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Mar 11 2014

What really matters…The So-Called Secular Arguments Against Choice

It is often difficult and awkward to move disagreements forward to where they become productive in the insular, organized atheist community. Especially for a family that is as actively involved as the Ra family, because a lot of times we know and like and often respect the people involved on a personal level. And to make matters more awkward so do our other atheists friends. So basically, we all collectively cringed about Dave Silverman’s comment to conservatives about abortion rights, because we really like him and we respect his professional accomplishments in the secular realm. Of course, many of us were also chagrined because we are part of the super-progressive reproductive rights community. This is the comment for reference although you mostly likely already know what he said…

“I will admit there is a secular argument against abortion,” said Silverman. “You can’t deny that it’s there, and it’s maybe not as clean cut as school prayer, right to die, and gay marriage.”

There have already been many criticisms from the fiercely, liberal secular types including PZ Myers, Sarah Moglia, Steve AhlquistOphelia Benson, and Jason Thibeault. And too, there has been support for Silverman from no less liberal sources such as JT Eberhard and my personal friend, who I can testify is actually a ray of Secular Sunshine Shanon Nebo.  Silverman clarified his comment on her blog.

Sure Shannon.
I was talking to a lot of press this week – I mean a LOT of press, and most of it hostile. When I was talking to Raw Story I gave them the same pitch I’d given so many times before: Conservatism is basically divided into two parts, fiscal conservatism, which is real conservatism, and Social conservatism, which is Christian theocracy masquerading as conservatism, with the latter holding down the former. Is the fiscals dropped the Christian social bullshit, I said, real conservatism would benefit from the influx of conservative atheists who avoid the movement due to the theocratic aspects.

I said that all of the social conservative agenda was religious in nature, to which the reporter eagerly countered that there was a secular argument for abortion. He clearly knew he was right, and so did I – there is a secular argument (one with which I firmly disagree) whose existence I cannot deny.

Rather than take the road to discussing abortion, I acquiesced to his correct counterpoint, returned to my point, and said that school prayer, LGBT equality, and Death with dignity were better examples of purely Christian positions (“it’s maybe not as clean cut as school prayer, right to die, and gay marriage”), and we went on with the discussion on why American Atheists was there.

There’s my scandal. The rest of what you may have read is reckless “positing” by people who didn’t do what you did – ask me. Thank you for being responsible.

So there it is, Silverman says that even though he disagrees with secular anti-choice arguments, he couldn’t deny that they exist. As many of you already know there are secular arguments against gay marriage and euthanasia that are just as bad as the ones against a woman’s right to choose. You really don’t have to scratch too far beneath the surface of all of these supposedly secular arguments to smell the stink of repressive Christian culture.

In fact, I just did a presentation in February for the Secular Humanists of Southern California on how thinly veiled secular anti-choice arguments are. I don’t want to belabor the point but here is a photo from Secular Pro-life‘s website to just show you how they basically just spin religious arguments into secular ones.

That poster could just as easily be posted because the Bible tells me so...

That poster could just as easily be captioned because the Bible tells me so…

I have seen this group tabling at atheist conventions. If the Discovery Institute were to table at an atheist convention with their supposedly secular arguments like aliens seeded life on this planet; it would be a sideshow. Yet secular arguments against a woman’s right to choose are not self evident to some of us that they don’t have some sort of merit. We scoff at canards like “Teach both sides of the controversy” and try to be more than fair to religious based arguments like the one in that poster.

I first became aware of Secular Pro-Life through the work of Godless Bitches Beth Presswood and her husband Matt Dillahunty. Matt debated one of their members at a Texas Freethought Convention.

In the debate, she had the audience sit through a graphic video of abortions.. Nobody in our community puts reproductive rights on the secular agenda more than Matt and Beth do.

And even though Silverman didn’t intend to be dismissive to all of us, who are fighting the Religious Right’s relentless efforts to deny access of a safe and legal abortion. Groups like Secular Pro-Life, that openly cooperate with and have members from the Religious Right, can rightly claim that he said there is a secular argument for their cause. One already has. (As Jason Thibeault predicted, so it has come to pass) I appreciate his clarification that they are bad arguments, but secular pro-choicers can’t catch a break especially here in the South. We need help and are just as under fire as science advocates are from creationists down here.

This is what really matters. It is now virtually impossible for rural Texans to get a safe and legal abortion here, because religious crackpots like Rick Perry run the government and have passed unnecessarily draconian restrictions on abortion clinics that only 6 clinics in Texas are currently up to speed on. Two more clinics have shut down just last week.  How is passing more restrictions on clinics and on women’s reproductive choices fiscally conservative? Legislating the hell out of women’s uteruses and fighting tooth and nail regulations on guns and other businesses doesn’t make sense.

Most importantly, where are rural Texas women going to go when they have a crisis pregnancy when the nearest clinic is 6 hours way. And there will be more of those because Planned Parenthood clinics that provide access to contraception have been shut down by the Texas government too.

I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church where Planned Parenthood was stigmatized. As a young woman, who didn’t yet have the resource to raise a child, I avoided the Planned Parenthood clinic that was in walking distance from my apartment. I didn’t even own a car and walked or took the city bus everywhere. I still had more privileges than millions of rural women have right now.

I wound up raising a child as a single parent because poor women often have relationships with poor men and the economic stresses that go along with that. Most of the girls in my youth group had unplanned pregnancies due to the stigma of seeking contraception and impractical Christian advice about staying a virgin until you are married. In every state that advocates abstinence only sex education even though it is in a secular manner, the teen pregnancy rate is the highest. The funny thing is that advice is do as I say not as I do because 85 percent of evangelicals have sex before they are married. Our culture still has Christian hang ups about sex, and they are largely unnecessary due to low cost contraception, which would reduce the number of abortions.

Maybe reproductive rights is not a battle that American Atheists has the resources to fight like school prayer and the cross at the Ground Zero museum. However, religious-based regressive social policies including anti-choice are hurting millions of families nonetheless. And I think it has already been shown that if you advocate for women that more women will join your community. That is more volunteers and donors to help fight religious policies that restrict the freedom of women to choose what is best for their families not the government. Most certainly not pro-life groups of any stripe that don’t have to live with the consequences of another woman’s unplanned pregnancy. My hope is that Silverman will use the opportunity this has created to show strong support for reproductive rights and to denounce religious regressive policies.

Notice

If anyone reading this would like to help maintain access to a safe and legal abortion, especially for low income women please support The Lilith Fund and Planned Parenthood. I also will be talking about secular arguments for abortion to do my part on making pro-choice a more self evident secular position on The Magic Sandwich Show on March 23. I may see if I can enlist a fire breathing pro-choice friend too.

 

 

Mar 07 2014

The Place with the New Covenant Group

theplace

I was recently on two episodes of ‘the Place’ with Dr & Mrs Jones of the New Covenant Group.

First they talked just with me.

That went pretty well, so I joined the panel for the evening show.

I very much enjoyed participating in the show, and I applaud the effort behind maintaining an interfaith dialogue. It’s especially necessary now because there are two trends which need to be considered separately, and then comparatively.  One is that religion is in general decline in all fifty states.  Those who reject religious classification, those who have no interest or need of religion, and those who are coming out atheists and antitheists make up overlapping demographics accounting for at least 20% of the American population so far, and all charts indicate that percentage is rising fast.  However the percentage of believers who are creationist, those who (perhaps unknowingly) reject not only the conclusions of science but also its methodology -is actually on the rise, They account for almost half the nation’s population, and they’re the majority among those who still cling to faith at all.

Now it used to be -several decades ago, that most people believed in some sort of faith-based mumbo-jumbo; but those same people usually knew better than to mix religion and politics, and every sensible person knew that you’d better understand science regardless whatever else you might believe. But now, those who accept and employ science are abandoning religion completely, and those who praise faith are rejecting epistemology entirely, becoming religious extremists. In short, the US population is becoming polarized, and that’s not a good way to be.

Feb 23 2014

Breaking Love and Reproductive Rights Out of the Christian Frame

I have been pleasantly surprised that the youtube comments on my speech on The Heart of Humanism at The Southern California Secular Humanism Conference are mainly addressing the topic.

We joked that now James Croft could add it to his CV that he spoke at an event with me.

We joked that now James Croft could add it to his CV that he spoke at an event with me.

Especially because I addressed how secularists need to examine where their beliefs about love in particular may be influenced by Christian culture such as ideas about purity. I used a rather pointed example by looking at the Secular Pro-Life Movement. Their stance is not categorically different from Cathy Ruse of The Family Research Council’s advice on making secular anti-choice arguments. Ruse’s Christian influence is clearly seen in her advocacy for state’s rights on marriage equality as discussed in my speech and her advocacy against buying Girl Scout cookies on the basis of their support of Planned Parenthood. Cuz unplanned parenthood is so much better, right?

One commenter though accepted the challenge to produce a secular anti-choice argument.

My concern isn’t from a Christian purity standpoint, it’s an issue of the meaning of human rights. We used to believe that people of different skin colors didn’t deserve legal protection because the ‘rights’ of rich white people were more important. I worry that abortion is not dissimilar.
It is a bit incoherent.  I also asked the humanists there what they thought of the anti-feminist canard
“I am not a feminist; I am a humanist.” We were short on time, but a few people afterwards said that the word feminist is like identifying as an atheist; it has taken on very negative associations over time.  I wish I had thought to record some responses afterwards.
Anyways, I hoped in this speech to help people see that sometimes the culture we are raised in can still affect how we see the world and prevent us from being better humanists. Just like I would like to help re-appropriate the word atheist from atheist bashers; I would like to help re-appropriate the word feminism from feminist bashers.
More important than the words themselves are the ideas that left unquestioned get in the way of progressing to a better society than the overtly Christian one we now live in today.

 

 

 

 

Feb 12 2014

Happy B-day, Chuckie D.

ChuckieDI’m sorry to say I’m not doing any Darwin-Day presentations this year.  That’s too bad too.  I really enjoy those. For three years in a row, I had the honor of being keynote speaker in James Randi’s group in Fort Lauderdale Florida.  Here I am posing with the 205 year-old birthday boy.

There’s a very good Darwin Day event going on tonight (Wednesday Feb 12th) in London.  I so wish I could attend!  Dr. Alice Roberts is on my A-list of people to meet (along with Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson). I would love to have her on our show, Dogma Debate on iHeart Radio for just twenty minutes over a Skype call, but she’s always on the go, filming excellent science documentaries all around the world.

On this occasion, she’s giving an anthropological lecture, and sharing the stage with Prof. Richard Dawkins.

If tickets are still available, here is the link:

Darwin Day Lecture: How to Make a Human.

If you do get tickets, let me know, and tell her I sent you.

Feb 10 2014

Speaking to San Diego Humanists

Every February when I’m starting to get tired of freezing temperatures every day, someone invites me to a warmer clime, and I welcome the escape.  (Yes I know, most of you live in lots colder places than Texas!) This weekend, my wife and I will participate in the Southern California Secular Humanist conference at the Mission Valley Resort Hotel in San Diego.  There will be many other speakers including, Margaret Downey, Dan Arel, James Croft, illusionist Jamy Ian Swiss, and comedian Steve Hill.  If you’re in that area (or want to be) please check the link to sdhumanists.org for other speakers you might want to meet, and please attend.

Feb 09 2014

‘My Week in Atheism’ premiers this week

John Christy is a Christian who came to the American Atheists national convention in Austin Texas last year, and he interviewed a bunch of us for this documentary film.  To be sure that we were represented fairly, the movie was co-produced by David Smalley of Dogma Debate.  I’ve seen portions of this film, and it really does represent our position the way we ourselves present it.

The film premiers at the Crest theater in Sacramento California this Saturday, February 15th. If you’re within range of that theater, please attend.

Feb 02 2014

Secular Asian Community discussion on FtB con

Lilandra’s part of the virtual conference is on now.

Jan 31 2014

Happy New Year on a much older calendar

 

Because my wife is half-Vietnamese, I have to go to Houston this 4712weekend, to meet the in-laws for what they consider to be one of their most important holidays, Chinese New Year.  So while the rest of you guys are just barely getting into 2014, I’ll be ringing in the year of the horse, 4712.

The Chinese calendar isn’t as old as the Hebrew calendar.  They’re already up to 5775.  Do you realize that means that Jesus would have been born around 3758?  It’s amazing to me how many people actually think that the Gregorian calendar was the very first one, and that we didn’t start keeping dates until the time attributed to their patron deity.

Jan 14 2014

Creationism and Flat Earthers

I felt this was a comment worth sharing.

Jan 13 2014

In 2009, America was 17% atheist

For a while now, I’ve been wanting to conduct a poll wherein I ask a representative percentage of the population, “Are you convinced that an actual deity really exists”  I want to phrase the question that way, because I know that most atheists in this country don’t even know they are atheist, because they don’t know the definition.  Even a good number of those who know what an atheist is still bend over backwards like Neo in the Matrix trying to dodge that label. I even know of a people who still identify as non-practicing Catholics, Jewish, or Hindu, even though they say they don’t believe in any god.

There was a Pew survey in 2009 which answers that question well enough.  While we are normally told that atheists represent only about 5% of the general population, that poll shows 1% who refused to answer the question, which is the way many actual atheists respond to this.  A lot of them are ‘apatheists’, they don’t CARE if God exists.  Then there are another 12% who say they don’t believe in any god, but that they do believe in a ‘universal spirit’ or ‘higher power’ (something akin to the Force) which could not be correctly defined as a god.  That would mean that actual atheists collectively represent about 17% of the general populace, and 66% of scientists.

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