I think here is a problem here. What seems to be demanded is a
theoretical defense of morality on atheistic grounds. This perhaps cannot
be offered, but there is a substitute. If one notices what is listed as
natural evil,it turns out to be whatever the individual does not
like--pain, death (especially of the young), etc. Then good is, as an
opposite, whatever produces pleasure. This can include sharing, helping
the helpless, and other aspects of philanthropy. Indeed, these matters
may be justified as promoting the survival of the species.
Of course, abiding by the laws and mores of the group have been noted to
be the defense of the weak, while the dominant can get away with almost
anything. Recall that disagreeing with Stalin was a quick trip to the
On Wed, 2 Sep 2009 19:01:08 -0400 Schwarzwald <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I have to admit, I think David has a point here that often goes ignored
out of what I suspect is well-meaning but misplaced/overdone politeness.
I'd like to know where "atheism" has ever been used to instigate good,
particularly if we're talking about utterly materialistic/naturalist
atheism (as opposed to, say, buddhism where naturalism is rejected,
various spiritual principles and realities are affirmed, but it's
'atheistic' in a technical sense). Especially since that strain of
atheism far and away rejects the idea of objective morality, and 'good'
reduces to "What society/individuals have subjectively declared to be
good" or even "What evolutionary contingencies lead us to call "good" at
I have absolutely zero doubt that a person can proclaim themselves to be
an atheist, yet engage in acts we would judge as good. Trying to say,
however, that such "good" flows from naturalism/atheism itself, though,
is nearly impossible to do without inconsistencies, except in the most
superficial way. Like saying "hurricanes can be good" because sometimes
they knock down trees that were a driving hazard.
A self-proclaimed Christian who does evil, even while using religious
rhetoric, can plausibly be criticized as violating the obvious moral
teachings of his faith. How can a self-proclaimed atheist/naturalist who
objects the existence of right and wrong be criticized of violating such?
At most he can be criticized for violating some ethical system he
purported to subscribe to that's ultimately arbitrary anyway. But if he
digs in his heels and insists that there is an objective morality and
purpose to the world and humanity, he may not have left the realm of
atheism necessarily (possibly, though), but he's certainly left
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Received on Wed Sep 2 23:06:58 2009
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