The most frustrating thing for an atheist is to debate a believer who refuses to answer the question, “What is God?” It’s the threshold issue in any theological argument. The discussion can’t get started unless the parties address it.
My assumption about people who won’t discuss it is that they have absolutely no argument to make.
Religions with respectable intellectual traditions such as Catholicism, however, do eagerly offer their definitions and the conversation eventually turns to the question of God’s existence. I concede that is not an easy question for unbelievers. Even the hardcore atheist David Hume admitted that "the cause or causes of order in the universe probably bear some remote analogy to human intelligence." It is hard to fathom why there is anything at all in the universe, much less so much stuff. Nor is it apparent why everything everywhere, even in the most remote recess, follows the same rules.
I have my answers but they are not the point of this post. Suffice it say that science has not let me see God, and I know that I am not God. On the questions of my own existence I am more certain. I know that I exist and can trace my existence to its beginnings. Science has let me see an embryo, and I know that I was one. Had I been aborted at conception or thereafter I simply would not be. Modern embryology admits of no other answer. The abortionist would have known where to find me, and would have destroyed me, and not a kidney, precisely because he knew exactly what I was. What everyone was.
So the abortion debate is substantially simpler for me. It is rare that you can point to your adversary as a refutation of his own argument. Not surprising then, that the pro-choice side frequently attempts to frustrate the debate by refusing to address the threshold question. Despite all the talk about importance of treating abortion as a scientific rather than religious issue – not to mention the supposed reverence for a fully informed choice -- this is the advice one chapter of Planned Parenthood gives for "Expressing Your Pro-Choice Position":
"Don’t engage in 'when is it a baby' conversations."
Scour the national Web sites for Planned Parenthood or NARAL Pro-Choice for any meaningful discussion of when life begins and I guarantee you will come up empty. Isn't it astonishing that the organizations which pretend to be clearinghouses of information for women facing the most "tragic" and "difficult" choice offer no virtually no discussion of the question that makes it so?
As I said, my assumption about people who won’t discuss it is that they have absolutely no argument to make.
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