“In a way, donating to an atheist would be like helping the devil“. That’s what someone recently told me as I wondered out loud why so many pro-life Christians seem especially reluctant to fund my group’s pro-life educational projects. I had no idea! Pro-life Humanists (and all of you out there who are pro-life atheists and/or non-Christians) are helping the devil to save unborn babies – imagine that! Such monsters we are! And all this time, Christians have been arguing that abortion is the work of the devil – but somehow so is trying to stop abortion? And whatever happened to Luke 9:40 “whoever is not against us is for us“?
I launched Pro-Life Humanists a few years ago after seeing that of the many pro-life groups out there who do person-to-person outreach to the general public, there were none specifically equipped to reach the ever-growing atheist and humanist communities. Many secular young adults and recent defectors from religion want nothing to do with Christians, yet remain unsure about their views on abortion. Pro-life atheists are uniquely poised to encourage those young people toward a pro-life position, and toward advocacy of non-violent solutions to unplanned pregnancy.
But more to the point, I launched Pro-Life Humanists because, like other pro-life atheists who have aspired to be career pro-life advocates, I’ve been repeatedly turned down from positions in the pro-life movement. Back in 2001 I was impressed by pro-life leaders Scott Klusendorf and Gregg Cunningham’s pleas for more full time pro-life advocates: “there are more people working full time to kill preborn children than to save them“. Groups like theirs, (which largely only use secular arguments in their public work – a tactic I loved even when I was Christian) have lauded my informal debate skills whenever I’ve joined them as a volunteer. In my early twenties I received glowing reference letters from both Klusendorf* and the former midwest director of Cunningham’s group. But since I left faith behind, they have repeatedly rejected my offers to join them as full time staff and to raise my own salary under their organizations’ umbrellas. They only want staff who are “under spiritual leadership” and who can “join with them in prayer”.
* (See clarification note at end)
Unfortunately, the drudgery and finance of having to start up my own organization just to be able to do pro-life work was further complicated by the challenge of drumming up financial partners to make this work happen. It seems that not only do most pro-life Christian groups prefer to only hire pro-life Christians, but most pro-life Christians also tend to prefer donating to groups run by fellow Christians. If you doubt this trend, watch the video of two identical groups fundraising for an identical charity with nothing but “Atheist” and “Methodist” differencing them. (Incidentally, we get those looks when we attend the March for Life too). That no other group but a pro-life atheist group can bring the pro-life cause to the inner world of the atheist community doesn’t impress most pro-life Christians enough to make them want to donate to an atheist group – not even one doing something they agree with.
Last year, a substantial donor and her colleagues backed out on a contribution that could’ve helped us pay our cost of outreach to the American Atheist Convention and American Humanist convention (flights plus $400-$500 table fees, plus $300 conference fees per event). She had been excited to help until she realized that we not only do pro-life outreach to atheists, but we also are atheists.
Rather than abandon my intended outreach effort, I put the bulk of the cost of both outreaches (about $3000 total) onto my personal credit card and went anyway. I had high hopes that once pro-lifers saw the fruit of my labour and the atheist minds changed to pro-life, they would get excited about my work and the funds would follow.
I was wrong. Not about my success – minds were changed at both events (and again at three other events I attended later that summer and fall). It was exhausting work to stand at a table for 18+ hours on three or four consecutive days, defending the pro-life position to inquiring and sometimes hostile passersby (I even got stopped with questions when I withdrew to the bathroom!) But despite verbal enthusiasm and Facebook “likes” from fellow pro-lifers in response to the news of pro-choice atheists becoming pro-life atheists, the funding still didn’t come. I got a few hundred very appreciated dollars from one very generous donor and a handful of smaller gifts from faithful friends, but the bulk of the outreach cost remained mine to carry. I guess we’re still a group of evil atheists, after all.
So it is that while other pro-life peers of mine are bringing in enough funds under established pro-life groups to earn a salary from their pro-life work, I’m quite literally paying out of pocket and going into debt to do mine. Friends have suggested I should quit and put my own needs first (I suffer from chronic health challenges and other problems that could well be receiving my financial attention) but I continue to resist quitting. I’m doing this for those who have no voice and whose entire lives are on the line. I don’t think I have the moral right to walk away from them!
Yes I am an atheist, but I so very desperately want to make a difference, and to help create a society where both unplanned and planned children are given the love and support they and their mothers deserve. And with the pro-life movement pleading for more full-time career workers, why should I have to content myself with being just another part-time volunteer or at best an online blogger with a limited reach – when I have so much more to offer this movement?
If you’re a pro-life Christian or religious person who grasps the importance of a pro-life presence in the atheist community, I plead with you to not allow our differences in beliefs to keep you from making our unique outreach possible. There aren’t enough pro-life atheists to adequately fund our work, and without your help we’re unable to continue changing minds offline to turn pro-choice atheists into pro-lifers.
And of course, if you’re a non-religious prolifer I beg the same of you. This group exists to bring your voice to our community, and while we’re willing to do the hard work at these events, we very much need your help to make that work possible. Unlike the fundraisers in the video I previously mentioned, we can’t count on most atheists (4/5 non-religious = pro-choice) to be enthused about our work either. So if you don’t help fund us – who will?
Please make a contribution to our latest fundraiser through Gofundme today. I assure you, we’re not helping the devil – but we’d really like to help save some preborn children, with your help!
(Clarification 28/05/16: The “they” in “they have repeatedly rejected” refers to the “groups like theirs.” While I received a reference letter from Scott Klusendorf, he himself was not the one who rejected my offer, but rather a member of his staff who told me Scott wouldn’t hire an atheist. “repeatedly rejected” refers to multiple conversions over a series of weeks and in person with a regional director of Cunningham’s organization with whom I have often volunteered, one conversation with the member of Scott’s team, and a few other conversations over the past few years with other pro-life organizations. My apologies for the apparent implication that I had directly asked Scott Klusendorf if I could work for him and that he himself had repeatedly turned me down. Scott has since stated that there is a distinction between “assisting atheist pro-lifers and employing them.” and that he will “gladly do the former.”)
… I’m not sure the distinction matters all that much to a pro-life atheist who needs job and is trying to be gainfully employed in the pro-life movement.)