Re: [asa] Re: (religious memes?)

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Wed Sep 02 2009 - 23:35:24 EDT

Heya Dave,

First, I'm not certain that natural goods and evils reduce to what you're
saying so simply. But beyond that, what you're describing sounds like
classical hedonism. As I said, I have no doubt that an atheist can subscribe
to an ethical system - it's just going to be arbitrary. I do not doubt
someone can gain pleasure from feeding the hungry and clothing the naked.
Sadly, I do not doubt someone can gain pleasure by dealing with them in a
wholly other way too.

On Wed, Sep 2, 2009 at 11:02 PM, dfsiemensjr <> wrote:

> 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
> cemetery.
> Dave (ASA)
> On Wed, 2 Sep 2009 19:01:08 -0400 Schwarzwald <>
> writes:
> 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 the moment".
> 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 naturalism behind.
> ____________________________________________________________
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Received on Wed Sep 2 23:35:57 2009

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