"By sticking steadfastly to religious arguments, the prochoice advocates who organised this march have shown they are out of touch with the modern debate – a debate which includes people of all faiths and no faith. Just look at @secularprolife, @prolifeatheists and many others for examples." - Cora Sherlock, Deputy Chair of ProLifeCampaign.ie, via thejournal.ie
"The Church is entitled to contribute just like any other group in society but the fact remains that abortion concerns human rights, not religion. The Journal readers can see this from groups like @secularprolife, @ProLifeAtheists, PLAGAL and of course the writings of secularists Nat Hentoff and the late Christopher Hitchens." - Cora Sherlock, Deputy Chair of ProLifeCampaign.ie, via thejournal.ie
Still, I was a mite curious about this @ProLifeAtheists group. Who were they? Could they be what I was looking for - a majority Irish group?
First, as I so typically do, I made a word cloud of the Twitter biographies of their followers. Click to zoom.
The word Catholic loomed larger than one would expect for an atheist group. And the word atheist was nowhere to be found. Checking the source data, I found only three people with the word 'atheist' in their Twitter biographies, and one of those hits was for the line "Ex Atheist revert".
Confused, I ran the scan again and found exactly the same results.
Then I asked myself if the followers of @ProLifeAtheists followed any atheist Twitter accounts. So for every follower, I pulled a list of all other accounts they followed. Using this I was able to build a matrix of which accounts were most popular with fans of @ProLifeAtheists. Here's the top 20, presented in order:
|CoraSherlock||Human rights activist, lawyer, political obsessive..in an ideal world I'd write all day to a soundtrack of Bruce and Leonard and Beethoven.|
|spud_planter||Just an average guy convinced that abortion is a violation of human rights and human dignity, much like slavery.|
|IrelandProLife||20something science student doing her best to help keep Ireland #ProLife | #rejectactiononx #nfem | Views = my own & follow/RT ≠ endorsement | Also @MistyAiya|
|prolifecampaign||Human rights group defending the right to life. We campaign for supports for pregnant women and those hurt by abortion. A follow is not an endorsement.|
|IrelandsEar||Conservative. Pro laughter. Infuriatingly nice.|
|LilaGraceRose||President Live Action, UCLA grad, advocate for the dignity and life of human beings.|
|srhcrrll||Pacifist. Feminist. Fan of musicals. Politics addict. Baking enthusiast.|
|StevenErtelt||Founder of http://LifeNews.com, the pro-life news service and the #1 pro-life web site on the Internet. Christian, fan of GOP, rock music, Steelers football.|
|secularprolife||Secular Pro-Life brings together pro-lifers of every faith and no faith. You do not have to be religious to recognize the humanity of the unborn.|
|AbbyJohnson||Planned Parenthood Director turned Pro-Life Advocate!|
|CardinalDolan||His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan was named Archbishop of New York by Pope Benedict XVI on February 23, 2009.|
|maidrinruadh||ProLife. Don't necessarily agree w/ those I follow or retweet|
|DavQuinn||Columnist with Irish
Independent and Irish Catholic.
Director of Iona Institute.
|MorragM||Working towards Utopia where each unborn baby has a right to life, every pregnant mother is fully supported & sick disabled & elderly are protected & cared for.|
|yelofmail||Archivist, overeducated and underemployed. Interests: philosophy, economics, history, politics. Sometimes wears a blue shirt.|
|LifeSite||We are ranked the #1 pro-life news website on the internet. Our passion is to ensure that every human life is respected, and to protect the natural family.|
|carolinesimons||Lawyer. Keeping up with Irish, EU and international current affairs,politics and life issues.|
|JenniferMMPCK||Where your treasure
is there is your heart..
|Donum_Vitae||♥ Catholic ♥ life ♥ Ireland. Against death penalty. #prolife #politics /.... T h é r è s e H y n e s|
|eilisohanlon||Writes for The Sunday Independent. Published some books that nobody bought. Full time grump.|
I was disappointed.
I then checked to see which accounts they retweeted most often - maybe there I'd find an atheist?
Frequently retweeted accounts: (note - Cora Sherlock is deputy head of ProLifeCampaign.ie)
|# RTs||Account Retweeted|
So, what's happened? Who are all these atheists too shy to make their absence of beliefs known in their Twitter biographies? Why don't they follow any atheist accounts? Why do so many of them describe themselves as Catholic? And why are so many of them following Cora Sherlock?
Barring an unlikely spate of mass conversions to Catholicism I have to say it's hard to find a charitable hypothesis to explain these results. Let's just say I think Cora would be better off not using this group to show examples of atheists opposing access to legal abortion. Oh, and SecularProLife isn't a great choice either, for much the same reasons. Here's their wordcloud; click for big.
Also, cui bono? I'm a little suspicious of groups @ProLifeAtheists feel are deserving of donation:
Addendum 7th February 2013: this post contained a throwaway observation that @SecularProLife's followers primarily self-described as Catholic. This is hardly a problem - there is no barrier separating Catholicism and secularism; I work with many Catholics in secular endeavours and hadn't considered it a negative statement. I meant only to say that their Twitter account does not show that many atheists are against abortion.
They've been in touch and were kind enough to give me permission to share the following image:
check them out.