This is my first post and I want to say that I am new to even the idea of making a break from my religious upbringing and training. Though I grew up in the south, I was always devoted to my religious participation in a very humanistic anti dogmatic sort of way. Public expressions of faith nonsense always bothered me, and it made me worry that there was something wrong with me, so I tried to devote myself even more, eventually earning two graduate degrees in theology and a career working in church.
Slowly though I have been even drifting away from the concept of religious faith itself, until one day last week I heard some Texas school board bozo who was saying on television that his religious faith informed him about what should or should not be taught in Texas, and something just clicked. "What the hell is this guy talking about?" I thought. At other times in my life I would have just rolled my eyes and ignored him, but this time it really pissed me off.
So I come here with all sorts of questions, mostly along the 'how do athiests treat morality and ethics without god" sort of line. In browsing here I've noticed that those questions get treated with everything from amusement to disgust, so please be kind.
Throughout my life, the thing that inspired me most about christianity is something the christians inherited from the ancient hebrews, which is the idea that all humanity is created in the image of god (you can read it in Genesis), and so therefore all humanity is somehow sacred, everyone from Mitt Romney and Barak Obama, to the homeless guy who asked me for bus money the other day. All sacred, and so all deserving of respect and basic dignity. I'm wondering how does an atheist understand that there is basic dignity in all human life, and that all of us are afforded respect and just treatment simply by virtue of our common humanity.
Please understand I'm not joining this forum trying to play 'devil's advocate' or anything, or looking to dust something up on an athiest site. I'm honestly seeking this understanding because of where my life and thought has taken me, and I'm looking for new answers outside of religion that make more rational sense.
I thought I was up to date on Dawkin's videos but I had not seen the one you linked to. It's really one of his better replies to this type of question. I've seen him flounder in this same situation before. It really was a great response.
/And that Sam Harris video was a tour de force argument against God.
clear your mind and look in the mirror..
"All sacred, and so all deserving of respect and basic dignity." I quote you and say that you must use this same logic for the member of the Texas BofED. What you will find is very few people who call themselves Christian really search for Jesus, few really seek understanding. In this case, and what is the case in a lot of the south is religion is a status issue and nothing else.
I think you will find that atheistic thought cannot bring about dignity in human life. If we just exist free of the supernatural, then we have no purpose, not dignity, and no reason for life. We are simply empty vessels taking up space. It is only through Christ that we have purpose. So it is only through Christ that we have worth, because we are created in the image of God. If you really look at the logic behind Christianity and not just the fluff that a lot of people throw at you, I promise you that you will find rational thought. I would love to talk more about this with you! I obviously respect that you have studied theology and would never try and talk down to you, I simply would like to here your story more!
We could just as easily find 'purpose' by believing that our President was the manifestation of The Grand Creator here on Earth - hey, it works in North Korea. That we might find purpose in an idea does not attest to its truth. In point of fact, we can find purpose in any fiction. I happen to define my fiction has humanity and find purpose, dignity, and self-worth in the idea of elevating the human condition.
So, what makes your fiction better than mine?
We do not define our purpose. I could find purpose in whatever I set before, however, it is still empty and lacks substance. Purpose comes from God. If God exists than our ethics and morality are found solely in Him. If you would like to have a conversation about the the reality of God, than I would gladly talk to you about that, the rest however, is simply semantics.
If a god existed then I suppose our ethics and morality could well be sourced from it - but our ethics and morality vary greatly between cultures and over time so it would seem that our ethics and morality are not based on some unchanging, universal source.
That you have not defined your morality and/or ethics yourself is evidenced by your Christianity - that those who've believed before you have defined a set of doctrines for you to follow. That set of doctrines has evolved, over time, across cultures, and into different sects based on the same book, however - also evidence against an unchanging, universal force behind even Christianity - let alone Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, etc.
Please tell me about the reality of Yahweh/Jesus/the Holy Spirit. I'll ask that you name the god of whom you speak, however, rather than obfuscating your theology with generic deistic nomenclature.
Mark, you should take the time to read everyone's responses. If you do that, you'll see that your assertions have already been discussed.
We do not accept the claim that purpose, meaning, or dignity are handed to us from some god. You cannot tell me that I do not, or cannot, assign purpose to my own life because I actually have done just that. I have decided that my purpose is to fight for human rights through various outlets, and so I carry out that purpose as best as I can. My (self-assigned) purpose is to create art, learn to cook, build and enjoy relationships, enrich the lives of others, defend the defenseless, debunk mysticism, etc... I have many, many purposes. I simply do not need someone else to give meaning to my life. I'm very sorry that you feel incapable of choosing what your purpose is; that's actually a tragedy. Those of us on this site, however, can choose and do choose. Your denial of that fact doesn't change it.
I do not think that he is incapable of choosing his own purpose. I feel that many theists tend to label their personal purpose that they have assigned to themselves as the purpose that their god has put them on the Earth for. This is just a mislabeling of where the purpose comes from. I also think that this gives a 'self righteous' feeling to one's self assigned purpose, which elevates them above others in their perspective. We can see this feeling in Marks words, and his view that those without god can have no true purpose. This does not say to me that he respects all human life, as religion says he should, but that's just my opinion.
If God exists than our ethics and morality are found solely in Him. If you would like to have a conversation about the the reality of God, than I would gladly talk to you about that
If you'd really like to have a discussion about the "reality of God" as a source of ethics and morality, then come to this new blog post. I guarantee you an interesting conversation.
You should read Nonzero.
The first thing you should realize is that no one here has answers, were all looking for them too.
I believe there is no such thing as basic dignity, human rights, etc. that are afforded us simply because we are human.
Rights are given to us by society - other people. If a person decides not to afford you a right, there's nothing other than societal pressure that might make them change their mind about that.
I don't believe that humans are "special", in that they automatically get rights just by being human. Humans are animals, who just happen to be in a privillaged position.