Ask a Pro-Life Atheist: Brandon Taylor
Once a month or so, the Secular Pro-Life blog features a short interview with a pro-life atheist. Although Secular Pro-Life is not exclusively for atheists, historically atheists have played a key role in the organization. As atheists become more prominent in the pro-life movement generally, we’re excited for the opportunity to share their stories. This month, we welcome Brandon Taylor!
How did you arrive at the anti-abortion position?
Abortion was a tough subject growing up and has remained so now in my early twenties. I’m a man and the most important women in my life have been and still are passionately pro-choice. My younger sister, my birth mom, and my step-mom have experienced varying degrees of sexual assault/violence in their lives. I’m also married to a wonderful woman who happens to be deathly afraid of pregnancy and grew up in a very feminist/liberal household. I have gotten in debates and arguments over controversial topics with each of them before but abortion was one that I never felt I had a confident stance on one way or the other. As a man I felt like even if I did hold a strong position, since I don’t have a womb I could never have the full context of what it would feel like to discover you are growing a human being inside your body that you must carry for 9 months. I couldn’t know what kind of physical, mental, and emotional effect that would have on a person. I also strongly believe in personal liberty and freedom, and recognize the restrictions that women may face to their personal liberty and freedom if they become pregnant and don’t wish to be. And truthfully, I idolized the Atheist Community of Austin (ACA) and the Atheist Experience hosted by Matt Dillahunty. He and the members of the ACA would speak on different political positions and since I strongly respected their commitment to skepticism and the value it brought me as I grew out of religion (more on that later), I was convinced that being pro-abortion is a strong secular value, and to be against abortion was a religious mindset.
However, with all that being said, abortion never fully sat right with me. I was aware that abortion is simply taking the life of an individual member of our species and I could always see through the typical heartbeat and personhood arguments for abortion. As someone who had a tough life and spent time in foster care, I was disturbed by pro-choicers making eugenicist arguments that “unwanted” people like me would benefit from abortion; I still believe my life matters and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to be alive and experience this world. I could see through the blanket attacks and fallacious arguments that were prevalent in leftist spaces and my own friends on Facebook regarding abortion. This only grew more obvious to me as the overturning of Roe v. Wade became a dominant topic across all social media during the summer of 2022. I won’t go in depth here, but over the past few years I have seen a similar rhetoric plague other popular political topics like COVID-19, gender identity, anything Trump-related, religion, police, etc. In most cases where I would agree on the sentiment or the stance on these topics, the way I would see people arrive at their conclusions and treat people who shared opposing viewpoints was very disheartening. I started to notice even the ACA and other atheist organizations were sharing and contributing to political views that were antithetical to the practice of skepticism and truth-seeking. I was on a steady decline into feeling politically isolated already, and the months leading up to the eventual overturning of Roe v. Wade tipped me into wondering if maybe, just maybe, my gut feeling about abortion was legitimate.
I discovered Secular Pro-Life, the Equal Rights Institute, and so many other amazing pro-life organizations/content creators that really spoke to me. I realized that many of the same tenets of skepticism I learned as I was becoming an atheist were prevalent in these YouTube videos and TikToks. So many of the questions and concerns I had regarding abortion were answered and addressed. I strongly value the truth and not living with cognitive dissonance and I quickly came around to the idea that elective abortion is not justified. Not only did I completely change my stance, as I continued down this path and consumed more videos and articles on the pro-life position, I decided I wanted to become an outspoken advocate/activist in favor of being a pro-life atheist.
How did you arrive at the atheist position?
I remember both my mom and my dad’s sides of the family were very religious when I grew up. I witnessed drug use, alcoholism, domestic violence, and experienced lots of hardships/abuse during my childhood and into my teens. I didn’t know my birth mom growing up very well but one thing she did teach me was to question everything. One of the last times I saw her as a kid she showed me a bible contradiction video on YouTube. It turned out that at that time she was on her own personal journey out of religion. That video stuck with me in the back of my mind ever since.
Living with my dad and moving to Seattle, we would occasionally go to church. He always talked about how he prayed every night and could talk to god. I still believed in god until my late teens and would join churches over the years to be apart of youth groups and meet people my age. I felt so different, like the weird kid, and didn’t have this relationship with god the way everyone around me described they had. We would read the bible out loud in these youth groups and I realized how horrific and inappropriate the bible was, especially since I was pretty sheltered even in early high school. I didn’t feel this overwhelming love and comfort while reading the bible, I felt gross and upset. I think Judges 19:22-29 sealed the deal and I never went back to Youth Group.
Eventually god was just this esoteric being to me that I would blame for all of my problems. I would act like I was talking to him in my head, asking why would he would allow all the various tragedies that happened to me and my siblings. Later on I discovered Matt Dillahunty and the ACA, as well as other new atheist figures like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens. I started watching the Atheist Experience daily, as well as similar atheist/secular talk shows and consumed a lot of Sam Harris’ podcast and YouTube content. Further, I discovered GeneticallyModifiedSkeptic, CosmicSkeptic, and Rationality Rules on YouTube and at some point when I was 17 or 18 this gut feeling to yell at god or talk to “him” in my head disappeared. I became unconvinced of the notion that a god existed in any capacity. I continued to really strengthen my position as I consumed debates between popular/credited theists and the aforementioned atheists. Many theistic arguments relied on fallacies (arguments from incredulity, fine tuning, equivocation, argument from authority, god of the gaps, circular reasoning, etc.) and the biggest problem: a lack of tangible evidence. I don’t hold the firm belief that no god exists; but in the same way I don’t hold the firm belief vampires don’t exist, I’m fairly confident based on the evidence currently available that there’s no good reason to believe in gods or vampires. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and these types of claims must be treated with the same level of skepticism (like claiming a human fetus isn’t human until a specific point of development.)
How do you contribute to the cause of saving lives in the womb?
I created a TikTok centered around pro-life activism as an atheist and have posted a few videos there (although it has been some time since my last post). I think the best way for me to contribute is to gain more knowledge on the various arguments and read books from both the pro-life and pro-choice standpoint. This will allow me to better communicate my position and understand my peers who may have trouble with my stance against abortion. As the weather gets warmer, I plan to join local pro-life groups and protests. I firmly believe this is a major human rights issue, and as such, it only makes sense that I show others that being anti-abortion is not a religious issue but a human rights issue.
What words of wisdom do you have to share?
Your peers, friends, and family are humans with their own lives and boundaries. Learn to respect your differences and feelings. Politics in general can be painfully divisive, so be cognizant of how your words and actions affect those you care about even when you are passionate about something. Allow room for growth and change, and listen to why others believe the things they believe. Your life experience and knowledge can’t be shared or conveyed all in one argument, so even if you firmly believe something is true and you are confident in your position, it’s very likely any person who is in opposition feels the exact same way. Have patience, be kind, have consideration for others, and seek common ground over proving others wrong.