me they don’t really understand how a secularist can defend the pro-life
position. Sure, they get that we don’t need religion to understand fetal
development, and we don’t need to believe in a god to recognize that abortion is
violence. But they trip over how a secularist could defend the pro-life view on a metaphysical level. Why should
secularists care about fetal development or the violence of abortion? What
transcendent reason do we have to care about human life in the first place?
words, these Christian pro-life friends of mine want to know how I, as a
secularist, can truly defend the pro-life position without the Imago Dei.
Christians believe the Imago Dei is why we humans are valuable in the first
place and why we’re more valuable than other species. If there’s no special
connection to God, if there’s no soul, many Christians have a hard time
understanding why we should value humans any more than any other random
collections of atoms meandering through existence.
question moves the conversation beyond the abortion debate. Christian pro-lifers aren’t asking secular
pro-lifers why we care about fetuses. They’re asking why we care about anyone
|Got this pic from an advice column about atheists and morals.|
times we secularists take offense to the question. We think Christians are
saying secularists can’t or shouldn’t care about anyone, as if, by
definition, we can’t be good people. We think Christians are saying we
inherently suck. And yes, sure, there are some Christians who actually think
that. But most of the Christians I know aren’t saying that at all. They aren’t
saying “You can’t be good.” They’re
saying “You clearly are good. I just don’t get where you believe your goodness comes
from.” It’s not an accusation, it’s a curiosity.
we hear it that way? Here’s the problem. Suppose a Christian (call him “Bob”)
asks an atheist (call her “Sue”) the following: “If there’s no god, why shouldn’t
we murder people?” Bob means, “If there’s no god, there’s no objective
morality. If there’s no objective morality, what objective moral reason can we have not to kill each
other?” But Sue hears, “If there’s no god, shouldn’t we just start killing each
other?” Then Sue kind of worries that if Bob ever loses his faith he’ll become
a homicidal maniac. That’s where we get memes like this:
the communication breakdown? It’s like if Bob asked Sue, “Why, in your opinion,
is the sky blue?” and Sue heard either “If you don’t believe in God, you aren’t
allowed to think the sky is blue” or “If I didn’t believe in God, I would no
longer think the sky is blue.”
analogy, Secular Pro-Life purposely doesn’t articulate a position on why the
sky is blue. We start with the premise that the sky is blue, and go from there.
That is, we start with the premise that human beings are valuable, and build
our pro-life position off of that.
One of the reasons we take this approach is because secularists
don’t have one unifying reason for why human beings are valuable. Secular people use a wide assortment of ethical approaches to reach the same conclusion.
who have a specific, unified answer to why humans are valuable (the Imago Dei),
sometimes find our secular stance incomplete, since we avoid the question. Some
of my Christian pro-life friends have asked me how SPL can reach out to other
secularists if we don’t offer some metaphysical answers.
the thing: other secularists aren’t usually looking for metaphysical answers. I have
never, not once, had a secularist sincerely ask me to explain why we should
care about other human beings. It’s only Christians who ask me that, and only
in the context of trying to understand our different religious perspectives.
secularists aren’t looking for reasons to care about humanity. They already care. They already believe murder is wrong and that we should take care of one
another. The secular abortion debate is not about whether human beings are
valuable. In most circles, that premise is just a given. The secular abortion
debate is about whether the fetus counts as a human being and, if so, whether
that’s enough to trump bodily rights. And since those are the premises
secularists debate, those are the premises SPL focuses on.
all agree the sky is blue even if we don’t articulate why, we can all agree
human beings are valuable even if we don’t dig into why. If you really want to
get into the “why,” that’s fine, but understand that, to most secularists, that’s
a religious debate. Not an abortion debate.