Re: [asa] Re: good atheists?

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Fri Sep 04 2009 - 16:28:32 EDT

Heya Susan,

Again, some replies below.

Atheists don't reject the foundation of morality. They reject belief in
> gods. Morality is founded on the fact that we are a social species. What is
> arrogant is the assumption that any group of humans could be thrown
> together
> in a social situation and not develop a morality without input from
> Christianity.

Again, you are confusing ethics with morality as near as I can tell.

Please be specific: Are you honestly and truly telling me that A) No atheist
will deny the existence of objective morality, and B) Christianity, and
other religions, claim to derive their morality "on the fact that we are a
social species"?

I'm skipping over several of your other replies here, because they all seem
to come down to this confusion.

Have you ever heard of sumptuary laws? The European caste system was only
> abolished recently in human history. Polygamy is just one kind of marriage.
> All societies have some way of forming new families.
> There are a lot of detail differences in cultures, but there is no (or very
> little) difference in morality. If you have 3 wives and you commit
> adultery,
> it's still breaking your promise to be faithful. Promise breaking is
> immoral
> and everyone knows it.

Not only are you watering down these differences in morality (There's no
real difference between polygamy and monogamy because it's all some kind of
marriage? Alright. I suppose there's no real difference between monogamy and
casual sex because they all involve some kind of sexual activity?) but
you're being overly simplistic. No, morality is not as simple as "promise
breaking is immoral and everyone knows it", and I shouldn't even have to
name situations where a person would view keeping a promise as an immoral
choice. To read what you're writing, one would think you believe that every
person who ever committed a murder, lied, or stole was inwardly repentant
and believed they did something truly and objectively wrong.

Since all that's rejected is belief in God you'd have to ask the individual
> atheist. No objective morality? Are you serious? Objective morality is
> based
> on "do no harm."

No, what's rejected is not just belief in God, but - on
materialist/naturalist atheism especially - the very idea of objectively
existing rights and wrongs. You've honestly never heard of moral skepticism,
or moral relativism? Believe me, these things exist, and they are really
espoused. Perhaps you believe all proclaimed moral relativists and moral
skeptics are liars. In which case, why not go the extra mile and deny
atheists really exist? It's just a show.

> As I said, I was unsure if it was a cultural thing. Atheists are often
> better educated and more affluent. That could be keeping them out of prison
> as much as morality. My intuition is that religious affiliation or lack
> thereof has little influence on behavior.

Actually, again, that's not clear. Some of this is addressed in Vox's book,
but the distinction between self-identified atheists and the generally
irreligious is worth noting.

> Of the Asian countries listed above are nearly all Buddhist (not China, but
> we've already mentioned China) which means they are technically atheist.
> Their governments are repressive, true. The Japanese are technically
> atheist
> and their government used to be horrible and now it isn't. All without
> changing their religion in the slightest. So again it's culture, not
> religion we're talking about.

I'm sorry, but what? "All without changing their religion in the slightest"?
Why did you leave out the part where Japan was defeated dramatically in a
major world war and was occupied military for an extended period of time by
a predominately Christian nation that rewrote their constitution and
explicitly usurped the power of the emperor? (And if you think the japanese
emperor is a purely secular title, I suggest you look up its connection to

You keep saying 'culture, not religion' without seeming to realize the role
that religion plays in culture is tremendous.

> So morality has more to do with appeasing a deity than the laws of conduct.
> In that case why are we talking about how murderous Stalin was in the
> context of morality? Surely he was merely unethical.

No, morality does not have more to do with "appeasing a deity", but the
existence of actual, real moral standards in the universe - something
incompatible with naturalism/materialism. Yes, for a materialist/naturalist
atheist, Stalin was merely unethical. For a Christian, or anyone who
believes in the existence of objective morality, Stalin's acts were immoral.

> Neither the Swedes or the Japanese are virtual slaves. They are free
> democracies like our own.

And North Korea has a peaceful, law-abiding society. Or do you dispute this?
Again: Is North Korea's society moral?

> >And for the record, I'd certainly agree America
> > is not impeccable on such a front either. I think it's impossible to have
> a
> > very stable, law-abiding society that has morally abhorrent practices and
> > standards. (Indeed, the argument from Vox and others isn't that atheism
> will
> > necessarily lead to utter anarchy.)
> >
> No, it certainly wouldn't. Without asking around you probably wouldn't be
> able to tell a difference.
I made a typo - I think it's possible to have a very stable, law-abiding
society that has morally abhorrent practices and standards. Nevertheless,
I'm pretty sure I could 'tell a difference' between Mao's China and, say..

Your argument seems to be that if a society is at peace and law-abiding,
it's therefore moral. Which means North Korea is moral. So is the city from
Logan's Run. Really, so are any number of societies, fictional and real,
committing any number of atrocities or having whatever horrifying cultural
conventions so long as, when all is said and done, it's functional.

> Susan
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Received on Fri Sep 4 16:29:03 2009

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