An Atheistic Ethic

I am going to try to lay out a consistent atheistic moral philosophy in the coming days/weeks. In my opinion all ethical theories have some serious problems, some more than others. I’m going to present the one I think has the least amount of problems. I’m also going to try to answer as many objections as I can, and offer some reasonable test case scenario’s to show how this ethic can and does describe what we in fact do, and what we ought to do. The theory I will lay out will be shot at by people on both sides of the fence, both Christian and atheist. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to an atheistic ethic. Atheists disagree with each other on this issue, as we do about politics. So I do not expect atheists to agree with me, and so I invite helpful and constructive criticisms from everyone.


Since I have argued against the Christian ethic in several places, then I need to spell out my alternative, and I will. In the first place, I want an ethic that is based upon some solid evidence about who we are as human beings and why we act the way we do. Any kind of ethic that tells us to do that which we are incapable of doing, is too idealistic and guilt producing to be helpful to guide us as human beings. Such an ethic, in my opinion, demands that we behave non-humanly. I think the Christian personal ethic does just this, as one example. We are not divine beings. We’re human beings. The Christian ethic demands complete selflessness, although it doesn’t deny Christians ought to have self-respect as God’s redeemed creatures. Still, Christians are to “die daily” with Paul, take up their crosses and follow Jesus. Self-denial, self-sacrifice, and self-discipline seem to be the hallmarks of the personal Christian ethic in its most basic and fundamental sense. They are to have sacrificial agape love for everyone, although, Augustine argued that Christians are obligated to have this kind of love for the closest of kin first, then their community, then their culture and then finally to those outside their culture. That is, they have a primary duty to love the people closest to them, but they should love everyone. This means showing people mercy, and giving people the needed justice they deserve, depending upon the duty we have to each person as he is related to us. According to Christian teaching, the Holy Spirit, the divine paraclete, helps the believers to fulfill the demands of agape love.

There is more to the Christian view, of course, including the killing of heretics, and the beating of slaves. ;-) Still, it’s entirely unrealistic to expect people to have agape love toward people just as Jesus did (if we presume with them that Jesus is their idealistic model). It fosters guilt. It cannot be done, even with the Holy Spirit’s help (presuming there is such a being). Plus there is strong evidence down through the centuries that the Holy Spirit has not properly done his job well among professing Christians (the only kind of Christian we see). ;-)

Furthermore, the Christian ethic is based upon a motivation that must be judged from the Christian perspective to be a completely ill-founded and unethical. The threat is hell, however conceived. Think of it this way, if there is no hell and everyone will be rewarded equally in heaven when we die, then Christians would not need to try to live the Christian ethic, and I doubt many of them would care to do so at that point, especially when they want to do something they know is against “God’s will.” Christians might want to claim they obey because it’s “the right thing to do,” but just ask them one question on this. Ask them if they would rape, steal and kill if God told them to do so, lest they will be cast in hell forever. If they would obey God and rape, steal and kill, then their basic motivation is to obey because of the fear of hell. However, if they would not obey God by doing these things, then they do not obey God simply because obeying God is the right thing to do. [Q.E.D.]

Christians will claim God would never command them to do these things, but in fact the God of the Bible did do this. Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his son. Would YOU obey God if he told YOU to do so? A female captive in war was forced to be an Israelite man’s wife (Deuteronomy 21:10-14). If a virgin who was pledged to be married was raped, she was to be stoned along with her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:23-24), while if a virgin who was not pledged to be married was raped, she was supposed to marry her attacker (Deuteronomy 22:28-29), not to mention the pleasure of “dashing of children against rocks,” and genocide itself. More to the point, the fear of hell is not a good Christian basis for being ethical. It would place the obedience to God on the same par with obeying a robber who has a gun pointed at your head.

In conclusion, I argue that I want an ethic that is based upon some solid evidence about who we are as human beings and why we act the way we do. The Christian ethic is practically impossible to obey, and the motivation for obeying must be judged to be based upon rational self-interest, which is basically the same ethic I will be arguing for later, without the barbaric divine commands.

This is part 1. To read the other parts see here.

53 comments:

Logismous Kathairountes said...

Have you read Fear and Trembling? Remember about the Knight of Faith, for whom the ethical is the temptation? The 'leap' to faith?

Did you pick Abraham as a deliberate reference?

The Good Man said...

When are Christians going to realize that they worship a dead God? When will they come to the understanding that those of us who deny their Christ are their overlords? We are more advanced. Atheism is natural, it is the next step in evolution, when we no longer require a "God" to rule our minds but we are able to think freely and govern ourselves. It IS Natuaral selection, those people who can not govern themselves will soon be weeded out. And good ridance to them. They are the sickness of society, the poor, the criminal. A person who admits that they need Christ, admits first that they are by nature a lesser form of intellegence, second, that they need constant supervison and control by society, (This causes the drain on our rescources,) and thirdly that they should be silenced becasue by spreading their delusions they are athreat to social order and productivity and lastly that society IS better off without their disease of faith. There is no God but Man. We are Gods at least those of us who have evloved to that realization. Christians are on the way out, in fifty years, the name of Jesus Christ will be gone and forgotten. A new age, a golden age is on the rise. It is up to us, those who have reached the higher level of evolution to order our selves and so it is good that we are beginning to discuss ehtics for our Godless society. Go at it John. Ignore the poorly and weak protestations of the ignorant. It is only their swan song, their death throes, their wailing for they know that they are dying and they soon will be dead.

Benny said...

"The Good Man",

As a fellow atheist, I'm horrified by your statements. If atheism is truly superior to theism, then we should be able to demonstrate that through rational discussion. No need for ad hominem generalizations.

TGM said...

You say that you are a "fellow" atheist. Fellowship is a Christian tradition. Nothing that is Christian must be tolerated or allowed to survive the new world order. In our cool and calculating way of cleansing the world, any who posses remnants of Christian traditions will be dealt with either by reprogramming or other rehabilitation methods until the curse of Christianity every aspect of it is gone form the world. There are no "fellow" atheists. Only consciousnesses recognizing other consciousnesses. There is no love, but there is no hate either. There is no life but there is no death. There is no faith but there is no doubt. There is only what is.

Lady In Waiting said...

Benny said "If atheism is truly superior to theism, then we should be able to demonstrate that through rational discussion."

This would be true if we were dealing with rational minds. For if we were truly dealing with rational minds then there would be nothing to discuss. No one who has the full faculties of a rational mind at their disposal can be a Christian.

WE ARE NOT DEALING WITH RATIONAL MINDS. We are dealing with people who are sick and who need to be treated as such. A person who can not be trusted with the responsibility of a mind should be relieved of that responsibility. In this New World Order that TGM speaks of the Christian will be a burden unless we can arrest their minds and put them to some productive use as laborers either that, or, so society does not come to depend on their services and miss them when they are gone, we could quarantine them, keep them away from the rest of the population. Provide every comfort for them until the last of them has peacefully passed away of natural causes. Of course they could not be allowed to reproduce and pass on their defunct genes to newer generations that would become more of a burden to the progress of humankind. This would be a very humane and ethical way to deal with the infected,and in that way it would also be a service to the rest of us...

Benny said...

TGM/LiW,

Though I disagree with theistic beliefs, I believe people have the right to choose whatever belief they wish to. Your vision of a New World Order where religion is forcibly purged is a totalitarian nightmare devoid of basic human decency. I oppose anyone who would try to forcibly impose their belief on others in such a manner.

Lady In Waiting said...

Benny, We are not imposing a belief. There is no belief. We are removing something that is harmful to society from society.
You still seem to show signs and symptoms of Christianity. Were you once a Christian? There is no cure. That is why it is so important to remove them totally from society. Anyone who is or was one will fall into the same category. The virus can still be passed on.

Benny said...

Benny, We are not imposing a belief. There is no belief. We are removing something that is harmful to society from society.

The idea that religion is so harmful that believers must be reprogrammed, quarantined, and prevented from reproducing IS a belief, and one you seem willing to go to any extreme to enforce.

You still seem to show signs and symptoms of Christianity. Were you once a Christian?

Nope, have never been a Christian, or a subscriber of any other religion. Just you friendly neighborhood secular humanist!

There is no cure. That is why it is so important to remove them totally from society. Anyone who is or was one will fall into the same category. The virus can still be passed on.

John et al., better watch out! The militant atheists are comin' for ya. Yikes.

LiW said...

Benny said,"Nope, have never been a Christian, or a subscriber of any other religion. Just you friendly neighborhood secular humanist!"

Never the less Benny, you seem to have been infected by Christianity through your contact with them. Perhaps by trying to reason and rationalize with them you became ill. Is there hope for you? As long as you see Christians as equal to yourself then your own mental faculties should be questioned. There are many who claim to be atheist but who really are not. They are "Sheep in wolves clothing". There are ways to identify a sick person. It is by their syptoms. Even though you claim to never have been a Christian, you have some of the symptoms of a Christian.

Stauffenberg said...

The "good man" above, parroting Nietzsche, tells us that those who deny Christ will be our overlords.

Nothing new here...its what atheists always attempt when they get power.

Gulags, "re-education" centers, and brainwashing camps...described in detail by the Nobel Prize Winner Solzhenitsyn in the Gulag Archipelago.

Of course they self destructed, just as Nietzsche died a syphillitic lunatic.

Many talented and brilliant men have tried to destroy Christianity...Voltaire, Nietzsche, Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, ad nauseum.

They all failed.

So will you.

The Rev. Jenner J. Hull said...

I'm calling BS on the Good Man and Lady in Waiting. Sounds like there’s some serious well-poisoning going on here.

Some atheists might see religion as a sort of "mind virus" that “infects” people (this is a metaphor) but no one's calling for a purge. We're talking about spreading awareness of critical and empirical thinking, not eliminating and/or forcibly brainwashing people.

That’s just the kind of “nightmare atheist” jive that people like to toss out there when they want to say, “See! The evil atheists want to eliminate us from society!” Though we may lament what we see as the unwarranted obeisance of Christianity and religion in general, no intelligent, rational atheist thinks as TGM and LiW does.

Benny said...

Right on, Rev. Hull :) I was just starting to think that we're dealing with either some seriously disturbed individuals, or mischievous masqueraders.

Stauffenberg, that line of "reasoning" sounds awfully familiar...

Another thread

Are you JC's alter ego, or do you just both get your anti-atheism arguments from the same places? In any case, this was my response to JC then, and it'll serve as my response to you now:

I would agree that a government that forcibly represses religions is no better than a religious government. But what I (and most atheists) endorse is not an officially atheist government, but a secular one that allows people freedom of religion or lack thereof. Are there a lot of secular governments that have created gulags, re-education centers, or brain-washing camps?

Benny said...

Oops, forgot this last bit:

On the other hand, Bush gave us Guantanamo, and American evangelists are doing their best to fill our society with Jesus camps.

LiW said...

"We're talking about spreading awareness of critical and empirical thinking, not eliminating and/or forcibly brainwashing people."

Christians are ill, they are unable to think criticaly or empiricaly. Athiest are not interested in forcibly brain washing people. Treating the symptoms of a diseas is not the same as treating the diseas. Christianity is termianl and must me seen through to the infected's death. The quarintine that I propose would be sanitary and safe where all the needs of the infected are met. It would be nothing like a death camp, it would be more like a hospice.
The weak will be weeded out. I see many week men here. You call yourselves athiests but you do not have what it takes. It is not your fault. Nature made you what you are and you will be weeded out.

The Rev. Jenner J. Hull said...

I'm sorry. I was wrong. Evidently, LiW is just performing some bad improv comedy.

And, since I forgot to mention it earlier, great "atheist ethics" intro, Mr. Loftus...

Logismous Kathairountes said...

Not subtle enough, TGM and LiW.

If you had stopped after that first post, it might have been considered a clever rhetorical point. Somebody might have thought, "Hmmmm, Atheism really would lead to abuses of power." or "Yeah, we ought to kill the Christians! Oh wait, I'm being really evil. I see now what my life is like without God."

You went too far, though, and you spoiled it.

I'm a Christian, and I agree with you. I think that Atheist philosophy leads to the abuse of power - But they think Christianity leads to the abuse of power, and we have the Communists and they have the Crusades, and we both try to claim the Holocaust, and it's just not a fruitful conversation. In general, wrongheadedness leads to the abuse of power, and we each think the other side is wrongheaded.

Personally, I'm looking forward to an interesting conversation about ethics. Hopefully I'll have time to drop in.

The Rev. Jenner J. Hull said...

Logismous Kathairountes,

Thanks for recognizing the bogus "atheist" arguments. But...

"I think that Atheist philosophy leads to the abuse of power..."

Honestly, there is no "Atheist philosophy." Collectively and categorically, atheists don't believe in god but, other than that, there has never been a set of rules that we all, as a group, abide by (unlike every religion).

We tend to make our own rules, and while they might seem arbitrary or "morally subjective" to theists, they also tend to coincide with basic human decency. Sure, Christians and atheists both share some common-sense maxims (theft, assualt, and murder are wrong), but atheism does so from a place of genuine altruism. We do good things because we believe we should do good things, not because someone told us to or we're afraid of being eternally punished for bad deeds.

The Good Man said...

That I am a fraud is rediculuous. I only say the things that the rest of you swine are afraid to say so you only hint at it. For instance, look at the posts on this blog.

WILL GOD PROVIDE?
Christian are rightly catagorized as less than rational in their false beleif that God will provide. This has in many ways caused problems in many societies.

A REVIEW OF VALERIE TARICO"S BOOK, "THE DARK SIDE".

"Its focus is mainly on Biblical teachings themselves and how they "counter" both reason and philosphy." Here we see Valerie stating the same things that I state: That Christianity is hurtful to society and these things have been stated elsewhere on this blog. Correctly I might add.

"When it comes to false superstitious and religious beliefs, Tarico claims “it doesn’t take very many false assumptions to send us on a long goose chase.” To illustrate this she tells us about the mental world of a paranoid schizophrenic. To such a person the perceived persecution by others sounds real. “You can sit, as a psychiatrist, with a diagnostic manual next to you, and think: as bizarre as it sounds, the CIA really is bugging this guy. The arguments are tight, the logic persuasive, the evidence organized into neat files. All that is needed to build such an impressive house of illusion is a clear, well-organized mind and a few false assumptions. Paranoid individuals can be very credible.” (p. 221-22). This is what Christians do, and this is why it’s hard to shake the Evangelical faith, in her informed opinion." Christians are compared to paranoid shizophrenics. Ansd rightly so. A paranoid scizoprnic can not be trusted to make ethical decisions in life and so those decisions must be made for them unless they are on medication. But they must take their medication. Valerie hints at it, but I actually say it, that Christians must be treated, and forcibly, for they no not what is for their own good.

STUDY IN "JOURNAL OF RELIGION AND SOCIETY" FINDS SOCIETIES WORSE OFF WITH RELIGION"

There are many things that societies are worse off with. Drug addicts are one of them. Try talking ratioaly or empriicaly with a drug addict. Marx said that religion was the opium of the people. He was correct. Christians are not only ill but they are addicted to their illness. This study prooves that Christianity hurst society and it implies, that like drugs, Christianity should be outlawed and removed from society. It does not come right out and say it, but the statment is there for any one with eyes to see it. Again, I say things that you all are thinking. And if you are not thinking them, then you are not a true athiest. You are only posing as one.

Poisoning the well? That's absurd. If anyone is poisoning the well it is these idealogical children who call themselves athiests that frequent this blog. Stop tip toeing around the real issues, and come out and say what you mean. That is what I do.
And as for Logimous Kathairountes, as a rule I do not respond to the rantings of crazy people and so I wont. My only reason for visint this site is to pint out your weaknesses. There must be no compormise, not toleration at all. Christianity must be purged from the world. The world, as you yourselves have proven, will be better off with out it. Have the courage to say what you mean, unless, as I have said, you havee been infected and so it is too late for you.

Barry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Barry said...

A group of atheist trying to find an ethical standard doesn't strike anyone else as patently ridiculous? Your whole worldview is discredited the minute the discussion starts. If there is not a creator there is no way to have a rational discussion of ethics. It's a meaningless concept. Your just batting around words and trying to give meaning to chemical processes. What's exactly the point?
If anything the obviously satiric "atheist overlord" position would at least be fairly philosophically consistent.

Mark Plus said...

If there is not a creator there is no way to have a rational discussion of ethics.

Ethics has nothing to do with a god. An amoral "creator" involves no logical contradiction.

zilch said...

Your just batting around words and trying to give meaning to chemical processes.
That's right, Barry. And so are you, but you don't realize it. What else is there to give meaning to, other than chemical processes?

Ethics are based upon our evolved needs and desires as social animals, balanced against the needs of society. Meaning is also an evolved entity: no chemical processes, no life, no meaning.

Btw- TGM and LiW: if you want to poison the well more intelligently, don't be so obvious. For instance, the "new world order" is a dead giveaway.

glog said...

I think that the well poisoners bring up an interestin point. This is not a pro-athiest blog. It is a Christian debunking blog. We are not trying to prove the merits of athiesm but only prove the fallacy of Christianity. It is Christianity that is on trial here. Not athiesm.

TGM said...

I am not a fraud. I am not a well poisoner. If what I say disagrees with your personal ideas of athiesm then you are NOT an ATHIEST. The things I say are the things TRUE ATHEISTS agree with. I am not ashmed of who I am. Read you own blogs and you will see that I say what you all tip toe around. I am not afraid of the criticizm. It is going to come out sooner or later. When the New World Order begins people will have to choose sides. Any one who shows even the slightest symptom of the disease Christianity will be dealt with accordingly, in a humane and ethical way. I am afraid that I see symtoms of Christianity in all of you who frequent this blog. Anymore contact with you could be detrmental to my own well-being. I am taking of this blog for the furtue when the real tests of Atheism begin.

Anonymous said...

Those of us who regard the ethic of Jesus as finally and ultimately normative, but as not immediately applicable to the task of securing justice in a sinful world, are very foolish if we try to reduce the ethic so that it will cover and justify our prudential and relative standards and strategies. To do this is to reduce the ethic to a new legalism. The significance of the law of love is precisely that it is not just another law, but a law which transcends all law. Every law and every standard which falls short of the law of love embodies contingent factors and makes concessions to the fact that sinful man must achieve tentative harmonies of life with life which are less than the best. It is dangerous and confusing to give these tentative and relative standards final and absolute religious sanction.

The misery of man is derived from his idolatry, from his partly conscious and partly unconscious effort to make himself, his race, and his culture God. This idolatry is not broken until man is confronted with the real God, and finds his pride broken by the divine judgment, and learns that from this crucifixion of the old proud self a new self may arise, and that this new self has the "fruits of the spirit," which are "love, joy, peace."

It is not that man in his weakness has finite perspectives that makes conflicts between varying perspectives so filled with fanatic fury in all human history; it is that man denies the finiteness of his perspectives that tempts him to such fanatic cruelty against those who hold convictions other than his own. The quintessence of sin is, in short, that man "changes the glory of the incorruptible God into the image of corruptible man." He always usurps God's place and claims to be the final judge of human actions.

The true situation is that anything short of love cannot be perfect justice. In fact, every definition of justice actually presupposes sin as a given reality. It is only because life is in conflict with life, because of sinful self-interest, that we are required carefully to define schemes of justice which prevent one life from taking advantage of another. Yet no scheme of justice can do full justice to all the variable factors which the freedom of man introduces into human history.

Human nature is, in short, a realm of infinite possibilities of good and evil because of the character of human freedom. The love that is the law of its nature is a boundless self-giving. The sin that corrupts its life is a boundless assertion of the self. Between these two forces all kinds of "ad hoc" restraints may be elaborated and defined. We may call this natural law [or divine law]. But we had better realize how very tentative it is. Otherwise we shall merely sanction some traditional relation between myself and my fellow man as a "just" relation, and quiet the voice of conscience which speaks to me of higher possibilities. What is more, we may stabilize sin and make it institutional....

A church can consequently never prove itself Christian by defending a "Christian civilization." By that very effort it becomes, as church, unchristian.

The perfectionist ethic of Jesus...demands that love be poured forth whether or not we suffer from injustice.

The Rev. Jenner J. Hull said...

Give it up, TGM. I mean, come on, you're the "TRUE ATHEIST" and we're not? Because we don't want to put everyone else in the world up against the wall?

That's easily one of the worst "evil atheist" stereotypes I've seen.

You can sell it all you want, but no one's buying.

Anonymous said...

Rev, this has gotten redicoulously hilarious.

Stauffenberg said...

The "good man" is simple paroting one of the most famous atheists of the last two centuries, Nietzsche.

He is just rehasing, without credit, quotes from Nietzsche's "The Anti Christ".

Long of atheists zingers in that one!

"Elimination of the weak and defective, the first principle of our philosphy! And we shoud help them to do it." (The AC, sec. 2)

Nietzsche of course died a raving insane lunatic.

Fortunatly, although atheists in power have always tried to eliminate the believers, as the "good man" suggestst, they have also always self destructed.

The all failed.

So will you, although you will take a lot of souls with you.

Of course, thats idea, right?

david ellis said...

One point I think need to be kept in mind in a discussion of the basis of values:

Subjective and arbitrary are not the same thing. It is all too often assumed, in the discussion of ethics, that they are---and that's an error that has huge consequences in meta-ethics.

david ellis said...

And, for pete sake, lets leave off the bashing atheist's for the atrocities of communists.

Almost all the atheists in this discussion are HUMANISTS---not communists.

Its like blaming christians for the human sacrifices of the Aztecs because both believed in deities.

Stauffenberg said...

But David, Acharya does bash Christians for that!

As for commies...they were dialectical materialists.

Atheists.

And their atheism meant that believers were in the way and had to be eliminated...by any means necessary. (Trotsky, in his Testament...available at Trotsky.net...declares that he was an "irreconciable atheist".)

But I know you KNOW this. Solzhenitsyn documented their attacks on believers and their motivations in stunning detail in the Gulag Archipelago series.

And you have atheists leaders today calling believers delusional (Dawkins), child abusers (Dawkins AND Dennet), and saying that it is ethical to kill people for BELIEFS! (Sam Harris, p 52-53 of TEOF)

Not to mention morons like "good man" above paroting Nietzsche and saying believers have to be locked up.

Dawkins is a humanist.

Dennet is a humanist.

Harris is a humanist.

So I "lack belief" in your claims about the superiority of your brand of "humanism".

david ellis said...


But David, Acharya does bash Christians for that!


If so its the first atheists I've encountered who condemns christians for the acts of aztecs.....on the other hand one finds atheists in general condemned for the acts of communist regimes routine in debates on atheism.


As for commies...they were dialectical materialists.

Atheists.


So what. And aztecs are supernaturalists....but, as I said, it still doesn't mean I (or any rational person) would condemn supernaturalists in general for the practices of one particular religion.


And their atheism meant that believers were in the way and had to be eliminated...by any means necessary. (Trotsky, in his Testament...available at Trotsky.net...declares that he was an "irreconciable atheist".)

But I know you KNOW this. Solzhenitsyn documented their attacks on believers and their motivations in stunning detail in the Gulag Archipelago series.


Again, so what? What does that have to do with atheism in general?

Both atheistic and theistic belief systems can be fanatical and desire to stomp out by force all contrary belief systems (rather than using persuasion and reasoned discussion).

To condemn christians for the acts of aztecs is silly.

To condemn humanists for the acts of communists is also silly.

Lets hope this discussion can rise to a more reasonable level than that.


Dawkins is a humanist.

Dennet is a humanist.

Harris is a humanist.


And which of them has called for the extermination of people who will not convert to humanism?

Barry said...

"Ethics are based upon our evolved needs and desires as social animals, balanced against the needs of society."
And exactly who decides that's the goal? What if I don't care about the needs of society if it gets in my way?

zilch said...

"And exactly who decides that's the goal? What if I don't care about the needs of society if it gets in my way?"
These are indeed the problems all societies face, and there are no easy answers. Or, rather, the easy answers are delusions- as H.L. Mencken said, "For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong."

If we want to enjoy the fruits of society, we have to make rules, and we have to enforce these rules somehow. One tried-and-true method to enforce rules that has evolved over and over again is divine carrots and sticks. Another is secular governments with executive powers, whether they are monarchies or democracies, or something in between.

Of course, who ends up dictating what our goals should be, and what rules are made and how they are enforced, is quite complex. The power to decide is balanced between the "will of the people", whether they can vote or not, and various concentrations of power in secular and religious authorities, whether in the form of humans, gods, or documents: kings, presidents, priests, deities, constitutions, holy writ.

In any case, we're navigating incompletely charted seas when trying to design societies, and we end up landing on islands largely of our own device. To believe that these islands exist outside of our own conflicting desires and imperfect abilities is an alluring illusion, one that helps us submit to the yoke, but an illusion nonetheless.

It is necessary for us to draw lines, make rules, to create societies. But as soon as we invest these lines with the standing of absolute truths, we've crossed over from engineering to religion. And in building societies, like building bridges, all we really have is engineering.

Barry said...

But where does the moral athourity to rule come for anyone? Just the will of the people? What happens to the minorities? What if the power is in a small concentrated group that wishes to do away with all opposition? Do I, if I'm not in the power group, have any rights? If so, from where do they come?
Without a absolute moral standard based on inherent rights, there can be know logic for any society to operate under. It's just those most able to manipulate and maintain power do as they please. That's great if I'm in that group but really sucks if I'm not. And I have no justice claims if there are no inherent rights.

david ellis said...

Barry, it would seem quite apparent to me that recognition of rights for others proceeds from our capacity to empathize. Where there is real, sincere empathy for others acting morally is as natural as breathing.....where it is absent morality is a near impossibility.

So the basis of morality all boils down to one simple question:

is empathy/love of intrinsic worth?

The answer seems obvious to me---there is nothing in life more valuable and worthwhile than the bonds of fellowship.

I think anyone who has felt those bonds deeply cannot help but agree....and those who cannot, well, there's a name for such people: sociopaths

Anonymous said...

These bonds are desires. God is the true genrator of desire whether you recognize it or not. There is true desire which comes from God and we all have this and then there is false desire which comes without God and none of us have this unless we deny the true desire. False desire is not desire at all it is only denial of true desire.


The problem with Satan is that he denied the true desire to serve God and in turning away from the truth he embraced evil, flasness and beleived falsly that he could be God. Proof of the falsness of Satan's desire is the fact that he can never be God. The probelm with evil, is that it is not the opposite of God, but the absence of God. Good is the presence of God. When we do evil we are being false. We are denying everything that is true.

Early mdern athiest admeitted that they wanted to pursue false desires with a clean conscience and so they worked to remove God form their psychies. This they beleived would take the guilt away and let them be happy with the way they were living. However, it was not enough to change their own mind, they needed to change the minds of society as well. To make it more real. But it is false and the early atheist admitted this much.

Early athiests actually beleived in God, they were actually Satanist, elitest who rebelled against God. And they began an ideology of unbeleif that you people take up today.

To be an athiest is evil in that you are false becasue you deny the truth. I know you all beleive in God, that is why you work so hard at trying to convinvce others of your false veiws so as to make it more real.


I stand firm in my belief in God. I beleive in Jesus Christ, I beleive I have a personal relationship with him. I've walked and talked with him. People like me are impossible to stop.

zilch said...

Barry- what david ellis said. I would just add that moral authority is, like life itself, an evolved entity, a combination of our evolved social animal nature and decisions we make about how we want to live. This is true whether or not we claim divine or absolute status for our morals. Positing a God as the source of our morals has been an effective way of enforcing them, but it's not the only way, as many atheist humanists have shown.

anon- you say "God is the true genrator of desire whether you recognize it or not."

No, anon- desire, and fear, are the true generators of God, whether you recognize it or not.

If believing in God feels good and makes you a better person, more power to you. I just hope, when you say you're "impossible to stop", that you don't have in mind, say, getting Creationism into public school science classes, or perhaps like one poster I encountered on "raptureready", pouring weed killer down the drain because "Jesus is coming soon anyway".

If you behave nicely, you can go ahead and believe that atheists are evil, or anything else you want.

david ellis said...


God is the true genrator of desire whether you recognize it or not.


How do you know?


Early mdern athiest admeitted that they wanted to pursue false desires with a clean conscience and so they worked to remove God form their psychies.


I'm sure you'd like to believe that. But its nonsense. Atheists, in almost all cases, become atheists because they find the claims of theism unfounded and implausible. Not because they want to pursue worldly desires. After all, one does not need to become an atheist to pursue worldly desires (sin). Theists do it all the time.....and often with little sign that it much troubles them. So clearly one need not deconvert and give up the idea of an afterlife to pursue sin.

If I were going to change my beliefs out of a desire for sin rather than evidential reasons I would have converted to universalism---then I could have my cake and eat it too.

But that is almost never the reason for deconversion. Much as you might like to think it is.

But I'm

david ellis said...


Early athiests actually beleived in God, they were actually Satanist, elitest who rebelled against God.


A bold claim.

Care to back it up?

Anonymous said...

Well, Marx and his bunch were satanists. Read Richard Wurmbrand's book marx and Satan.

zilch said...

Well, I don't have the time to read the whole thing, anon. If anyone's interested, it's available (in German) here. Skimming it, the only evidence I could find that Wurmbrand offers for Marx being a Satanist is that he rejected his Christian upbringing and called God names in a play he wrote as a student.

But even if he were a Satanist, that would say nothing about atheists, because Satanists are believers, and atheists are not.

Anonymous said...

"But even if he were a Satanist, that would say nothing about atheists, because Satanists are believers, and atheists are not."

That's my point. The first athiests beleived in God, they rebelled against God and created dogmas and traditions and ideologies that their children would pick up in that way they still work against god in their deaths. You are part of a revenge sceme against people who hate God and you don't even know it.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, let me refrase that last sentence: You are part of a revenge sceme directed towards God that was begun by people who hated God.

zilch said...

Uh, anon- as david ellis already asked: do you have any evidence for that statement, or do we just have to take your word for it? Who were the "first atheists", and how do you know what they believed?

david ellis said...

Indeed, please list the evidence for your claim. To the best of my knowledge Marx was a naturalist---he didn't believe in the supernatural in any form---and that would include Satan.

Oh, and the earliest known atheists were the philosophers of the Carvaka school in ancient India----something on the order of two and a half thousand years before Marx or other European atheists (and they go back much further than Marx in Europe as well---Baron D'Holbach, for example, born a century earlier than Marx).

Nice try, though, why bother reasoning about the issues when you can just smear atheists by calling them satanists.

Jason said...

John,
There are many comments and I have not read them all, I apologize if this is redundant.
I think a very important point needs to be made about what Christian's actually believe. Christian's do not believe they need to try to "be good enough" to get into heaven and avoid hell by obeying God's ethical law. Christian's are quick to recognize that they can never be good enough, indeed this is central to their belief. Because of this they must have belief in Christ to be saved. There must be some other motivation for Christian's to want to act ethically. It is NOT in order to avoid Hell, as you suggest in your article.

-Jason

david ellis said...

I don't think that's entirely accurate as far as the views of most christians go, Jason.

True, most view salvation as an undeserved gift of grace....that we cannot earn it as a result of our moral goodness.

But most also believe that we must be sincerely devoted to trying to serve God---even if we can only do so imperfectly.

Few christians would say that a man can with impunity rape, steal and kill and be said to have sincerely accepted christ as his savior.

A sincere devotion to acting ethically is, in the view of most christians, a necessary consequence of a sincere acceptance of Christ---so ethical behavior and salvation are far from disconnected issues in the typical christian view.

Jason said...

David,
I mostly agree with you. But I still maintain that ethical action is not the determining factor for entrance to heaven on the standard Christian worldview. I think the Christian position would hold that someone who has truly accepted Christ will not do the sort of things you mentioned. Yet still, if one did "fall" and commit murder or rape, this would still not nullify their salvation. A "true Christian" would most likely feel guilt in such a circumstance, and hopefully repent and start living ethically again.
You are right to say their their position is not "ok now you have accepted Christ into your heart so go and do what you want and it will be forgiven".
I still maintain that the primary motivating factor for Christians to act ethically is not avoidance of Hell, it should be their love of Christ.

-Jason

richdurrant said...

I'll chime in on Jason's side here and agree that most Christians behave the way they do out of desire to do what they feel is right and not out of fear of hell. It's more like a desire to reach a goal rather than fear of failing that motivates ethical behavior, to me.

david ellis said...

I agree, Rich. Which is exactly why I find the question so frequently posed by Christians: "if there is no God and no Judgement in the afterlife then what reason is there to act ethically" so absurd.

The answer is quite simple and essentially the same for atheists as for supernaturalists. Out of empathy for others and concern for their well-being.

maybeitsnonsense said...

one problem to address with

"an ethic that is based upon some solid evidence about who we are as human beings and why we act the way we do,"

humans do not always behave rationally-
for example, a man down the road from me entered his buring house to save a dog, he died (with the dog) was this rational?

Also---
This man did this because...(we can only guess) but I may choose not to because...(fill in the blank) So- people act the way they do or do not for differnet reasons.

this is only one simple example

maybeitsnonsense said...

On why we would be ethical without god---

"The answer is quite simple and essentially the same for atheists as for supernaturalists. Out of empathy for others and concern for their well-being."

If ethics are based on rational self interest---then how does empathy and concern for others fit into the eqation?

Also---
From an evolutionary perspective it makes no sense to me why we would have evolved empathy- it can lead to personal demise which is contrary to the evolutionary view that the ultimate goal of an organism is to survive.