Once a month or so, the Secular Pro-Life blog features a short interview with a pro-life atheist. (See the full series of interviews here.) 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 pro-life atheist Jesse.
How did you arrive at the anti-abortion position?
Over the last few years I’ve moved from being neutral or nominally pro-choice to being anti-abortion, in part due to my relationship with a strongly pro-life friend who first got me thinking about the issue (which shows how important it can be for those who are pro-life simply to share their views with others).
Beyond that, there were several factors in my shift. I was struck by how poor pro-abortion arguments seemed to be. Almost every argument I encountered seemed to be factually incorrect, logically fallacious, or based on wild mischaracterizations of the pro-life position. I also noticed that the pro-abortion movement had somehow progressed from “safe, legal, and rare” to almost celebrating abortion as a sort of standalone moral good. Seeing this and how pro-abortion activists behaved and spoke about the unborn was a significant factor. I was also surprised by the comfortable and open support for abortion at any point in the pregnancy (“any time, any reason”). It seemed clear to me this was akin to supporting infanticide, and yet I was seeing fervent (and philosophically and scientifically dubious) attempts to defend it.
[Read more – How #ShoutYourAbortion Changed My Mind]
Lastly, without getting into the metaethics of it, it just seems obviously wrong to me to electively kill millions of humans as a matter of course, and the fact that this has become normalized is, to me, an indication that something’s gone wrong in our culture.
Shifting to the pro-life side has been part of a larger political journey for me, but I try to keep the pro-life issue separate because I think it’s important for people to be able to unite across political lines on this issue. I’m very happy to see the pro-life position being taken up by people across the political spectrum, which I think is exactly what it’ll take to change things.
How did you arrive at the atheist position?
I was raised in a secular environment and have always been an atheist. As an adult I went through a period where I studied and investigated religion and philosophy closely, followed debates and discussions on the topic, and did a lot of reading (the Bible, Christian apologetics, etc.). I came out of that still an atheist, but with better reasons for it. A change of viewpoint is always possible, but at this point atheism is a philosophical position I’m comfortable with.
Like many others, there was a time when I was involved in the ‘atheist movement’ and was a fan of some prominent skeptics and atheists. The last few years I’ve been saddened by seeing many of those I admired, and much of the atheist community as a whole, become as orthodox (politically, in this case) as those they criticize. Ironically, today I’d probably be considered a ‘heretic’ in the atheist community, something I would have never thought possible.
How do you contribute to the cause of saving lives in the womb?
I’m just getting started with activism, and so far my contribution is minimal compared to others, but I look for opportunities where I can find them. Things I’ve done so far include donating to organizations like Secular Pro-Life and PAAU as well as to crisis pregnancy centers and other similar organizations, signing up to volunteer for pro-life organizations, and just talking to people close to me who are sort of ‘default pro-abortion’ by virtue of their progressivism (and trying to deconstruct some of their misconceptions and show them that abortion doesn’t have to be a partisan or left/right issue).
What words of wisdom do you have to share?
I think the pro-abortion position dominates the culture because the left dominates the culture, and the left is (generally) pro-abortion. Therefore, if the left shifts on abortion, the culture will shift on abortion as well. It seems it’s the left we have to reach.
The pro-life cause can and should be a left-wing cause. It’s a defense of the most vulnerable, helpless members of our society, the unborn, whose mere survival to birth is currently predicated on decisions entirely outside their control. It’s a defense of life, and can and should also be a project of making pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting less of a burden so that fewer abortions will occur. It can be part of a consistent pro-life ethic that includes everything from animal rights to opposing the death penalty. You can be both left-wing and pro-life. It may not be easy in the current climate, but the more people speak out, the easier it’ll become, and eventually it might be possible to shift the culture on this issue.