Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Value Of Atheism

The following tweet was put out by Adam Baldwin the other day (note: he frequently deletes his tweets so the reference is no longer valid):

Adam Baldwin
What have ever accomplished with their that would make their opinions worthy of respect?


Adam Baldwin put out the challenge above asking essentially, what did atheism ever do for humanity. Of course, he worded it in a very negative and sophistic way.

My response is as follows:

The value of atheism is that it is a rejection of the FALSE religious claims of just cause for genocide, genital mutilation, stoning to death, torture, and hate (etc). Atheism itself (the rejection of theism) provides ABSOLUTELY NO BASIS for such obviously abhorrent actions.

So, you might ask, how does a secular person justify 'morality'. The answer is: EXACTLY THE SAME WAY EVERY OTHER SINGLE PERSON HAS EVER DONE SO.

You learned your fundamental moral behaviors LONG before you knew anything about the details of the bible (and, in fact, a lucky few among us do not have any poisonous religious claims polluting their mind yet they are moral beings as well). You ALREADY knew it was wrong to hurt others because you FELT it. And the few people who don't feel this way are the psychopaths and sociopaths in the world. It has NEVER been demonstrated that a non-belief in god is correlated with a lack of empathy in any way. On the other hand, religious up-bringings HAVE been shown to have PTSD-like effects on children.

We humans have 'mirror' neurons which enable us to virtually experience what others actually experience. When you see someone else harmed you (tend to) imagine that you feel what they are feeling (unless you are mentally damaged). This is the underlying basis of our empathic drive and forms the fundamental basis for our sense of morality. Neuroscience is making incredible progress in this area of research.

Secondly, humans have the ability to share our ideas as a collective group. Through various agreements (implicit and explicit) we have established rules for social order that result in mutual support and protection of groups that we identify with (and to our great collective misfortune, also leads to conflicts with groups that we do NOT identify with).

Finally, because we are able to observe, reason, and make determinations for our individual and collective well-being (e.g., I'm hungry, I need to eat -- or my family is hungry, I need to hunt) we are also able to make similar determinations about our behaviors and their consequences in other areas of life.

Go back 10,000 years and imagine that you are a stranger entering a village and you start acting erratically (yelling, jumping around, acting unusual, foaming at the mouth, etc). The villagers might well kill you in self-defense.

It's not immoral to act strangely and yet people would have KNOWN not to do it. They don't need a 'god' to tell them how others are going to react to things.

You don't have to actually DO a thing to make a fairly good assessment of this result and adjust your behavior accordingly, if you are familiar with the customs and culture.

The problem you immediately run into when you try to use the Bible to justify some kind of absolute moral foundation is that #1 the 'laws' for people clearly changed over time (don't eat pig, ok to eat pig -- cut off foreskin, don't cut off foreskin -- god commanded slavery in the OT, slavery tolerated in the NT, and now is slavery moral or immoral?) and #2 the rules for 'God' are obviously different than those for men, if moral law was ABSOLUTE it would, by definition, apply equally. Yet, it is said to be immoral to commit murder but it's ok to commit murder if God orders it as he did of Abraham, as he did at Jericho, as he did to the many tribes, as he did of the first born of Egypt, and as he did of nearly the entirety of creation in the Flood.

Some final thoughts...

Do you think it's morally ok to CUT OFF a womans entire clitoris? Some religions[Islam] claim that you must, how do you propose to prove them wrong? Does the Bible say you can't do that? It ORDERS the followers of Judaism to cut off part of the male penis so obviously god doesn't think too poorly of such practices and he utterly fails to mention any prohibition on doing this to women.

And Slavery existed in Jesus' time but he never spoke out clearly and condemned it. And the Bible was used for thousands of years to Justify slavery and the poor treatment of jewish people. Only very recently (historically speaking) did religious leaders FINALLY grow a fucking conscious and help to speak out against slavery.

These issues just show the complete ridiculousness of religious claims. Unless you can overcome all those objections then you have no basis to claim the superiority of religious claims.

I don't think it's moral/ethical to cut ANYTHING off any infant (unless there is a clear and established medical need). That goes for foreskins, clitorises, extra fingers or toes (unless they present a medical danger), penis on a hermaphrodite, or ANYTHING else [see also Circumcision]

Addendum: I would like to add here, that by rejecting rigidly, closed-minded claims of religion immense progress has been made in the sciences while the Catholic Church was busying burning scientists like Giordano Bruno at the stake and imprisoning Galileo Galilei. The Church had an odd love/hate relationship with scientists, they were sometimes supporters of those who would stay within their strict bounds. But it is that very factor of an a priori boundary of inquiry that is at the heart of the problem and when you compound that with a bloodthirsty penchant for the most extreme forms of torture you can imagine for those who dared think for themselves then yes, I do find fault. How many Popes in a row ordered murder and torture be done in Christ's name? And is even ONE acceptable? Imagine if an atheist organization existed today that had tortured people for 1000 years? Would ANY organization get away with that other than a religious one?

So I say those who have rejected these false religious beliefs have indeed done many wonderful things for mankind as a product of that rejection, or to use Baldwin's phrase "with their atheism". AND they didn't do it out of fear or bribery.

1 comment:

  1. Jeremy Rifkin investigates the evolution of empathy: http://youtu.be/l7AWnfFRc7g