As it was said on the Godless Morality page, atheists eating babies is a fairly rare occurrence. However, if it is assumed that people are just bunches of atoms with no souls, then there is a chain of logic that says that killing babies is ok.
The extract below is from the novel Empyrean, Chapter 35. You can read the whole novel here.
There was another pause, then Hannah spoke, ‘Ed said something about making it legal to kill your children.’
Neither Misha nor Rory responded immediately. Then Misha explained, ‘That’s the Second Chance Initiative. It’s just a proposal at the moment and it’s one that will be discussed for quite a long time before a decision is made.’
‘So if the proposal is accepted, will it be legal to kill your children?’ Hannah persisted.
Misha thought a bit more, obviously aware that this would be a sensitive issue. ‘The proposal is based on a philosophical position that’s different from the one most people held before you left.’
Hannah and Narlo waited for her to explain.
‘Most Morinyans nowadays hold to the materialist view of humans – that we are physico-chemical entities without souls. The masterpiece theory developed as a logical consequence of this view.
‘Traditionally, people thought of a new baby as a complete human being worth as much as any other human being. The reason for this was mainly that it was believed that the baby had a soul just as complete and of just as much significance as anyone else’s soul. As it grows up it develops knowledge and memories, but its basic nature doesn’t change.
‘By this way of looking at things, which is sometimes called the canvas theory, there are three parts to a human – it’s physical body, its soul and the knowledge and memories it develops as it grows up and grows old.
‘The masterpiece theory is based on the assumption that there is no soul, so there are only two parts to the human – its physical body and its knowledge and memories. This theory sees the physical body of a human baby as no more significant that the physical body of a baby sheep. It has minor differences in its genetic code and physical structure, but that’s all. The theory sees the knowledge and memories as being the significant part of a human – as providing the human with its identity.
‘As a new-born baby has very little in the way of knowledge or memories, masterpiece theorists view a new-born baby as not really being a person. The person develops as the knowledge and memories develop. The new-born is just a body – a template on which memory can develop, i.e. on which a person can develop – a canvas on which the masterpiece can be created. The value of a Picasso is not in the canvas, but in what is put on it. The canvas theory sees the canvas as the thing of value and the paint as decoration to make the canvas look pretty. The masterpiece theory sees the painting – the person – as the thing of value and the canvas as just being there give it something to sit on.
‘Thinking this way removes the moral objections to killing a new born.’
‘So everyone would kill their babies?’ Hannah rejoined.
‘Nooo . . . The proposal is to make it legal – not compulsory. Anyone who has a baby has gone through quite a procedure to do so and so is very unlikely to then want to kill it. And people have a built-in instinct to protect babies – an instinct that often over-rides logic.
‘The only time that a baby is likely to be killed is if it is in some way abnormal and wouldn’t be able to lead a decent life.
‘In the past, many people have devoted their whole lives to looking after a person who will always be incapable of looking after themselves and who will never get a lot out of life anyway. This proposal would give such people the option of having another go and hopefully ending up with a normal happy family like other people.’ Hannah and Narlo thought about this. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as Hannah had first envisaged, but it was still a proposal based on a view of humans that she didn’t share.
‘So it’s just when they’re first born?’ Narlo asked.
‘The proposal is that it would apply up to the age of two.’
‘But by the age of two, a child has knowledge and memories and so is a person.’
‘The idea is that a person isn’t an all-or-nothing affair: a person develops over many years and at age two is still in the early stages of development.
‘There is another chain of logic which comes from the axiom that we don’t have souls. It is that a long life is better than a short life and a short life is better than no life. And, as it isn’t considered in any way bad to decide not to conceive a child in the first place and therefore give it no life, it can’t be bad to give it a short life.
‘The main reason we have laws against murder is so that people can feel safe and so that people aren’t deprived of their loved ones. People under the age of two don’t understand murder or the law, so, if we allow the killing of one’s own children only up to the age of two, everyone still feels perfectly safe. And if the parents have the child put down, it would seem that they didn’t love it enough not to do so, so no one has been deprived of their loved ones either.’
Hannah looked pensive and like she was about to come up with something important. She then began, ‘What these thoughts do is blur the concepts of life and death. They used to be very clearly defined, but now people are coming up with their own definitions.
‘The new concepts seem to be much more impassionate. People seem to see life more as a chemical process which has no significance beyond the fact that part of being human is to feel that life is significant. It has no purpose beyond itself. Its purpose is purely internal and just a facet of the way we’ve evolved to think. Seeing humanity this way eliminates the sanctity of life.’
‘That was very profound.’ Narlo said.
Rory spoke. ‘I don’t know what your opinion on the matter is, but to my knowledge, most Christians believe that, if a young child dies, God does not condemn her to hell because she hasn’t accepted Christ. They consider that it’s only when a child is old enough to understand God and her options and decides not to believe the message, that she is considered responsible for her decisions and is condemned for her disbelief.
‘As most children grow up not to believe and so end up in hell, the best thing one could do for a child is to kill them before they reach the age of understanding and so guarantee their entry to heaven.
‘I could never understand why Christians have always been so set against abortion and why they would object to the Second Chance Initiative.’
Hannah gave Rory a puzzled look, but didn’t respond. Narlo saw sense in what Rory had said, but didn’t say so.