I had previously posted an earlier version of this blog entry (with a different title). I decided that, although I knew what I was saying, I hadn't properly fleshed out my thoughts for general consumption. So I revised it to be more readable and connect ideas together more coherently. I hope you find this version makes more sense and is easier to read.


 

I am treated as evil by people who claim that they are being oppressed
because they are not allowed to force me to practice what they do.” ~D. Dale Gulledge

 

Whether Christian or Muslim, we've all had our fair share of experiences with true believers and have come to understand what William G. McAdoo meant when he said, “It is impossible to defeat an ignorant man in argument.” They are oblivious to reason and anointed in denial. Being ignorant is neither good or bad, right or wrong. Being willfully ignorant is another matter entirely.

Many (most?) Christians and Muslims, when faced with irrefutable evidence or an iron-clad argument, will almost never admit they are wrong. Instead, like the Catholic Church, they back-pedal: modify their arguments to mitigate the damage of evidence and logic.

Revealed religions claim to have a superior and objective moral system or standard because it is handed down by God via divinely inspired scripture. They are right when they claim that, without a supernatural entity to dictate behavior, there can be no objective morality. An omniscient God is the only possible source of objective morality because there is none to be found in nature. Nature has only a prime directive: survive. So, because we (atheists) believe God does not exist, most of us also believe morality can only be subjective.

One doesn't need to be religious to believe in an objective morality: I've even seen so-called atheists tout various ethical systems as objective moral standards -- Utilitarianism, survival-based cooperation, the avoidance of unnecessary pain or suffering, etc. But, of course, these are not objective moral standards at all . . . Who decides what serves the greater good? In what context are we to make survival-based decisions? Why do you claim something is unnecessary? . . . Value judgments are at the heart of any moral or ethical system and they are, by definition, subjective. Pay attention to what these people say and you're likely to see that they are didactic pedagogues attempting to force their pedantic dogma down your throat. Whether or not such a person is aware of it -- or just good at disguising it -- he or she harbors at least a little "holier-than-thou" smugness.

Morality is subjective. Collectively, much of morality is determined by social norms. Majority opinions form socio-cultural norms that vary from place to place and over time and are often codified into law. Morality isn't exactly dynamic but it does evolve as the human condition evolves. Even if an objective morality did exist, it could not evolve with us: it would be independent of us and unchanging in the same way scriptural morality is "written in stone". When people imbue their personal ethics (religious or not) with certainty, they are, in effect, objectifying it: turning it into a quasi-objective morality. That's the hubris called "Playing God". Certainty is an illusion: especially where morality is concerned. Scientists and philosophers agree that certitude is a sure sign of trouble.

Oh . . . and about the so-called "superior and objective" morality of religion? Even if there is a personal God, EVERYBODY overrides his moral dictates (as contained in scripture). We reject slavery and the subjugation of women no matter what God tells us. WE decide what is morally worthy: WE decide what is religious. Even if there is a God of Abraham, we don't need him for moral guidance . . . so why do we need him at all?

It's easy to understand the allure of an objective moral system. It offers a simple way to resolve complex issues. And it makes it easy to judge others with the comfortable self-righteousness of certainty. But we pay a price when others morally cop-out. Conflict. These people tend to relinquish critical thinking and to indulge in judgmentalism -- a potent combination that leads to, and reinforces, fundamentalism. And when they feel the backlash of our objections, they perceive it as persecution. It's the perfect recipe for simple-mindedness and denial.

That's what religious thinking does. And the main mechanism for that is the false belief in an objective morality. But it's not just religious thinking: it's any kind of dogmatic zealotry based on certainty of one's personal moral system. Vegetarian/vegan zealots and pro-life fanatics leap to mind as do other extreme left or right political wingnuts. Be wary of the certainty of moral absolutists: they are totalitarians in sheep's clothing.

 


© Copyright 2012 AtheistExile.com
eMail: AtheistExile@AtheistExile.com


 

Views: 147

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on April 16, 2012 at 4:20pm

The morality of the Theist is based solely on fear of their god if they sin and the (false) hope of a reward for doing the right thing. They need to be taught what morality is. Atheists have to take responsibility for their own actions. We are more aware of the evolved sense of empathy we have with the people (and animals) we share the planet with. We are not enslaved to reward and punishment as the Theist is. If our morality was based upon the standard of Theism then we would be much lesser creatures that we could be. I would prefer to live in a land of godless people who know why they are godless than to be surrounded by smug theists who think they are better without ever thinking about it.

Comment by Atheist Exile on April 16, 2012 at 4:45pm

A theist who doesn't understand the difference between objective and subjective, probably doesn't really have a reason for their belief. They're just sheeple following the flock. But those who seek some sort of rationale for their beliefs is likely to cling to the notion that God's law supersedes human morality. The claim to moral objectivity is a seductive counterargument to the moral relativity of their detractors.

Revealed religions lay claim to morality because they would not otherwise have anything to offer. Morality is the key to self-respect, a life worth living and the hereafter. Morality is the best way to lead man by the nose.

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on April 16, 2012 at 5:06pm

To the Theist morality is so embedded in the “meme” that only the religious can be moral. It is only from their gods that they can know good from evil and right from wrong. So they assume that all “godless” people must therefore be immoral. That is a vile way of thinking. It belittles them to have such an immature system and I have little respect for those who as adults still need a reward / punishment system to live by. I am not saying that all Theists have a poor moral standard. They don’t but that is in spite of religion and not because of it. Their standards are not good enough for me to live by.

Your first line is very true. Anytime I debate theists about morals or eevn belief itself, I usually have to explain the difference between objective and subjective. They don't seem to think much at all about anything at times. I suppose if they did they would be member of this site. lol.

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on April 16, 2012 at 5:40pm

This Video is worth a look.

Comment by Atheist Exile on April 17, 2012 at 1:44am

That a good video . . . mostly because it agrees with me :-)

Actually it's approaching the topic from another tangent but we're in agreement on principles.

Comment by Atheist Exile on April 17, 2012 at 2:28am

In Dr. Thomson's summary of his presentation (starting at 39:20 of the video), he echoes the principles of this blog post.

Comment by archaeopteryx on April 17, 2012 at 4:48am

The truth is - and I've researched the Bible extensively, for material for my own website - very few of the Bible's rules and regulations have anything to do with Man's relationship to his fellow Man. A far greater percentage concerns the many ways to avoid pissing off its god. The ones that are there, are basic concepts we've had no trouble figuring out for ourselves. I feel I should expect some brilliant flashes of insight from a god sufficiently powerful as to create everything, but I couldn't find them. So when theists tell us that it's the Bible that makes them moral, ethical people, ask them exactly what part.

Only 6 of the ten commandments have anything to do with Humanity, and one of them is redundant - 10 is Don't covet and 8 is Don't steal, but if you don't covet, you'll have no desire to steal - so basically, only five of the ten are of any value to Humans, and those are so basically simple, they're ones we easily were capable of thinking of ourselves - don't kill, don't covet, don't lie, honor your parents, and be faithful to your partner. No mention of slavery, bigotry, nor any of the more sophisticated miseries we've learned to inflict on each other, unless you count the prohibition of cooking lamb in its mother's milk, but if you can't cook and you're lactose intolerant, I suppose you're home free on that one.

pax vobiscum,
archaeopteryx
www.in-His-own-image.com

Comment by Helena on May 8, 2012 at 3:30am

I think you should all give debating lessons. When confronted by a simpleton and its arguments, I don't know whether to run and hide or go postal. The ability to argue against people who do not listen to a word I say, is more miraculous than anything I have ever read in the bible.
The best I can do is "look up the late Christopher Hitchens on You Tube"

Comment by Atheist Exile on May 8, 2012 at 6:13am

I still haven't figured out how to effectively debate a stubbornly religious person. They always wear out my patience and I usually say things I wish I hadn't.

Comment by Atheist Exile on May 8, 2012 at 6:19am

Not cooking lamb in its mother's milk is just one of many dietary laws prescribed by God's divinely inspired scripture. Then Jesus came along and claimed a new covenant while simultaneously exhorting us to uphold scripture. Is there any Biblical justification for the notion that we are no longer accountable to God's dietary laws?

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