Monday, January 5, 2009

Can Atheists Be Ethical?

The short answer? Yes.

The somewhat longer answer? I am proof that atheists can be ethical. I am ethical. I wouldn't even think of stealing or hurting or killing. (Ok, so in the interests of full disclosure, I weigh 100 lbs and have arthritis in my hands, so even firing a gun is out of the question, so it's not like hurting and killing is really in the cards for me, but I wouldn't do it even if I could.) I treat all people equally, to the point of asking myself, when someone I dislike annoys me, "would I be as annoyed if someone I liked did this?" If the answer to that question is "no", then I do my very best to let go of my annoyance.

I call the aspca when I find an injured/abandoned animal. I give money and food to homeless people. (I work downtown, so I frequently don't eat lunch, because I see lots of homeless people.) I have given away 3 pairs of gloves so far this winter. They weren't my supernice leather and cashmere gloves, but there are 6 warm hands out there right now that weren't before.

I try very hard not to judge people, even people who do really stupid things over and over and never seem to learn from them. (Who hasn't done something stupid, or gotten in their own way or said something thoughtless that really hurt somebody else? Forgiveness is the gift that keeps on giving.)

What I cannot let go, what I cannot forgive without proof of regret is intolerance and bigotry. Tell me you think gays are sinners, and I will think about as highly of you as I do of wifebeaters. You'll beat out rapists, but not by much. Tell me that you think that you, as a christian, are so much better than me, the atheist, and I will think you stupid and intolerant. Right up there with people who think that "Arab looking" people shouldn't be allowed on airplanes. (Buzzhardhat, or something like that, is a moderator, by the way.)

What prompted this rant?

Can Atheists Be Ethical? by Matt Slick

The answer to this question is a definite, "Yes." hey, this sounds good . . . Atheists are people who, whether they like it or not, have the law of God written on their hearts (Rom. 2:15). so, your book that i believe is no more important than any other, says that i believe in god, when i don't, so therefore i believe in god. c'mon, could you at least try for logic?
They are subject to the same laws of our country (and other countries) and they have a sense of right and wrong. They often work with people who are religious and have ethical standards as well as non-believers who are don't. yes, we're allowed out in public, with the rest of you! So they are exposed to all sorts of moral behavior. so, the reason i have morals is that i am exposed to christians. if i didn't encounter christians in my daily life i'd be looting and pillaging right now. In addition, they often form their own moral standards based on what suits them. yeah, it suits me to believe that stealing from victoria's secret is ok, so i do. puh-lease. Besides, robbery, lying, stealing, etc., can get you imprisoned, so it is practical and logical for an atheist to be ethical and work within the norms of social behavior. if it weren't for the police, i'd be looting, pillaging and raping right now. lucky you. How ever you want to look at it, atheists, generally, are honest, hardworking people. like black people and mexicans!

Nevertheless, some Christians raise the question, "What is to prevent an atheist from murdering and stealing? After all, they have no fear of God and no absolute moral code." this question makes me very nervous around people who ask it. it implies that the asker would, if they suddenly stopped believing in god, immediately start murdering and stealing. if you come across a man in a dark alley holding a bible, run! The answer is simple: Atheists are capable of governing their own moral behavior and getting along in society the same as anyone else. true, but i'm not sure how Mr. Slick got from the preceding two paragraphs to this conclusion.

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. a risk Mr. Slick was willing to take. Basically, society will only put up with so much if it is to function smoothly. So, if an atheist wants to get along and have a nice life, murdering and stealing won't accomplish it. timothy mcveigh was a christian. It makes sense for him to be honest, work hard, pay his bills, and get along with others. Basically, he has to adopt a set of ethics common to society in order to do that. Belief in God is not a requirement for ethical behavior or an enjoyable life. how does Mr. Slick keep arriving at obvious, true conclusions through this sort of thinking? it's like he's the idiot savant of logic.

On the other hand i have five fingers!

Atheists' morals are not absolute. yes, they are. i believe stealing, raping, molesting and murdering are always wrong. They do not have a set of moral laws from an absolute God by which right and wrong are judged. why is that necessary to have absolute morals? well, maybe for Mr. Slick it's necessary, but not for me. But, they do live in societies that have legal systems with a codified set of laws. This would be the closest thing to moral absolutes for atheists. However, since the legal system changes the morals in a society can still change and their morals along with it. look, the supreme court can decide that child molestation is legal tomorrow, i'll still hold that it's wrong. At best, these codified morals are "temporary absolutes." In one century abortion is wrong. In another, it is right. So, if we ask if it is or isn't it right, the atheist can only tell us his opinion. no, one day abortion was illegal, the next it was legal. this does not address whether or not abortion is moral. many atheists do find abortion immoral. i don't personally, but that's not based on the law.

If there is a God, killing the unborn is wrong. it could also be wrong if there is no god, but that depends on your point of view. If there is no God, then who cares? the pregnant woman still has a decision to make, even in the absence of god. If it serves the best interest of society and the individual, then kill. war, anyone? This can be likened to something I call, "experimental ethics." In other words, whatever works best is right. that already has a name. it's called "situational ethics". Society experiments with ethical behavior to determine which set of rules works best for it. well, yeah, actually, because laws and morals are two entirely different things. rules and ethics are two different things. and why is this centering on abortion? there are no other morals? Hopefully, these experiments lead to better and better moral behavior. But, as we see by looking into society, this isn't the case: crime is on the rise. and it's all the atheists fault! if we were a theocracy, there wouldn't be any crime at all! look, i'm no sociologist or an expert in crime and the causes thereof, but neither is Mr. Slick. I certainly don't think that lack of religion is the causative factor, nor do I think religion is the answer.

There are potential dangers in this kind of self-established/experimental ethical system. If a totalitarian political system is instituted and a mandate is issued to kill all dissenters, or Christians, or mentally ill, what is to prevent the atheist from joining forces with the majority system and support the killings? wow. that's quite a leap there. what is to stop the atheist? the same thing that stopped some germans from supporting the nazis in their goal of killing all the jews. ethics and morals. plenty of christians were nazis, or at least stood by and did nothing. so clearly, religion alone is not enough to stop that sort of thing. It serves his self-interests, so why not? why would it serve my self interests to obey an order to kill the mentally ill? the mentally ill don't bother me. i have mentally ill family members. hell, i spent 3 days entirely psychotic before my porphyria was diagnosed. so, it would be definitively NOT in my self interests to kill the mentally ill. atheist is NOT another definition for psychopath, Mr. Slick. Morality becomes a standard of convenience, not absolutes. morality and ethics are never about convenience. they are, in fact, the opposite of convenience. it would be convenient for me to steal from people. it would certainly be easier than saving up my money or doing without. killing people that make my life difficult would be more convenient than dealing with them. i don't do that either.

But, to be fair, just because someone has an absolute ethical system based on the Bible, there is no guarantee that he will not also join forces in doing what is wrong. hey, thanks for finally showing up. i've been here for at least 10 minutes. People are often very inconsistent. no shit. got a bible verse for that one, or did you figure it out on your own? But the issue here is the basis of moral beliefs and how they affect behavior. so, as long as christians have the proper basis for their morals, whether or not they actually follow those morals is irrelevant? i love how christians judge and judge and judge the rest of us, and give each other a pass each and every time. "he's christian, he must be good." who are you going to believe: the bible or your lying eyes? That is why belief systems are so important and absolutes are so necessary. If morals are relative, then behavior will be too. look out! it's a slippery slope! That can be dangerous if everyone starts doing right in his own eyes. A boat adrift without an anchor will eventual crash into the rocks. that depends on where it starts out, wind, current, weather, the size of the boat, and whether or not it sinks first.
The Bible teaches love, patience, and seeking the welfare of others even when it might harm the Christian. it also teaches not judging anyone in any circumstance, but i don't see Mr. Slick paying attention to that one. In contrast, the atheists' presuppositions must be constantly changing, why? why would my . . . presuppositions? . . . be constantly changing. look, i do adapt and change as life and circumstances demand. this is psychologically healthy. this doesn't mean that yesterday i thought murder was ok, today i don't, and tomorrow i'll be ok with genocide. and subjective and does not demand love, patience, and the welfare of others. why not? why can't my morals and ethics demand love, patience and the welfare of others? couldn't I just like these things in and of themselves? (i do, by the way. when i talk about world peace, i really think that would be the greatest thing ever.) Instead, since the great majority of atheists are evolutionists, their morality, like evolution is the product of purely natural and random processes that become self serving. oh, come the fuck on! how the fuck does evolution have anything to do with morality? evolution is science. science has nothing to do with religion or morals or anything else. and i am not an "evolutionist" any more than i am a "gravityist." disbelieve in evolution all you want, Mr. Slick, it's still happening all around you.

clearly, religion precludes all rational thought. yeah, why don't i get me some of that?

Basically, the atheist cannot claim any moral absolutes at all. yes, i can. i do. To an atheist, ethics must be variable and evolving. no, they don't. stop that. stop making ridiculous statements with no logical or rational basis and then applying them to me. This could be good or bad. seriously? explain to me how that would be good? But, given <-- this word is unnecessary and makes for an ugly sentence human nature being what it is, I'll opt for the moral absolutes -- based on God's word which almost makes it sound like he thinks there might be moral absolutes not based on god's word. hmmm-- and not on the subjective and changing morals that atheism offers. that's not what atheism offers. we offer freedom from superstition, the chance to think logically and rationally, the opportunity to enjoy and experience life for what it is, and cookies. delicious cookies. want some?


  1. cookie tease, cookie tease!

    i have noticed, and noted, that fundy christians are the absolute worst when it comes to expecting everyone else to live up to their standards, while at the same time they not only FAIL to live up to those standards, but BRAG ABOUT HOW THEY FAIL BUT ARE GOOD AND MORAL PEOPLE WHO WILL BE REWARDED BY GOD ANYWAY!

    erm. the caps might be a bit much. but. it pisses me off.

    have i mentioned i am happy i found your blog and that i tell my friends about you? most of my friends are either athiests or pagan :)

  2. sometimes, i combine caps with periods after every word. that would be a bit much.

    yeah, i love the fundy bragging about how "i totally sin all the time, but i'm going to heaven and you're burning in hell." in fact, jack chick did a tract once (if you don't know what a chick tract is and you feel like exposing yourself to the cartoon equivalent of toxic waste, check out about two men who were sexually molesting a five year old girl, are caught by her doctor after she gets an std, and then are saved by jesus and everything is all better.

    fundys are sick.

    i'm happy you're happy. that is so cool. so very, very cool. totally makes my day! (i'll stop before i degenerate into totally uncool geekdom.)


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