Atheist and Pro-Life

Atheist and Pro-Life

I am an atheist and I am pro-life.

I did not come to either of those conclusions easily, and I’ve wound up becoming suspect to lots of friends that fall into both of those categories. They don’t exactly overlap, and I’ve felt the brunt of both.

For a long time, I often told people I was agnostic, having given up Roman Catholicism not because I felt above personal belief, but because the rituals and the meaning of them no longer made any sense to me. And it took years for me to realize that saying I was agnostic came out of my desire not to admit I didn’t believe. It’s a comfortable way to slide back into something, but that made me feel like a hypocrite. I appreciate people’s belief, but I just flat out don’t believe there’s some omnipotent being who looms like us guiding the destinies of every living human in the world. For me the problem of evil was not a question of the existence of God but a long standing indictment of human cruelty. No supernatural agent needed.

But my atheism has left me with a sense of wonder, of something profound, as odd as that might seem. For the first time, I felt as though I was not only truly free from the pretensions of man to know the mind of a supreme being, but now addled with a sense of responsibility that meant more to me than preaching the Gospel to bring lost souls the promise of eternal life. To be an atheist means, for me, to liberate God. He is no longer responsible for the problem of evil; he can’t be cursed for the cancer of a child or random murders, genocide or weapons of mass destruction. I can’t say the devil made me do it, or be duped into committing an act of mass murder and say it’s God’s will. My actions are mine and mine alone, and because of that awesome knowledge, my sense of what is right and wrong has just become heightened.

A lot of my religious friends chafe at the idea that there’s randomness operating in the universe. I understand it. But since I don’t harbor the idea that I was meant to be, I am stunned that I even exist at all. I am not only lucky to be alive, but fortunate to have had a loving family and a good upbringing. If I’m here by randomness, well then, I will do everything I can to make it the best life possible.

It’s this, dare I say, ineffable sense of my existence (devoid of supernatural plans and angelic hand-holding) that lead me to decide where I was on the topic of abortion. If my atheism took me to a deeper appreciation for my own life, then I had wonder how I felt about the unborn. I don’t want to suggest that if you’re an atheist, you’re automatically pro-abortion, yet for me, I just couldn’t find myself completely supporting that position. Rape and incest? No question, the idea of terminating the pregnancy should be available. Save the life of the mother? Again, no question about it. But what about all those other instances? I just can’t agree, but I squirm at the idea of telling a woman “You can’t do what I object to ideologically.” I find it wrong to take away someone’s freedom to control their own body, but I also can’t agree with terminating a life outside of those exigent circumstances.

Where does this all really come from? Well, it’s interesting that abortion pivots on when life actually begins and what comprises a person. I don’t know of anyone who agrees with the legal definition of personhood that isn’t moved beyond words when they see a sonogram. That’s what happened to me, and it was my child on that monitor. If randomness gave rise to my being, and I had decided to do everything in my power to lead a good life, then I was looking at the same potential. I made a million plans in those few seconds and that same sense of the ineffable that infused me when I decided that I did not believe in God rushed back at me. I’ve still not balanced out completely how I feel, but as a man, I can I only say what I believe for myself.

I won’t have the opportunity to pass this along to my child, though. For various reasons, my ex-girlfriend’s pregnancy had to be terminated. She has never been the same since, and neither have I.

I want to believe that every child, unborn and alive, deserves every chance at a happy life. I also believe we are responsible for our own actions, answerable to ourselves first and foremost, and to others affected by those actions. There is no God, but there are limitless possibilities. I hope one of those will be mine one day.