Pro-Life Humanists at American Atheist Convention! Memphis 2015
“I’m still very pro-choice but I’m glad that this is starting a conversation and introducing a new perspective to the secular movement. Thank you!”
“I’ve been afraid to tell others that I’m pro-life. Thank you so much for giving people like me a voice! I’m ecstatic that you’re here!”
“I’m on the fence about abortion but it’s nice to hear a reasoned argument instead of religious chatter for a change! You’ve made me think!”
The above comments represent just some of the feedback left in Pro-Life Humanists’ “Anonymous Comment Box” as we tabled this past weekend at the American Atheist Convention in Memphis, Tennessee. Over the course of four days, at least 150 pieces of PLH’s pro-life literature were handed out (including a new pamphlet on bodily autonomy arguments), dozens of substantial conversation were had, and countless positive interactions laid the groundwork for ongoing friendly dialog with members of the secular community.
Going in to the event, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d initiated and joined the appearance of Secular Pro-life at the 2012 convention, but our experience there had been so fraught with opposition, push-back and unfounded accusations that we were secretly religious that SPL opted to not return to the atheist convention for the foreseeable future. Not easily deterred by opposition (or perhaps a glutton for punishment), I’ve held strongly to the conviction that while pro-life Atheists and Humanists are a minority in the secular community, we are a voice that needs to be heard! The pre-born deserve advocates who are able to articulate a well-reasoned argument – and who better to bring pro-life arguments into the atheist community than pro-life atheists? Indeed, who but atheists would have even the slightest hope of being received by a community composed largely of ex-believers and skeptical of anything remotely related to religion?
With the exception of one pro-choice outburst late in the day Saturday (more on that in an upcoming entry), the backlash of 2012, didn’t occur in 2015. Not that our table was received with open arms – not by a long shot. But neither were we, as one man supposed “the loneliest table [t]here”. In fact, a steady flow of attendees came by our table hour after hour after hour. Most came with a spirit of curiosity and many lingered to ponder and discuss the case I was making. Some were so intrigued and thought-provoked by the secular arguments that they returned repeatedly throughout the weekend to ask additional questions and make further challenges to my convictions. At times, some of “my regulars”, including those running tables near mine, would stand around debating each other and finding the flaws in one another’s pro-choice arguments (be they related to bodily autonomy or human status of fetus), while I sat back and watched in amusement as they dismantled one another’s claims for me:
“Of course it’s human, it has human parents!” …. “Her right to do what she wants with her own body ends when there’s another body involved!”…
Thwart! Don’t Abort! Free Pro-Life Condoms!
By far what served as the biggest bridge-builder was our give-away of pro-life condoms. With our slogan “Thwart! Don’t Abort!” (brought to life visually thanks to member Ron Cole) we spoke a message of prevention and education which resonated with passersby and spoke volumes to our community’s non-religious approach to abortion:
“At least y’all consistent!”
“Y’all make more sense than the pro-life groups I usually see!”
“I love that you have a more humanitarian and broad-minded approach to your pro-life activism!”
“Thanks for being part of the solution! I feel like I could talk and work with you guys at least somewhat because we all want to reduce abortions.”
Indeed, Pro-Life Humanists believes that finding common ground is key to fostering a world in which abortion becomes unnecessary and unthinkable. Pro-choicers aren’t the enemy – abortion is. The need for contraception and comprehensive sexual education, while at odds with our Catholic pro-life allies, simply makes sense to our pro-choice atheist peers as well as to most of us. We all want to see a better and more equal world for women!
Did we have any mind changes over the course of the weekend? If you mean on-the-spot pro-choice to pro-life conversions, then no. On the other hand, hundreds of atheists have had the opportunity to meet (many for the first time) a pro-lifer who was able to articulate a secular case against abortion, fully devoid of religion and grounded in reason. Most of my dialogs ended with smiles and either a hand-shake or a hug and for the many who had long written off pro-lifers as “religious kooks”, I consider that to be as great a mind-change as any!
Many people signed up for our email list, including several pro-lifers who were thrilled to have a representation! Three times as many pro-choicers than pro-lifers signed up, eager to continue in dialog and receive ongoing information from us. Thanks to the in-person connections I made this weekend, I’ve also received a number of invitations for podcast interviews and guest-blogging in the near future, as well as invitations to have a table at three or four more upcoming atheist conventions (that’s where you come in – we can only bring a pro-life voice to these sorts of events if your contributions make that possible! Table fees range from $250 – $400, not including flights/general conference admission.)
Check the blog tomorrow for a small handful of pictures of some of the awesome pro-choice and pro-life people I connected with in Memphis, and with whom a bridge to friendship and dialog has now been built. Evidence shows that people are more likely to accept the ideology of their friends, and if that be the case, it’s one more point in favour of making face-to-face and hug to hug connections at conventions! It’s a lot harder to vilify someone you’ve laughed, sang, and swapped smiles/hugs with – even if you’re currently ideological opponents! 🙂