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Who is Dave Silverman representing?

In the wake of David Silverman’s claim that the case for abortion rights is “maybe not as clean cut as school prayer, right to die, and gay marriage,” the American Secular Census asked atheists what their views on those subjects were. Now of course, these numbers don’t say which answer is right, but only what the majority of atheists, those people American Atheists are supposed to represent, think is right. We have a decidedly liberal bias.

Which of these statements best describes your opinion about abortion?

  • 55.4% Abortion should be legal without any restrictions beyond those applied to any other medical procedure.

  • 43.0% Abortion should be legal but with reasonable restrictions on gestational stage.

  • 00.9% Abortion should be legal only in cases of rape, incest, or to save the woman’s life.

  • 00.2% Abortion should be legal only to save the woman’s life.

  • 00.0% Abortion should be illegal.

  • 00.5% Undecided / other

Which of these statements best describes your opinion of school-sponsored prayer in public education?

  • 76.6% School-sponsored prayer has no place in public education.

  • 22.8% School-sponsored prayer should not occur, but official minutes of silence when students can pray/meditate privately are fine.

  • 00.2% School-sponsored prayer should be accommodated but only at special events such as graduation.

  • 00.2% Parents and/or student bodies should be able to vote whether to have school-sponsored prayer.

  • 00.1% School-sponsored prayer is fine.

  • 00.2% Undecided / other

Which of these statements best describes your opinion about gay couples marrying?

  • 97.3% Gay couples should be able to marry in all states.

  • 01.0% States should be able to decide whether to perform gay marriages and whether to recognize marriages performed in other states.

  • 00.6% Gay marriage should not be recognized in any state but all states should allow gay couples to enter into civil unions.

  • 00.2% States should be able to decide whether to formalize civil unions and whether to recognize civil unions from out of state.

  • 00.0% Gay couples should not be able to marry or enter into civil unions in any state.

  • 00.9% Undecided / other

So what’s going on here? Is David Silverman trying to appease the 0.0% of atheists who think abortion should be illegal, or the 0.1% who think school prayer is fine, or the 0.0% who oppose gay marriage? Because that’s kind of like the Sierra Club pandering to the vanishingly small fraction of their membership that think California condors ought to be poisoned. I don’t quite see the point. Or is he trying to encourage more anti-choice misogynistic praying homophobes to sign up? Because that sounds like a stupid idea that would only alienate 99.9% of the existing membership.

I’m going to pretend it’s a stupid PR stunt. It’s definitely getting American Atheists some media attention, but it’s all man-bites-dog counter-intuitive sensationalism, and I don’t think it’s going to pay off in the long run.

The abortion story is getting all the press, but I also have to object to something else Silverman said.

He describes himself as a “fiscally conservative” voter who “owns several guns. I’m a strong supporter of the military. I think fiscal responsibility is very important. I see that as pretty conservative. And I have my serious suspicions about Obama. I don’t like that he’s spying on us. I don’t like we’ve got drones killing people…” In the final analysis, “the Democrats are too liberal for me,” he says.

You know, I’m getting really tired of the schtick of so many people that they are “socially liberal, but fiscally conservative”. In a country where the primary social challenge of our time is the obscene wealth of the privileged few and the growing economic inequity, you don’t get to separate those two so neatly anymore: you are not socially liberal, you are not in favor of equality and opportunity, if you’re associating yourself with the poisonous economic policies of the rabid right.

I can agree with him on the issues of privacy and drones, but to call the Democrats, a centrist conservative organization that rolls over for the Right every time they bark, “too liberal” is simply insane.

Comments

  1. anuran says

    In short, he’s a typical Right Wing Republican who doesn’t want laws that harm him. He toes the Party Line except when it comes to something like school prayer which offends his personal sensibilities.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    Nor do “fiscal responsibility” and “support the military” fit together.

  3. Amphiox says

    Like with many things, conservatives may SAY they are “fiscally responsible”, but when one actually looks at the policies they advocate, implement, or support, they aren’t.

  4. anbheal says

    Damn, Marcus, you type quicker than I do. Yes, I’ve been seeing this quote bandied about today, and it’s so thoroughly revealing of the Libertarian mindset: “taxes can only be for things I like and that help me!!” I’ll guarantee you the kid is salivating over Cheney-esque visions of intervention in the Crimea, and is appalled that the Evil Obama is going to reduce our military personnel to 1950s levels. It’s the same schtik with not wanting your taxes to pay for abortions or birth control — hey man, I don’t want mine to pay for oil wars or Mexican border walls or the prison complex, and childless couples still have part of their taxes go toward schools, but that’s why you have elections and stuff. “Fiscal Responsibility” is Libertarian-Latin for “Starve The Poor (Non-White, if we must choose)”, with a side helping of “but keep up my corporate welfare subsidies, and you better damn well have snowplows doing my street within a half hour of the storm starting, or I will stand my ground against you with a Colt 45 at the next town hall meeting!”

  5. Dick the Damned says

    The obscene wealth of the 1% is nothing new. Think of ancient aristocrats living in luxury, while the peasants toiled in serfdom. That’s the natural order. (Doesn’t mean it’s for the best, though.)

    One would think that democracies would address this issue to achieve greater social justice, eh. (Experience says no.)

  6. sugarfrosted says

    Really the whole “fiscal conservative” thing is BS anyway, even without the “socially liberal” thing. Basically every “fiscal conservative” is against spending and for cuts until something they benefit from is cut. Like my dad and the military, conservative retirees and their Medicare and SS.

  7. Vicki, duly vaccinated tool of the feminist conspiracy says

    It isn’t “social liberalism” to want a feudal theocracy that makes room for rich gay men and their husbands (and maybe even a few rich lesbian women and their wives) at the country club with the rich straight men and their wives, and the hell with the rest of us.

  8. cressida says

    I’m heartened that so many atheists believe abortion should be legal under all circumstances (which, by the way, is the law in Canada). Any other view is tantamount to believing that women don’t know what’s best for themselves and their families. The fact is that women don’t get abortions for so-called frivolous reasons (or in any case, the number of women who do is vanishingly small and thus irrelevant). Exceptions for rape and incest are nonsensical.

    And yes, that’s a great point that economic inequality is probably society’s worst problem and therefore “fiscal conservatism” is plain indefensible. Not the first or last time that Freethoughtblogs helped to clarify my thinking on an issue.

  9. suttkus says

    I used to do the whole “socially liberal, fiscally conservative” thing. Eventually, I realized that the “fiscally conservative” I was wasn’t well represented by those calling themselves conservatives in this country. Oh, they have the catch phrases. Is government too big? Obviously, and it needs cut back… cuts to the programs I think are a waste of money. Wait, everyone thinks that. “Small government” is an empty catch phrase because nobody supports “big government’ as a concept. We just have different ideas of how to shrink it.

    A few lines of thought like that and I dropped considering myself “fiscally conservative” in the sense of any kind of alignment with the US Republican party. They aren’t fiscally conservative, so I have no needs for their catchphrases.

  10. Alverant says

    sugarfrosted is right, how many “fiscal conservatives” really know what that phrase means? Do they want to cut military spending? Do they want make sure people pay what they should in taxes and not cheat the government? Or do they act like taxes are inherently evil and serve no useful purpose beyond supporting themselves?

  11. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    For some folks, calling themselves “fiscally conservative” merely means they think the budget should balance, most of the time. Given the boom-bust cycles, money should be saved for the rainy day during a boom, so it is available when needed for the bust cycle. But the rethugs have to cut taxes then, so money isn’t available during the bust.

  12. says

    sugarfrosted

    Really the whole “fiscal conservative” thing is BS anyway, even without the “socially liberal” thing.

    As I said in the last thread where Silverman’s shit came up, ‘Fiscal conservative’ means ‘Doesn’t understand macroeconomics even a little bit and has a shitty grasp of microeconomics too’.

  13. atheistblog says

    I wonder who are those ” 43.0% Abortion should be legal but with reasonable restrictions on gestational stage.” Silverman might be one of those. No frigging way!!
    If you are one of those 43% you are no different than any other pro life, because you are deciding there is a limit, but the problem is why calling name on rednecks when their limit is different.
    You should be ashamed if you are one of those 43%. ” 43.0% Abortion should be legal but with reasonable restrictions on gestational stage.”

  14. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    He’s a consummate politician — he’ll tell whoever he’s talking to at the time whatever he thinks they want to hear. Who knows if he even remembers what he actually believes at this point, since he’s contradicted himself so many times.

  15. gmacs says

    Uh, I think there might be a skew on those results:

    03.3% no consistent pattern but lean Libertarian
    02.5% Libertarian

    That cuts out many of the Randroids, does it not? Also, one’s opinion on a matter does not imply how much they care about it. I had to purge my “friends list” last election (my newsfeed was bad for my faith in humanity). Several of the people were “fiscally conservative” atheists.

    You know: “Gay people should be allowed to get married, but that isn’t as important as the economy!”

    I’ve never had a very high opinion of Silverman, but I’m still surprised he is pandering to those sorts of misanthropic fucks.

  16. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    Those kinds of dictionary atheists are easier to keep on message. Just keep yelling “Religion bad!” in their direction and they’ll keep throwing money and adulation your way. And they won’t distract you with any of that intersectional nonsense.

  17. says

    You know: “Gay people should be allowed to get married, but that isn’t as important as the economy!”

    I have absolutely no patience for those that are willing to vote against people’s basic rights because they do not like the financial policies of the other people. Especially in the US where neither major party is talking about shaking the economic boat very much.

  18. says

    I mean, listening to self declared socially liberal/fiscally conservative people that vote Republican you would think that they were voting against the Democratic Party’s plans to implement some sort of Maoist Great Leap Forward. So they have to vote Republican. When in reality both parties are close to business and in the end of the day neither will do that much differently economically.

  19. says

    LIbertarianism is usually just a cop-out, an excuse to not deal with things.

    Like all of the “libertarians” I saw saying, regarding same-sex marriage, “I’m for equality, I’m against government granting marriages in the first place.”

    Sure. Because a slight social change that will harm nobody is not preferable to a massive social change which actually WILL nullify millions of heterosexual marriages AND of course have no chance in hell of ever happening.

    It’s all just a way of washing your hands of humanity and declaring yourself above it all and morally superior while you sit and do nothing but count your money.

  20. ChasCPeterson says

    Is David Silverman trying to appease the 0.0% of atheists who think abortion should be illegal, or the 0.1% who think school prayer is fine, or the 0.0% who oppose gay marriage?

    What?

    here’s the entire quote in context :

    [Silverman:] “I came with the message that Christianity and conservatism are not inextricably linked,” he told me, “and that social conservatives are holding down the real conservatives — social conservatism isn’t real conservatism, it’s actually big government, it’s theocracy. I’m talking about gay rights, right to die, abortion rights –”

    Hold on, I said, I think the Right to Life guys who have a booth here, and have had every year since CPAC started, would disagree that they’re not real conservatives.

    “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.”

    He may not have expressed himself perfectly clearly, but it requires very little charity indeed to realize that what he meant was tha the issue of abortion (for the right of choice) is not as clean-cut as the issues of school prayer (against), right to die (for) and gay marriage (for the right).
    Judging from the other thread, most people here disagree with him about the clear-cuttedness of the abortion issue, but to accuse him of trying to appease supporters of school, prayer or opponents of gay marriage is just a ludicrous loss of the plot. On Abortion, his only “claim” was that a secular argument against it “is there”. For that he deserves total demonization?

    As for the survey, I don;t remember ever having heard of the American Secular Census before, but I did note that the poll was of “registrants”, the very definition of a self-selected sample. Maybe it is representative of all atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers (that, btw, is the answer to the OP’s title quesiton), but I don;t see any reason a priori to think so.

    But let’s keep demanding that every leader of every secular group must toe every ideological line we want to draw ande vilified when they don’t seem to at first glance. That’s how to build a strong Movement.

  21. Athywren says

    I don’t think I’ll ever understand the whole small government ideal… I don’t particularly understand why conservatives assume I want a big government either. I think governments should be as big as they need to be, and no bigger (nor any smaller). They should provide the services required by the citizenship and do so efficiently. I used to think that this was what fiscal conservatism meant, but more recent evidence has lead me to believe that socially liberal fiscal conservatism consists of cutting funding “non-essential” services, like benefits for disabled people, and reassuring yourself that you’re alright as long as you’re not outlawing sections of society because they’re “icky.” Still, hopefully someone will show me I’m wrong one day, because I’d love to see an efficiently run government that provides all the needed services.

  22. sugarfrosted says

    @15 AtheistBlog

    If you are one of those 43% you are no different than any other pro life, because you are deciding there is a limit, but the problem is why calling name on rednecks when their limit is different.

    Nah, you probably have decided limit too. Yours might be birth, but that’s still fairly arbitrary and why does it’s head sticking out a bit change anything? Given that most abortions happen before very late in the third anyway I think the “beyond a certain point” thing doesn’t really change anything. Though saying “you’re exactly the same as those rednecks,” is BS.

  23. see_the_galaxy says

    I’ve been a big fan of David S. but this baloney is starting to jump the shark, big time.

  24. says

    @18, gmacs

    You know: “Gay people should be allowed to get married, but that isn’t as important as the economy!”

    Actually, that’s my opinion. Gay people should be allowed to get married, but we shouldn’t let gay marriage make us vote for a bunch of Democrats who are, in every other way, right of center — which is true of nearly all the national-level Democrats these days, particularly including Obama, if you watch what they actually do instead of blindly believing them when they make speeches.

    (Heck, even when they make speeches they aren’t all that appealing. Remember back in 2008, when we were told that if we didn’t like abortions we should push for more birth control, because nobody likes the existence of abortion? That was a hot one.)

    But, of course, Democrats still vote Democratic.

    “It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…”
    “You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”
    “No,” said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”
    “Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”
    “I did,” said Ford. “It is.”
    “So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t the people get rid of the lizards?”
    “It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”
    “You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”
    “Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”
    “But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”
    “Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”

  25. August Berkshire says

    The secular argument against abortion is the slippery slope argument. It goes like this: Would you kill a healthy baby one second after it was born? No? Then how about one second before it was born? It doesn’t matter that such abortions never occur. If abortion is an absolute right, then such abortions could legally occur.

    Getting back to the slippery slope: If you would outlaw abortions of healthy babies one second before they were born, how about one day? one week? one month? three months? five months? Where do you draw the line and on what basis do you draw it? Ability to feel pain? Viability outside the womb? But aren’t these arbitrary choices?

    So that’s the secular argument. There is no reference to anything supernatural. For a long time the Freedom From Religion Foundation did not take an official position on abortion rights because of this, though you will find no more staunch a pro-choice feminist than Annie Laurie Gaylor. (I don’t know if FFRF now takes a position.)

    To me it’s a human rights issue – the right of the woman to bodily integrity. So I say that there are secular arguments against abortion, but I find the secular arguments for choice to be superior. I even think a woman has a right to abort a healthy, viable fetus. However, in such cases, I have some sympathy that the abortion takes place in a way that the fetus is most likely to survive. Yet this too raises the issue of a woman’s bodily integrity, since it might be safer, or merely less painful, for her to have an abortion in a way that the fetus won’t survive.

    We are fortunate that abortions of healthy fetuses in the final trimester for reasons that don’t involve the health or life of the mother almost never occur. But if they did, the secular slippery slope argument against abortion would be more well known.

  26. chigau (違う) says

    Whatinhell is wrong with you men?
    Ask the Incubator™.
    No one else gets a say.

  27. A. Noyd says

    August Berkshire (#30)

    The secular argument against abortion is the slippery slope argument. It goes like this: Would you kill…

    Lemme stop you right there. Abortion is not defined by killing an embryo or fetus. So no, that’s not an argument against abortion. Go read this comment thread for more on why this argument doesn’t work at all.

  28. says

    The Vicar:

    Gay people should be allowed to get married, but we shouldn’t let gay marriage make us vote for a bunch of Democrats who are, in every other way, right of center — which is true of nearly all the national-level Democrats these days, particularly including Obama, if you watch what they actually do instead of blindly believing them when they make speeches.

    Since only two candidates in the 2008 and 2012 election stood a chance to win, are you saying we should have elected the Republican candidates?

    Yeahbutno.

  29. sugarfrosted says

    @32 You’re going to have to give a bit more specific direction on what part of that thread to read. “READ THE ENTIRETY OF THIS 400 COMMENT THREAD” has the knee jerk “TL;DR”.

  30. cressida says

    #30: “Getting back to the slippery slope: If you would outlaw abortions of healthy babies one second before they were born, how about one day? one week? one month? three months? five months? Where do you draw the line and on what basis do you draw it? Ability to feel pain? Viability outside the womb? But aren’t these arbitrary choices?”

    Yeah, exactly. That’s why we shouldn’t draw a line at all (e.g. at viability) and just make abortion legal under any circumstances, trusting the mother to make the right decision.

  31. Kitterbethe says

    You’re going to have to give a bit more specific direction on what part of that thread to read. “READ THE ENTIRETY OF THIS 400 COMMENT THREAD” has the knee jerk “TL;DR”.

    Heaven forfend you read as many as 400 comments before writing off the right to bodily autonomy of pregnant people.

  32. A. Noyd says

    @sugarfrosted (#35)
    Are you sockpuppeting? Because I didn’t think I was addressing you.

    But, yes, given what you said in #27, you should go read all 366+ comments of that thread. People already addressed how birth is anything but arbitrary.

  33. vaiyt says

    Nah, you probably have decided limit too. Yours might be birth, but that’s still fairly arbitrary and why does it’s head sticking out a bit change anything?

    Because once the baby is born, it’s no longer inside the mother, no longer depends on her body for survival and is an independent person. Birth signifies the moment where the baby’s right to life and the woman’s bodily autonomy no longer conflict. Why is this so difficult to grasp?

  34. damien75 says

    I am surprised, disappointed, shocked, not to see the “Abortion should be legal and free of charge” option.

    Am I the only one to think abortion should be legal and free of charge?

  35. naturalcynic says

    <blockquoteBecause once the baby is born, it’s no longer inside the mother, no longer depends on her body for survival and is an independent person. Birth signifies the moment where the baby’s right to life and the woman’s bodily autonomy no longer conflict. Why is this so difficult to grasp? It does beome muddled because there is some arbitrariness about when birth occurs. A 37 week fetus is almost as viable as a 39 week fetus or a 41 week fetus. The only significant difference is when labor starts and is completed. Things get more dicey before 36 weeks, but viability is possible at about 24 weeks. There’s the slippery slope.
    An there’s at least one more person involved in late term abortions – someone to do the procedure. How many doctors are willing to perform to abort a 33 week viable fetus?

  36. A. Noyd says

    naturalcynic (#42)

    It does beome muddled because there is some arbitrariness about when birth occurs.

    Uh, no. If the fetus is still inside the woman, birth has not yet occurred or is occurring. If the former-fetus-now-baby is outside the woman, birth has occurred. It’s very not arbitrary. You’re confusing things by referring to viability as if it has something to do with this inside/outside distinction. The chances of survival for the fetus are a separate argument.

    You also seem to be confused about the definition/goal of abortion.

    How many doctors are willing to perform to abort a 33 week viable fetus?

    If the fetus is viable outside the womb, then abortion would in most cases just entail the removal of the fetus without killing it. (Not always, of course; sometimes the mother’s health won’t allow for live removal.) So probably a great many doctors.

  37. Ishikiri says

    I’ve concluded that Silverman ought to keep his damn mouth shut about these issues, or give up his position.

    If by “fiscal conservative,” people mean they are in favor of fiscal responsibility, then that’s all well and good. You either spend high and tax high, or spend low and tax low. But when I hear that phrase, it’s usually meant as they don’t think problems exist, or that the government can do anything to address them.

  38. carlie says

    “READ THE ENTIRETY OF THIS 400 COMMENT THREAD”

    A lot of us have not only read it all, but contributed to it. Comment threads here get long. If you want to comment here and not get yelled at for being repetitive of what other people have already discussed, you read a lot. It’s nobody’s job to give you the Cliff’s notes for something, especially not something that just happened yesterday.

  39. vaiyt says

    It does beome muddled because there is some arbitrariness about when birth occurs. A 37 week fetus is almost as viable as a 39 week fetus or a 41 week fetus.

    Viability is not the same thing as birth.

  40. Thumper: Token Breeder says

    “socially liberal, but fiscally conservative”

    So a Libertarian, then. Gotcha.

  41. Thumper: Token Breeder says

    @The Vicar #29

    “It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…”
    “You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”
    “No,” said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”
    “Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”
    “I did,” said Ford. “It is.”
    “So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t the people get rid of the lizards?”
    “It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”
    “You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”
    “Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”
    “But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”
    “Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”

    What are you quoting here? I wish to read it immediately.

  42. nerok says

    Now of course, these numbers don’t say which answer is right, but only what the majority of atheists, those people American Atheists are supposed to represent, think is right. We have a decidedly liberal bias.

    So, to be consistent with this, I hope you’ll also advocate American Atheists be represented by white middle- or upperclass men for the foreseeable future. Since diversity is apparently bad. But you won’t. Because only some kinds of diversity are bad. Other times the leadership should instead consist of people who are underrepresented in atheism.

    I guess the easy guide is that atheism should simply have the Right Opinions, and the Right People, based on criteria you decide.

  43. Anri says

    August Berkshire @ 30:

    Every abortion thread, the Post Test:

    If you believe birth to be fuzzy or arbitrary, take the Post Test. Find a fencepost. Place your hand around it. This is that state of it being Not Inside Your Body
    Now, shove it up your ass. That is the state of it being Inside Your Body

    If you can tell the difference between these two states, and if you feel that difference has basis in reality, you understand why birth is neither fuzzy nor arbitrary.

    Repeat as needed for a reminder.

  44. gingerbaker says

    “So what’s going on here? Is David Silverman trying to appease the 0.0% of atheists who think abortion should be illegal,”

    No, he is saying that those people in the “43.0% Abortion should be legal but with reasonable restrictions on gestational stage.” have a valid point as well.

    Sorry, all your self-righteous anger and preening posing finds little traction here, PZ, but there ARE two sides to this story. And both sides have at least a marginally ethical position. Roe vs Wade is a ->compromise<-, not a unilateral victory.

    Which means Dave Silverman is right on the mark when he says abortion is not as "clean-cut" as the other issues.

  45. gussnarp says

    Wait, so Silverman is saying the Democrats are too liberal for him, but the specific example of what’s wrong with the Democratic President is that he spies on us and kills people with drones?

    So Democrats are too liberal and the thing two policies he can point to are demonstrably conservative and initiated by Bush?

  46. gussnarp says

    @gingerbaker #54: Silverman is saying this to people at CPAC. Do you think those people think abortion should be legal with reasonable restrictions on gestational age? Do you really think that’s what they’re thinking about?

  47. says

    Maybe this will help Nerok understand:

    Diversity of people with chosen opinions vis-a-vis reproductive slavery = bad (the ones who endorse reproductive slavery have to go)

    Diversity of people with personal characteristics unrelated to policy that restricts others’ human rights = good

    Hope that clears things up for you.

  48. Ashley F. Miller says

    So, in an extremely limited defense of Silverman, or at least a limited argument against these stats, Silverman is reaching out to people who don’t openly identify as atheist yet. And this is polling only people who are online who’ve voluntarily signed up for the census and answered the question. That’s definitely going to skew younger and more liberal (which atheists *are*, so that’s not so terrible for the stats of people who identify openly as secular). I’m not saying that it’s not worth noticing, but a sample of open atheists can’t be extrapolated to the population of *closeted* non-believers at CPAC. That doesn’t mean the CPAC atheists are worth getting to come out, that question is different entirely.

    Now, I’m sure the number of pro-life atheists is quite small, but I don’t think you can say that it is .0%. Especially because there are people who self-identify pro-life who fall in the health of the mother, rape, gestational limit category. It looks like even a not 0% number of the young liberal online atheist crowd volunteering for the census is, to some extent, pro-life.

  49. glidwrith says

    A general request for the commentariat: If someone is very frugal with their money, shuts off their lights to conserve electricity (and thus money), will buy second-hand clothes when possible rather than new, what would that person call themselves?

    I ask this because I think many people simply look at their own lifestyle without ever bothering to think beyond what they do and it would be useful to have an alternative phrase than “fiscally conservative”.

    This is also the same problem I have with calling the rich ‘elites’ – an elite is someone with finely honed skills or shown extreme excellence in a given field. The rich are not elite – they are aristocrats and those that cater to them are royalists.

    So what would you call someone who is conservative with their money but not in a political sense?

  50. Pierce R. Butler says

    Ashley Miller @ # 59 – Why do you use that dishonest term for anti-choicers?

  51. gussnarp says

    @glidwrith # 61: Thrifty. Fiscally conservative has, in reality, never meant that. It means the government doesn’t spend tax money to help poor people. It’s just been used as a branding tool for conservatives in general to convince people that being “fiscally conservative” just means running the government like you’d run your household. Except that really means “fuck the poor” and the government cannot be run like a household.

  52. nerok says

    @57 SallyStrange

    Thanks for assuming my race, and incorrectly to boot. I bet you think it’s alright though. Because you enjoy special rules while getting to tell others to get fucked for the same thing. Just fucking cementing my original point.

    And I enjoy how you redefine Silverman’s positions to the most laughable stereotype you could think up, all for not being sufficiently liberal (in whatever way you imagine liberal to be at that).

    I hope whatever exclusionary brand of US liberal (because that’s consistently the point of view in this oh so diverse debate) atheism you people endorse ends up being a success. I just wonder why you would assume atheists from other cultures would want to adopt those very specific values.

  53. says

    Yes, given that the end result of the application of “fiscally conservative policies” by conservatives is the fucking over of the same groups of people the socially conservative conservatives don’t like, I don’t see any actual distinction between them IRL. There’s a reason they make common cause. They just have different rationales for the same fucked-up policies.

  54. says

    Thanks for assuming my race, and incorrectly to boot.

    I assumed nothing. I made no indication of YOUR ethnicity. I simply noted that it must be hard out there for a white guy. Are you saying it isn’t?

  55. says

    Because you enjoy special rules while getting to tell others to get fucked for the same thing.

    You appear to be asserting that being black, or gay, or female, is akin to holding anti-choice positions.

  56. glidwrith says

    @gussnarp #63: Oh, I know full well it’s just a code phrase for ‘fuck the poor’. The bastards (conservatives) are perfectly happy to spend tons of money when it makes no sense, to be ‘penny-wise but pound foolish’. I am looking for the language to separate the personal lifestyle from the political, because that is what the bastards have done: conflated the two and thus done a great deal of harm. Just like in my example @#61 showing how rich has been conflated with elite, giving the false impression that the rich are somehow better than everyone else just because they are rich and therefore elite.

  57. Ashley F. Miller says

    @Pierce R. Butler 62

    Because I think that there are a lot of people in the murky middle of the abortion argument who identify as pro-life but also don’t want abortion to be illegal and they aren’t hateful and who deserve to be treated as humans and have their self-identification honored rather than label them with something meant to deny them their ability to label themselves. Because I know I’d sure as hell shut down an argument immediately with someone who called me anti-life. Because if liberals going to insist we respect people’s ability to choose their own identity, around anything from sexual orientation to political persuasion, we shouldn’t just do it when it’s something we happen to believe in.

  58. nerok says

    @66 SallyStrange

    I assumed nothing. I made no indication of YOUR ethnicity. I simply noted that it must be hard out there for a white guy.

    You think you’re being clever covering your ass like that? I’ve met self-confessed racists less glib about their racially motivated insults.

    You appear to be asserting that being black, or gay, or female, is akin to holding anti-choice positions.

    No, I’m suggesting that having a pro-diversity stance extends to a diversity of opinion as well. That is not a call for every opinion to be represented. But I’d expect there to be more diversity of opinion than the US liberal bullet points, much less using the argument that anything outside majority opinion – as PZ does in the OP – should be shunned from leadership positions.
    Now how would you like to spin and distort this further?

  59. anteprepro says

    Sorry, all your self-righteous anger and preening posing finds little traction here, PZ, but there ARE two sides to this story. And both sides have at least a marginally ethical position.

    I’m sorry, there really isn’t. The only distinct “sides” that are marginally ethical are WITHIN the pro-choice side. The anti-choice camp is just a spectrum of Wrong. Sure, not every anti-choicer is as wrong as the person who says that women must incubate a zygote to term because zygotes have souls and a pregnant woman is a sinning slut who ain’t worth shit. But virtually every anti-choice position has a tinge of that. It has a tinge of “the fetus is her responsibility”, it has a tinge of dismissing the woman’s right to her own body, it has a tinge of giving priority to the fetus over the woman (and doing so by dishonestly arguing that a fetus has full human rights, when really the result is giving the fetus MORE rights than a human), and it has a tinge of magical thinking, thinking that life or human genes or potential human-ness is sacred. The only halfway ethical and sensible position restricting abortion is to regulate third trimester abortions but not so strictly that it couldn’t be done if necessary. Which is a position that is within the current pro-choice camp. Universal legality is the superior position, but that is the only alternative that comes anywhere near close to what sound scientific and ethical reasoning would permit. The anti-choice side is nowhere close to that . If you have evidence to the contrary, fucking present it instead of nebulously defending the vague possibility that there is another, good, distinct “side” out there.

  60. anteprepro says

    But I’d expect there to be more diversity of opinion than the US liberal bullet points, much less using the argument that anything outside majority opinion – as PZ does in the OP – should be shunned from leadership positions.

    When people can’t defend conservative views on their own merits, and can’t attack liberal positions for what they actually are, and can only make vague appeals to Diversity, or Both Sides, or Fair and Balanced, or what have you….you know that conservatism is in trouble!

  61. nerok says

    @73 anteprepro

    When people can’t defend conservative views on their own merits, and can’t attack liberal positions

    Continuing to slice the world up into US political groupings. Great. Having sensible limits on abortion is a liberal position in “liberal Europe”. I suppose that’s now conservative? Because it’s an either/or stance, according to your personal ideological read on the situation. Even though in practice it’s obviously not?

    As much as the commentariat here talks about the value of being able to see beyond ethnocentrism it seems you are very bad at it.

  62. anteprepro says

    Because if liberals going to insist we respect people’s ability to choose their own identity, around anything from sexual orientation to political persuasion, we shouldn’t just do it when it’s something we happen to believe in.

    I don’t agree with treating political ideology, preferences, opinions, and ideas as identity. In some of elements of our culture, that is an accurate description. And it is a bad thing. These things shouldn’t become ingrained as part of our identity, because that encourages people to become defensive against criticism, tribalistic about their politics, and unwilling to change. We should feel free to mock people’s political ideas, because politics have consequences. We should feel free to mock people’s political ideas, because you should not be your politics. People who think they are their politics are the kind of mindless ideologues who will never, ever change their opinions about anything, regardless of sound logic and new facts. Obviously mockery will not change that too much, but also obviously, taking serious their desire to label themselves based on political ideas just reinforces their assumption that this is something that can and should be done.

  63. anteprepro says

    Continuing to slice the world up into US political groupings. Great.

    Yet another asshole who elides an argument arising due to discussion of U.S. politics by invoking politics outside the U.S.? Great.

  64. says

    Having sensible limits on abortion is a liberal position in “liberal Europe”.

    OMFG
    Do you understand that Europe is a continent which consists of a few dozen independent countries?
    There is no such thing as “liberal Europe”. There are different countries where abortion rights vary greatly between “more liberal and covered by public healthcare without having to jump hoops” and “extremely restrictive without exceptions for rape victims”.
    Furthermore within those countries there are various political groups and parties with different ideas as to how to regulate reproductive rights. Do you understand that? Are you capable of understanding that?

  65. Ashley F. Miller says

    @75 anteprepro

    I’m not saying don’t mock, I’m saying 1. that there are a lot of people who consider themselves both pro-life and pro-choice, so saying anti-choice is not useful and 2. that mocking a person rather than the idea is not ideal, unless that person is a total dickweed, and some pro-lifers actually aren’t dickweeds. It’s like Rethuglicans and teabaggers, it just makes your argument seem petty and designed to insult individuals who are people despite their political orientation rather than an attempt to talk about their politics.

  66. says

    Thanks for the shout-out, PZ, and a belated happy birthday! Quick clarification: these statistics were not *gathered* in response to the CPAC discussion; they were *queried* (from the database) at that point. The data collected on the American Secular Census has been building since the launch of the project in late 2011.

    Yes, this is absolutely a self-selecting Web survey, ChasCPeterson. We address the veracity issue in our article linked by PZ, so won’t repeat all that here. We do not claim these results are statistically valid at this point — later, we will use methodology to reduce the bias and provide margins of error. Meanwhile, snapshots are what we offer. The reason we feel confident intuitively (if not statistically) suggesting that they mirror the secular population closely enough is that results on many issues have stabilized as the registry has grown, no matter where/how it is promoted. (And this is largely by social networking … and avoiding venues where obvious biases might be introduced.)

    Ashley F. Miller regarding the kinds of bias that may be present (youth, closeted, etc.) … not all of these are as intuitive as you might think. For example, almost 1/4 of the registry reports being closeted in some or most situations. (Still, it’s not clear why this relates to liberal vs. conservative, since closeting is a response to family, career and social issues every bit as much as, if not more than, political circles … situations that can affect all nontheists of all political profiles.) In any case, the Secular Census has experienced periodic “flurries” of registrations by those who have disagreed with our findings (particularly about diversity/feminism), and *still* the liberal-Democrat archetype persists. It’s *possible* conservative atheists just aren’t hearing about us in proportion to their numbers … it’s also possible there just aren’t enough of them to shift the metrics. That’s what it looks like, from our side of the database.

    Again, thanks for the interest, all. — Mary Ellen Sikes, President/Founder (using the time-tested secular management model of no staff, no budget)

  67. nerok says

    @76 anteprepro

    Yet another asshole who elides an argument arising due to discussion of U.S. politics by invoking politics outside the U.S.? Great.

    My argument arose from Silverman’s stated political positions and the idea that he should personally be representative of the atheist community at large, which seems to be in conflict with the ongoing debate on FTB about widening the diversity of the atheist community.

    On the point of abortion in particular, you are now trying to dismiss non-US views as if the question is unique to that country.

    How far can you stretch when you really need that straw?

  68. The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical says

    Ashley F. Miller @ 69

    Because if liberals going to insist we respect people’s ability to choose their own identity, around anything from sexual orientation to political persuasion, we shouldn’t just do it when it’s something we happen to believe in.

    I respect that you’re trying to extend kindness and courtesy to people, but all groups are not like all other groups. If I call white supremacists racists and deny their identity as “Aryan pride activists”, am I insulting their self-identification? Should I honor their right to self-identify as pride activists?

    It’s intellectually dishonest to draw a comparison between things like sexual orientation and gender identity and a jingoistic term chosen specifically for pushing a hateful position. Yes, there are innocent people swept up in the forced-birther movement who don’t hate women or see them as sub-human…but the position and people they’re supporting do. The result is the same, regardless of their inner feelings. Intent isn’t magic.

    Misogynists and racists co-opt progressive language and the trappings of social justice to cloak their hate and make people naively give them support and tolerance they don’t deserve. Social justice is a hell of a lot more complicated than accepting when people rename their political viewpoints for maximum PR benefits.

  69. Drolfe says

    Damnit. This isn’t hard.

    Is there diversity of opinion among atheists whether bodily integrity is a human right? Even closeted conservative atheists?

    Cite something.

  70. Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human. says

    AshleyMiller:

    At what point during pregnancy should a woman cease to have legal control over her own body, her own medical care, her own safety, her own health, her own welfare? At what specific point does she cease to have the rights of an adult human?

  71. Ashley F. Miller says

    @ 81 Mellow Monkey

    So call them pro-life and misogynistic. Some of them aren’t anti-choice, though, so it doesn’t make sense. Many people who support the legality of abortion consider themselves pro-life.

  72. anteprepro says

    On the point of abortion in particular, you are now trying to dismiss non-US views as if the question is unique to that country.

    I am doing no such thing. The issue is whether the leader of an organization represents the opinions of the people that organization represents. The organization is American Atheists. The people are atheists in America. “Straw” in-fucking-deed.

  73. Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk says

    and some pro-lifers actually aren’t dickweeds.

    I fail to see how thinking I am less than 100% human with 100% of human rights does NOT make one a dickweed, but maybe that’s just me.

  74. The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical says

    Ogvorbis @ 83: Ashley Miller is not advocating an anti-abortion position. She’s only stating that there is value in respecting the label of pro-life. It’s an important difference there.

    To expand on my @81:

    I think there are benefits to catering to the people you’re arguing with at times, so as not to alienate them coming out of the gate. There are instances where allowing them the label of pro-life might be beneficial for getting them to listen. And stuff like Rethuglican and liberturd and such are just insults, not valuable ways of identifying what someone’s actual political position is.

    But pro-life is not actually pro-life. It is for forced birth. It is for reproductive slavery.

    If I identify as agender, this has an impact on me. It might make other people uncomfortable, but it’s really only about me. Just me. I’m not trying to take away anyone else’s gender. If someone identifies as pro-life because they want to take away the bodily autonomy of others, it’s not about them.

    And that’s why there may be rhetorical benefits to conceding the label at times, but it’s not actually a personal identity worthy of respect.

  75. anteprepro says

    So call them pro-life and misogynistic. Some of them aren’t anti-choice, though, so it doesn’t make sense.

    They are anti-choice in effect. It is the logical implication of their ideology. And they are rarely ever pro-life. That is pure spin. By calling them that, you are feeding into their PR.

    Many people who support the legality of abortion consider themselves pro-life.

    For diminished definitions of either “support” or “legality”

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/9904/Public-Opinion-About-Abortion-InDepth-Review.aspx#3

  76. Ashley F. Miller says

    88. Mellow Monkey

    http://publicreligion.org/research/2011/06/committed-to-availability-conflicted-about-morality-what-the-millennial-generation-tells-us-about-the-future-of-the-abortion-debate-and-the-culture-wars/

    70% of people identify as pro-choice, 66% of people identify as pro-life. Attacking the label doesn’t make sense because a lot of people who identify as pro-life support legal abortion. Among the general population (rather than specifically activists) people who are pro-life aren’t necessarily anti-abortion.

  77. anteprepro says

    70% of people identify as pro-choice, 66% of people identify as pro-life.

    “Describes them somewhat or very well” =/= “Identify as”

  78. vaiyt says

    Ashley Miller is not advocating an anti-abortion position. She’s only stating that there is value in respecting the label of pro-life. It’s an important difference there.

    Fuck you. “Pro-life” deserves no respect, as it’s a blatant lie. Pro-lifers really are anti-women, as their entire platform rests on robbing women of their personhood, controlling their sexuality and advancing policies that kill women.

  79. The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical says

    Ashley Miller @ 90

    70% of people identify as pro-choice, 66% of people identify as pro-life. Attacking the label doesn’t make sense because a lot of people who identify as pro-life support legal abortion. Among the general population (rather than specifically activists) people who are pro-life aren’t necessarily anti-abortion.

    Thank you for the link. It seems that identifying as pro-life while supporting legal abortion reveals some fairly fuzzy thinking when it comes to how those concepts are used politically. Attacking that label could be beneficial if it’s done in a way to make people think about it more critically and identify the hypocrisies and hate amongst anti-abortion activists who are also using that label. But bringing people to see those problems is difficult and not a task I’d lightly handwave away.

  80. carlie says

    She’s only stating that there is value in respecting the label of pro-life.

    Doing so is what has gotten us to the state we’re in now, where there are significant hurdles to abortion access in all states and it is functionally impossible to obtain in many. If you want to talk slippery slides, that’s the big one right there. Any concession that “pro-life” has a point and that it is ok to overturn bodily autonomy some of the time got us here. Hell, “safe, legal, and rare” got us here. Overton window shifted, agreeing that abortion is still bad and regretful and a sad awful thing got us here.

  81. The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical says

    vaiyt @ 92, are you actually saying “fuck you” at me for trying to explain the position of someone I am arguing against?

    FFS. I’m done for the day.

  82. Pierce R. Butler says

    Ashley Miller @ # 69 et seq. – What anteprepro & Mellow Monkey said.

    Also, while I agree we (in this case, the pro-choice sector) need a bridge to the potential waverers among the opposition, we need even more a solid basis that recognizes them as adversaries.

    From that position, it’s quite clear that “pro-life” is a top-to-bottom lie. Only a few from that camp oppose the death penalty; fewer still oppose war; hardly any stand up against unlimited ownership and use of guns among the general population or national health-care policies that leave literally millions uncared-for, some literally dying in the streets. Do any of them say anything about the massive wave of extinctions now endangering the whole biosphere, including humankind? Hell, they don’t even encourage the study of biology (y’know, life science).

    I (think I) agree with you that many anti-choicers are good-hearted and well-intentioned,* and some might eventually be pried loose from their present maleficient groupings. But using their leaders’ dishonest rubrics (without even “scare quotes”) reinforces the conditioning they need to break.

    * The McCarthyist cliché “well-meaning dupes of a sinister international conspiracy” applies perfectly.

  83. says

    Ashley F Miller

    Many people who support the legality of abortion consider themselves pro-life

    So what? The term itself is still incredibly disingenuous and outright dishonest, and I’m damned if I’ll use in any terms but those of contempt and derision. If someone wants to say that they personally consider abortion morally wrong but still support its legality, that’s an acceptable position. Anyone framing it as ‘pro-life’ is signing on for a whole bunch of other baggage, and before I’ll use the term for them, I want to see a complete opposition to warfare or the death penalty, in all circumstances, unhesitating and absolute support for universal healthcare, guaranteed housing, and robust welfare benefits. Then someone can make a case for being pro-life. Obsession with fetuses doesn’t cut it.

  84. Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human. says

    Ashley Miller:

    I thought that, considering that people identify as both pro-life and pro-choice, ie, abortion with reasonable restrictions, that asking where a woman ceases to have human rights was a valid question. I guess I was wrong. Sorry. Leaving.

  85. Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human. says

    Damn. Left out me apologizing for being parochial, narrow and uninformed. It happens.

  86. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    who deserve to be treated as humans and have their self-identification honored rather than label them with something meant to deny them their ability to label themselves.

    That’s a terrible, bullshit argument that I’m genuinely surprised to see from you, Ashley. We do not “honor” the ability of homophobes to “label themselves” by acceding to their desired “pro traditional family” rhetoric. Nor do we allow “soft” racists to “label themselves” something other than racist. I’m shocked this needs explaining.

  87. says

    I think we can simply acknowledge that the term “pro-life” doesn’t literally mean what it could mean.
    Because my politics, while being being 100% pro-choice, would lead to less abortion. Less abortion because everybody had access to reliable contraception, less abortion because an unplanned pregnancy would not ruin everybody’s life. Oh, and the obvious things like less war, less poverty, no capital punishment. But those things are currently not described by the term “pro-life” even though they are quite actually pro life.

    I also know that most people who are not 100% pro choice are not actually horrible people. Most of them have failed to think it through to the logical consequences. Or they simply can’t understand the difference between personal and important (“I would love to have a baby, so it’s immoral to end a potential baby). And with everything said and done, I don’t care that much about what people think, but about what people do. I don’t give a fuck about somebody being heartbroken in their armchair about all the abortions happening without doing shit about it.

  88. Ashley F. Miller says

    @Pierce 96

    The problem is that the pro-choice movement has a tendency to treat anyone who identifies as pro-life, regardless of how they stand on the issue of abortion legality, as the enemy rather than a person who can be persuaded. Now, I admit that the fact that my job is very specifically to sway people on this issue through communications tactics and training of healthcare and social workers gives me a bias to humanize those who consider themselves pro-life, but are OK with women making choices for themselves stance. But most pro-lifers (again, talking individuals not activists) are not virulently anti-choice, but living in the murky middle.

  89. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Social justice is a hell of a lot more complicated than accepting when people rename their political viewpoints for maximum PR benefits.

    Jesus Christ, yes. This is 101-level stuff. Like how liberalism doesn’t extend to “tolerating” illiberal people who want to deny other people basic rights.

    Can we please just let this brand of 1990 relativism die out of liberalism?

  90. says

    From PZ’s post:

    You know, I’m getting really tired of the schtick of so many people that they are “socially liberal, but fiscally conservative”. In a country where the primary social challenge of our time is the obscene wealth of the privileged few and the growing economic inequity, you don’t get to separate those two so neatly anymore […]

    Several speakers at CPAC, including female speakers, reiterated the right-wing talking point that conservatives do not insult women by assuming that reproductive issues are all they care about. The speakers then go on to make points about economics, jobs, and freedom. I find this insulting because you can’t separate my reproductive issues from economic issues. You can’t separate my reproductive health concerns from my job, nor from my job opportunities. You can’t even separate my reproductive issues from my educational issues.

  91. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Carlie above is right. How’s that accommodating people’s soft-sounding PR self-descriptions workin’ out for reproductive rights? How’s it been workin’ out since Roe v. Wade? How successful has “safe, legal, and rare” been?

    PERFECTLY successful in pushing already timid liberals into silence and assent that these basic issues of human rights are, in fact, up for question.

    When are liberals going to wake up to the reality that you cannot compromise with people who do not and will not reciprocate?

    Yes, persuade as many of those folks as you can! Most of us actively try to do so. But shielding them from the oh-so-harsh-and-mean reality of what their preferred title actually does is not part of that.

  92. Ashley F. Miller says

    @Josh 100

    The problem is that the label pro-life has a meaning for average people who take it on face value that is different from the misogynistic associations we see in it. People who are like, “I like life, of course I am pro-life.” These people are often also like, “I like choice, of course I am pro-choice.” It’s not useful to call them anti-choice, because they support abortion rights. Denying them (again, general population, not activists) the ability to define themselves puts them on the defensive when, in all likelihood, they don’t disagree with you.

    I think we may be talking past each other because you’re talking about activists and I’m talking about people who aren’t activists.

  93. says

    You appear to be asserting that being black, or gay, or female, is akin to holding anti-choice positions.

    No, I’m suggesting that having a pro-diversity stance extends to a diversity of opinion as well.

    That’s amusing. You say, “No,” in answer to my query as to whether you are asserting that being black or gay or female is akin to holding an anti-choice position, in the context of a discussion, which you initiated, about the value of diversity. Then, in the same sentence, you go on to assert that if one values having a diversity of people with intrinsic characteristics and identities that affect nobody but themselves, one must also value having a diversity of opinions.

    Do you not see that you just contradicted yourself? If there is a useful and important similarity between identifying as gay and identifying as pro-life, then your statement that “having a pro-diversity stance extends to a diversity of opinion as well” makes perfect sense. If there is no useful and important similarity between identifying as gay and identifying as pro-life, then that statement makes no sense. So which is it?

  94. ledasmom says

    Lynna:
    Exactly. Without control over reproduction, planning one’s life becomes a bit of a joke. Not, mind you, a funny joke.

  95. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Then we need to introduce them to better terminology, Ashley. Doing the right thing, the most effective thing, sometimes means not giving people what they think they deserve. I don’t think there’s one right answer for every constituency, but I’m firmly convinced that no good will come of *replicating* that rhetoric for them. You don’t have to do their work for them by using the term unproblematically. It IS problematic.

  96. carlie says

    The problem is that the pro-choice movement has a tendency to treat anyone who identifies as pro-life, regardless of how they stand on the issue of abortion legality, as the enemy rather than a person who can be persuaded.

    This is the same argument as atheism, as civil rights, as gay rights. Sure, there’s room for people who play nice and persuade kindly. But there is also room for the in your face, shit or get off the pot approach. There are absolutely people in this world who will just smile and nod and blithely ignore or justify away calm, reasonable statements. Those people do require a hard slap in the brain to get them to see the hard consequences their mushy ideals lead to. The piece that finally made me stop and reconsider my beliefs on abortion was in 2005, on Bitch Ph.D., called “Do you trust women?” (which sadly appears to not be on the internet any more). It was not polite, or kind, and did not pull any punches. It very clearly stated that if you think there is a time the legal system should step inbetween a woman and her doctor, you are infantalizing women and don’t trust them to make their own decisions. And that was the very clarity I needed to break out of the fuzzy vague icky feelings that had cushioned my “but still there should be restrictions” mindset.
    Ashley, I am in awe of all the work you do, but that approach can’t be the only approach. There is value to the more forceful kind too.

  97. Ashley F. Miller says

    @Josh 109

    I don’t disagree. I just think we shouldn’t respond to thinking the term is problematic by labeling *them* something that they both didn’t agree to and also is not an accurate representation of their beliefs.

  98. carlie says

    This seems like another round of the same argument we have with atheism, with civil rights, with gay rights, etc. There needs to be room for both the soft-sell persuasive approach and the in your face one. Some people simply won’t be persuaded by rhetoric that coddles them; they will simply use that to float around in the fluffy vagueness of their position. They have to be slapped in the brain with the cold hard consequences of their beliefs. I was one of them – it took a piece by Bitch, Ph.D. called “Do you trust women?” to knock me out of mine. (2005, it seems to be a dead link on the internet now). It did not pull any punches. It said flat-out that if you think that there is any point at which the legal system needs to step between a woman and her doctor to make that decision, you are saying that you do not think that women have the mental capacity to make the right decision themselves. It took that clear cut argument to cut through the marshmallow fuzz of my “but sometimes restrictions make sense” position.
    Ashley, I am in awe of all the work you do, but both approaches are valid and useful.

  99. carlie says

    Hm, this is my third go and I keep disappearing into the spam filter. I don’t know why. Will try again with a few modifications.

    This seems like another round of the same argument we have with atheism, with civil rights, with gay rights, etc. There needs to be room for both the soft-sell persuasive approach and the in your face one. Some people simply won’t be persuaded by rhetoric that coddles them; they will simply use that to float around in the fluffy vagueness of their position. They have to be slapped in the brain with the cold hard consequences of their beliefs. I was one of them – it took a piece called “Do you trust women?” to knock me out of mine. (it seems to be a dead link on the internet now). It did not pull any punches. It said flat-out that if you think that there is any point at which the legal system needs to step between a woman and her doctor to make that decision, you are saying that you do not think that women have the mental capacity to make the right decision themselves. It took that clear cut argument to cut through the marshmallow fuzz of my “but sometimes restrictions make sense” position.
    Ashley, I am in awe of all the work you do, but both approaches are valid and useful.

  100. carlie says

    Ah, the reference was it. The piece was from 2005 by a blogger whose name is tripping the spam filter. It was from rhymes-with-itch Ph.D.

  101. Pierce R. Butler says

    Ashley Miller @ # 102: … most pro-lifers (again, talking individuals not activists) are not virulently anti-choice, but living in the murky middle.

    Along with the yellow stripes and dead armadillos.

    How does humoring their delusions help them overcome same?

  102. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Ashley, a good start would be ceasing to use their preferred and misleading terminology. Unbidden, and out of context. That’s not respecting them, that’s doing active work to legitimate, rather than problematize, their position. This issue is not helped by carrying water for their branding effort, benign as you may believe many of them intend to be.

  103. Pierce R. Butler says

    Ashley Miller @ # 111: … not an accurate representation of their beliefs.

    As I tried to elucidate @ # 96 (as did others in their respective comments), the label “pro-life” does not accurately represent their beliefs either.

  104. nerok says

    @107 SallyStrange

    Do you not see that you just contradicted yourself?

    I don’t buy your rewording of my position and instead restated my own.

    If there is a useful and important similarity between identifying as gay and identifying as pro-life

    The similarity lies in holding diversity up as a virtue and valuing different perspectives as intrinsically good.

    I can’t believe the amount of back bending and contortion you need in your posts to create a big wall of separation between issues of personal identity and personal ideology. It’s as if suddenly there is no politics involved in the debate about race, sexuality and gender.. if only for the convenience of you having the option to then dismiss other political issues without looking like a hypocrite. And conversely, there are no political opinions in your world that are self-contained or immutable.

    But clearly you consider SOME political views to be not only compatible with, but emerging from atheism. Just not libertarian ones. Or conservative ones. Even on single issues. Anything other than a US liberal stance on issues is incompatible with atheism and unwanted?

  105. says

    The similarity lies in holding diversity up as a virtue and valuing different perspectives as intrinsically good.

    Well there you go then. I don’t value different perspectives as intrinsically good. I just think that skin color/sexual preference/gender are a lousy metric by which to sort different perspectives, and thus arbitrarily categorically excluding perspectives based on characteristics like those impoverishes the conversation. I do not believe that the conversation is impoverished by excluding perspectives based in bigotry or ignorance.

  106. Drolfe says

    Nerok,

    Hey if you can make an argument for how popular conceptions of Conservatism emerge from atheism (and the skepticism and empiricism and methodological naturalism that usually entails) go ahead and do it.

    Abortion rights are pretty much baked into Libertarianism’s axioms and idiosyncratic definitions, so that’s not really a point of contention.

    It won’t even be that off topic since it might illuminate what the hell Dave Silverman’s point is in going after CPAC attendees.

  107. Jackie, all dressed in black says

    Agreeing that they are not Pro-life. They are Pro-forced birth. I refuse to call them Pro-life, just like I refuse to call homophobia “family values”.

  108. Christoph Burschka says

    With only that “not as clean-cut” quote to go on, doesn’t it sound as though Silverman is acknowledging the 43% who would support gestational limits, rather than the 1% who go beyond that?
    Particularly since commenters have already pointed out the problem with grouping these 43%, who do support restrictions (which may be extensive – “reasonable” is a vague term), with the unrestricted pro-choice supporters. The 55%-45% split does sound less clean-cut than the >95%-<5% split of the other two, so regardless of who is right, the opinion of the atheist community is more divided on this issue than the others.

    I concur with the second objection, though. The Democrats are far, far from liberal.

  109. nerok says

    @120 Drolfe

    Abortion rights are pretty much baked into Libertarianism’s axioms and idiosyncratic definitions, so that’s not really a point of contention.

    Sure, you have a strain of libertarianism that would allow parents to sell their children into slavery until they reached an age of autonomy.

    Then you have the core principle of not harming other people. At which point you wade right back into the issue of what constitutes a person and at which point personhood comes into play and the rights of the (unborn) baby begins. It’s not like this debate is in any way absent from libertarian forums so I don’t know why you would assume it’s not “a point of contention” but for pure ignorance on the matter.

    Hey if you can make an argument for how popular conceptions of Conservatism emerge from atheism (and the skepticism and empiricism and methodological naturalism that usually entails) go ahead and do it.

    It’s fairly easy to make an atheist argument for life being the single most precious thing in existence. This world being the end-all to everything should only increase the hesitance to squander anyone’s right to exist. If you don’t think it applies to the unborn, that’s your view. But it’s not like it takes imagination to realize this is a perfectly valid stance, so once again I can only assume you occupy a very insular arena of atheism, not having been exposed to, or even being able to conceive the idea.

    The abortion question is not “all abortion” versus “no abortion” and it’s amazingly disingenuous to suggest it.

    Neither are the questions of personhood or sentience solved.

  110. carlie says

    The abortion question is not “all abortion” versus “no abortion” and it’s amazingly disingenuous to suggest it.

    To whom? The main proponents of the “pro-life” stance are not content with a 20 week cutoff; they are introducing 12 and even 8 week cutoffs in state legislature. They have succeeded in making the dialogue surrounding Plan B to be that it is an abortifacient, even though all it does is prevent ovulation. Many of them are anti-birth control, period. It most definitely is all abortion versus none. Every time they get a limit, they push it further.

  111. anteprepro says

    If you don’t think it applies to the unborn, that’s your view. But it’s not like it takes imagination to realize this is a perfectly valid stance, so once again I can only assume you occupy a very insular arena of atheism, not having been exposed to, or even being able to conceive the idea.

    Irony, much?

    The abortion question is not “all abortion” versus “no abortion” and it’s amazingly disingenuous to suggest it.

    It is amazingly disingenuous of you to continue to suggest that isn’t the major point of contention. Sure, there are plenty of people “in the middle”. That doesn’t change the question though.

  112. Rey Fox says

    But it’s not like it takes imagination to realize this is a perfectly valid stance, so once again I can only assume you occupy a very insular arena of atheism, not having been exposed to, or even being able to conceive the idea.

    Or that we considered it and rejected it already. All of us here, this ain’t our first rodeo, not by a long shot.

  113. Rey Fox says

    When people can’t defend conservative views on their own merits, and can’t attack liberal positions for what they actually are, and can only make vague appeals to Diversity, or Both Sides, or Fair and Balanced, or what have you

    Having lost in the marketplace of ideas, they beg for a handout. Ironic.

  114. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Neither are the questions of personhood or sentience solved.

    It is solved. Full personhood comes with being born. The state even gives the new baby a certificate. Until then, it isn’t a person, only in the process of becoming one. Same for sentience. You can’t stand being wrong, can you?

  115. says

    they are introducing 12 and even 8 week cutoffs in state legislature

    ND has a 6-week-ban on the books right now that’s been blocked by a judge. It absolutely is about “no abortion”.

  116. anteprepro says

    ND has a 6-week-ban on the books right now that’s been blocked by a judge. It absolutely is about “no abortion”.

    Additionally:
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/1576/abortion.aspx#2

    37% of Americans are in support of “A constitutional amendment to ban abortion in all circumstances, except when necessary to save the life of the mother”.

    29% want to overturn Roe v. Wade.

    And on a related noted, 48% of Americans would vote against letting women of any age have access to the morning after all without prescriptions.

    Because nuance, amirite.

  117. Anri says

    Ashley F. Miller @ 102:

    The problem is that the pro-choice movement has a tendency to treat anyone who identifies as pro-life, regardless of how they stand on the issue of abortion legality, as the enemy rather than a person who can be persuaded. Now, I admit that the fact that my job is very specifically to sway people on this issue through communications tactics and training of healthcare and social workers gives me a bias to humanize those who consider themselves pro-life, but are OK with women making choices for themselves stance. But most pro-lifers (again, talking individuals not activists) are not virulently anti-choice, but living in the murky middle.

    Well, that’s good of them. They believe women are real people, pretty much, most of the time. With exceptions, of course, women being people can get murky at times.

    We should definitely give them a cookie for thinking of women as people at all, though.
    Yep.

    Or, we could point out to them that they are, in fact, saying that women are less human than a fetus they might be carrying, and that people who believe that are in point of fact scumbags. But that they can stop being scumbags just any ol’ time they like – line forms on the left. Their move.

  118. John Horstman says

    @Ashley #106:

    The problem is that the label pro-life has a meaning for average people who take it on face value that is different from the misogynistic associations we see in it. People who are like, “I like life, of course I am pro-life.” These people are often also like, “I like choice, of course I am pro-choice.” It’s not useful to call them anti-choice, because they support abortion rights.

    That’s the entire point of using “anti-choice”. It’s to disassociate from the disingenuous label “pro-life” and ONLY describe people who oppose women’s bodily autonomy. Instead of letting misogynistic assholes define the terms to their benefit (66%/34% split their favor!), we define the divide where it actually is, and coincidentally to our benefit (70%/30% split our favor!). In favor of laws recognizing women’s bodily autonomy i.e. “choice”, or opposed to laws allowing women’s bodily autonomy i.e. “anti-choice”?

  119. carlie says

    Ophelia just posted about how difficult it is for doctors to train for abortions, and then how difficult it is for them to be able to perform them even if they would like to.

    Even when motivated medical students and residents can find abortion training, they’re not always able to make use of those skills later on. Some private practices and hospitals have been known to make physicians sign contracts saying they won’t provide abortions—even at an outside clinic—while on staff.
    “The real problem facing abortion provision—besides the stuff you know about Texas and admitting privileges—is at a much quieter level,” Joffe told the Beast.“It’s becoming hard for those who are trained to find places at which they can practice. From a hospital administration point of view, do you want picketers? Do you want hassles? No.”

  120. Drolfe says

    :-( Too busy to respond sooner. Moot now that Nerok has fled in the face of cognitive dissonance.

    But fwiw, any libertarian that claims to be anti-choice, I.e. Anti-liberty is a bad libertarian (lol, Rand Paul and libertarian Republicans). If all the libertarian philosophy you get is from forums on Reddit and Reason and Twitter I’m not surprised you think bad libertarians have some claim to authority. They are all smug and glib as fuck after all.

    However, under the still but least contemptible constructions of libertarianism a person’s body is her property and without right no other person can homestead or exploit that property. To live inside her is trespass, to use her organs for life support without consent is assault. Even under the witless conception of fetuses possessing all rights of citizenship you can see that this justifies violence to the trespasser under the self-defense clause of the NAP. Libertarians may be pro-slavery but only when the slave agrees to bondage. (Freedom to be a slave! No really!)

    Personhood arguments fail even under libertarianism, especially propertarianism. I’ll go even further and say fetal personhood arguments are all faith-based.

    Fuck you, Nerok, for making me defend libertarianism, and fuck you for thinking I haven’t read the smartest of libertarian philosophers (or as I think of them: apologists). I debated this shit with my dad for a decade before it got him untreated for cancer, and thus dead.

    Finally, fuck you for side stepping the issue of whether conservatism is compatible with rational skepticism. At least glibertarians have the sense to hate the status quo, that’s what conservatives are by definition conserving. “Standing athwart history, yelling stop,” and all that.

    Your response to my challenge was a red herring, and so easily dismissible: “life” isn’t precious, that’s subjective bullshit that’s demonstrated everyday. Any argument that it is will surely be trite. We aren’t all vegans and we aren’t all Jains. I’m skeptical as fuck you are. Perhaps you mean a person’s life is precious to herself, well thanks for the obvious, and welcome to the conversation — the basis of human rights is that we ought to respect that, if not for the benefit of society at large but for one’s own self interest. We can trust women to look out for their own self interest. Fetuses don’t have self interest — that’s not subjective.

    Maybe this all could have been avoided if we called them people’s rights? Then the ‘from a human’ to ‘is a human’ equivocation would be a lot more transparent and the less thoughtful wouldn’t fall for it.