst sense. And they want Handmaid’s Tale–
Josh: I don’t know…
Emily: Does anyone actually want Handmaid’s Tale?
Josh: I think… Not Handmaid’s Tale, that’s a strawman.
Emily: [laughing] Okay.
Josh: But some, certainly there are Christians who are coming from a patriarchal view of, you know, how the family ought to be or something like that. And I think sometimes it comes through in their comments.
Emily: Okay, okay. That’s fair. That’s fair, Josh.
Josh: There are some, there are from both. I think it’s true that some come across more misogynistic than they actually are and then there are some…
Emily: Yeah, I have a distinct memory of this happening at my first ERI style outreach. People have heard the crazy story of my college campus, and how all of my club learned the ERI course. And we went out and did our very first outreach. With no one from ERI there, we just learned the material ourselves and went out. And very first one, there was this elderly white man. I don’t know who he was, I don’t think he worked for the college, I think he was just like wandering around our campus or something. And he came over while we were– had several conversations with some young pro-choice feminists happening. And he said very loudly to me that this all just wouldn’t be a problem if women would just keep their legs closed. Because all women are whores.
Monica: Wow, he the second part, literally?
Josh: Yeah, he literally said… You’re quoting, right?
Emily: Yes. And I was like, what do I do? This was my very first outreach.
Josh: This was not in the Equipped for Life course!
Emily: What do I do? And so I’ve got several young pro-choice women who are hearing this and I am like, first of all, I am going to get associated with that automatically because they know that I am pro-life, and there tends to be a stereotype of, you know, pro-lifers are similar.
Josh: You’re all the same.
Emily: You’re all the same. Exactly. And so, and here is a literal stereotypical, old white pro-life man spewing mysogynistic things. And I’m like, wow. That is so unhelpful.
Josh: What did you do?
Emily: I kind of like pulled him to the side of the table, I managed to let my other people continue their conversations. But I purposefully didn’t want to–
Josh: Wow he let a woman move him?
Emily: [laughing] I didn’t want to take him so far away that it would like–I wanted other people to maybe be able to hear this.
Emily: And I explained how I didn’t think that that was helpful. Basically, I said I definitely think that people need to be responsible about having sex. And no one, pro-life or pro-choice, is arguing that we should have irresponsible sex. I said that’s a thing that alot of pro-choice people will talk about. That they think that we should have better access to contraceptives, and people should be more aware, and all of those things. And everybody agrees people should be responsible about that. But even when that happens, like we’re still gonna get pregnancies that are happening when women aren’t “being whores.” Like, you’re going to get unplanned pregnancies in marriage. And you’re going to get unplanned pregnancies because of rape. And so that argument, beyond being horribly misogynistic, it does not even answer the abortion question.
Emily: Like it doesn’t even do that. And so I was able to kind of very calmly talk to him and I also brough in a little bit of common ground there, being like, I am a Christian, like I was willing to go there. And be like, I have a feeling I get where you’re coming from here, but I don’t think that’s helpful and here’s why. And I don’t think that I changed his mind to not be like that, but I did get him to go away and to never bother our table again.
Josh: Yay. [laughing]
Emily: [laughing] So, unfortunately, there are pro-life people out there like that. Who will say statements.
Josh: Yeah, so this is a real thing. And I really identify with the feeling that you had which is like, holy crap, what do I do? Right.
Emily: [laughing] What do I do?
Josh: Because I was at a conference one time, and I am not going to say what the conference was, but it was a pro-life conference. I gave a–I don’t remember what speech, I think it was faulty pro-life arguments and tactics, ironically. And I finished up the speech, and it’s like a workshop at a conference. It’s a mainly old, white audience, you now, crowd. And so I’m finishing, you know, I’m gathering my laptop and stuff off the stage and this really really old woman is like slowly walking up to me. And so I have a very certain expectation in my mind. Because this happens to me all the time. I mean, it doesn’t happen to me as much now, now that I look older.
Josh: But back when I looked younger than I do know, I would have this common experience where old people would come up to me and be like, “I am so glad that you are doing what you are doing, you give me hope! Like I just, love seeing the young people get involved.”
Monica: Now you don’t give them hope anymore, because you got a beard?
Josh: I don’t give them as much hope anymore, no. Now that I, I am almost 40 at this point, so.
Monica: Oh, my gosh.
Josh: I am just not getting that comment anymore. So I am expecting that. Which is why it was even more shocking to me when literally the first words out of her mouth, it wasn’t, “hi,” it wasn’t “nice speech,” it was, “if women didn’t dress so slutty, then maybe they wouldn’t get raped so much.”
Monica, Andrew: [jaws dropping]
Josh: And I was like… now there’s other people around…
Josh: And I’m like,she’s probably been to the last 30 of these conferences, like I think she’s probably like a known entity… And I’m just like [panicking]
Emily: What do I do?
Josh: So I like went from level 10 and just brought myself down to like level 5, But I very very firmly looked at her and said, “please don’t ever say that again.” This is not the reason women are getting raped. I am sick of hearing people say that because they were at that place, or they had that drink, or all of that stuff. Let’s not be blaming the survivors of rape, let’s be blaming rapists. Like I said something like that, and she grrr grrrr and, you know, walked away. But, oh my gosh. Like, it exists and it’s horrible, and hopefully– I think it’s going away. I mean now that more and more pro-life advocates are younger. I don’t expect to hear that from a 20 year old pro-lifer, I’m sorry. Like it’s just–
Emily: Yeah, I agree. I’ve never heard it from anyone that was under the age of 60.
Emily: And maybe that is just a stereotype, but I’ve never heard it from someone under the age of 60.
Josh: And most older pro-lifers would never say it, either. I know that. I’m just saying, like… there is a certain demographic.
Andrew: Well, I mean, on one hand that specific sentiment I think is limited to older people, but the you do get the mens’ rights activists types.
Andrew: And I watched you have to deal with one of those at a conference.
Josh: Remind me. I even don’t remember.
Andrew: When I was in DC with you a few years back and there was that–it was a middle aged guy this time and I know there are more like younger guys into that now with the very online types. But it was– He just came over and he was talking how like abortion was a mens’ rights thing. And like, why should men be paying child support and… if they don’t have any rights over the fetus, and…
Josh: [laughing] I have completely blocked this out of my memory. What did I do, Andrew?
Andrew: I mean you were stuck talking to him for probably a solid 45 to 60 minutes. I don’t think you managed to extricate yourself because he just kept–like he came back. Like, you talked with him and tried to get away. And he just came back. And yeah, so I’m just not as optimistic that it is going to go softly into that good night.
Monica: Well, some of those flavors are.. I mean, the child-support thing. I see pro-choicers make that argument.Where basically they say if we are going to be consistent, maybe they shouldn’t have to pay child support. And I don’t think it’s– I mean, I guess it depends on how they are saying it. But, um. I’ve definitely seen that before. I’ve seen pro-choice women say that. Where it’s like, you know. It should be the same time period where you can back out, if we’re going to be consistent. Kind of thing.
Josh: Yeah, I think that’s a totally different thing. It makes sense. The more, you know, the pro-life people point it out and say: look, we want it to be equal, as equal as possible, obviously, but there is a biological inequality. Pregnancy is just way harder on women than it is men. And it is like a biological reality, but we should try as much as we can to balance out the scales, and men should pay child support and all of this stuff. And I think more and more I am seeing pro-choice people just like, to kind of neutralize that argument, just being like: hey, maybe both women and men should be able to basically opt out of parenting altogether, even after the pregnancy has begun.
Emily: At least that’s a consistent argument.
Josh: Yes. That’s totally different.
Emily: It’s totally different.
Monica: I can’t think of any experience I’ve had where people have said anything close to as terrible as what you guys just said. And if I have, it’s been online, which I don’t count.
Josh, Andrew, Emily: [laughing]
Monica: And actually, it’s usually been from pro-choice people, and it’s usually been along the lines of… people often think I am a man, online. If I’m talking through Secular Pro-Life. Especially on Twitter, it happens all the time where they use he/him pronouns. And I’m like: I’m a woman, why did you think I was a man? And I talk regularly about my pregnancies and my miscarriages and other experiences that would imply that I am a woman. But sometimes when they find out I am a woman, then they’ll say really misogynistic things, but I don’t think that’s what they think, I think they’re just mad at me. You know what I mean?
Josh: Why are they mad at you in that situation?
Monica: It’s the same reason they get mad when they find out we’re atheists. They’re the kind of pro-choice people who are focusing on very identity politics based arguments. And they just assume we fit those and then when we don’t, instead of being able to pivot, they just get mad at us. [laughing] For that.
Josh: They just spew at you. That’s super interesting.
Monica: Yeah. It happens a lot. It happens to everybody. But anyway, that’s a tangent from this topic. I was just trying to think–I can’t think of any time a pro-lifer has directed at me. We’ve had some comments over the years, where people say, keep your legs closed or other such things. I’ve actually changed our settings to where if certain words are said, they’re just automatically hidden. I’m just not going to even do it. But I think the way you responded, Josh, is exactly what–
Josh: We should maybe do that more.
Emily: Yeah maybe we should. [laughing]
Monica: I think it is important when that happens, to just say, like: I completely disagree and I don’t even want to argue about it, it’s so inappropriate what you just said. And it’s important not because it’s true, but also because it helps for the people that you are talking to and around, for them to see that we don’t–we’re not all the same and we all don’t feel that way at all. In fact, it’s–
Josh: That is a really interesting point that I hadn’t even thought about. And so I know we’re going to talk later after we talk about the 8 types about general tips and stuff. But that idea that… like, I think basically like there is a threshold, where a lot of people below the threshold, let’s call it the obnoxiousness threshold or whatever… like, you can kind of, like it’s optional, like are you going to deal with this or are you going to respond to it or not. Or if you’re just going to like, let it go. But there’s some kind of like, once you’re past this line of behavior, it’s like, this ought to be called out. Someone hearing this ought to be saying: that’s messed up, that’s wrong, you should be ashamed of yourself. Like, whatever it is…
Monica: Yes. And, for Emily and me, specifically, I’m going to say something because I am a woman. And I can hear you.
Monica: Like, do you think that this only applies to the women that politically disagree with you? Are you serious right now? Good Lord.
Monica: Yeah. Just. That’s not– I think the way you’re responding is correct. Again, online you don’t want to spend too much time. Because there’s endless examples of people being absurd online and I just can’t, you know. But, yeah. The same principles. If there’s alot of people looking at it or if it’s particularly interesting, which it won’t be, or if it’s particularly common, it might be worth… And usually I won’t, I won’t engage in a way where I am going to actually have a debate about it, because I am not. But I will say something, especially as a page, like we completely disagree. Maybe like, here’s something we’ve written about it before, but that’s super inappropriate and so I don’t need your help. So.
Josh: Yeah I don’t need your help, I like that. Alright, type 3. Not enneagram type 3, but like the obnoxious pro-lifer–
Monica: What a nerd.
Josh: –type 3. I know. Okay. These people that are dismissive and reductive and about the serious effects of pregnancy, childbirth, and child rearing. Emily, talk to us about what that ends up looking like in real life.
Emily: I literally just had this about two days ago. I did a speech and after the speech there was an individual that came up to me and we were talking to me about my speech and he was very complimentary and then he said something like, you know, “Really, women should just automatically always be willing to go through pregnancy, because pregnancy is not hard. At all.”
Josh: Oh my gosh.
Emily: “Really, it might be uncomfortable for you for like the last two months, but the whole beginning of pregnancy is incredibly easy. And so I can’t believe there are women who make such a big deal about hard pregnancy is.”
Josh: How old was this person?
Emily: Uh, like sixty.
Monica: Forget how old. Was this a guy?
Emily: Yes. This was a man. It was like a 60 year old–
Monica: I don’t care how old they are. It doesn’t matter, like–
Josh: Oh, no. Like, in my mind, it he’s sixty, then presumably, if he has been around pregnancy, it just seems like… I would expect that more from a like 15 year old pro-life newbie.
Emily: Right. Yes. But hypothetically, he would have been around people who’ve been pregnant and maybe he got really lucky and like, you know, his wife had super easy pregnancy.
Monica: Super skeptical, super skeptical about that.Super skeptical about that. Okay?
Monica: I think it’s more likely he has idea of how it is and he filters everything else–I mean, I don’t know this particular person, but I’ve known men like this before and they’re not all really old, either.
Monica: This is one of my favorites, actually. I say as someone who is currently in the third trimester of my fourth pregnancy, as we speak.
Monica: Thank you. I will say… and I am very very pro-life and I definitely think that abortion is wrong, but also (person opinion here), pregnancy sucks. Okay? I do it because I want to have babies, just like you study for finals because you want to get a degree. But just because you want to get the degree doesn’t mean that you have to love studying for finals, you get what I am saying?
And in my first pregnancy in 2015, I was very unhappy physically and slightly psychologically, but mostly physically. And I actually wrote a blog post, we still reference it sometimes, where I just went through the body systems and just explained the way a normal healthy pregnancy affects each and every body system. Because people will say, “oh well, they’re using your womb, they’re using your uterus for nine months,” which is reductive in several ways, because it affects your entire body in annoying ways, even when it’s normal. If you weren’t pregnant and you had all these symptoms, people would think something was very wrong. Right?
Monica: And so, I totally agree that that’s not sufficient to kill a human being. And we can recognize simultaneously that pregnancy is not as serious as killing somebody. That doesn’t mean it isn’t important and it doesn’t mean you have to reduce how uncomfortable it is to have the conversation.
And I feel very pointed about this, because I don’t like being pregnant. In the first trimester, you’re just–you know what? I am not going to drag you through all the ways it’s annoying. I could go on for a long time, but it’s–and it’s not just physical, it’s psychological, too. Because if you are used to having a certain amount of physical ability, and it rapidly changes and decreases a lot, it’s hard. Especially for people who are really active or people like to get alot of things done and all of a sudden you’re– you’re limited very severely in all these ways. And again, not enough to justify killing somebody, but still serious.
And so, when people talk about– I don’t like the phrase “nine months of inconvenience” I get the point they’re trying to make. They’re trying to contrast what you will have to sacrifice versus what you are costing if you get an abortion. I understand that. But we can also recognize–and this isn’t even getting into childbirth or postpartum or the non-physical effects of having a child when you’re not ready, which are all also serious. But just pregnancy itself, even for wanted planned pregnancies, I am in a stable relationship, it’s still very resource intensive and we don’t need to– we don’t need to act like it’s not to make our point. And if anything, when we do, it makes it sound like either we have no experience or we really don’t care about what women go through.
I as–just for myself, just purely for myself and not specific to the debate: when I read other pro-lifers saying that it’s not that big a deal and it’s just an inconvenience, I get annoyed for myself. I don’t just feel inconvenienced. [laughing] I feel like my whole life is upended for nine to twelve months and I chose that. That’s ok. But it’s not that minimal. And so our response is to link to that blog post. [laughing]
Josh: Yeah, send me the blog post. We definitely want to link to that.
Emily: Yeah, we should be linking to that.
Monica: I think I called it “Nine months of inconvenience.” And to just say: listen, you can be very serious about abortion and also recognize this. And again, the blog post is only talking about healthy pregnancies. I’m not even getting into–because alot of time pro-choicers will respond with a list of all the most serious scary effects that pregnancy can have, and I get what they’re saying. But I’m saying, even without that, just in the regular sense, even the likely responses still are a lot and you don’t need to act like they are not.
Josh: I wonder a lot of times this thing happens when like, pro-life people… we sort of like, we’re reacting to pro-choice people sometimes like, acting like, you know, that pregnancy is this more like– there are pro-choice philosophers who have been like compared being pregnant to like… to rape. And like comparing the embryo of the fetus to like, this little rapist.
Emily: And saying that every single pregnancy is like a self defense. You need to be protecting yourself. Because you are going to die in every single pregnancy.
Josh: So when you get a pro-life group of let’s say, all religious pro-lifers together and they are like just like, they feel very strongly about how pregnancy is this like, beautiful gift from God kind of a thing, then I imagine then they can then overreact. And then end up back in like, pregancy is just always amazing. But like I think sometimes, they are making naturalistic fallacies, they’re like hey, pregnancy is this natural thing, so therefore it’s basically wonderful. That’s not the case always.
I remember one older pro-life person, he was a sidewalk counselor. He told me that he thought pregnancy was no big deal. Because his wife (they were Catholic)… his wife– they had had at least eight kids, I don’t remember how many kids, but it was at least– it might have been in the double digits. And he was like: hey, by the time we had our last kid, she felt almost nothing, almost no pain. It was totally fine. I’m like dude, your wife’s the exception. Like that is not the normal pregnancy experience, and you should not be saying that to pro-choice people
Emily: No one is going to take your pro-life argument seriously if you can’t acknowledge the serious difficulties that women face in pregnancies. And I mean that both in like, how difficult an unplanned pregnancy can be financially and psychologically and in the rest of your life and all those things, but also just literally how hard pregnancy is. If you can’t acknowledge that, no–why would anyone take what you have to say seriously? Because clearly, you don’t know what you’re talking about.
Andrew: And I–like, Iknow we’ve been saying, and we’re not even going to talk about labor. But I want to talk about labor.
Josh: [laughing] Go ahead.
Andrew: Um, because I don’t want to let pro-life guys off the hook. As a young pro-life guy who was in the room for a 26-hour labor, with my wife with our first born. And when I say that I don’t mean like, you know, it was ike, the “nice” part of labor, the theoretical “less-bad” part–
Monica: [laughing] What part was that?
Andrew: The part where you’re not doubled over, I think? But like, it was hard labor for literally all but the time we drove to the hospital.
Andrew: And so, like, I don’t do well with this. You know, watching the person you care most about in like unmanageable pain. And like, I’m white as a sheet. And I’m not the one doing anything. [laughing]
Monica, Josh: [laughing]
Andrew: And I’m just in the room. I’m on ginger ale duty because that’s all I can handle and she is pushing out a baby. And like, even if pregnancy were a complete like, walk in the park for nine months. If it didn’t like, rearrange your internal organs, um it would still end in labor. Or a c-section, which is a major surgery. And like, either way, like that alone, that one thing, which like, you know, found out we’re pregnant with our now, our second born child, and all I can think is: oh my goodness, at the end of nine months, there is this thing. And it’s a scary thing.
Emily: You have to do that all over again. Yeah.
Monica: Yeah. And again, that’s when everything goes right.
Josh: So Monica, tells us about the Christian apologist who just constantly wants to be debating, you know, atheism, agnosticism versus Christianity whenever you say a thing.
Monica: Yes. So, it is more common in-person than online. In fact, it’s–I think it’s invariable in person. At some point somebody does this. And it depends a little bit on their tenor, their arguments are all the same, which is essentially that you need God to have objective morality. And so without God, there is no objective morality, and without objective morality, how can you argue to make abortion illegal or argue anything, really. That’s the general argument. There’s three kinds of people who do this.
There’s the people who I think have just never been around an atheist in person, and they just genuinely are kind of excited about the opportunity to have this conversation with someone who actually disagrees instead of just amongst themselves. And I appreciate that. I understand wanting to get out of your echo chamber. I think they just don’t understand how many people say this to us.
Josh: [laughing] They’re not the first.
Monica: [laughing] Then there is the person who is trying to save me. And so their motivation is good, and they’re even coming from kind of like a sweet place, like not necessarily hostile or aggressive. Just, they think that they are giving me these thought-provoking questions I’ve never heard before and they’re hoping that, either now or in the future, it’ll bring me around to Christianity, because they care about my soul.
And then there’s the person who is hostile. And it’s like they are offended that I am an atheist, and they think that when I say I’m an atheist, I’m attacking them. And they will be more aggressive. It’s still the same argument, but they’ll be more aggressive, like: well, why does anything mean anything, then? Well, what even is the point? Um, so there’s different flavors of it. It’s all the same argument, though, and I find all of them annoying.
The worst–the last one is the worst. But it’s irritating to me because I don’t do pro-life work to convince people to be atheists. I genuinely don’t care how you feel about that. Like, we say that sometimes in our website and our work: we don’t care what you believe as long as you are with us. I can’t over emphasize it enough. I don’t, I don’t care. Okay? I don’t need other people to be atheists. If you are, then we have more common ground, it’s kind of relaxing. But I am here to get more people to be pro-life, not atheists.
And there’s no way to have a conversation about how we ground our morality without it becoming a religious debate. And I am specifically trying to build interfaith coalitions of people that want to advance secular arguments, and when people bring up this debate to me… First of all, there’s no way for me to have it without alienating everyone around us, because the only way for me to explain my position on this is to also explain why I don’t think Christianity is true. Which I hope everyone understands, that as an atheist, I don’t think Christianity is true.
Josh: Right. Right.
Monica: Or I would be a Christian. And so I don’t want to talk about that, I specifically don’t want to talk about that. I don’t need Christians to stop being Christian. I appreciate that faith motivates a lot of people to do the work I want them to do, which is fighting abortion. I’m trying to build coalitions, I’m trying to build more partnerships. There is no benefit to me to convince you that I am right, and there is no benefit to me to fail to convince you that I am right. Because then, like you think my position doesn’t make sense and I just–I just have no desire to talk about it at all.
So our general response is to say that, to say: you know, this isn’t actually something that we will discuss. We consider it a religious debate. It’s not part of our mission, it actually undermines our mission and so I am not interested in the conversation. And nobody has ever… you know, they can’t make me talk about it. But some people have still been pretty angry at that response, because they think that I am afraid of how right they are, or, you know, I don’t know, I don’t really–I don’t know, I don’t care. It frustrates me because we’re here for–we’re at a conference or a rally or a dinner or whatever about abortion, we’re here to fight abortion and it comes off to me as caring more about arguing about religion than about working together on abortion.
And it’s very frustrating, too, because I know a lot of secular pro-lifers and a lot of them will not participate. They will not do activist work, they will not get involved, and part of the reason for that is this. And I also find that Christians who do this, they tend to assume I don’t know anything about Christianity. I was raised Catholic, I was Catholic for a large portion of my life. My mom is Catholic, you know. They assume we have no exposure, they also assume that we are happy to be atheists, or that it’s a glib thing for us. Which is true for some people and not for others. And I get it, they’re exposed to the loudest most vocal atheists are of a certain flavor, and they think that is all of atheism. And I don’t really blame them, because how would they know otherwise? You know? But they assume a lot about my personal life and my background and how I feel about this, and if I want to talk about this with strangers. All in addition to changing the subject from trying to form alliances about abortions. They make it harder for me to bring secular people out. It does come up in our social media profile, and usually it comes up when we say anything about being atheists.
To be clear, most of the Christians who follow us are very supportive. And when we say anything about being atheists, they’re usually like: we’re so glad you’re here, we’re so glad to work together.
Monica: So this is by no means the most common response, but it is a consistent response where somebody will be angry or wryly amused or annoyed when we talk about being atheists, because if you get down to it, “Your position really doesn’t make any sense. I mean, I’m glad you’re here, but it doesn’t any make any sense why you’re here.” We’ve had people say that at conferences on stage. We’ve had people say that to us–
Josh: Oh my gosh.
Monica: Yeah. Yeah, mmhm. It’s like they think that if they don’t clarify to their mostly Christian audience that they don’t agree with atheism, then their audience will think that if they work with us, they think we’re right. And it makes no sense. No one thinks that if I work with you, I think you’re right about that.
Monica: And it doesn’t matter. And so it is a huge pet peeve of mine. Not everyone feels the same way. My co-tabler in Chicago, Neal, he loves talking about it, he thinks it’s very interesting. And he–he is an atheist, and he thinks it’s an interesting philosophical debate. I told him before we started, I was like, somebody’s going to ask us today why we care about morality at all. At least one person will. And I was like, our official response is we’re not going to talk about it, but if you really want to talk about it you can…
Josh: Go ahead. [laughing]
Monica: And he does, he likes it and he’s not annoyed. He thinks it’s interesting. And it’s funny, because someone came up to us, a younger woman, she was probably in her mid-twenties and I was already engaged in a conversation with someone else, luckily. And I heard her ask the question, and Neal gave the generic response and then she was pushy about it so he went into it, I told him he could. And um, she was the third type, the hostile aggressive type. She starts off with: are you just trying to promote secular arguments, or are you an atheist? And he’s like: yeah, I’m an atheist. And then she starts going into it. And then I hear her–they talked for a long time and I hear her say like, the kind of: well, why does any of it matter, why should we even care? And I don’t know what he did, but by the end of it she was like: this was such a nice conversation!
Josh, Emily: Wow!
Monica: And she signed up for our newsletter.
Josh: You need to find out what he did. Get a debrief from Neal.
Monica: So I’ve got to talk more to Neal! He doesn’t do a ton of pro-life activism, so he doesn’t think of it the same way I do. But I told Josh this before: I see it sort of like, we have this Herculian really important human rights violation that we’re trying to stop.
Monica: And I imagine, like suppose you’re– suppose you’re storming the beaches of Normandy and you’re about to go up against this very formidable enemy and it’s really difficult and you need all the resources you can get, and you stop me in the middle of it to say: well, hold on, I am glad you’re here, but like, why are you here? I think we should talk about your soul first, before we finish doing this. And I’m just like: you know what? The fact that you’re saying that makes me think you’re not taking this as seriously as I am. That’s how I feel.
Like, and I’ve had people overtly tell me: yeah, I do think it’s more important to save your soul than to fight abortion, because it’s in God’s hands and it’s my job. And I get that–at least they’re blunt about it. That’s fine. But I can’t make them stop. [laughing]
Monica: We’ve overtly told people we don’t want to talk about it and then they’re like: well, I hope you think about it. I’m like, thank you so much. And it’s also, it’s frustrating because I don’t feel like we have the same priorities about abortion versus religion. And it’s also frustrating because it tends to be extremely condescending. They assume that I’m an atheist because I really haven’t thought it through.
And I try to do the analogy, imagine if roles were reversed and there was some sort of human rights violation you cared about and for some reason the overwhelming majority of the movement for it were atheists.
Monica: And every time you participated, like you agree with them on the issue, but they also constantly bring up how: by the way, God’s not real ,and it’s kind of silly to think that He is, and they constantly offer you Christopher Hitchens’ God Is Not Great, like have you read this? Maybe you should read this.
Josh: Right. [laughing]
Monica: And like [laughing]. And you have to keep filtering that out, over and over and over again, because you’re not here to convince them of Christianity, you’re here to work on this issue.
Monica: But it’s still kind of emotionally exhausting. So when I tell people that this behavior alienates other secular or just not very religious people, and they say: well, if they really cared about this, they’d show up. Well, easy for you to say. Because the movement you’re participating with largely reflects what you think. So you don’t have to constantly filter this out. Um it’s a huge pet peeve of mine. I haven’t thought of a better response so far than just saying: we’re not going to talk about it. I’m just not going to talk about it. And I don’t like that response, because it’s very unsatisfying to everyone involved. But [sighing] the only alternative is to get into it and it’s going to drain my resources from what I am trying to do and actively undermine the alliances I am trying to make. So what else can I say?
Josh: I think it is really reasonable to say that I am not interested in debating something so personal with a stranger online. Like, this is just not–like, I have other people that I can talk to if I want to have a debate about Christianity. Like, those people are in my life, but you’re not one of them.
Josh: Like, I think that’s totally reasonable.
Monica: Yeah and I don’t mind talking about it in the right context. With people I am friends with, and specifically not while I’m doing pro-life work. Like even you Josh, are one of my best friends, and we obviously don’t agree on this issue, and I would be happy to talk with you about it. But if you came up to me while I was tabling and wanted to talk about it?! I still wouldn’t do it.
Josh: So inappropriate! It would be so inappropriate of me to do. Clearly, there is a time and place. I can’t believe people don’t know that.
Monica: So we, we went to the Dobbs oral arguments outside the Supreme Court and my husband, who is an agnostic, was holding our Secular Pro-Life banner. He had three different people come up to him, just while he was standing there, and offer him a Bible and ask him if he’d consider it. He was raised Christian his entire life, his dad was a church elder. [laughing] Like, he has read the Bible before. It’s just– I appreciate the motivation, but it is annoying. Very annoying.
Andrew: So I do think, though. And I don’t even know if this is pushback, because I feel like it’s different than what you are talking about. There is–and maybe this is part of my like, having been an obnoxious pro-lifer, I don’t know–but like, I feel like there’s a point that a lot of them have. I feel that there is a place for the like, the pro-life person to kind of put on a christian apologist hat. I just don’t think that talking to a pro-life atheist is that point. I feel like there is a worldview layer that happens once you dig far enough, if you are like talking with a pro-choice person and you hit the bedrock of like, oh, well they’re a utilitarian or something. It’s like, well here’s the problem, okay? I have two choices. I can either pull out the repugnant conclusion and try to go into some weird oddball utilitarian argument, or I’m going to try to convince them not to be a utilitarian. So that I can get them to embrace my conclusion on abortion. And it’s like, there’s an extent to which it might be appropriate to get into a worldview discussion in the means–or like in the conversation you are having with someone who is pro-choice, like for the end of convincing of them about abortion.
Andrew: While I don’t find atheistic objective morality compelling, I am not worried about like changing an atheist who believes in objective morality’s mind about that, because we already have enough, like we can get along. This is great! [laughing]
Monica: Well, I– You may have a good point. I forgot to say this, a lot of times they will say that they’re arguing with me so they can make my arguments better when I talk to other atheists. And that might be the most condescending thing that they can say…
Monica: Because… so what happens is, they see weakness in my arguments, because they think atheistic objective morality doesn’t make any sense. Right?
Monica: And they assume that alot of other groups think that, too. So they think that when I’m arguing with other secular pro-choice people that when those people bring up: well, why should we care about morality? I won’t have a good answer, because I am an atheist. What they’re missing is that’s not how that conversation goes almost ever. And to have a particularly philosophically minded, you know, usually fairly intellectual Christian person who’s coming from this particular worldview lecture me about how to talk to other atheists is absurd. And so I’ve had to say–I’ve had to say to a lot of people, because they will say: Well, I’m just trying to strengthen your arguments. For who? Because I have– I can seriously think of one single time. One single time I can think of when another secular person, a pro-choice person asked me to ground morality. One time. And this is interesting, too. Because we’ve had very different experiences with this, Josh and I. I know you guys have that come up a lot more often, I think it’s because you have been on a lot of college campuses in person.
Monica: And you are talking to people of a very specific subset.
Monica: But, and also because they know you’re a Christian. They’er more likely to push you on that, because sort of like the mirror image of what I am talking about, they want to get into a religious debate, too. But when I, as an atheist, am talking to other secular people about this, it is almost literally never about how to ground morality, at all. Atheists usually just assume from the get go (and agnostics, not just atheists) that humans are valuable, and the debate is about whether the embryo counts or not, not about: why we should care about morality? And they have tons of examples in their own life where they do care about morality, already. It would just be a stalemate if they and I even argued about that. Unless they’re actually advocating for some kind of moral anarchy. And they never are. Generally speaking, the Christian apologist pro-lifer sometimes they’ll say they’re trying to help me improve my arguments, but they are mistaking their experiences and they way people respond to them with mine. And it’s very different. And I have found that almost exclusively, if I’m in a position where I need to defend atheistic morality, it’s to a Christian pro-lifer.
Monica: Not a pro-choice secular person. Almost exclusively. And why do I need to do that? It’s like Andrew was saying, we’re already on the same team! Why am I spending time on it? Just,
I don’t, I don’t see the point. I don’t.
Josh: Okay. So I predicted this would probably be a very long episode, and at this point we are well over an hour. And so, let’s–we’ve done four types. So let’s go ahead and call it here, and this is going to be part one, and we’re going to record a part two with the four other types as well as general thoughts and tips how to deal with these people. What should we be doing? How should we think about, you know, any in-fighting with pro-life people versus pro-choice people? Is this in-fighting what we’re doing right now? We have some thoughts about that. And we will do that in the next episode. So thanks so much Monica, for being here! I’m so glad we are doing this with you, and we will be back for part two.
Monica: Thanks for having me!