I recently challenged Christians to answer a hypothetical in order to demonstrate the logical validity of the antinatalism argument. I was planning on waiting awhile before I posted this follow-up, but I think I've gotten enough of a response to proceed. To anyone anticipating a point by point rebuttal of all the apologetical fare that's been offered, I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed. While I appreciate all the fervor and straining at gnats you've poured into your replies (in a perverse sort of way, I'll admit), my motive was always a very simple one, that being to wrest an admission from the opposition that there are indeed times when it would be better for a person not to be brought into existence. Naturally, by 'better' I meant for the person in question, and not for those who might exploit that person's existence for their own ends- be they God or man- all the while justifying that exploitation along the way. And ultimately that's all religious apologetics boils down to in the end, justification for questionable deeds and things gone wrong. At least, that's my perspective on the whole rigamarole.
In what I hope turns out to be a relatively brief argument, I purpose to limit my talking points and extrapolations to one strain of the antinatalist argument, having to do with risk. We begin with the very basic proposition that there are indeed times when it would be better not to bring a child into existence. Better against whose or what standard, you might ask? Namely, by anyone's standard who grants the basic premise, and for whatever reason inside themselves they feel justifies their opinion: Compassion, moral outrage, empathy, God's edict, God's hidden agenda...what have you. As long as you have a reason for accepting the baseline proposition, my argument will apply to you. All others feel free to stop reading now.
Ok, then. Is everyone on board? We begin.
1. We believe existence operates in such a way that, at least sometimes, it would be better not to bring a child into existence.
2. Since none of us have complete foreknowledge, each choice to bring a child into existence is to expose him/her to the risks that would justify ACCORDING TO OUR OWN STANDARDS not bringing him/her into existence.
3. Therefore, it is better not to bring children into existence.
LOL! Did I just hear the sound of an Christian apologist's body hitting the floor in an apoplectic seizure? No matter, there are more where he/she came from. But on a more serious note, since point 1 of my little syllogism has already been stipulated as a given, and point 2 is simply a statement of fact that I doubt anyone would seriously contend, then what we're left to debate is point 3, the conclusion. Of course, this is the real meat of the issue, isn't it? Does the conclusion necessarily flow from logic? I believe it does, but let's consider some challenges I've paraphrased for the sake of brevity:
Your conclusion takes an extreme form of risk aversion. After all, almost everything we do involves some measure of risk, from mountain climbing, to driving a car, to putting our socks on in the morning.
The kinds of risk you're talking about are of the post facto persuasion, occupying a spectrum of degrees of necessity which are, indeed, endemic to the life process. However, no such existential necessities abide in the non-existential realm of potential states, including that most fundamental act of manifesting those potential states in the form of new life, which is what we're talking about here. And consider if this were not so! There are already an uncountable number of human beings queued up at the potentially existent ingress point, and the numbers are growing as fast as we can wield our imaginations. Is the universe forever destined to sink into a black hole of deficiency under the weight of those who might have been, but are not? Thus on the one hand, we take risks as part of the process of daily living, but these risks result from the desires and necessities of people who already exist, while the non-existent have no desires or necessities, thus no reasons to take risks. Or perhaps I should say, have no need for others (parents) to take risks for them in the name of their own desires and necessities.
As in gambling, there is a cost/benefit aspect of the argument that's being ignored here.
Fine and good, as long as you're gambling with your own money.
God says be fruitful and multiply, and I choose to do what God says.
It seems that God has lots of things to say, including investing different people with different interpretations of what He has to say. But don't tell me that every decision you make has God's seal of approval writ in stone and hanging about your neck. And when He says to be fruitful, is he speaking particularly to you, or indeed to every Christian? If so, how do you know when to stop...being fruitful, that is? Are condoms condemned? Does the intra-uterine coil really represent a spiraling down into Dante's inferno? And how about them rhythm methoders? Sneaky bastards, and as if God can't read a calendar! Also, can you really tell me that more mundane matters regarding issues such as money and free time in the life of most Christians you know don't impinge on the fulfillment of God's Official Fertility Commission? I'd also like to know if ANYBODY believes they'll receive more than a slap on the wrist for negating the chance of an extremely uncomfortable eternal existence for a child who was supposedly conceived in love. Don't we owe our potential progeny more than this existential crapshoot where, if you lose, you lose BIG TIME, and FOREVER?
And, of course, there's that little problem of exploitation rearing its ugly head, creating children and with it risking their eternal souls, simply to suck up to a deity who could raise them up out of the dust Himself if He really needs the accolades that badly.
Maybe having a child is selfish, but so what as long as the child also benefits?
Making children is ALWAYS selfish, and ALWAYS exploitive for one reason or another. I defy anyone to name an instance where this is not so, either consciously or as a result of thoughtless consummation. And after the deed is done, all that's left is a baseless hope that things work out reasonably well along the way, and for theists and other brands of dualists, in the hereafter. Also, there's the question of whether or not a non-existent entity benefits by being dragged out of its potential state into the world of experiential ups and downs. Does a stone benefit if we grant it the 'gift' of hunger? Sure, there's Thai food to be had, but there's also indigestion, not to mention starvation and food poisoning. How much corn could a rock upchuck if a rock could upchuck corn?
Ok, that's about it for now. I realize lots more can be said, but I can expand on these ideas via comments and challenges in the thread. Thanks to my Christian visitors for their comments. I hope none of you feel offended that I didn't delve more deeply into your apologetical misgivings/mitigations, but I'm an old hand at those conversations and am well versed in the non-utility of chasing epistemological rabbits down those particular holes. If you bring up some relevant objections or point out things I've missed, I'll be glad to address them as I find the time. But be warned! If your justifications come window-dressed with point-by-point refutations of Calvinist doctrine, or pontifications on how Hegelian synthesis merges flawlessly with Jesus' teaching on the efficacy of pinhead dancing, you should know that I nod off rather quickly. :)
Be well, one and all.
P.S. I might also note that death, that most dreaded of realities which both Christian and heathen alike do their best to avoid for as long as possible, is not a risk taken on the behalf of those with no mouths yet to scream, but a certainty. And while there's always hope for a brighter ephemeral tomorrow from some quarters (keep those fingers crossed), the absence of death, with all its concomitant anxieties leading up to it as well as the possible sanctions for having your 't's crossed wrong, is guaranteed to all those who were never born in the first place.
P.S.S. Try to limit your points and challenges to one at a time, so as to avoid convolution. It's really easy to get off track in these conversations otherwise.