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unblessed silence

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With the release of Sam HarrisLetter to a Christian Nation, and Richard DawkinsThe God Delusion, discussions of Religion and Atheism are currently high on the cultural agenda. I’m currently halfway through the latter book, which is not yet out in the USA, but I’ve already had discussions with a few people.

Much of it has to do with morals, since theists promote the idea of god-given morals as part of the rationale for religion in the world today, saying either:

  • “atheists have no morals”
  • “secular morals are baseless without religious authority”

I’ll ignore the contradiction between those two ideas for the moment. Various writers approach this question from different angles: Dawkins, being an evolutionary biologist, naturally focuses on evolutionary explanations, and the documentary Root Of All Evil? shows him observing “moral” behaviours in apes, for example. When “immoral” behaviours can get you killed – unprovoked attacks on others, disease through promiscuity, etc. – natural selection tends to favour the opposite behaviours.

Another particularly enervating “straw man” argument goes like this: “atheism is a religion, because its followers believe there is no God”. My response to this goes something like “atheism is to religion as silence is to noise”, which suits my preference for silence over almost all forms of sound. For a more detailed refutation of this particular argument, a good place to start is the following post by SilverTiger. Quote:

More bluntly still (because religious believers are apt to be very obtuse on this point): I do not have to prove that God does not exist; you have to prove he does.


Written by brian t

October 9, 2006 at 10:14 am

One Response

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  1. Howdy, love your writing.

    I heard an interesting point regarding morals in an interview as part of “The Atheist Tapes” (I saw it on google video, I think).

    The point can be (poorly) summarized as follows:

    It would be hard to find good Christians who would molest children or murder, even if God said it was a moral thing to do. Molestation and murder are abhorrent to all normal people, independently of whether they’ve ever been exposed to God’s word.

    Therefore, it follows that God is not the basis of these acts being moral / immoral. There’s a deeper morality, inherent to our existence that God’s commandments merely reflect. That is, God didn’t originate the moral code, he merely had Moses write it down. God cannot change immoral into moral merely by commanding it. Thus, God is not the foundation of morality that most devotees believe him to be.

    Keep writing, it’s good stuff.


    October 10, 2006 at 8:51 pm

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