Good without God

The core message of atheist activism is that the world would be a better place without religion.  At best, this message is wishful thinking.  We can know this because we have an example of a community without religion – the activist atheist community.  And there is no evidence this community is better than any other community.  In fact, this community continues to be plagued by all sorts of moral issues.

I have previously noted that atheist organizations seem to have a problem with embezzlement.  It looks like we can add to that list the actions of atheist activist Sarah Morehead as JT Eberhard published a long article outlining his research into accusations of her embezzlement from Apostacon.

Atheist activist Stephanie Zvan is also upset about this.

Yet the story gets even stranger, as Sarah’s partner, Ray Morehead, has been arrested for sexually molesting her children.  Atheist/feminist “steph” suggests these accusations against Sarah are part of a effort by Ray’s allies to discredit her. 

And then there is atheist/feminist philosopher Dan Linford.  PZ Myers identifies him as a “Creep among us.”  Myers then links to accusations of Linford being a sexual predator.

 

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32 Responses to Good without God

  1. Ratheist says:

    Humans not perfect, in other news, water… wet. At the very least they are not trying to take away basic human rights and decency because of an ancient book.

  2. SteveK says:

    Basic human rights without God – where, how?

  3. Doug says:

    @Ratheist,
    That “trying to take away basic human rights and decency” you speak of… let’s be honest, shall we? What you really meant was “not celebrating flash-in-the-pan newly-discovered human rights and freshly atheist-redefined decency”, right?

  4. David K says:

    This types of stuff never happens to theists!

  5. Kevin says:

    “basic human rights”

    I’m trying to follow the logic here.

    If atheism is true, then religious beliefs are false and all that exists is matter and energy.
    If all that exists is matter and energy, then either rights consist of matter and energy (they don’t) or they are not true.
    If rights are not true, then they are false and are thus equivalent to religious beliefs.
    If rights are false and equivalent to religious beliefs, then atheists are hypocritical for upholding false beliefs they like while attacking false beliefs they don’t like.

    Conclusion: atheism = hypocrisy?

  6. Ratheist says:

    “Basic human rights without God – where, how?”

    Hundreds of secular law and government. Rational discourse, empathy. Definitely not from pro slavery, misogynist made up god of the bible

  7. Ratheist says:

    *hundreds of years of secular law and government

  8. Kevin says:

    So fake beliefs are okay so long as they don’t involve God? Okay.

  9. SteveK says:

    Ratheist,
    What you’re describing isn’t what I would call basic human rights. Basic human rights are in place/established just for being human. If you’re human, you’ve got those rights.

    Your description says rights are established if other people want to give them to you, not because you are human. Nothing basic about it when being human isn’t enough to qualify.

  10. TFBW says:

    Ratheist, has it occurred to you that, “at least we are not as bad as these people who are worse” is a pretty lame endorsement? Also, the “hundreds of years of secular law and government” on which you rest sits on a largely Christian foundation, if you’re talking about Europe or the English-speaking world in general. There’s a large difference between secular governments, depending on the dominant worldview of the people who comprise that government. There’s “one nation under God, separation of Church and State” secular, and there’s Marxism-derived secular, for example.

    David K said:

    This types of stuff never happens to theists!

    You jest, but there are two interesting things to note on that issue. First, the atheists in question insist that you don’t need God to be good. Well, the evidence is in, and it’s not supporting their claim. Second, this kind of thing normally takes a while to manifest. Usually you need a critical mass of organisational heft before the creeps worm their way in and try to take advantage of the community. What’s remarkable about atheist organisations is how quickly that critical mass is reached.

  11. dognillo says:

    TFBW, I think that for the most part people act either good or bad for reasons that have nothing to do with whether or not they believe in God. I’ve seen very good theists and very good atheist, and I’ve seen very bad theists and very bad atheists. I wouldn’t give either an advantage in the morality department.

    Ratheism, as an atheist who sometimes comments on this site, I have never seen anyone here ever advocate for trying to take away basic human rights and decency because of an ancient book. You must have some other people in mind.

  12. Kevin says:

    I found this definition for ratheist. It seems to fit.

    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=ratheist

  13. Doug says:

    @dognillo,

    I’ve seen very good theists and very good atheist, and I’ve seen very bad theists and very bad atheists.

    I have no doubt that this is true. However, there has never been a very bad theist who became a very good atheist… while there are many documented cases of very bad atheists becoming very good theists. Curious, no?

  14. TFBW says:

    @dognillo, I don’t explicitly disagree with anything that you’ve said, but there are certain relevant background assumptions on which we probably differ. For example, I don’t wish to claim that belief in God makes a person good. In fact, I would consider that claim rather ridiculous if anyone made it. This seems to be a belief primarily attributed to theists by New Atheists, rather than a belief actually held by any thinking theist; the New Atheist claim that one doesn’t need to believe in God in order to be good seems to be a response to a straw-man theist who holds the contrary view. The irony is that they contradict a straw-man claim, then go out and fail to live up to their own counter-claim.

    On the other hand, theism does at least entail a world view in which good and evil are objective realities, rather than subjective fictions. Belief in God does nothing to make one a good person, but it does allow for the term “good person” to be objectively meaningful, rather than shorthand for “person of which I have a high regard” or similar. On atheism, it’s not clear that there is such a thing as a moral fact, because there is no clear reality to which the statement can correspond.

    By way of analogy, “up” and “down” are terms which are only objectively meaningful in the context of a gravity well. Take away the gravity, and they become fundamentally meaningless terms which me might still apply as a matter of habit, simply because we are used to operating in a gravitational context. Likewise, “good” and “evil” require a “morality well”, to coin a phrase. If there is no such thing, then there is no morality. A theistic theory of morality typically posits God as the reference frame. Take away God, and the terms become meaningless, but we might still apply them as a matter of habit, much like “up” and “down” in the absence of gravity.

  15. dognillo says:

    Doug, how do you know that there has never been a very bad theist who became a very good atheist? I think that believing you are going to have an eternal afterlife in which you will be forgiven for any sins you commit during this life may lead some people to behave much worse than they would have if they thought that this life was all there was. I’m pretty sure that’s the reason that my ex-wife has treated some people (especially me and my oldest son) very badly. I’m not arguing that theism necessarily causes this to happen, but it can happen with some people. Kind of the opposite of thinking that if there is no God then we can do anything we want to do.

  16. dognillo says:

    To be honest, TFBW, I don’t believe that there are such things as moral facts. I wouldn’t call morality fiction, but I do believe that it is subjective. I don’t know for a fact that stealing is wrong, but I do know that I don’t like it. I don’t like having my things stolen and I don’t like to see anyone else have their things stolen.

  17. Doug says:

    @dognillo,

    how do you know that there has never been a very bad theist who became a very good atheist?

    I’m willing to be corrected, if I ever meet a counter-example. But there simply isn’t any incentive in atheism to change dramatically in that direction. Do you also think that believing it won’t make any difference once one is dead may lead some people to behave much worse than they otherwise would? But the pertinent question isn’t so much what causes folk to behave poorly (we agree that that is common enough – perhaps even a “default”). What is it that makes folk behave well?

  18. TFBW says:

    I wouldn’t call morality fiction, but I do believe that it is subjective.

    If not fact, and not fiction, then perhaps a matter of taste. We don’t treat it like a matter of taste, though. We instinctively discuss morality as though it were a matter of fact, as opposed to something like one’s taste in music or food. After all, would you be prepared to say that the moral status of rape is merely a matter of taste, and while you find it extremely distasteful, that’s just your subjective view? If so, I’d love to see you engage a feminist atheist on the subject.

    Whatever the case, although I doubt your ability to apply a subjective theory of morality in a wholly consistent manner, my beef is not with you. Rather, it is with New Atheists who say religion is evil and posture as though they are morally superior, yet have no moral theory on which to base such a statement, and exhibit weak moral character to boot.

  19. goldrushapple says:

    >> empathy.

    This must be a favorite word of secularists and social progressives right next to “diversity” and “inclusion.” Heck, that’s they’re Holy Trinity.

  20. goldrushapple says:

    * their

  21. dognillo says:

    Doug, in short, I think that self interest is mainly what makes people behave well. The golden rule is the best guide for behavior. But I will admit that people have all sorts of reasons for behaving both good and bad.

    TFBW, I wouldn’t like to engage a feminist atheist on that subject. It wouldn’t be pretty. But that is what I think is true.

  22. Ilíon says:

    Dognillo:I’ve seen very good (*) theists and very good (*) atheist, and I’ve seen very bad (*) theists and very bad (*) atheists.

    Doug:I have no doubt that this is true. However, there has never been a very bad (*) theist who became a very good (*) atheist… while there are many documented cases of very bad (*) atheists becoming very good (*) theists. Curious, no?

    Leaving aside that by “theist”, what is almost always meant is “Christian” (**) — what’s going on here is that the “bad” (*) “theist” is not living *up* to to morality and world-view he says he believes is the truth about the nature of reality, whereas the “good” (*) atheist is not living *down* to to morality and world-view he says he believes is the truth about the nature of reality.

    (*) I presume that by “good” and “bad’ is meant morally good and morally bad.

    (**) For, after all, it really matters whether by “theist” one means “Christian” or one means “Moslem”.

  23. FZM says:

    The core message of atheist activism is that the world would be a better place without religion.

    From the perspective of an atheist activist I can imagine the argument developing along the following lines:

    ‘Religion’ is a manifestation of irrationality

    Irrationality is defined as any human belief, idea or action that is bad or produces bad effects

    Therefore the conclusion is irrefutable: the world would be a better place without ‘Religion’.

    If the atheist activist community produces any bad beliefs, ideas or actions it is obviously a sign that it is being influenced in some way by ‘Religion’ or ‘Religious’ ways of thinking; it isn’t yet ‘pure’, rational and secular enough. So the struggle must go on…

  24. Doug says:

    @dognillo,

    I think that self interest is mainly what makes people behave well.
    Considering that self-interest is mainly what makes people behave poorly… I’m not sure that gets us very far.

  25. SteveK says:

    “After all, would you be prepared to say that the moral status of rape is merely a matter of taste, and while you find it extremely distasteful, that’s just your subjective view? ”

    This view of morality makes a mockery of the *reasons* we pass laws and the judgments we pass. We’re making laws based on the equivalent of food preferences and throwing people in jail for 10, 20, 80 years – executing some – based on the equivalent of food preferences. Friggin’ food preferences!!

    “It’s illegal to rape and murder because society doesn’t like that and now you’re going to jail for 25 years” is equivalent to “It’s illegal to eat corned beef and mashed potatoes because society doesn’t like that and now you’re going to jail for 25 years”.

  26. Ilíon says:

    FZM:From the perspective of an atheist activist I can imagine the argument developing along the following lines:
    ‘Religion’ is a manifestation of irrationality
    Irrationality is defined as any human belief, idea or action that is bad or produces bad effects
    Therefore the conclusion is irrefutable: the world would be a better place without ‘Religion’.

    What does ‘bad’ mean? What does ‘better’ mean? Since when does ‘irrationality’ mean “any human belief, idea or action that is bad or produces bad effects”?

    Would it be ‘better’ if The State were to kill all the “religionists” it can — as seems to happen *every* damned time that God-haters get their hands on the levers of State power/violence — as this would have the ‘good’ effect eliminating the ‘bad’ effects of “religion”?

  27. dognillo says:

    SteveK, we pass laws and judgments on violators because we don’t LIKE the results that come from violations of those laws. Is there something wrong with that view? How is it a mockery of the reasons for passing those laws? That’s not to say that “we” always agree on what should be lawful and what should be unlawful.

  28. dognillo says:

    TFBW, I was thinking about how I might engage a feminist atheist regarding the morality of rape. My response would be something along the lines of: “My preference is to live in a society where no person, man or woman, is ever raped, and if it ever did happen then the violator would be severely punished. And if that’s not enough for you then I’m sorry, but I don’t see how I can come up with anything better than that.” Can you think of anything else to add?

  29. FZM says:

    Ilion,

    In my post I was trying to imagine the substance of the kind of argument an atheist activist might present to support this point:

    The core message of atheist activism is that the world would be a better place without religion.

    I think you highlight some of the problems with arguments of the type I presented:

    What does ‘bad’ mean? What does ‘better’ mean? Since when does ‘irrationality’ mean “any human belief, idea or action that is bad or produces bad effects”?

    Even though rationality and irrationality aught not to be synonyms for ‘good’ and ‘bad’ I think often they are used in this way in this sort of context.

    Then the concept religion is just used to mean and beliefs/ideas that are bad or produce bad effect so that secular atheist ‘scientific’ ideologies of the past, (which aught to present problems to the kind of arguments that are sometimes used by atheist activists to advance their agenda) can just be relabelled as really being manifestations of ‘religion’, totally unrelated to what they are advocating.

  30. TFBW says:

    @dognillo:

    Can you think of anything else to add?

    If you ever find yourself in a position where you need to use it, and it fails to prevent a torrent of righteous anger, then all I can suggest is that you engage the Socratic method, and ask what reality her moral assertions of fact allegedly describe. Particularly, if her case rests on some notion of innate human dignity, value, or rights, then ask how these things can even be “innate”. What possible basis can they have without some kind of supreme moral agent, whose behaviour defines such concepts?

    “Good” and “evil” without God are like “up” and “down” without gravity — entirely dependent on the orientation of the person using the words. In a universe without such a definitive agent — a force of morality, as it were — how can an arbitrary lump of matter have “rights”, and how would you discover those rights anyhow? From an outsider’s perspective, this assertion of “rights” and “value” is indistinguishable from a strong desire for people to be treated in a particular way, minus the fictions of “rights” and “value”, and you share that strong desire, so what more can be asked of you?

    This line of questioning is not without risk, but the risk is unavoidable: your very position entails that rights do not exist — they are fictional constructs derived from real desires, the purpose of which is to make the desires seem objectively correct as opposed to a matter of taste. So on the one hand, you are telling a feminist that she has no inherent rights or value (nobody does), but on the other hand, all she has to do in order to defeat this is explain how such things can exist in an amoral universe, independently of what we might desire.

  31. Ilion says:

    FZM: In my post I was trying to imagine the substance of the kind of argument an atheist activist might present …

    I noticed that.

    FZM: I think you highlight some of the problems with arguments of the type I presented:

    That was my intention, to show the “I can eat my cake and have it too” nature of such arguments.

    FZM: Even though rationality and irrationality aught not to be synonyms for ‘good’ and ‘bad’ I think often they are used in this way in this sort of context.

    Then the concept religion is just used to mean and beliefs/ideas that are bad or produce bad effect so that secular atheist ‘scientific’ ideologies of the past, (which aught to present problems to the kind of arguments that are sometimes used by atheist activists to advance their agenda) can just be relabelled as really being manifestations of ‘religion’, totally unrelated to what they are advocating.

    In other words, “I can eat my cake and have it too”.

  32. dognillo says:

    Thanks, TFBW. That was helpful.

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