Friday, February 24, 2012

Confessions of a Pro-Life Atheist - Origins of Consensus

It can be said without argument that all who are against abortion have at least one thing in common. Be that as it may, the process in which we come to that conclusion is oftentimes a result of many different factors, thus our beliefs, while similar in principle, can be quite different in theory.

Dozens of people have asked me why I am pro-life.

In the past it didn't seem like such a hard question to answer. After all, if I have the ability to form a belief then surely my answer to such a question should come without forethought. However, I have never been asked by a pro-life Christian to clarify my position as a pro-life Atheist. Admittedly, the question has become a bit more difficult to answer because of the unnecessary adaptation. It was my presumption that this was not a confusing concept, but once I began to compile my thoughts I soon realized where confusion could emerge. The purpose of this article is to clear up some of the misconceptions about pro-life non-believers by providing a general comparison between Theism and Atheism in relation to the abortion issue and contributing a personal account of my own journey to the pro-life movement. An argument from morality has been purposely omitted.

To state the obvious, the only difference between my label as a pro-life Atheist and your label as a pro-life Christian is our outlook on the existence of a deity. Similarly, the difference between a pro-life Jew and a pro-life Muslim is once again rooted in religious differences. That being said, we can easily deduct that an anti-abortion position is not dependent upon adhering to a specific religion; thankfully. For example, one can be religious without ever taking a position on the abortion issue. Likewise, one can be pro-life without being religious. Because the two labels are independent from one another, it is not hard to imagine the diversity of  personal convictions within the pro-life community. This may become a confusing concept to those who base their pro-life position on the belief that they could not differentiate between right and wrong without guidance from their respective deity. This is where I believe some confusion and hesitation may occur.

The Christian religion, for the most part, has adopted a position on the abortion issue. Churches which have chosen to take a position on the issue have subsequently suggested that its followers do the same. To the contrary, Atheism asserts one thing and one thing only. That assertion makes no mention to the the issue of abortion or any other social issue for that matter and therefore does not require that Atheists accept any more or any less. An Atheist's position on any other topic is simply a personal opinion.

Personally, my pro-life beliefs belong to the discoveries in science. While I am sympathetic to women's rights and would even consider myself a Feminist as would any man who believes in gender equality, the right to life outweighs our personal discomforts. I will hesitantly concede that had I been born 10 years earlier I most likely would have considered myself pro-choice based upon the absence of scientific evidence within the pro-life movement at the time. More so, if science had proven that life began at birth I would have had no foundation for an anti-abortion belief. Thankfully for the pro-life movement, science has reemphasized the movement's argument that abortion takes the life of an unborn child. Today, the movement has realized that science is much more likely to reach an audience which is increasingly looking for demonstrable evidence from which to base their position on social issues; not just the church's suggestion.

It's worth mentioning that the internet also had a substantial effect by allowing me to better research fetal development and share information and ideas with others.When I began exploring the issue as a seventeen year old back in 2006, the internet allowed me to see the larger picture, unlike the tri-fold pamphlet provided by my Catholic church. The pamphlet provided me with no context or arguments from the opposition. Heck, I didn't even know there was an opposition.

I am not sure why the issue ever captured my attention, but it evolved beyond into a passion. After a couple years of researching the issue I decided that I would adopt an anti-abortion position based on the scientifically accepted conclusion that conception was the formation of a unique and living member of the human species. This was done absent of religious arguments and by 2008 I was beginning to question a different position - Theism. That year I wrote a pro-life blog which turned out to become the catalyst for my pro-life activism. The MySpace blog [insert joke here] titled The American Holocaust, was my first attempt at arguing against abortion from a secular perspective. The amateurishly written blog received hundreds of comments and at times was the third most active blog on MySpace. At that moment I was convinced  that the incorporation of religion was unnecessary to make a point against abortion and instead allowed readers to view the issue as a scientific and moral obligation rather than just a Catholic issue. The internet had allowed me to understand the various ways the issue affected people, something I would have never understood within the walls of the Catholic church.

I am currently concluding the final chapters of God is Not Great by the late Atheist, Christopher Hitchens; a post-abortive father himself. Hitchens, a hero to many non-believers, also noticed the reality of the unborn human life. I would imagine it took a great deal of courage to advocate the value of the unborn human despite the overwhelming number of supporters whom he knew would quickly voice their disapproval. For unfortunate yet obvious reasons, theists were just as reluctant to commend him. Undoubtedly, Hitchens has taught many non-believers and believers to rethink their position on the issue for purely scientific reasons. Like myself and the thousands of other pro-life secularists, Hitchens recognized that science had demonstrably proven that life does exist before viability and therefore deserved proper acknowledgement from the pro-choice side.

“As a materialist, I think it has been demonstrated that an embryo is a separate body and entity, and not merely (as some really did used to argue) a growth on or in the female body.  There used to be feminists who would say that it was more like an appendix or even-this was seriously maintained-a tumor. That nonsense seems to have stopped.  Of the considerations that have stopped it, one is the fascinating and moving view provided by the sonogram, and another is the survival of ‘premature’ babies of feather-like weight, who have achieved ‘viability’ outside the womb. … The words ‘unborn child,’ even when used in a politicized manner, describe a material reality.”
-Christopher Hitchens, God is Not Great (pp. 220-21)

It seems to me that the confusion many people have when I tell them I am a pro-life Atheist happens to originate from their perception that Atheism and pro-life activism are incompatible. This is a half-century old product of religion's disproportionate obsession with the issue and the subsequent and illogical 'We want to be everything you're not!' attitude of Atheists. The middle ground, a pro-life Atheist (or a pro-choice theist), doesn't seem to suit either side. I think it is fair to call us the step-child of the pro-life movement. Arguing against abortion goes beyond the policies or teachings of any religious text. It is not an issue restricted only to the religious but rather an issue concerning human rights and therefore defies the labels of religion, political affiliation, race, gender, sexual orientation, and so on. If we can agree that abortion wrongfully takes the life of a living human being, then all other labels which define our individuality should be irrelevant to the issue at hand.

- A pro-life[r] Atheist
  Patrick Ptomey

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Missing the Point

Just yesterday, tens of thousands of pro-life people gathered in Washington, D.C., for the annual March for Life to protest the legalization of abortion. Recent years have seen as many as 300,000 participants march and this year's numbers are still being calculated. If you've ever attended the march or seen photos you've surely noticed the diversity of ages, gender, races, school affiliations, and churches represented. The pro-life movement does not have a single face. Despite this claim, one can't help but acknowledge that if the pro-life movement did have a face it would be the Catholic church. It's no secret that the pro-life movement has a strong tie to Christian beliefs and values. Despite abortion being a human rights issue, religion has been the largest force behind the pro-life momentum for nearly four decades.

I'm not one to entirely denounce religion's involvement in the movement. After all, I do believe that connecting with others on a spiritual level sometimes may result in saving an unborn child from abortion. However, I'm not afraid to criticize the position that religion has obtained in the movement thanks to the majority of pro-lifers. It can go without arguing that the vast majority of people who associate with the pro-life movement do so because of their Christian beliefs and/or upbringing. Despite a belief in Christianity being the single largest common belief amongst pro-lifers (ignoring the fact that they are all pro-life), a recent poll by The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life suggests that being Christian doesn't constitute a belief in rights for the unborn. (1)

Religion in the United States (1)
Christian: 78.4%
Non-Religious: 16.1%
All other Religions (Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, other): 4.7%
Don't Know/Refuse: 0.8%

Out of the 78.4% of Americans who are Christian (1)
51.3% are Protestant
23.9% are Catholic
and 3.3% are of other denominations (Mormon, Jehovah's Witness, etc.)

Now for the interesting part
Despite the Catholic church's strict and public position against abortion, 55% of American Catholics say abortion should be legal, compared to 68% of non-evangelical Protestants, and 39% of evangelical Protestants. (1) This suggests that most Christians, by a slim margin, are actually pro-choice, or more appropriately, believe that abortion should be legal in all cases! Who would have thought?!

One more thing. According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, 65% of women who obtained abortions in 2008 identified themselves as Christian (37% Protestant, 28% Catholic). Based on disproportionate ratios, it is necessary to note that those who identified themselves as non-religious or adhering to other religions are much more likely to have an abortion. (2)

So why  does the pro-life movement continue to treat abortion like it is a religious issue instead of a human rights issue? The pro-choice movement is seeing more Christians associate themselves with abortion rights and those who are most at risk for abortion are being shunned by the pro-life movement's Christian propaganda. The science is there. We know when life begins. We understand fetal development. The facts are on our side, yet we choose to carry around signs that say "Pray to end Abortion" and "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you". We approach a pregnant woman who is walking into the abortion clinic and hand her a brochure with Jesus on the front instead of a fetal development brochure. It is clear that for the last 39 years the pro-life movement has had one goal above all, serve thy God first. Our original goal of ending abortion and its causes have been overshadowed by our tendency to glorify God in the process. If we can be certain about one thing, it is that as a whole the pro-life movement does not benefit by being associated with Christianity. Abortion will remain legal in the United States until we treat it as a human rights issue, regardless of what religions may say.

As we begin to prepare for the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, I challenge all pro-life leaders and followers to change the way they approach the abortion issue. Currently, when we speak to each other about the issue, we often times reference God and the Bible to justify our position on abortion. What we fail to realize is that this apologetic, which may appeal to like-minded Christians, doesn't appeal to people with different belief systems. We're preaching to the choir and ignoring the section of the population who are most likely to have abortions because we fail to adapt our message appropriately. Instead, approach the issue from a secular angle. You will see that you have the opportunity to reach so many more people. Atheists and other non-religious people and religious minorities will be more open to your arguments because you are speaking in an agreeable language called 'facts'.

In the past, Biblical arguments against abortion prevented the majority of Americans from identifying and agreeing with pro-life beliefs (with the exception of one poll in 2009 that suggested 51% of the nation was pro-life for the first time since 1973). Statistically speaking, by using secular arguments we have a better opportunity of changing the minds of 57% of the population. For once, we may have more than 51% of the population identify themselves as pro-life because people with differences in religious beliefs won't feel unwanted or unwelcome within a secular pro-life movement.

(1) The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. U.S. Religion Landscape Survey. N/D.
(2) Jones RK, Finer LB and Singh S, Characteristics of U.S. Abortion Patients, 2008, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2010.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

One Thing

What's the one thing that you want in life?

If you were guaranteed a single thing and everything else was a product of fate, what would you choose?


I want one thing and I won't say what it is, but it would bring me so much more. It would have a compounding effect. I don't know if I will ever have it. I remain optimistic that someday I will have it despite everything that says it won't happen. I'm just not willing to give up, yet. It could be the best or worst thing that has ever happened to me. Hopefully its not the latter.

Despite my efforts to obtain it I am falling behind. I'm losing it. I've already lost it and now I'm just trying to get it back. Really, I may have never had it to begin with. I fell off.

If I was guaranteed a single thing, I know what it would be.
But I'm not.
And I don't know if I will ever have it.
I guess that's the game of life.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Just a Contemplative Rant

I'm not perfect.
I'm far from it.

Sure the saying 'Nobody's perfect' holds some truth, but I still aim for perfection. Perhaps it's not perfection that I am aspiring to reach but rather success. I want so much in life. As a kid I had high hopes. I never imagined experiencing any low points in life. My vision of life was comprised of success through hard work. A beautiful family supported by an abundance of wealth and recognition. Surely I'm not the only one to have such big aspirations.

When I was younger I remember telling some of my friends that I would be a millionaire someday. I didn't know how I would get there, but it was bound to happen; just watch. Today, I still optimistically believe that I will be a millionaire. My life has changed and upon graduation next year I will be $100,000 in debt. The sad thing is that I'm closer to owing one million dollars than I am to actually being worth one million dollars.

If you asked me where I wanted to be in 10 years I would respond with the following: working at a landscape architecture/urban design firm in the city (no preference of city), possibly married by then, maybe even have a kid on the way, and most importantly be satisfied with where I'm at in life.

Is satisfaction even attainable? I doubt it.

How can I be happy in life if it's impossible to be satisfied? Must I have to settle for less? Maybe so, but I'm not one for putting on a fake smile. I need to find the satisfaction in life and the pleasure derived from it. Without it I'm still a lost child.

There are so many things that I wish I had going for me. I am at the lowest point in my life. Hopefully I never experience this low again. Don't feel sad for me, these are consequences of my actions and maybe I will learn from them and grow. Sometimes I sit in bed and wonder what the future holds for me. Or maybe that's the problem. Planning for the future, or more appropriately put - wishing for the future, doesn't ever seem to work out. Some say I shouldn't set my goals so high but I can't comprehend that. There is no satisfaction in being unhappy. Then again, look where I am now. My life is like a gambling problem. I'm betting high in hopes that I will hit it big at least once.

Friday, January 13, 2012

People Treat Religion like it is a Sport

During my four-hour drive home I drove by a truck which had a trailer attached to it. The back of the trailer read "Follow me to the Miracle" in big letters. At first I thought it was promoting some business named Miracle, but as I drove past the trailer I noticed it had a couple cross decals that said "Jesus Saves" written inside of them. I thought to myself, 'Why would anyone feel compelled to promote their religion as they drive down the highway?'. Furthermore, I was really curious to know what miracle this trailer was talking about. Was it just a scheme? Why would anyone need to promote a miracle?

It got me thinking about how often people promote their religion. In fact, it reminded me of sports. As we know, sports is competitive in nature; but so is religion. Each of the major religions and their denominations are vying for your support and adherence. Followers of religion are more accurately labeled 'fans'. Coincidentally, so are the supporters of each sports team.

Think about these similarities:
Venues where fans can meet
Customs and traditions
Public advertisements (billboards, commercials, signs)
Car decals
And if Jesus had a number, you can bet there would be a jersey with his name on it.

You see, people treat religion like it's a game, a match between two teams - their religion vs. the other religions. But it's not a game. If it were then we would be in some serious overtime. I don't understand the necessity to treat religion like a game where there is winners and losers and everyone is trying to be the champion. There is no need to publicize your religion or establish a fan base. To be fair, Atheism isn't any better. I guess we could flip everything around and come to the conclusion that sports is like a religion. That is all.

Have you spotted any other similarities?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Her Beautiful Face

Inside my heart, I have an emotion I can't seem to rid myself of. By 'emotion', I mean a fondness towards a certain individual. I don't want to call it love. If you've read my previous blogs, you should know where I stand on the use of that word. But it's a close second to love. It's a strong case of affection and infatuation stemming from lust. It's safe to say that I still have a crush despite the eight month passing period. This is not something that I particularly feel comfortable posting for friends, family, and even strangers to freely access. It's a small and very insignificant story in my life, yet still very personal. I'm not exactly proud of this story, but I don't regret it whatsoever, no matter how much time or feelings of affection it has cost me. This blog is like my diary, and this insert is for my eyes only, however some of you may happen to find the key.

Sometime near the end of January and beginning of February of this year, I got in touch with a beautiful young woman who I had spoken to in years previous but had never been able to have a full dialogue with. This was partially due to the nature of our meeting. We met on the internet. As embarrassing as it is for me to admit this, it's a necessary detail to this story. The great thing about meeting people on the internet is that you don't have to settle for the people within a 20 mile radius of you, you can meet people you otherwise would probably never  meet. She was one of those people. With me living in Kansas and her living in Minnesota, we didn't expect anything more than a friendship mixed with a little admiration. As is customary procedure these days, we friended each other on Facebook and familiarized ourselves with the life of the other. She was and still is the most beautiful girl I know, and having the opportunity to be something special to her meant a great deal to me.

We sent each other text messages and soon began to call each other in the evenings, sometimes staying on the phone till 4am. Despite having a demanding schedule, I hardly ever passed up an opportunity to talk to her. I had only ever seen pictures of her, but the phone conversations made our relationship so much more realistic. Through the conversations we learned of each others' backgrounds, details, and personalities. Her smile made me melt, her laugh was contagious, and her stories were captivating. I think it is safe to say we 'clicked'. Things felt right to me.

We both knew that developing a long-distance relationship (not dating) wouldn't be preferable and although we had set this ground rule, our feelings for each other grew quick. I knew that it wasn't going to be pretty if and when things came to a close. It got to the point where I thought of her at night and woke up to thoughts of her in the morning. All day long she was on my mind and it didn't help that we exchanged text messages throughout the day. When I took a field trip to Denver, she texted me for nearly four hours to cure my boredom from the bus ride. The things we learned of each other during those four hours were welcoming and revealing. It was a good conversation.

It may have been too good. Our feelings for each other had already become more than we had intended them to be. At this point it was hard to recede our feelings for one another. We had reached a special place in each others' heart. We had talks of one day visiting each other, meeting up half way to split the driving time. I think it is appropriate to say we had a connection that we both felt strong about.

Towards the end of March, things began to fall apart. She no longer text me every day. At first that didn't bother me. I'm not one to make assumptions or come up with answers to questions I don't have the knowledge to explain. I gave her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she was busy. Maybe she realized things were moving too fast and wanted to slow down. I didn't care what it was. It may have worried me that it was unusual not to hear from her within 24 hours, but I was more worried about never talking to her again, so I gave her time and space in hopes that things would soon return to the way they had been. As our contact became far and few between, partially in part to my passive attitude, I grew more worried that the one girl whom I actually had feelings for was losing her feelings for me. In my typical 'lover not a fighter' attitude, I let her go - in the sense that I felt she ultimately knew what made her happy and I wasn't going to chase after her. Days turned into weeks, and weeks into months. I thought of her every day. It was sickening. It was heart-breaking. I would scroll through her Facebook pictures admiring her beauty wishing that I had a reason to call her up and converse one more time. I can't remember how many times I contemplated sending her Facebook messages professing my doubts and feelings of affection towards her.

It got to the point where I was so obsessed with her that the loss of contact was hard to handle at times. If I tried to push her to the back of my mind, she was still on my mind. I felt the best thing for me to do was to delete her from my list of Facebook friends. I needed to move on and that was a hard but necessary step. To this day, I still think of her regularly. I don't recall so much of our conversations, but I sometimes envision her beautiful face in all its perfection. I'm tempted to put a picture of her face here, but that wouldn't be fair to her. If she were my girl, I think you could tell I wouldn't have a problem bragging about her. I sometimes find myself looking at my phone anticipating a text from her. A Facebook message would suffice. Perhaps she will come across this blog someday and decide to give me a call. She knows who she is.

As you can see, this is not exactly something to be proud of. I met a girl online, developed deep, unnecessary feelings for her, and continue to think of her four months after I deleted her from my Facebook. It's shameful that I acted so childishly and let my guard down with someone I had never even met in person. We led each other on to a point that was impossible to successfully recover from.

There are so many things in this story that I am embarrassed to admit, but that is why I call this my diary. I am writing this because for such a long time I have wanted to jot down my feelings, and the idea of strangers reading this both excites me and scares me at the same time. I don't know what the future holds for me, but I sincerely hope that we cross paths someday and are able to give this a real try. That would be wonderful. I don't think there is any chance I will be forgetting about her any time soon.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Kids These Days

Wow, I'm partially amused and partially put off.

I just watched my 13 year old sister get asked on a date via Facebook!
Kids these days...
What ever happened to just asking a girl out for a coke; in the words of my grandpa?

It really is amazing how much Facebook has changed our culture in the last 8 years. Facebook is a great way to network...and creep...

Not that I was creeping on my sister...

The conversation appeared on my news feed and I watched it unfold. Teenagers in their natural environment are a funny thing. I knew where this convo was headed after I checked out his profile and saw that my sister had 'like'ed every one  of his profile pictures! I was curious to see how my sister would respond to this boy. We all remember our teenage years and the first times we approached someone for a date. Most of us probably regret it haha. I certainly wish I could take back a few words to save myself from the latter embarrassment.

It's certainly amusing to see someone getting asked out on date over Facebook, especially if it's your little sister. Part of me wanted to cock block this boy, but at the same time I want my sister to be happy. I figured I'd let this play out. I couldn't resist from texting her, so I told her to say yes, only if he offers to pay.

Check out their conversation below. It's 100% awkward.