Showing posts with label Abortion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Abortion. Show all posts

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Abortion And Anti-Natalism Part 2: The Pro-Choice Argument

No issue continues to be as divisive as abortion. The polls on the ethics of abortion have not significantly budged in the past few decades, with no clear majorities for it or against it. As a negative utilitarian who is sympathetic to the ideas in anti-natalism (but who isn't an anti-natalist), I am naturally pro-choice as a result. I see it as excessively immoral to force a woman to give birth with total disregard to her circumstance, or the future baby's circumstance. 

But abortion still needs to be argued for, especially given its controversies. I think the pro-choice crowd has in general failed to make a strong case for the ethics of the pro-choice position, whereas the pro-life crowd has vehemently made many cases against abortion. The reason why is obvious: abortion is the law of the land, and therefore pro-lifers are more motivated to make the case against abortion than pro-choices are to make the case for it's morality and legality. And this has the potential to turn the tide of opinion in favor of outlawing abortion, which could motivate politicians to implement stronger anti-abortion restrictions, despite the supreme court's 1973 decision. 

So in making the case for the ethics and legality of abortion I want to start where I think many pro-choicers fail. A common argument many in the pro-choice side make is that the fetus isn't human and isn't alive and that therefore aborting it isn't killing a living human being. I don't think it's necessary to claim this to defend abortion, and I also think it's wrong. A fetus has human DNA, making it genetically identifiable as human or homo sapien, and it is a living organism, requiring food that it metabolizes into energy to subsist. So I think this common argument forces the pro-choice position into defending two claims that are indefensible and ultimately unnecessary in defending abortion, and they should be dropped. It is simply unnecessary to claim a fetus isn't human or alive to justify abortion.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Abortion And Anti-Natalism Part 1: Anti-Natalism Analyzed

It recently occurred to me that I've never made a formal argument for abortion on my blog, although I've certainly touched on the topic in various posts. I've been inspired to write about abortion because of my recent interest in the idea of anti-natalism. So I plan on spending two blog posts writing my thoughts about each topic, culminating in an argument for the ethics of abortion.

Anti-natalism is the view that not procreating is preferable to procreating because life necessarily involves some degree of suffering and there is an asymmetric relationship between suffering and pleasure such that the experience of suffering outweighs the experience of pleasure. So for example, on that latter part, imagine you were offered a week long vacation to anywhere in the world where you can do anything you wanted and all expenses would be paid for you making it totally free. But, in order to get the free vacation, you must submit to a certain amount of physical torture first. This physical torture would involve massive amounts of pain but not include any life lasting physical defects, like broken bones, scars, etc. Just pain. You also get to negotiate how long the torture will be, with the ability to bargain it down. The bargaining starts at 1 week in length, the same length as the vacation. The question is: what would be the longest amount of time you'd be willing to be tortured for a week long all-expenses paid vacation in paradise? Would you be willing to be tortured for a week? A day? An hour? A minute? A second? None at all? Chances are the maximum amount of time of torture you'd be willing to endure is not equal to the amount of time of pleasure you'd get on the vacation. In other words, if you were forced to endure an equal duration of torture to the pleasure of the vacation, you would likely not agree to the deal.

And that's because you recognize that there's an asymmetry between pain and pleasure. 1 minute at the spa getting pampered is not equal to 1 minute of torture. Now what exactly that ratio is between pain and pleasure is perhaps subjective, but virtually all of us recognize that there is an asymmetry, and we factor that into our calculations for ourselves and our loved ones when we make a cost-benefit analysis of difficult ethical conundrums.

And therein lies the basic argument for anti-natalism:

  1. Suffering is guaranteed in every human life. 
  2. Because there is an asymmetry between suffering and pleasure, such that the impact of suffering far outweighs pleasure, 
  3. In the moral calculus to have a child the heavier weight of the potential suffering overrides the weight of potential pleasure.
  4. And thus, it is better to not have a child than to have one.

Friday, November 25, 2016

We Are Still A Liberal Country

November 8th was not a referendum on liberal vs conservative values. First, it's important to remember that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by over 2 million votes and counting. Second, this election was not about the traditional social issues like same sex marriage and abortion. It was about jobs, trade, and immigration. Now yes, while it's true that building the border wall and deporting illegal immigrants is a strong conservative view, immigration is not a typical social issue in the same way that same sex marriage and abortion is.

So as a socially progressive liberal, Trump's election didn't really phase me. The American people are not turning the clock back on decades of social progress and going back to the close minded views of the past. More Americans will be moving towards liberal views on same sex marriage, abortion, marijuana legalization, and more Americans are will be becoming increasingly secular in the coming years. Our attitudes on political correctness, long associated with liberals, will probably have to be reconsidered in light of Trump's win, but that's something I personally support.

It is true that legally speaking, many policies and laws can regress back to past decades. It is possible that a Supreme Court packed with conservative justices can roll back certain progressive decisions that might effect us for decades. And that's scary. We might see creationism back in the schools, the 10 commandments back on public court houses, and Roe v Wade struck down. So there will be no doubt many epic legal challenges over the next 4 years due to Trump's win and my friends and I are already talking strategy about what we may need to do. This is a time for action. Let's hope Trump's win unites atheists, secularists, and liberals like never before. It's time now to set aside minor disagreements and to focus on the big battles up ahead.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Election 2016 - Who I'm Voting For & My Election Prediction

This Tuesday is election day and I find myself for the first time in a troubled situation. There is no one on the ballot that I really support. Unlike in 2008 and 2012 where I was a pretty strong Obama supporter, this year there isn't anyone I'm enthusiastic about.

Obviously this election is different than most years because of Donald Trump. It's the first time we have a major party candidate who has no political experience I think since George Washington. He's rambunctious, foul-mouthed, unconventional, and a little crazy — to say the least. Trump becoming president is terrifying on so many levels. He lies through his teeth so blatantly and with such utter disregard for truth that he's taken the concept of the "lying politician" to a new level. Indeed, his brain seems to be impervious to facts. He's proposing filling the Supreme Court with Scalia clones, which if another justice dies in the next four years will tip the court conservative enough to reverse Roe v Wage and Obergefell v. Hodges, effectively turning abortion and same-sex marriage back to the states. Trump has no serious knowledge of the way government works, or the world, and he as all but the most simplistic understanding of the political issues our next president is going to have to deal with. He's a wild card, unpredictable, capable of undermining our democracy and stability, and his VP pick Mike Pence is one of the most conservative members of the Religious Right in the nation.

If Trump is going to win he has a narrow margin in the electoral college. Here's a possible winning scenario for him. Trump would have to win Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Michigan. If not Michigan, he'd have to win Pennsylvania. He also has to win Iowa. Or if he loses Iowa, he has to win New Hampshire and all the typically Republican states. Hillary Clinton just has to win just two of those states and Trump's done. The electoral college heavily favors democrats.

Click the map to create your own at

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Both Mainstream Political Options Totally Suck

And now for some political rants....

So this week we learned who the republican and democratic vice presidents are going to be. Donald Trump has picked Indiana governor Mike Pence as his running mate, and Hillary Clinton picked Virginia senator Tim Kaine as her running mate.

A few thoughts.

First, Mike Pence is a very socially conservative tea party favorite who denies climate change, evolution, and was even against the medical consensus that smoking causes cancer. He's about as bad as Ted Cruz is on religion and socially conservative issues. Earlier this year he signed a bill in Indiana that would have made it mandatory that aborted and miscarried fetuses be given a funeral and are either cremated or buried. Luckily it didn't pass. He supported a law that would have allowed businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians due to religiously held beliefs, called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Then when it became controversial he backtracked on it. But still, you can see where his heart is. Pence is a deeply religious social conservative, and as a secular liberal that scares me. Combine this with Trump's arrogant disregard for facts and strong arm bully tactics, this could be a very frightening combination that I do not want to get near the White House. Trump will almost certainly appoint Supreme Court justices that want to restrict abortion rights, violate the establishment clause, and support "religious freedom" bills.

On the democratic side, things are no better. Senator Kaine is everything Bernie supporting progressives like me were fearful of. He's another boring, status-quo establishment politician, with a track record way too favorable to the donor class. He supported giving president Obama the ability to fast track the TPP (trans-pacific partnership trade agreement) which would, among other things, make it easier for corporations to sue the US government for profit losses due to environmental standards. The Clinton campaign has said he would officially come out against the TPP, but he has reportedly praised the TPP as recently as Thursday, making his opposition to it about as sincere as Clinton's is, which is to say he's full of shit. He signed a repeal of the estate tax in Virginia, something conservatives have been vying for. He has also supported bank deregulations. In all, he's a corporate friendly centrist democrat, far from the progressive that many of us had hoped for.

So where does that leave me? I'm in a fix here. I'm not excited about either ticket. They both suck to be honest. I've been thinking that I should vote for the lesser of two evils but I'm being pulled in the direction of voting on principle. There is the Green Party alternative Jill Stein who basically has the same platform as Bernie Sanders. Many Sanders supporters I know will be voting for her. It is hard to see myself voting for Clinton that serves as a vote against Trump. I've even heard a liberal friend of mine say Trump will be better for the country than Clinton. I'm skeptical about that, but it's possible. I'm going to have to wait until November to make my decision.

The interesting thing is that this year, unlike any other election year we've had in recent history, the republican party's platform is to the left of the democratic party's platform on trade and some economic issues. Perhaps what the democrats need is to get their asses handed to them in the general election so that the party realizes establishment candidates like Clinton and Kaine who aren't real populists aren't what the American people want. This will be an interesting general election.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Thoughts On Circumcision

I got into a debate on circumcision recently and I thought I'd offer my thoughts on this touchy subject. I'm against forced circumcision of any kind, on both males and females, unless there is a clear medical necessity. I think it's child abuse and it should be illegal to circumcise anyone under the age of 16. I would support a law that enforced this and that made no religious or cultural exceptions. Here are some of the reasons why I'm against forced circumcision which I personally think should be a moral no-brainer.

I'm against forced circumcision because babies and young children do not have the capacity to consent to having a part of their genitalia cut off. They are the most vulnerable members of society and to force circumcision on them is to violate their right to bodily integrity.

I'm against forced circumcision because it removes sensitive nerve endings that are there for sexual sensation, and it dulls sexual pleasure. This can cause sexual dysfunction in men and make it harder to achieve an erection or have an orgasm. In women, female circumcision seeks to remove the ability to have an orgasm entirely, denying them nearly all sexual pleasure for the rest of their lives.

I'm against forced circumcision because it is often done in unhygienic conditions and where there is no anesthesia given to the baby or child. This has lead to many deaths and medical complications that have impaired the sexual abilities of those who've had it done sometimes for the rest of their lives.

I'm against forced circumcision because the claims that it prevents AIDs and other STDs have been overblown or outright lied about. As reported in Psychology Today, the studies claiming circumcision reduced risk of HIV infection "had many flaws, including that they were stopped before all the results came in. There have also been several studies that show that circumcision does not prevent HIV (Connolly 2008)." Additionally, "In the USA, during the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 90s, about 85% of adult men were circumcised (much higher rates of circumcision than in Africa), and yet HIV still spread."

I'm against forced circumcision because of the psychological damage it can have on those who it's been done to. As reported in Psychology Today, the pain experienced during circumcision can alter the brain, making people "more sensitive to pain later in life (Taddio et al., 1997)."

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Value Judgments On Human Life

I'm not trying to make an argument for abortion here, but as I see it, there is a very striking difference between someone who's lived and has been conscious and was able to contemplate life, have dreams, have thoughts of love and happiness, and someone who's never consciously experienced  any of those things, at all, ever. It is a qualitative difference and it seems to me a very natural distinction. There is something much more worse about killing the former and much less worse about killing the latter. I understand people disagree. But even if I were pro-choice, I think I'd still be able to tell that there was a significant difference between the two. There are not equally the same. And if forced to kill one or the other, one is clearly preferred over the other. I hope that is obvious.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Question To Pro-life Conservatives


If every illegal immigrant female in the US became pregnant right now, what would you choose given only these two options:

(1) would you rather have 7 or 8 million more anchor babies born in the US nine months from now; or
(2) would you rather have all of them have an abortion


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Ted Cruz Is Wrong On "New York Values"

Presidential candidate and former Canadian national Ted Cruz recently said that his rival Donald Trump embodies "New York values" as a way to insinuate that Trump is out of line with most of America. When pressed on exactly what he meant by New York values Cruz said that it refers to liberal values like abortion and same sex marriage.

"[E]veryone understands that the values in New York City are socially liberal or pro-abortion or pro-gay-marriage, focus around money and the media," Cruz said in last week's Republican debate.

"They're not Iowa values," he said on Fox News, "and they're not New Hampshire values."

Oh really?

Are liberal "New York values" on abortion and gay marriage really all that different from the rest of the country? Actually, no. They're not.

Pew recently conducted a poll where 55% of Americans "Favor allowing gays and lesbains to marry legally."And Gallup conducted a poll where 60% of Americans said same sex marriage "Should be valid." This number is only going to get bigger and bigger given current demographic trends. Interestingly, New Hampshire was one of the earliest states to legalize gay marriage and did so even before New York.

On abortion, Gallup conducted a poll that showed 50% of Americans identify as pro-choice and 44% identify as pro-life. A Quinnipiac poll in late 2015 showed that 57% of Americans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and 40% think it should be illegal in most or all cases.

Most Americans favor legal abortion and gay marriage. New York values are American values, Ted.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

If I Was Aborted

With republicans in Washington having recently voted over the funding of Planned Parenthood due to the recent flurry over their legal practice of selling fetal tissue for medical research, I decided to chime in on the issue of abortion from a perspective that I'm not sure has been done before. I want to write from the position of the fetus.

My view on abortion is very clear. I am pro-choice. I always have been. I have my reasons for my view. But of course, being pro-choice in a country that legally allows abortion, I could have been aborted. In fact, in the early eighties when I was born, more abortions happened per 1,000 women than at any time in American history. I made it through, but it could have been me. If I was aborted, obviously I wouldn't be able to write any of this. So I want to imagine for a moment and entertain a hypothetical scenario, one in which I speak from the position of a fetus who could've been aborted but who is alive to tell about it with the ability to think and reason given what I know now. Here's what I'd say.

When I was a fetus in my mother's womb I was not an independent person. I was part of her body. She had total control over what she can do with her body. If she had decided to abort me, that is fully her decision. I would not feel bad in any way if my mother had aborted me, even knowing what I know now and having had all the joys, struggles, and experiences of life. In fact, my concern would not be about me and my life, but about my mother and her condition. If having me would have caused a substantial burden on her life and if she didn't think she had the ability to handle me, or if she just didn't feel like it was a good idea to have a child, then my concern would be that she do whatever she thought was best for her at that time. I'd fully accept that this could include aborting me. I would not want to be a substantial burden on her life and cause her much suffering and hardship. Her condition and well being was more important than my life, as I was part of her and not an independent person. I did not have a right to life. And regarding the issue of using fetal tissue for medical research, if I was already going to be aborted, I'd actually prefer that my body be used for medical research, rather than just being thrown in the trash.

Friday, September 18, 2015

I Have A Political Deal For Social Conservatives

Hey Conservatives,

If you're the kind of conservative that supports forcing a woman watch an ultrasound of her fetus before she's allowed to have an abortion, then maybe we can make a deal. If we allow this, then as a deal, would you support forcing people about to purchase any meat to have to watch this video below before they're allowed to?


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Religious Believers: If You're Against Church/State Separation, Here's How It's Gonna Work

In light of the recent uproar over the refusal by Rowan County clerk Kim Davis to issue marriage licences to anyone in her county due to her "deeply-held" religious belief against same sex marriage, and her subsequent jail time, I've been motivated to write about an idea I've been entertaining on what a legal system could look like if government and religion were in business together.

Imagine if the government legally forced every religious person to live according to the rules of their religion so that they had to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. They would not be allowed to pick and choose which religious rules they wanted to live by or force others to live by. It would work like this. Everyone would have to register their religious affiliation with the government. For whatever religion you register with, special laws would apply to you on top of civil laws from that religion. So if you register as a Catholic, it would be illegal for you to divorce, or to use any contraception, have abortions, masturbate, have any sex outside of marriage, and even watch pornography. Your internet service provider would have to block pornographic websites from being accessed. If you register as a Muslim, it would be illegal to eat pork, drink alcohol, eat during Ramadan, have any sex outside of marriage, watch porn, and daily prayer would be mandatory.

All the special religious rules would be laws that each member of the religion would have to adhere to, under penalty of the law. Failure obey these laws would result in anything ranging from a fine, to a prison sentence. Your religion would be displayed on your state issued ID, so a liquor store clerk would be able to see if you were Muslim and trying to buy alcohol, and a convenient store clerk would be able to see if you were a Christian and trying to buy condoms, and they would be obligated to refuse to sell it to you. All the regular secular laws that exist would still apply to everyone, but the religious laws would apply in addition to them for registered religious adherents. If the two were in conflict, there'd be a general preference for secular law over religious law, so if someone's religion allowed human sacrifice, or wife beating, it would still be illegal for them.

Friday, January 31, 2014

I'd Be Scared To Be A Republican

The republicans are losing the American public on almost every front. They're clinging desperately to outdated morality from bygone eras in the wide-eyed hopes that they will one day become the cultural and political paradigms again. But here's a news flash: we are never going back to those "puritan" times that republicans fantasize about. Ever. The momentum of the culture is rapidly swinging against their favor and it's hopelessly naive to not recognize this. Younger Americans are even changing their mind on socialism, with almost half of 18-29 year olds viewing it favorably, according to a new Pew survey. So if you're a staunchly conservative republican who supports "traditional marriage," unfettered capitalism, and you're against contraception, abortion and secularism, your demographic is shriveling up like an old man with shrinkage.

If I were a conservative or a republican, I'd be really scared of these trends. The big money spent to brainwash the masses via the likes of Fox News and World Net Daily will only go so far. It seems that the only way the republican agenda will be able to survive this massive cultural paradigm shift away from their values will be through the support of a handful of wealthy donors like the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson. But as the republican base of older, rural, white Americans begins to die off, all that big money spending will increasingly become less and less effective. And republicans know this. So what we've seen in response are increasingly unfair tactics employed by the republicans to try and win elections. Jerrymandering is a prime example, but eventually none of it will be enough. When generation Y and X are in power, liberal values will be the norm, and those who are in support of conservative values will be all but shut out. They will be left to certain rural districts of the country and could disappear from the radar altogether as this century marches onward. What we'd see would be the death of the far right, replaced by a moderate conservative wing, resembling something like today's libertarian party e.g. liberal social values coupled with conservative economic policies.

As a liberal, I of course see this all as something immensely positive, especially after surviving the hellish ordeal of the Bush years. But I cannot imagine what it must be like to be a republican today - that is to say, a republican who isn't insulated in the bubble and who thinks that the party is doing just fine and that any day now we'll just start repealing all the liberal advances society has made thus far. To be a republican who lives in reality must be a scary thing.

That said, the future looks good for liberalism, at least in the West, but we've still got plenty of struggle ahead.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Hipster Atheism

When I'm out drinking around town and strike up conversations with strangers, I often want to talk about beliefs. I'm fascinated about exploring other people's worldviews. Lately, most of the young people that I've talked to have all been atheists. This may not come as a surprise given that I live in New York - a very liberal city and a third of all Americans under 30 have no religion, but here in New York the number of atheists/non-theists seems to be much higher than a third. It seems to be a majority.

New York has one of the largest hipster communities in the world, and Williamsburg (which is only a few miles from where I live) is considered the official hipster capital of the world. I don't have official statistics, but in my experiences with the hipster community, atheism or agnosticism seems to be rampant. Atheism seems to be "cool" with the fashionably conscious. It's very rare - almost never, that I run into a young person who actually believes in a theistic god within the context of a particular religion. While I think it's fucking awesome that so many young people are catching onto atheism in numbers that have never been seen before in the US, I certainly want to keep atheism a plausible intellectual position and not just some trend that will be jettisoned once it gets too popular. That's because once something goes "mainstream," hipsters are required to hate it by law, and the growing popularity of atheism might backfire if "uncool" people in backwards parts of the country start embracing it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Slow Death Of The Republican Party

Society's moral progress is going to diminish the republican party to obsolescence. I am a political junkie and have been for years and it is often humorous when the republicans are parodied in their ridiculous attempts to modernize their brand. They are losing the debate over abortion, gay marriage, healthcare, taxes, guns, how to fix the deficit, and immigration to name a few. The conservative ethics they fancy just don't appeal to enough young people anymore and their base is made up of aging old white people living in rural and suburban communities.

They know they have to compromise on these issues if they want to remain relevant in the next few decades. It will be interesting to see how exactly they do that, especially with their core conservative principles on social issues like abortion and gay marriage. I really wish that moderate republicans would break free from the party and become independents or libertarians or some other party and leave the extreme right conservative republicans alone to wither away. It'd be interesting to have a 3 party system in the US if this happened.

I think eventually most conservatives will evolve towards the left on social issues but remain conservative on government spending and taxes like libertarians are. The irony is that republicans have a dismal record on fiscal conservatism during their last few administrations in the White House.

I'm happy the country is moving to the left and I look forward to the day when the South and Midwest are as liberal as New England is. I'd still like people to keep their traditional ways however in that I don't want everyone talking and acting like a North East intellectual, just more to the left on social issues.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Roe Vs Wade: 40 Years Of Legal Abortion

I have expressed my thoughts on abortion several times already so there's no reason for me to state them again. Since it's the 40 year anniversary of the Supreme Court Roe V. Wade decision, I just want to comment on the legality of it. There are two components to the abortion debate: the legality of it, and the morality of it.

The legal debate is pretty clear. The 14th Amendment* guarantees the rights of "any person of life, liberty, or property" who are "born or naturalized in the United States". That means that citizenship rights are only given to those already born. The unborn do not qualify.

The majority of Americans want to preserve the right to access abortion services. A 2013 Pew Forum poll shows that 63 % are in favor of keeping the Roe V. Wade decision the law of the land. That's up slightly from 60 % in 1992. And while the statistics show an increase in support for the Roe V. Wade decision, and a decline in the number of people considering abortion to be a critical issue to them, the debate over the decision is far from over.

The Republican party has continued to move further to the right on the issues at the same time the country as a whole moves further to the left. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of laws passed restricting access to abortion, and it is the goal of many of the right to see Roe V. Wade overturned, or have it delegated to the states where states can make it illegal.

While I am not an abortion activist, or one who spends a lot of time arguing about it, when it comes up I make my pro-choice opinions heard. I am pro-choice not pro-abortion. I wish there were no abortions, I really do. I wish no women ever got to that position where they even had to make that choice. That can only come if they are educated and have easy access to contraception. The rates of abortion have been decreasing almost every year because of this in the US.

And what about the the actual possibility of overturning Roe V. Wade? Do conservatives really want a million more children born in the US whose mothers do not want or cannot support, and who will be more likely to need government assistance? If the conservative is in support for making abortion illegal, it is only fair that they also support increased government programs that aide mothers and their children when they are not able to afford them. I'm talking about food stamps, subsidized nursery school, subsidized parental training and the like. It's only being consistent, and it's only being fair.

* The Fourteenth Amendment Section 1:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Why Secularism?

Debating with theists recently regarding opposing conceptions of government has lead me to ask the question: Why secularism? In other words, why do I believe in a secular government? Is secularism a religion unto itself? And is a secular government unfair to those who oppose it?

Secularism is defined as "the view that public education and other matters of civil policy should be conducted without the introduction of a religious element." Phrases like "the separation of church and state" are often evoked. Secularism is necessary in order to prevent laws from being passed that are based not on reason and science, but from a religious customs, traditions, rules and scripture. It it the absolutism of morality guided by revelation that I have such abhorrence for.

The idea is very simple: in a pluralistic society like the U.S., where many faiths are practiced, secularism becomes necessary to prevent laws from being passed and enforced onto people that are based on another person's religion. Most of us would not want to be forced to live under the rules of a religion that we do not hold, such as Islamic Sharia. Many people who are of a particular faith also do not want their religion's rules legislated onto them because they feel that many of their religion's obligations are a matter of personal observation. This is why secularism has been so successful in the West and continues to spread around the world.

As an atheist, I want to live in a society whose laws are rational and just, and based on reason and science. Religious laws sometimes enforce conduct that when examined through the light of reason and science, make little to no sense. For example, Jews and Muslims are forbidden to eat pork. Why? Because god says so. Now imagine a law forbidding pork from being served, regardless of whether you are a Jew, Muslim or not. "Because god says so" is not a justifiable way for a law to be passed, for reasons rather obvious to the atheist and theist alike. This also gets you into the problem of just whose god will it be whose commandments get inscribed into law. You will either have to have a national religion or some sort of religious partitioning that will usually lead to prolonged conflict. To prevent all of this, separating religion from government seems to be the obvious solution.

But the argument is far from over. Let's look at some issues made by some of those critical of secularism. Some claim that secularism is itself a religion, and that a secular government is merely one that has secularism as its state religion. It is certainly possible to define religion many ways. If religion is defined as to not include a deity, but to simply represent a system of beliefs, such as a political ideology, then one could twist out an argument that makes secularism look like an imposing force like so many theocracies today and of years past. The problem here, is that if you dilute the definition of religion to include any set of beliefs, then every belief could be come a religion. In other words, being a democrat or a republican can be your religion. Being a socialist or a capitalist can be your religion. So then under this diluted definition of religion, wouldn't our capitalist economy actually be a religion being imposed on every American, regardless of whether they agreed with it or not? All governments have to impose some system of rules and beliefs onto their citizens. It is just simply impossible to have a system so free that no one has anything ever imposed on them. That would lead to anarchy.

Now what about the person who opposes secularism? Are they being treated in a similar manner to how an atheist would be treated in a theocracy? In a theocracy, the atheist will have to be subjected to religious laws, at home and within the workplace. What they eat, who they can have sex with, how they can dress, whether they can drive or not, might be affected. They might have part of their income taken and given to the state religion, they might face penalties for not observing religious duties that could include jail time. They might not be able to speak out and criticize the state religion or the religion's leaders, with penalties ranging from fines to death. It might also be illegal to influence others with another religion or political ideology with similar penalties. A theocracy can force the believer and non believer alike to live as close as possible to the religion's rules, and this may include violations of some of the most basic of human rights.

Under modern secularism, those who wish to observe their religions can do so freely, so long as it does not violate common sense laws based on reason and science. So for example, if your religion allows the forced marriage of underage girls to older men, if it allows honor killing, or if it prevents various justified civil liberties, then the secular government will have to step in to prevent this. This is no more of a violation of one's religious freedom as it is a protection of other's rights. If your religion does not recognize these civil rights, let me remind you that all Abrahamic religions condone various forms of human slavery. So the emancipation of slaves in the American south under this argument would technically qualify as a secular government limiting the "rights" of slave holders to continue their practice of slavery. The moral problem we see when faced with religion is that as the forces of modernity, precipitated by morality guided by a deeper scientific understanding of reality, clashes with Iron Age ideas, we are increasingly seeing hostility in a culture war where the battle lines are drawn in our classrooms and bedrooms.

Freedom gives you choice; it gives you options. If you don't like gay marriage, don't have one; if you don't like abortion, don't have one; if you don't like eating broccoli, don't eat it; but do not prevent others from doing so. And if you are against any morality based on reason and science because it violates your religion, then mount an argument based on science and reason against it without appeal to scripture. Revelation just doesn't cut it as a valid argument.

Finally, I want to add that it is certainly possible that a secularist can become so fundamental that they begin acting like the theocrats in various oppressive regimes. When secularists start acting like adamant communists in their treatment of religious freedom, I oppose them as I would the theocratist. Freedom of conscious is fundamental and must remain so. So I guess therefore what I am really against is any system that stifles freedom, whether it be theocratic or secular. Modern liberal secular democracies offer us the best hope for a free society, with the most justified laws, based not on Iron Age "revelations" when human knowledge of the world was in its infancy, but by using the powers of science and reason. It is because of this that I regard secularism as the best political system.

Friday, September 14, 2012

In Defense of the Pro-Choice Position

I don't often write about abortion, but I had it on my mind recently. I have been clear that my position on the matter is pro-choice and I have given my reasons why. In a big liberal city like New York, my pro-choice ideas are almost never challenged. One attempt to challenge my stance was from a person who asked me whether a person who murders a pregnant woman should be charged with one or two homicides since I believe the fetus is not an independent human being.

Here was my response. First, I do believe that fetuses are human life--they are alive, and they are human, and are not merely collections of cells. Second, when I say that the fetus is not an independent human being capable of constitutional rights, I am not saying that it won't one day become one. It is a temporary condition, and during that condition, the fetus is part of the mother's body, who is the sole determiner of whether that fetus should be brought to term. Therefore, a person who murders a pregnant woman should be charged with two homicides for this reason: the decision to terminate the pregnancy is the woman's and not the murderer's.

We indeed charge murderers with two homicides when they murder pregnant women, as we should. I think that the practical position for those against abortion should be to refrain from doing so themselves, but not to impose their will on others. It's just like how if I don't like hunting animals, I won't do so myself, but I am not going to impose my will on others who like to safely hunt game with in state and federal regulations.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Political Roundup: Three So Called "Controversies" Analyzed

Politics is in the air in this election year as the presidential race takes center stage. The good thing about this is that the media can report on the more substantive moral and legal issues that are flung from the otherwise predictive talking point rhetoric. Aside from the usual attack ads (thankfully New York is not a battleground state and is thus spared the worst of it) there have been huge debates recently regarding some of the issues that many of us in the 21st century, thought were concluded long ago that are worth mentioning.

I've always liked presidential politics ever since I was a kid, and it's usually the only time I pay really close attention to politics. Last election I voted for Barack Obama and I will so the same again this year. I don't always agree with what he has done, but for me, he is the far better choice than Mitt Romney, who I despise. Romney is so full of ethical self-contradictions it is beyond funny. He was a cutthroat corporate raider who put profits before anything else, and therefore in my mind epitomizes the sleazy, greed loving, business type who I think lack serious moral capital and is responsible for so much bad in this world.

I have spent a lot of time articulating my dislike for religion and the actions of religious authorities on this blog. But as our society becomes more and more secular and as the power of the religious wanes, I wonder, will the Mitt Romney-esque corporatist replace them as enemy number one to those like me who want a free and open, liberal secular society bereft of corporate domination? I have no doubt that the threat posed by the Mitt Romney brand of business leaders is a threat serious enough to warrant its own blog, and is perhaps a bigger threat than those posed by Islamo-facists.

So no, I will not be voting for Mitt Romney, not ever. But in this election cycle some surprising debates came up that I've not mentioned. Abortion came back up, and contraception, and the second amendment has been looked at closely in light recent high profile shootings. Let me just rant on these issues briefly to put my take on them.

1. Abortion

Perhaps there is no more a controversial and divisive issue than abortion. While I don't particularly like the idea of an abortion happening, I am pro-choice on the matter because I do regard the fetus as a part of the mother's body and not an independent human being. A fetus, in its early stages of development cannot naturally survive outside the womb, and to me this is why I don't consider it an independent human being, capable of constitutional rights. The 1973 Roe Vs Wade decision of allowing abortions in the first two trimesters is I think a fair compromise. So I am pro-choice on the matter of abortion and every argument that I've heard otherwise has failed to change my opinion, even Christopher Hitches'.

2. Contraception

The recent hoopla about contraception was in regard to whether healthcare providers should be covering it considering the moral objections of those on the right, mostly motivated by their faith. Now if I support abortion rights, of coarse I support contraception too. But should healthcare providers be forced to cover and pay for it? Yes. They are already covering things like circumcision, which many people including myself object to. But I am not in a religion and so my objections don't matter, right? If we're going to allow religiously based objections concerning this-or-that than why shouldn't we allow all objections? It's not like all religious people think contraception is wrong since about 90 percent of women have used it. And anyway, according the the Obama administration's compromise in the way contraception is handled by insurance providers, religiously affiliated institutions will not be forced to subsidize it, that will be handled directly from the insurance providers themselves. The bottom line is that I do not respect to any higher degree, the objections made my religious institutions than I do the objections made by organized secular ones.

3. Gun Control

I'm not sure if I've mouthed my opinion on gun control before but I generally agree in the individuals right to bear arms. It's in our constitution and it is a fundamental American right. That being said, the debate revolves really over what federal or state regulations are going to have on the sale of high powered assault rifles and the amount of ammo that can be bought. It certainly is fair to have reasonable restrictions on gun sales to convicted criminals, and the mentally unstable. And there is nothing wrong with making sure anyone in the market for a fully automatic rifle has to go through a few extra background checks. But should these types of rifles be banned altogether? Some say yes, some say no. Assault rifles have been banned in the past. It is not necessary for the hunter or protector of one's property to have fully automatic slugage capacity. So therefore I think a ban on automatic assault rifles is justified. Other than that, I strongly support the legal sale of guns to American citizens.

These debates are far from over but I will say that President Obama takes the side that I usually fall on. He's a social liberal who has protected the second amendment as I would want him to and he has passed tougher regulations on banks and corporations. Since we all know that the banks and corporations have our politicians in their back pocket, this fight along with the fight against religious bullying are the two fights worth shedding blood for. May the debates rage on!


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