Re: [asa] Re: good atheists?

From: Murray Hogg <>
Date: Thu Sep 03 2009 - 16:39:24 EDT

Hi All;

Just one observation on the question of atheists and "goodness".

People often point to Stalin as an example of a person doing bad in the name of atheism - against which one of the standard atheist responses is to point out that "all atheism means is rejection of belief in a god or gods" and that, therefore, Stalin's near genocidal mania COULDN'T be motivated by atheism.

I think that's highly problematic as an argument BUT if accepted it does suggest is this: if the immoral acts of the atheist are not to be attributed to atheism, then neither should the moral acts of the atheist be attributed to atheism.

And I think this is quite a defensible claim: to be an atheist is simply to assert "there is no god" and I'm not sure what moral imperative flows from that. I certainly don't claim that the atheist must be an immoral person, but I do have the sense that atheism is ultimately an amoral world-view (and please note the distinction between "immoral" and "amoral")


Dehler, Bernie wrote:
> Merv said:
> "What is an example where atheism has been used for "good"?"
> First, we can agree that not all atheists are alike, like not all Christians are alike. For example, some Christians are pro-war (like John Hagee's CUFI Christian Zionist group) and some are anti-war, like Quakers. Same with atheists- so don't use one to tar all of them.
> Second, there are some good Christian celebrities, like mother Theresa. However, you know their goodness means nothing if she isn't saved- that is traditional Christian doctrine. Was she saved? You probably heard of her letters where she doubts her own salvation. Why did she do good works? Only because she thought it was required of her. So unless the 'ends justify the means' (and as a Christian, they don't), good works by themselves don't prove anything. (Prisoners can do good works as part of their parole responsibility, but it doesn't mean they are good.)
> I'm not aware of atheist celebrities doing good works based on their worldview.
> Let's look at other cases, in the masses of people. An atheist scientist may have no problem doing stem cell research, leading to a cure. But a religious Christian scientist may have objections, which could prevent a cure due to lack of research. Moreover, the NIH person overseeing this work can put on brakes or step on the accelerator, based on their religion or lack of it. So which is doing a 'good work?' If the atheists get their way on this, a cure could come faster, and more people would benefit from the results.
> There are other cases too. A CUFI Hagee fan could advocate that Israel give nothing up in Mideast negotiations. Why? Because it is Holy Land God gave to the Jews. You know an atheist would have zero concern over what God is thought to have done. Instead, all negotiations would be based on reason, justice, etc. In this way, Christian Zionists (CUFI) can be a source of evil and conflict, where the atheist mindset brings healing, by demanding reason and justice in the here and now.
> In summary, sometimes an atheist worldview can bring about good or destruction, just like certain Christian viewpoints. The way they both do something good is when they both focus on reason, justice, etc. The religious people can get out of hand when they dismiss things in this world, like injustice, because "God will take care of it one day."
> For example- TV evangelists who take over $1 million for personal compensation from their ministries (example, John Hagee). As a Christian, I've tried to alert many other Christians to this evil sin, and their response is mostly "Oh well, God will deal with him." It is more than just laziness and apathy- it is also relying on a future world for justice (and other things) when they should be doing what they can here on earth in the now. By the way, the only reason televangelists can get away with this is because the separation of church and state, and these preachers turn it around and cry 'persecution' if the government even shows the slightest concern, and then the televangelists' sheeple fall for it. If it ever gets cleaned-up, it will be cleaned-up by secularists, because the church is unable and unwilling to clean its own house in this regard.
> ...Bernie
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Merv []
> Sent: Wednesday, September 02, 2009 1:25 PM
> To: Dehler, Bernie;
> Subject: Re: [asa] Re: (religious memes?)
> Dehler, Bernie wrote:
>> Dr. Campbell said:
>> "One might legitimately describe the progressive nature of revelation as evolutionary in some fashion, though I would agree with Gregory that this is somewhat stretching the definition of evolution."
>> Gregory probably also objects to cosmological evolution because it isn't like biological evolution. Evolution is different in society, stars, and biology in details; the same component of evolution is in all, that more complex things are built-up from simpler things (not de novo creations of complex things).
>> Dr. Campbell said:
>> "The atheism meme seems to overlap with a lot of human sacrifice, too,
>> though in the form of guillotines, genocide, gulags, etc. rather than
>> on a physical altar."
>> I think it is a shame to blame genocide on atheism just as it is to blame the Crusades on Christianity. Both atheism and Christianity have been used to instigate evil, but they have also both been used to instigate good.
> What is an example where atheism has been used for "good"? (and saying
> that it is useful to combat "false & highly culpable Christianity" would
> be begging the question over which one is true in the first place.)
> I'm not asking this rhetorically just to poke at you (well, okay, maybe
> I am just a little bit...) but I really am curious how this could be
> answered. And we'll jump past the whole problem of how an atheist
> could define "good" in the first place. I'm willing to grant, for here
> and now, that atheists can recognize and aspire towards "good" like most
> others regardless of religious or irreligious platform. Again: where
> is the example of "St. Bertrand's health clinic for inner city youth"
> or the "Murray O'Hair hospice for indigents"? PLEASE NOTE: I'm not
> disputing that atheists have done good things being highly philanthropic
> in their own ways. I'm sure many have --including Dawkins too. But
> where is the example of an organization motivated *by* and *because of*
> its atheism to strive for venerable and selfless goals? (very
> anti-Nietzschean that would be). There probably are some; I haven't
> been looking. Your last statement above shows some confidence that you
> know of such things.
> --Merv
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Received on Thu Sep 3 16:39:56 2009

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