Saturday, 7 July 2007

Comments on Ethics for Atheists

Ethics for atheists? ...This suggests that atheists for the most part are not already ethical. Where are the morally backward atheists who are running amok and toppling the foundations of morality?

There is no evidence that atheists are any less ethical than anyone else.

I have been an atheist for as long as I can remember. Indeed, I would say I have been an atheist from the age at which I was able to grasp its meaning. I saw through religion as man-made mysticism from a very young age and I have no conscious recollection of ever being religious in any way whatsoever.

As an atheist, do I feel morally obliged to be good to my neighbor? - Yes. Do I feel empathy for a fellow human being in distress? - yes.

The real question based on the 'ethics for atheists' premise is: As an atheist do I need an 'atheists handbook' of ethical guidelines to know what is good vs. what is bad moral behavior? ...the answer is simple and concise - no I do not.

I have naturally grown up with an innate internal 'moral compass'. I seem to be naturally guided in the direction of what is the morally acceptable course of action in any situation. Did I have to find a moral code in a handbook, to know that returning someone's lost wallet is the right thing to do? ...of course not.

That 'moral compass' is innate in all of us and has no connection to religion. I do not buy into the argument that many theists make that 'they are ethical because of their religion'. They will often push it further and say 'without my religion I could not be moral'.

Richard Dawkins, the 'charles simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science' at Oxford University, once appeared on Fox News and a man phoned in to the program and said on air: "Without religion, I would kill my neighbor". What a low bar; to believe that mankind is so naturally depraved, that if you take away religion, neighbors would start killing one another

Healthy minded parents naturally love their children and guide them within a morally ethical framework of good behavior. The simple fact is that most individuals have a good grasp of what is good behavior and what is bad.

When someone commits a heinous crime, such as murder, rape, child abuse... We immediately assume a psychological flaw in the character of the assailant. The assumption is not derived at based on a subjective whim.

It is well know that a child who did not grow up in a loving household, often grows up with the inability to love others. Indeed, serial killers are able to kill others because they lack empathy. When someone is brutalized as a child, they often grow up to be brutes (not always, some individuals courageously overcome their childhood traumas to become well balanced adults)...

Of course, someone can be brought up in a loving household and grow up to be a brute too, but this seems to be the exception rather than the rule and such individuals most often have a mental deformity or defect that leads to such pathologies.

A favorite and usually deliberate exploitative 'trick' among theists is to link atheism to Stalinism/Nazism and other such morally negative 'isms'. Lets clear these bromides up right now:

To link Stalinism with atheism as though they are synonyms is a non sequitur. While it may be true that Stalin was an atheist, it does not therefore follow, that atheism is the root cause of Stalinism.

The Russian population was very easily exploited by Stalin in the first place, because of years of religious indoctrination. Indeed, because of years of such indoctrination by priests of the church, their minds were inculcated in mysticism that set them up to be very easily exploited by a dictatorial figure, who could set himself up as a god-like 'totem'. I think it would be very unlikely indeed that Stalin could have so easily exploited a population, that was much less mystically minded and held values founded on a secular rather than religious footing.

What goes for Stalinism is equally true of Nazism. It may well be true that many individual Nazis were atheists and it is certainly true that many were Christians. What one cannot say is that atheism is synonymous with Nazism. It is not only dishonest of theists to do so; it is cheap. Hitler himself was certainly not an atheist... read: Hitler Was Not An Atheist, by John Patrick Michael Murphy.

So, to argue for ethics for atheists is really a none-starter. For the most part atheists are already ethical and are innately so.

Theists claim to already have a religious code of ethics within scripture... may I make the 'bold' claim that if they stopped following scripture, they would naturally fall back on their innate internal 'moral compass' just as atheists already do and just as most moderate Christians already do.

We know of course that most Christians are not reading the Bible and taking its edicts as codes to action in real life. Who today is literally following the commands in Leviticus or Deuteronomy... Only a mad-man would. So one could say that: to the degree that theists do not follow the literal interpretation of religious text today and instead follow their own innate morality, then they are simply doing what atheists are already doing... They are living by a moral standard based on reason and not based on faith.

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