• Atheism, vegetarianism and pro-life

    My fellow SINner Don Severs has a post comparing atheism to animal rights and pro-life stances, which I found a bit disturbing. Don says:

    We carnivores tolerate vegetarians at our potlucks. We are respectful, and sometimes admiring, of their celibacy from flesh. But that’s all. We’re not going to feel bad about eating meat, or put up with continuous harangues or emotional diatribes about it. If you don’t like eating meat, don’t do it.

    This seems to be the attitude liberal believers have toward atheists.

    Well, yeah… vegetarian arguments are crappy arguments (animals have no rights, sorry to bring it to you); and when they try to keep me from eating meat, or are self-righteous enough to compare me to Nazis, I won’t tolerate them – I’ll post a picture of me having a BBQ and pork chops. And I certainly don’t admire making choices out of irrational beliefs or any kind of celibacy, for that matter.

    Atheism is a rational conclusion. Vegetarianism and animal rights movement are attitudes that (usually) stem from appealing to emotion (or other faulty reasoning processes).

    Same goes for the pro-life bit:

    This seems to be the attitude abortionists have toward pro-lifers. “You have some good arguments, but some of us still support legal abortion. We don’t feel bad about it, in fact we think it’s a good thing. Dead babies have no effect on us. We don’t think you’re wrong, we just don’t care about your arguments. Our position on abortion causes no moral or social pinch for us. Leave us alone.”

    Certainly “dead babies” is appealing to emotion; that’s not a “good argument”. It’s a crappy one. I do think pro-lifers are wrong: no one gets to tell women what to do with their bodies, let alone superstitious wackos.

    So, when Don says he’s been tainted by intransigence and unreason, I don’t buy it.

    He says the counter-argument to pro-life accomodationism is:

    I’m pro-life for a far more important reason. When people get abortions, suffering increases. So, I can’t apply Live and Let Live to abortionists. They don’t Live and Let Live when it comes to fetuses.

    Of course no one on their right mind would let live fetuses (or spermatozoids), that doesn’t mean “suffering increases” (you see, appealing to emotion). It does not by a long shot. If you were really concerned about abortions and suffering, you’d do your homework and find out that having an abortion causes less suffering than giving birth to an unwanted child.

    So there you have it – being pro-choice, eating meat and atheism are (more or less) rational; and when it comes to rights (like eating meat and having abortions) we shouldn’t take it so lightly or give in so easily to irrational arguments.

    Category: Uncategorized


    Article by: Ðavid A. Osorio S

    Skeptic | Blogger | Fact-checker
    • donsevers

      Right. In the piece, I change voices several times, coarsely expressing various positions. My own position is pro-choice.

      I’m not persuaded by the arguments for pro-life or vegetarianism. But there are arguments, and some good ones. That’s the point of the piece.

      • That’s my point – they lack good arguments; that’s why I’m not persuaded by them, all their arguments are irrational.

        I have yet to meet a good argument from the vegetarian or pro-life tropes.

        • donsevers

          > they lack good arguments; that’s why I’m not persuaded by them

          My point is a little different: they have some good arguments, but I’m still not persuaded by them. And the reason is not that I have better arguments on the other side. It’s that I don’t have the fire in the belly for animal rights that I have for atheism. And I can’t really say why.

          In the 90s, I spent a lot of time working on genealogy. I noticed that no one else shared my passion. Then I noticed that I couldn’t explain my passion, even to myself. I cared about it, but it really made no sense when I thought about the opportunity cost of doing it vs other activities. Surely genealogy was not the BEST way to spend my time.

          Likewise with hunters, bowlers and NASCAR fans. They like those things, but they didn’t arrive at their likes through argument, or a rigorous process of finding the best hobby. It’s more like they fell into them, or fell in love.

          So, I can’t fully explain why I’m more passionate about atheism than, say, world hunger or animal rights. I can tell people why I care about it, but not why I care about it MORE than almost any other topic. I just don’t have access to the inner workings of my psychology and neural functioning that cause this particular passion.

          It’s a form of the Is/Ought fallacy. It seems that what I care about is not necessarily what I OUGHT to care about, or the optimal allocation of my passions.

          • donsevers

            …not that there’s anything wrong with that! We all practice a division of labor. As I hammer on atheism, I hope that others are working on world hunger and curing cancer.

            So, I’m not saying I shouldn’t be passionate about atheism, or that I have to justify it. I’m simply dropping my old demand that believers justify their passions. I don’t work that way, so I’m not demanding that they do.

            I still think they’re wrong, and I will still try to get them to care about my passions (because sometimes it works). But I’m more understanding of them when I’m honest about how I have come to my own positions: not entirely rationally.

          • “they have some good arguments”

            For example…. ? I don’t know any.

            “I have better arguments on the other side”

            I do.

            • donsevers

              On animal rights, Peter Singer is probably the best:


            • Nope. He sucks. His misanthropy is all over the place. In his “Animal liberation” he says old people and autists should be used as lab-rats, instead of animals.

            • donsevers

              Of course there are responses to Singer’s arguments. But they are still good arguments.

            • Maybe we are not on the same page about what’s a good argument.

            • donsevers

              On the pro-life issue, there are many serious, secular reasons to oppose abortion.

              Remember, a ‘good argument’ is one that is valid and sound, not necessarily one that fits a certain set of values.

              My whole point is that people usually choose positions that feel good and fit with their values. A few people actually care if their positions comport with certain values or facts. I care when it comes to atheism. I don’t care when it comes to animal rights and pro-life.


            • “people usually choose positions that feel good and fit with their values”

              That’s not rational… which is exactly my point.

              “A few people actually care if their positions comport with certain values or facts.”

              That would be me.

    • lartanner

      animals have no rights

      Unless rights are claimed for them, just as various people and groups have claimed rights that were previously denied to them.

      What you seem to be saying is that animals should have no rights, and I think there is room for a more nuanced position.

      • Ohh, of course. When I see a lion asking for a driving test, and jury duty, he can have rights!

        • lartanner

          Ah. Other creatures have to be like us before you’ll concede rights. Not anthropocentric at all.

          Maybe next you’ll suggest that lions are not made in God’ image, therefore no rights for them.

          • Won’t do that. But you can read this instead: http://www.skepticink.com/avant-garde/2013/06/05/anthropocentrism/

            • lartanner

              If we agree that rats are different than kids and that, for us, killing a rat is different than killing a child (to a rat it may not be so different), then can we still morally object to killing rats?

              In other words, can we suggest that killing rats might invoke a different human moral injunction than killing a child?

            • Yes, killing rats is still morally objectionable, within some parameters. Killing them for fun is morally objectionable. Killing them because of plagues, diseases and eating crops is not.

      • Just to make myself clear: Rights are exclusive for (born) human beings; but we should treat animals as kind and avoid as much suffering for them as we can.

    • Joe G

      According to evolutionism humans are nothing but animals. So if animals don’t have any rights neither do we. Nice job.

      • Animals don’t get buildings done, have markets, don’t use shoes or clothes, neither they use the Internet. Feel free to quit those too 😉