1. The universe is purely material. It is strictly natural, and there is no such thing as the supernatural (e.g., gods or spiritual forces).

2. The universe is scientific. It is observable, knowable and governed strictly by the laws of physics.

3. The universe is impersonal. It does not a have consciousness or a will, nor is it guided by a consciousness or a will.

4. Meaning comes from the living world.  



If atheism had to have tenets, because we wanted to explain our worldview to outsiders, what do you think of these?  The first three are from this article from the most recent Sunday School.  The fourth is adapted from an idea of our own very lovely Onyango Makagutu: "meaning comes from human beings".  

As for the article: 1) he's not saying that atheists are bad people. 2) he might look like an enemy, but really he's a friend, because he's spelled out some very relevant questions that we need to answer explicitly and rigorously.  The reason we need to answer them is because many other people ask them too, and that's enough reason.  We shouldn't shy away from them, if we want to hold our heads up high as a legitimate world view.  We expect other world views to justify themselves.  I'm doing a lot of work behind the scenes, and one day I'm going to answer them all with a flourish, I'm going to butt heads with all those people.  On the one hand I expect it will upset some applecarts but also they will be pleasantly surprised with what I've got to say. 

[edit]  here is my response to Pastor Rick Henderson's article. 

The two bases of the moral framework:   

http://yellowgrain.co.uk/healing_principle.html

http://yellowgrain.co.uk/personal_morality.html

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Well, he's in for a shock. 

Unlike religion, the atheist position has no necessary tenants, no dogma, no essential teachings. Atheists come in many different flavours, and often hold highly disparate views. i.e agnostic atheists to militant atheists.

There are some general ideas with most atheists, definitely correct me if I'm wrong:

'To have freedom from any religious law, gods, deities or the supernatural'

'To promote respect for nature & humanity'

'To value life in joy & wonder of the universe. The adventure is finding out'

'To apply logic & reason to establish facts based on new & existing information researched by science. To find truth by logic & reason. Be open to be proved wrong & question everything.'

I think anything more is definitely humanist, however humanism is sometimes considered 'atheist spirituality' lol.

Hitchens & Dawkins both attempted to create the atheist 10 commandments, although this is to be taken loosely as them making a point.

There is also the golden rule, a maxim (the only one I know), which seems to transcend all religious & non-religious beliefs, recognised by humanists...and atheists.

My wording the link as “there are no good atheists” was deliberate because we have all heard it being used about us. If it were true the prisons population would reflect that. The statistics show this not to be case. Protestants, Catholics and Muslims make up 60% of the prison population while atheists make up just 0.1%, a lesser figure than even Jehovah Witnesses.

So you could say – and I very often do – that religious based morality is weak. Its core tenet that you can scapegoat your crimes and be forgiven without seeking forgiveness from the victim or without having to even speak with them is revolting to me. Vicarious redemption is the moral rot of Christianity.

Of course that statement of mine does not fully explain the complexity of the figures but it kills dead any notion that atheists cannot be good without god.

Agreed Reg, some of the most beautiful people I know are atheists. At least in atheism you are accountable for your own actions.

"religious based morality is weak."  - I agree Reg - or rather I think it's at once very strong and somewhat weak. 

As for the "atheist morality" project - atheists don't need to be told about morality.  Atheists already have good morality in my experience.  I think one of the main reasons is that we often work out our morality in reaction to the sometimes-bogus morality of religion.  Many of us have suffered badly at the hands of this bogus morality, myself included.  We're forced to work out how to do it properly, and we have good motivation to stick to it. 

Vicarious redemption - without watching the Youtube video, I've read elsewhere that because Christ's sacrifice led to God granting his grace to the human race, Christians are grateful to Jesus for achieving the gift of this grace and that's why they are moral beings - out of gratitude to God and Jesus.  Now - even though we see the basis as false, this actually works really well as a motivation for morality and it's a morally sound motive.  So it's not that part of their morality that's faulty.  It's the other parts, where the Bible tells them whatever they want to hear and they go ahead and do it, legitimising unwholesome aspects of human nature.  Yes, the forgiveness mechanism doesn't seem quite right too, in the way it often gets applied. 

But God's grace is a real biological phenomenon caused by evolution, it's the benevolence of our instincts and processes of physical healing, health-seeking, self-preservation, survival, etc. it's all the same thing.  It looks after us and actually it's quite a spiritual force when you think about it.  It's forgiving (always ready to give you another chance), it's a cause for optimism (nature is always trying to tug you upwards), we can generate it between each other or in oneself by one's actions, think about it, it blows your mind a little. 

The upshot is that morality generates and nurtures it (once you nurture it, it grows on its own as if by magic), so one motivation for our morality is that we are grateful to goodness for keeping everything healthy in our lives.  We can love goodness for its own sake, for looking after us.  Good motivation. 

It's interesting how this is a crossover between science and religion, a common language.  Since we have a clear understanding of its origin and manifestation and how it works, perhaps we can show the religious a thing or two about how to work with it properly.  For example, it puts the forgiveness aspect in its proper place.  Again, the power of understanding and knowledge. 

Interesting post, Simon. Let us assume that your "tenets" ( I agree with matt, not the best word to use) are true. So Jesus is not supernatural. So, here we have a regular guy who said he will absolve us of sins, without regard for our victims. He will alleviate us of our moral responsibility. If Jesus is not god, he is despicable person.

Simon, points 1, 2 and 3 I do not hold as tenets that are unalterable. They would be beliefs I have to be true based on my understandings of the knowledge (justified evidence) I currently hold about them. I only have access to scientific based knowledge because there is no other kind that is objective. Anything religious or spiritual (whatever that is), is purely subjective. Like theology it is based on nothing so it has nothing to demonstrate, to paraphrase Thomas Paine.

They (points 1-3) are not beliefs in the sense that I believe them to be absolute truths in the sense that a Muslim holds the word of the messenger. I will change my views when I come to understand new evidence to suggest I should. I see no other way of forming my worldview.

I would add one more into your list. Atheists live life knowing we only have one life. This is it. Once we come to terms with the fact that we are extremely fortunate to exist even if it only lasts a brief moment (there is so much to be spoken about brevity) then we can attribute whatever meaning we want to our lives.

Where else but from the living world could we find that meaning? Everything that lives on this planet (and maybe elsewhere) is related to everything and everyone else.

...and there lies the beauty of atheism.

"Atheists live life knowing we only have one life."  - but it doesn't apply to me, because I think there may be life after death.  Sorry, but I do.  I'm still a full atheist.  It may sound unlikely, but it's impossible to prove either way, and there are plenty of spooky stories around that lend weight to the possibility.  So as long as there's a possibility, sometimes this matters. 

In what way do you think there is an afterlife? through physics? Just curious.

I just don't know, but that's not the point. 

You might find some of L. Ron Hubbard's early writing inspiring, or at least get some idea how it inspired a new religion. Obviously Scientology ultimately leads people into deep into crazyland; he developed his ability to twist science fiction into believable dogma, as more and more minds in search of a path bought into his preliminary tenets. (He even got adherents to believe he was Buddha in a past life!)

I'm not making fun of anyone here, not even LRH. I'm just saying he learned how to effectively appeal to many people's spiritual and self-esteem needs.

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