An ongoing difficulty with certain mindsets is their propensity to extrapolate well defined arguments to extremes. In terms of logical fallacies, they commit the “slippery slope” argument – stating that because a relatively confined action is taken (say abortion or the removal of a fetus) then all manner of human extermination will result….including of the disabled, of the mentally deficient, the elderly and so forth. Most often, slippery slope fallacies are employed by hard core evangelicals – as in the abortion debate- in an attempt to impugn pro-choice advocates as latter day Nazis, or Hitler enablers.
Some religious extremists even attempt to paint all atheists this way, despite that not all atheists are pro-choice. Some recent surveys show that up to 1 in 4 atheists are actually opposed to abortion. But to the indiscriminate fundamentalist all atheists are put into the same bin.
But let’s clear up some issues and facts here, because conflation itself plays hand in hand with a whole range of phony anti-abortion arguments. In this, I focus on the atheists-materialists who are pro-choice and the fundies who attack them. Does our being pro -choice mean we are planning to eradicate ALL humans that don’t meet certain “standards” of acceptability? Of course not! This again is the old slippery slope routine – which is a disreputable tactic at best, and (combined with graphic fake photos of monkey embryos destroyed in experimentation) despicable.
Those who invoke slippery slope arguments want to convince you that cultivating atheism, or having an unbelief mindset, will launch the most stupendous catastrophes in the history of humanity or the cosmos. Biblical plagues of locusts, diseases, famines…not to mention terrorist attacks, will rain down on one and all. Families will be torn asunder. Homosexuality will reach new heights, since ethics or morals will be “neutralized.” Abortions will be performed on a whim, since parents will feel (under an amoral atheist value system) that it’s okay to off the fetus if the odds appear to show s/he won’t be a future Pamela Anderson or Einstein.
But this is nonsense! First, no pro-choice person I know wants to destroy ALL fetuses (no, we don’t call them “infants” – since an infant is defined as already having been BORN!) What we say is that the ultimate choice to have a child ought to reside with the mother. Thus, we DO respect life even in nascent form – but it can’t be an absolute! For example, a woman who is raped and gets pregnant must have the choice to abort, because logically the impregnation and growth of a parasite unplanned inside her is an extension of the rape. Ditto with incest.
Now, as difficult as differential calculus may be for some religious fundies to process, we seek no removal of any “elderly, disabled vets, or retarded people ….like Hitler” or “Nazis”. It is this very sort of hyperbolic language that is destroying our political foundation via the “tea party” movement and its histrionic references to Obama as a “socialist Ideologue”. If only! Obama is about as far from being a “socialist”- as I am from being the Pope. A true “socialist ideologue” wouldn’t have just lent the banks money and bailed them out – he’d have nationalized all of them, kicked their CEOs and top honchos out, and replaced them with government officials. So, let’s get that straight off the bat.
Deforming language, however, is a tried and true tactic of the political and Religious Right. Thus, have they changed estate taxes into “death taxes”, two military occupations into “wars” (which alas the left has also blindly accepted) and Medicare Budget Commission panels into “death panels” even as they changed the meek public option proposed for health reform into “government takeover of health care”. But because people no longer read, or evidently use dictionaries, they get swallowed up in these language traps and their thoughts become deformed.
With that aside out of the way, we pro-choice atheists grant that all the above-named (disabled, retarded etc), are full human persons with full human rights allocated. Hence, the right to choose for themselves their destiny, extension of life….OR the decision to terminate it prematurely. (In the case of the unborn, as I noted, it is the one carrying it who has that authority).
For example, as noted in today’s Wall Street Journal (page A1) in the example of the Alzheimer-afflicted pair of 80+ years olds in Switzerland, we grant THEM the right to terminate their own lives if they so wish. As the article notes, the couple (under Swiss laws) sought out a Zurich-based organization called “Dignitas” which helps people to terminate their own lives. In this case, the couple was led to a comfortable room and administered a lethal cocktail of drugs including pentobarbital (ibid.)
Now, before some half cracked “pastors” lose their remaining mental moorings and assert we want ALL elderly people to off themselves – let’s get it straight that this was the couple’s own decision. As they beheld the quality of their lives ebbing away with their mental ability – they no longer wanted to be a burden to each other or the society, or impose enormous financial hardships on their children and grandchildren. Ultimately, it was THEIR choice – not an obtuse pastor’s, evangelical organization’s, religion’s or mythical God’s.
It is also curious that some evangelicals assert that the “KKK” and “neo-Nazis” also advocate abortions– but a careful reading of sequential issues of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Digest shows this is nonsense. Nearly all these extreme right groups are affiliated with extreme Christian outlier groups (e.g. Christian Identity) that actually demand all their women NOT have abortions- because they want to “overtake the inferior races in population and preserve an all-white, all-Aryan, nation”. Obviously, if they were to allow abortions, then they’d lose the race to out-populate those races they consider “inferior”. But clearly some dense pastors in their hysterical reactions, don’t seem to get that. Or maybe they choose to ignore it because it makes it easier to invoke the false analogy of atheists to Nazis, and KKK'ers.
Again, a disreputable tactic and certainly unworthy of anyone who claims to be a religious mentor or shepherd for a flock (if only an imaginary one online).
In the end, what we (atheists- Materialists) call respect for life must include also respect for life quality. Since this will be a subjective assessment it must be left to the individuals concerned to make it – whether a woman who’s been viciously impregnated by a rapist, or an elderly man suffering from Alzheimer’s – which has robbed him of all his capacities and memories.
One final critical aspect missed (or more likely ignored) by the religious extremists and whackos is that pro-choice people do NOT exist in merely one category, e.g. of atheists – since many religious believers are ALSO pro-choice. They number nearly 1 in 3 of orthodox Christians and are invested in the protection of human life, but leave the decision for proto-human or nascent human life to the mother.
Sadly, history shows, time and time again, that appeals to slippery slope reasoning often do much more harm to innocent people than they do to advance a case for some agenda, far less win any rigorous arguments with atheists.