Friday, June 20, 2014

What's One More?

I, for my part, agree with the secular humanist idea that a workable ethical system can be derived without recourse to rules set down by a divinity. And have been called anything from blatantly deceitful to dangerously irrational because of it. But I've become okay with that, because, as I've grown older, I've come to realize that the idea that atheists have no grounds for a moral or ethical sense is rooted in faith, and it's never profitable to argue someone's faith with them.

1.  When atheists conceive a code of ethics, their code is very “elastic.” It is elastic because it is "self- made" and thus it is subject to change “based on convenience.”
2. Their code is also subject to "compromise" because the human mind, which is essentially selfish and proud, will compromise when it is convenient to the "self" and when the "human ego" gets involved.
3. The human mind is not only skillful at compromising; it is also skillful at rationalizing its compromises.
The Rationalizing, Obdurate Atheist: More Evidence of Atheist Ethical Insufficiency
When I've been in the unfortunate position of arguing matters of ethics and morality with someone who believes that only the Judeo-Christian god can derive a truly moral system, I'm already at a disadvantage, because as near as I'm able to tell, Christian morality serves divine purposes, whereas whatever ethical framework I'm going to create will serve human purposes. And if humanity is automatically incapable of being truly moral, without submitting itself to divine guidance, then I'm pretty much at a dead end as it is.

In a Skepchick piece: “Fellow Atheists: Quit Bragging About Our Prison Underrepresentation,” Heina Dadabnoy notes: “To address religious folks claiming that religion makes one morally superior, we atheists can cite examples of religious people behaving immorally, with or without theological justification, and of atheists acting in a moral fashion.” But I've never found it worthwhile to do this, because all that happens is a cataloging of sins from one side, and gatekeeping and attributing motives on the other. In other words, for me to cite examples of religious people behaving immorally, I have to research and catalog immoral acts on the part of Christians (technically, this could be any religion, but in all honestly, I've only ever have Christians care enough to argue this with me). Yeah, that's my idea of fun. And it typically leads to then having to argue whether or not the person(s) involved are or are not Christian - which is where the gatekeeping comes in. While some people are simply particular about only accepting people from their own sect as “truly” Christian, it's possible to take this further, to the idea that the very fact that someone has committed a certain act is proof that they are are not properly devout, and should not be considered a Christian. By the same token, pointing out atheists acting in a moral fashion tends to lead to claims of fear of punishment at best:
At the risk of labeling the atheist as self-centered, it does not serve the best interests of an atheist to murder and steal since it would not take long before he was imprisoned and/or killed for his actions.
Can atheists be ethical?
Or inconsistent with the “darwinist” beliefs that “all atheists must hold” at worst:
So please atheists, be consistent. Apply social darwinism. It makes sense doesn't it. No right or wrong, human rights or other notions that cannot be defended objectively by an atheist.
Social-Darwinism: A must for Atheists
Trust me, there are better ways to waste time. (Also note, that it's possible to reverse this - but it remains just as pointless.)

Arguments about whether or not an atheist can be considered as moral or ethical as a Christian that avoid social desirability bias are hard. It's difficult to not become caught up in wanting to defend the idea that one is a good person, despite not having faith in a particular deity or following a particular religious philosophy. But if you're faced with someone who understands that the only path to salvation is a personal relationship with the divine, you have already committed the one unpardonable sin - not asking to be pardoned. This is simply a matter of faith like all the others. And if you're going to reject (even if you respect) another's faith in the big questions, you may as well do the same for the small ones.

h/t: Michelle May

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