This post originally appeared on Dan Linford’s blog Libere on the Skeptic-Freethought network. Dan Linford is the president of Freethinkers at Virginia Tech and is a second year master’s student in the Virginia Tech philosophy department. The opinions expressed in this post are his alone and should not be construed as the opinions of either the Skeptic-Freethought network or of Freethinkers at Virginia Tech.
If you are an atheist who reads as much theology as I do (which is difficult, unless you are either Jerry Coyne, a religion studies scholar, or a deconvert from a Fundamentalist cult) then you’ve probably come across the claim that atheists reject the wrong god. Often, this is expressed from a sophisticated theologian conceding that they agree with the arguments made in some popular atheist book, but those are not arguments against the god they believe in. I call this the Straw Gods Argument, after the Straw Man Fallacy.
In this post, I will first explain what the Straw Gods Argument is and what forms I’ve seen it take. Afterwards, I will explain why I don’t think that it is convincing. Finally, I will deliver on the title of this blog post and present a case where an atheist really did reject a straw god (sort of). I’ve divided this article into sections so that those who have a particular interest don’t have to wade through all of my text.
I now proceed to discuss what the Straw Gods Argument is and some examples of where it has appeared.
Recently, a pro-life group has appeared on the Virginia Tech campus (Students For Life). The appearance of this group has caused a widespread discussion of the legal, moral, and religious issues surrounding abortion. While Freethinkers at Virginia Tech is officially neutral on abortion issues, we do support free inquiry, the open discussion of ideas, and critical thinking. And, as our constitution states, we support government neutrality on religious matters (the separation of church and state). For those reasons, we are opposed to the use of scientifically incorrect information on either side of the abortion issue and are opposed to the use of religious rhetoric to legislate for or against abortion. Individual members in our club may have a variety of views. As a club, we support the voices of our members being heard. In the interest of giving a voice to a club member and in the interest of free inquiry, we have included below an unedited version of Megan Gisonda’s opinion piece. An edited version of the same piece appeared today in the Collegiate Times. — Dan Linford, President of Freethinkers at Virginia Tech
“I knew right away that I would have to have an abortion. It was the strangest thing, because before that, I was mostly ‘pro life’- with many exceptions, exceptions that I had decided were ‘good enough’ for reasons I deemed worthy. I never knew that MY reasons were as worthy as anyone else’s.” –Anonymous
One in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime in the United States.
Abortion- we legislate it, define and redefine it, criminalize and demonize it; we regulate it. We talk about it as if it were an alien concept, as if it were an idea that doesn’t affect us or anyone we know. One in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime in the United States. Globally, that statistic is one in two women.
If abortion is so common, why do we stigmatize women who choose it as a reproductive health option? Why do we silence women by making them internalize society’s message that by choosing abortion, they’ve done something wrong.
Many health advocates believe this stigma is related to the growing attacks on women’s right to choose. The amount of anti-abortion legislation being passed in the United States is at an all-time high- according to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2011 alone there were more than 92 anti-abortion laws passed in 24 states.
When we talk about abortion, we don’t talk about the people who will be affected by its legislation and stigmatization- and we definitely don’t hear narratives by people who have been there. We like to establish a “hierarchy” of acceptable situations where abortion is permissible, such as in the cases of rape and incest.
But in reality, we can’t box every woman’s experience and label it neatly. America likes to stigmatize women who have had abortions by labeling them things like “irresponsible”, and “selfish”, and to silence women by shaming them.
The 1 in 3 Campaign is looking to challenge this pervasive culture of shame and stigma by bringing awareness to the fact that abortion is more common than most Americans realize.
The 1 in 3 Campaign is a grassroots movement that is challenging the way America frames the discourse regarding abortion by sharing the stories of women who have had them. Through discussion-based education and storytelling, the 1 in 3 Campaign is making people think about the circumstances under which women exercise their right to choose. Spoiler alert: we can’t categorize, or prioritize, one woman’s situation over another’s.
These are real women. This isn’t just a number. These are mothers, young professionals, and students. Every time a piece of abortion-restricting legislation passes, every time an anti-choice group stands outside of a Planned Parenthood with grotesque images of miscarriages, and signs that promote shaming messages, we are failing one-third of our community’s women.
Now, we’re reclaiming our voices. We’re defending our rights, and speaking out about a very personal choice that 1 in 3 women will make. I will not stop until abortion is framed in the United States for exactly what it is: a common and safe medical procedure. We will not stop. We will not go back to pre-Roe v. Wade, which only shows that the idea of ending abortions by making them illegal is outlandish and dangerous. We will not go back to wire hangers. Women deserve autonomy. Women deserve a safe, empowering and supportive space. Women deserve better access to affordable medical care. Women deserve better.
*During the 1 in 3 Week of Action, collegiate pro-choice activists from around the country will table, rally, educate, and speak out against the stigma and shame women face regarding abortion. Sign the pledge to create a system of empathy, justice and support here: http://www.1in3campaign.org/1in3pledge#.Um6ePaVgxaG