Re: [asa] Morality Without God?

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Wed Nov 11 2009 - 22:05:51 EST

Heya Merv,

Well, theism preceded Christianity - and later christians drew heavily from
greek thought (Aristotle, Plato, etc) with regards to God. So much so that I
recall someone (Nietzche?) saying that Plato, etc, had so thoroughly been
Christianized that it was practically impossible to totally separate the two
- to embrace Aristotle, to embrace Plato, is to (at least partially, and in
some ways essentially) embrace Christianity. If someone believes in a
transcendent reality, certainly a reality that contains something like "the
good" that all rational beings are meant to pursue, or the existence of
intrinsic teleology in nature, I have severe trouble counting them as an
atheist. They are so far from the New Atheists and so close to theism (at
least classical theism, or theism of the variety such that God is identical
with His goodness, etc) that I can practically smell the incense. Either
way, trying to count Plato as an atheist just doesn't work, regardless of
whatever defenses he had for the more established greek pantheon.

As for atheism 3.0 versus 2.0, it depends. It's common to try and lump
self-identified atheists (tiny in number), agnostics, and the merely
irreligious under the heading "atheism". But I don't think that works at
all, no more than it makes sense to lump "deists" under "atheists". I will
admit that in my anecdotal experience, atheism 2.0 has persuaded many of the
casually irreligious that you don't need God to be an annoying loudmouth.

I do agree there's an inconsistency there, which can go a number of ways. If
Sheiman really believes in a transcendent good that all rational beings
should/must pursue, and that (western) religion has contributed to this,
then already he's staking out a position that is not merely 'different' from
2.0, it's irreconcilable with it - and, I'd suggest, difficult to reconcile
with atheism, or at least typical naturalism. If he means good in some
strictly subjective sense ("They did some things I like"), it's not original
or interesting - he wouldn't be the first person to decide that religion has
utility that can be exploited in the service of some personal vision.

As to the end, it depends on what's supposed to be respected. Respecting
atheists as persons? Certainly. Respect for atheism? Not at all. Even
atheists seem to have trouble affording respect to atheism - too much time
ends up invested trying to make it look just like Diet Christianity.

On Wed, Nov 11, 2009 at 9:06 PM, Merv Bitikofer <> wrote:

> Fascinating response! I was wondering what any of you might say about his
> reference to Plato. I'm not quite sure what you mean by 'theism X.O'. Do
> you mean some early Roman version of Christianity? Or something theism
> arrived at later?
> Regarding whether or not this 'atheism 3.0' is a splinter of a splinter,
> I'm not so sure as you seem to be. If the '2.0' variety (Dawkins et al.)
> are obnoxiously loud and therefore make disproportionate noise compared to
> their actual numerical representation in the entire atheist camp, then how
> are you so sure that the vast relatively silent majority of atheists
> wouldn't be more favorably predisposed towards the 3.0 crowd than the 2.0
> crowd? Maybe they just aren't all gushy about it, but yet share in the
> distaste for Dawkin's arrogance.
> We could call this line of thought: "'morality with God' for the masses,
> but not for me." (not that I think they are striving to sound or be elitist
> about it; --but it is what it is.) What strikes me is an internal
> contradiction of the message: "It's great for you & most others to believe
> in all this stuff because it inspires you to do great things --but I just
> don't think it happens to be true." What they don't seem to realize is that
> belief can't be mocked. None of us will be radically inspired or changed by
> things we don't really believe are true. There is no pretending in this.
> If we all thought as they did (and maybe too many in the pews do already
> anyway, but are keeping up the pretense because they think it important to
> do so) then the first Love is already lost anyway, let alone any other true
> deeds to follow.
> All this said, though, cordiality or maybe even some mutual respect would
> be a welcome change (I think).
> --Merv
> Schwarzwald wrote:
>> Skepticism and cordiality. And it depends which of the bedfellows you mean
>> in the article.
>> Bruce Sheiman comes across as thoughtful and positive, and reminds me
>> vaguely of an atheist doctor whose name I forget - in the UK, has a regular
>> column and a similar approach. But I don't think this is "Atheism 3.0". I
>> mean, "Atheism 2.0" is, frankly, a tiny group itself. "3.0" is a tiny
>> splinter of that tiny group - and happens to have views that are not just
>> divergent from, but antithetical from that larger group. (Religion has
>> value? Specifically western religion has accomplished many important things?
>> Religion has a place in the public square? Talk of intrinsic value?) It's
>> like calling Camille Paglia "Liberalism 2.0". No, it's not 2.0. It's just
>> Camille Paglia, refreshing as she can be at times.
>> After Sheiman, though, the article takes weird twists. To say (briefly as
>> he's mentioned) the presentation of Plato is a butchered one is an
>> understatement: Plato has vastly more in common with Aquinas and Augustine
>> than any New Atheist, and quite possibly (but not definitely) Bruce Sheiman.
>> I would go so far as to say that if "atheism 3.0" had a hallmark of broadly
>> subscribing to Plato's metaphysics - ideas of a transcendental "good" that
>> certainly exists and that man pursues, etc - then it wouldn't be "atheism
>> 3.0". It would be "theism X.0".
>> On Wed, Nov 11, 2009 at 6:54 PM, Merv Bitikofer <<mailto:
>>>> wrote:
>> Bruce Shieman is the author of a new book: "An Atheist Defends
>> Religion: Why Humanity is Better Off With Religion than Without It."
>> He and others are quoted about this gentler, more respecting
>> 'Atheism 3.0' that wants to find room for those of religious
>> faith, even in the public square, while not sharing in any of it
>> themselves. Since the article prohibits reproduction, I can't
>> paste it here like I wanted, but here is the link:
>> What should be the Christian response to these new bedfellows?
>> --Merv

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Received on Wed Nov 11 22:06:19 2009

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