Pro-life vegan athiest

I have a friend who doesn't believe in God. Which doesn't make me sad, because this person isn't sad. Or lost. Or a bad person. I find the more I learn about what other people believe, the less I believe that my faith has any sort of a monopoly on happiness. In fact, I don't believe that in the slightest.

I believe that the ability to find happiness doesn't come from any singular source, that people can choose to be happy and good, whatever their state may be. Whether it is Mormonism, Catholicism, Islam, or cooking Liege waffles that makes you happy, that is your prerogative. It isn't my place to tell you what is valid. There are certainly things that inherently bring unhappiness, but I'm not going into that.

Christians may argue that the source of all happiness is God, or Christ. Which is fine, and doesn't disprove what I am saying in the least bit. If all happiness comes from God, (Christian God) then the happiness that people of different faiths (or no faith) feel ultimately comes from that source--but it is just simply labeled differently. Still, it boils down to a choice.

As I was thinking about this friend's non-belief in a God, some interesting philosophical questions cropped up in my mind concerning atheism. First, concerning abortion. It would seem to me that a person who believed that there was no God, and that there was no life after this one should be strongly opposed to abortion. If, when we die, we really really die, then any sort of practice that prematurely ends the life of another human should be looked upon with the greatest of abhorrence.

In the case of abortion, the possibility of existence would be completely and utterly canceled. I think that with a pre-life/post-life paradigm, it is possible to think that, if an abortion takes place, whatever God in which one believes could potentially "replant," for lack of a better word, the aborted spirit or soul elsewhere. Or, barring that, at least there is an afterlife. Existence isn't destroyed, merely postponed. Or shifted.

I also think that an atheist could conscionably be nothing but a vegan. The same idea applies--if there is only one existence, how could someone in good conscience unnecessarily cause the death of a living thing? Some may argue that an atheist has no conscience because an atheist, lacking a God and potential judgement, has no motivation to be a "good person." Which is totally bogus. It is a sad concept, thinking that people are only good because of a fear of God. People should be good, because being good is the right thing to do. Because being good makes one feel good.

Now, I realize that "being good" is somewhat relative. "Being good" means different things to different people. But I think that most, regardless of [no] faith can agree on a basic concept of goodness.

I realize this post doesn't flow with the regular tone of this blog, but I'd like to know what other people think about this.


Lindsay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
julieb said...

i thought this would make a good discussion, so i shared it in google reader... i think we are friends in gmail. can you see my shares? julieb82@gmail.com in case. its interesting.

Dave said...

Let me see if I follow: theists may feel better than athiests about abortion and eating meat (or anything that ends in death) because they believe in an afterlife, right?

Interesting. The problem I see is that your position assumes that everyone cares about existence, or that everyone sees promotion of existence as a good thing and prevention of existence as a bad thing. I don't think everyone is on board with that.

First of all, some people may say that existence of any quality requires consciousness, and those same people may say that a fetus or a cow do not have the requisite consciousness to give their existence any quality or meaning, so it is not wrong to deny them that existence.

You might counter that it would still be wrong to deny the fetus a CHANCE at consciousness, and how do we know how conscious an animal is?

You'd have good points, but denying a chance and denying a certainty are not the same things. If it is wrong to deny a fetus the chance of consciousness because it is cruel to the FETUS, then there's not really an argument there -- the fetus doesn't know what he's missing. Regarding the animal question: not knowing something does not cut either way in an argument -- it is just not knowing.

I agree with you that if an athiest believes that the existence of (arguably) non-conscious beings is more important than the pleasure and comfort of a living human being, then that athiest will likely be pro life and vegan. But the same could be said of a theist that takes those positions. I just don't know that adding the dimension of an afterlife really changes things that much.

Fish Nat!on said...

While I think your point is good, your argument about consciousness and a chance of consciousness is circular-there is no proof either way at what point a fetus actually gains consciousness. Or how much an animal may or may not have. Because if you follow the rout of a "requisite amount of consciousness," then you get into things like, does a mentally handicapped person have "requisite consciousness."?

Whether or not the idea of an afterlife changes anything is what I'm curious about. As theists, we don't have that perspective. So I'd like to know the perspective of some atheists, to know if the concept of no afterlife influences their decisions or perspectives.

You do share a good point about "caring about existence." I suppose there would be a lot of people who don't care about existence, and also don't believe in an afterlife, just like there are plenty who do believe such, and also don't give a shit about existence.

Dave said...

Good points. You are wise, grasshoppa.

For the record, I didn't take a position on whether a fetus or an animal have the "requisite consciousness" to make their existence valuable. But I will now: I believe that animals do have sufficient consciousness to make it wrong to kill them gratuitously, and I believe that if a fetus doesn't have consciousness then the chance of developing human consciousness is enough by itself to make its existence intrinsically valuable. That would be my position.

I was just saying that people's positions on abortion and killing aminals probably depend more on where they sit on the questions of (1) whether it is good or important to preserve life, and (2) if so, what quality of existence or consciousness qualifies as "life" worth preserving? I guess the first question could turn heavily on whether you believe in an afterlife. But I think it could cut both ways in that question.

As usual, I am not being real helpful. Just boring people and wasting my time on the interweb machine.

Jellybean said...

Since I'm a liberal SF heathen, I know a lot of atheists (most of whom are agnostic but don't know the damn difference), none of whom are vegan or vegetarian. It seems that atheism doesn't always lead people to believe that the life spans of animals are remotely important. In fact, my atheist roommate tells me that for every animal I don't eat, he eats 3. It's probably true.

Now although I am a theist, I actually don't believe in an afterlife. That said, I am a vegetarian who wishes I had the strength of will to be a vegan.

I'm also pro-choice. Since I don't believe in an afterlife, I believe our lives are important and beautiful. Our lives are only as meaningful as we make them and it is our positive ripples in the lives of those who come after us (as well as the people we affect now) which give our existence "afterlife." I believe in the sanctity of life; I'm anti-death penalty and pretty pacifist in most situations.

On the issue of abortion... I actually believe in the idea of a continuing presence, though not of consciousness. In that way, while someone's chance at life is temporarily taken away by an abortion, I believe that the makeup which would compose that being will continue to exist in whatever forms the universe molds it into. I don't believe that abortion is taking a life, though I do think it's taking a chance at one. You might think that to be splitting hairs, but perhaps with the aforementioned beliefs on the universe, it makes some sense. Also, I think abortions (assuming that most people are not horrible) are taking away a chance of a bad life. Since I do believe that our lives are so incredibly meaningful and beautiful in their temporality, I think that the decision to bring a child into a bad situation is wrong. If people were more responsible, there would be very few situations that would really need to end in abortions, but since they aren't, I think it's important that they do. I think it's drastically more tragic to see a child in an unloving, poor, and/or neglectful situation than to see an abortion negate that possibility. I want my children to have the best life I can provide them and I will not have children until I truly believe I can give my children the life I believe they deserve. That said, I don't think I'll ever have an abortion, because I'm responsible enough to not get pregnant.

I describe myself as a panentheist. I would refer someone to writings on Process Philosophy if they wanted to understand that better.

The Stranger is a lovely read, but I would argue that is says more about absurdist views than atheism. I don't think that every atheist is as detached from meaning as that character.

Fish Nat!on said...

Joline-I think it is hard to say that no chance at life is better than a chance at a bad, or miserable life. Because some people born in miserable situations end up doing incredible things.

However, I like your point of view on that. Supporting pro choice for that reason, rather than because a lot of people are too damned stupid not to get pregnant, and don't want the responsibility that comes with irresponsible sex, makes more sense, and seems to feel less inherently "wrong," as it were. In fact, that line of thought is something I can actually sympathize with. However, I still prefer the adoption rout to abortion, because there are plenty of people out there who want kids, but can't have them. It sometimes takes years to adopt.

It's a hard argument.

anne. said...

my mom reads your blog and doesn't read mine! so take that! plus i JUST added YOU! <3