Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"You Can't Reason With a Pro-Choice Atheist"

Such is the title of Lee Shelton's (i.e. "The Contemporary Calvinist") posted interchange with Marie Castle, the Communications Director for Atheists for Human Rights. The dialogue is in two parts (here and here) and is generally pretty fascinating. For all the blogging about abortion that goes on, rarely have I seen a pro-choicer in her own words directly debating a pro-lifer. It really does make for a good read.

It gets heated in a hurry. Shelton commented on a blog post of hers, and Ms. Castle responds:
    Interfering with a woman's right to control her bodily processes is nothing more than extended rape. A rapist essentially is forcing a woman to bear a child against her will. Laws restricting or prohibiting abortion do the same thing. You may get all misty-eyed over the fate of a fetus, but it's none of your business. Absolutely none! Especially since you cannot, and would not take over the pregnancy, childbirth and childrearing for her. You're not better than the rapist who impregnates her and runs off.
Yikes. Obviously this is an emotional issue for Ms. Castle, and no doubt for other pro-choicers. Shelton's final words are right on: we need to pray seriously not only for the pro-life cause generally, but for pro-choicers themselves.


Ian Clausen said...

This is a careless discussion, particularly Part I. The only legitimate moral discussion is over that which is or is not harm-based? Really? Well. That throws two centuries of moral philosophy (not to speak of over two millenia of moral theology) into the abyss. Just silly.

But my real issue, if I may, is with one of the responses from Lee Shelton. Mr. Shelton suggests that the history and current discussions of Catholicism do not matter to him because, ta-da, he is Protestant. What he fails to appreciate is that this essentially says we Protestants have no history that matters. It is the same mistake that Ms. Castle makes: no one, atheist or Protestant, wants to have any debt to history. On this account, biblical positivism is no different from logical positivism: neither one learns from history, but both think they can disregard it.

It makes a difference that the word is 'Protestant' - it is a protest movement within the church catholic. If we do not suppose we owe a debt to our forebears, to take their ideas seriously and so to understand where we came from, than that just makes us poor Protestants indeed, but also suggests our God did not start His work until our blessed Reformers saved His church.

Not happy with this exchange.

Steve Hayes said...

Seems very similar to the argument that "universal health care is theft". You have no right, no right whatever, to interfere with the rich man's choosing to ignore Lazarus, or the priest and Levite's choice to ignore the mugging victim.

Andrew Faris said...

You're right Ian- this is far from being a good debate. I mostly found myself interested in the emotion of the thing, especially from Castle's side. Shelton comes off much more reserved, though at times obviously frustrated.

I should say though that I'd disagree with your assessment of Shelton's move on Catholicism. Simply speaking, Shelton isn't Catholic, and that is quite relevant since Castle's appeal to Catholic thought on the matter is indeed so, well, Catholic. I found myself unable to affirm almost everything that Castle presented as the Catholic position, and mostly because of my Protestant convictions as well.

Now, if she'd presented the Protestant historical position and Shelton had said, "Sorry babe, Sola Scriptura..." then I think I'd sympathize with your points more.


Ian Clausen said...

Hm, fair enough Andrew. If that is all that Shelton meant by it than I could live with that. But alas, I do not, and that is perhaps the bad faith I carry around.

For example: it matters to me (as a Protestant) what the Catholic Church has said and is saying about who a human person is, what sex and marriage constitute, what children represent, etc.

Yet when my fellow Protestants (let's leave Shelton for the moment, in good faith) think they are being clever when they pull their Protestant badge on unsuspecting challengers, I have serious qualms. It strikes me as careless as well as pompous - something like, 'so what about the Catholic Church, I'm not a part of it.' Treating Catholics much like Mormons or Muslims, we tempt historical and theological suicide. Sola Scriptura is not an invitation to leave the Christian tradition. Or create a new one.

Perhaps I would have been more sympathetic toward Shelton if he had done business with the Catholic position. Once Protestants start believing that things like the Crusades and the Inquisition do not belong in their repertoire of things-to-be-forgiven-for, we may as well give up talking about an historical faith.

Ian Clausen said...

*Though I should clarify that Shelton isn't up to all this. But I think many of us are, and that troubles me.