Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Religion Virus: Atheist ethics, part 2

In yesterday's blog, I discussed how many (most?) people reject facts just because they don't like them. People, even intelligent and well-educated, are willing and able to deny evidence that is plain and irrefutable, simply because it conflicts with their beliefs. I wanted to start there, because that single problem creates a huge gulf between Atheism and Faith that may be impossible to bridge.

Today, I want to talk about this:
The greatest tragedy in mankind's entire history may be the hijacking of morality by religion. – Arthur C. Clarke
Many, perhaps most, people in the world today actually believe that morality originated with God, that the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) invented morality. These religions have asserted, quite explicitely, that morality is impossible without God:
On the other hand, the Church has ever affirmed that [morality and Theism] are essentially connected, and that apart from religion the observance of the moral law is impossible.– Catholic Encyclopedia
In other words, this is no joke, nor is it Atheists' inferiority complex.

Let's see if we have this right:
  • Jews, Christians and Muslims invented morality; and
  • Atheists not only have no morality, they can never be truly moral.
At this point, everyone probably expects me to start ranting about the Spanish Inquisition, slavery, the crusades, yada, yada, yada. These examples, which Atheists love to document ad infinitum, demonstrate pretty clearly that religion does not guarantee moral behavior. (And of course, Christians love to talk about Hitler, Stalin, and other purported Athiests who have commited equally great crimes. And they're right too.)

These examples merely illustrate that religious people and Atheists are flawed, that they don't live up to their own standards. That is, religious people and Atheists are human, nothing more, nothing less. It may be interesting to the historian, but to the philosopher it is almost irrelevant.

The Roman Catholic Church's assertion is much more profound that this. It's one thing to know the difference between good and evil, yet be lured into evil deeds. But the Roman Catholic Church, and in fact all Abrahamic religions, make a much deeper claim: They assert that Atheists can never be truly moral. They claim that any morality found in an Atheist is merely copycat morality, learned by example from being immersed in a Judeo-Christian or Islamic society.

So let's summarize from yesterday and today:
  • Religion rejects facts simply because they're unpleasant or disagree with religious axioms.
  • Religion claims that Atheists can't have true morals.
With this foundation, is it any wonder that discrimination against Atheists is rampant?

And one final thought: Notice that, for both of the points above, it is the religious people who are the problem. Most Atheists have nothing against religious beliefs per se, unless they're harmful or discriminatory (although scientific techniques may be put to work on beliefs that seem implausible or that violate the physical laws of the universe). And an Atheist would never claim that religious people can't be truly moral, that Atheists are inherently more moral than a person of faith. Yet this is the Roman Catholic Church's official position regarding Atheist morals.

Tomorrow: The true origin of morality.

1 comment:

  1. Here in Europe it is seldomly heard that atheists supposedly have no morals. I am guessing because there are so many atheists here and it hasn't led to any 'degration' of society :p The people who say such things should come to live here for a while, and see how peaceful and tolerant the environment really is.


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