Re: [asa] Re: good atheists?

From: Cogan, Susan L. <>
Date: Tue Sep 08 2009 - 11:14:38 EDT

On 9/4/09 3:28 PM, "Schwarzwald" <> wrote:

> 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.

I've never been able to figure out the difference. Perhaps you could

> Please be specific: Are you honestly and truly telling me that A) No atheist
> will deny the existence of objective morality,

No. The only thing atheists have in common is the "a" in front of "theist."
Atheists believe all kinds of things and talk about all kinds of things.
Some of it wonderful and some of it foolish (all as judged by me, of

>and B) Christianity, and other
> religions, claim to derive their morality "on the fact that we are a social
> species"?

No. Religions usually claim that all morality is bestowed by an external
source and humans have to be threatened and/or rewarded to be moral.
That without the external source and the threats/rewards humans wouldn't
have morality. That's why the meme about atheists not having any morality
will probably never die.
> 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?)

There's nothing inherently immoral in polygamy as such. It was obviously
standard procedure in the Bible.

> 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.

Knowing you did something wrong and being repentant are two entirely
different things. Thieves and murderers know that theft and murder are not
good moral choices, even if the knowledge doesn't slow them down.

>> 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.

I've heard about people who *say* they think that, but I've never met anyone
who actually thinks it. Whether or not it is objectively wrong to harm "you"
might be up for discussion by some people, but even among those people harm
to *me* is an objective wrong. The bloodiest-minded dictator believes in
freedom and personal safety for themselves. The most vicious serial killer
thinks injury to *them* is an objective wrong.

> 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.

Moral relativism is mostly a straw man. I doubt there are very many living
people who say "stealing is neither right nor wrong. You can steal my stuff
or not--suit yourself." They may think that about other people's stuff, but
not about THEIR stuff. Stealing THEIR stuff is objectively wrong.

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

Only about 1% of Japanese are Christian after 55 years of American
influence. Christianity never really caught on there like it has in South
Korea. The Japanese are mostly Buddhist or Shintoist or a mixture of the
two--or nothing at all. Their politics have changed, but not their

>> 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.

As long as we have nerve endings, that is obvious nonsense

>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.

Again, you're going to have to explain the difference. Obviously you can be
both unethical *and* offend a deity. Stalin harmed a lot of people. The
objective standard of morality here is in the word "harm."

>> 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?

We don't know. North Korea's society is utterly enslaved. They don't have
many genuine moral choices open to them--unlike Japan or Sweden.

>>> 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.. Canada.

Canada has a very large atheist population and yet they don't have a big
crime problem nor much in the way of moral chaos. You're going to have to
define what you mean by "morally abhorrent practices and standards." If you
mean a lot of people are harmed--murdered, killed, forced to live in poverty
(as in North Korea)--then we have an objective standard of morality that
isn't being met. If you mean they are smoking pot and getting laid (as in
Denmark) then we don't.

> Your argument seems to be that if a society is at peace and law-abiding, it's
> therefore moral.

The proposition was that if the society is atheist then it could not be
moral (having no moral standard to abide by) and would descend into chaos. A
society that is utterly enslaved by an evil government isn't a good
comparison to a free society that makes good moral choices in spite of
having a very large atheist population.


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Received on Tue Sep 8 11:15:50 2009

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