Argument Adjourned, Atheism and Amorality


In his book Why Be Moral, Atheist philosopher Kai Nielsen admits the position that the new, angry Atheists like Sam Harris cannot bring themselves to do, that “Pure practical reason, even with good knowledge of the facts, will not take you to morality.” Bertrand Russell, who above all things devoted himself to attempting to live according to reason alone, admitted that he could not account for morality by this method. If reason cannot complete the equation, where are we left to turn?

In every instance of moral decision, there is an evaluation of the opposite positions of good and bad. Moral affirmation cannot be an abstraction. The person who makes a moral evaluation assumes the intrinsic worth in himself and sees that intrinsic worth in the lives of others. In a world of matter alone, there is no intrinsic worth. A moral framework is necessary for the declaration of right and wrong, one which sets the standard for good and bad.

The existence and continued affirmation of a moral framework can lead us to only one conclusion. God exists and is the provider of this moral framework. We can lay it out as:

P1 Objective moral values exist only if God exists

P2 Objective moral values do exist

C God Exists

The arguments from reason for the existence and practice of morality (without God as the lawgiver) trend along the line of humanity doing things in the interest of the community and cooperation for the good of all. The problem is circular though; with an objective source of good and bad how will the billions of sovereign creatures agree on what is good and bad? Since one life (of matter alone) is of no more value than any other life, why would a person ever do anything but in their own self interest? These questions always lead us back to the top of the page.  


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Atheism, Amorality, and an Argument Against Again

imageYesterday we left off exploring two important questions that Atheists must answer in a universe composed of nothing but matter:

– When referring to the ‘rights’ of others, where do these rights come from in a world of cellular masses?

– When talking about right and wrong, who defines the meaning of these terms?

Let’s bring another Atheist voice (cheer?) into the discussion. Sam Harris (remember his little book) makes repeated use of moral language throughout his Letter to a Christian Nation. He describes things as good and evil. God especially falls under his moral evaluation as he considers the horrors of the world—disasters, child rape, murder, various evils—and asks why, if there is a God who is presumably good, these evils exist in the world. The trouble that Harris runs into is that, in order to evaluate anything as bad/evil one must have an objectively ‘good’ exemplar. Without that good that all can agree on, who has the authority to define good and bad? Harris? Pol Pot? Stalin? Doug Henning?

This is the main problem that the Atheist runs into when proclaiming their morality and even, superior morality. In order to make such a proclamation, the Atheist must borrow from an objective moral framework in order to make a judgment. Without that framework or its admitted existence, the atheist must defer to his or her feelings to make the call. Bertrand Russell admitted as much,

In a debate with a Jesuit priest, Russell had made a failed attempt to explain the source of his ‘objective’ morality. When the priest asked him how he differentiated between good and bad, Russell answered, “I don’t have any justification any more than I have when I distinguish between blue and yellow…I can see they are different.”

The priest noted “You distinguish between blue and yellow by seeing them, so you distinguish good and bad by what faculty.”

“By my feelings,” Russell replied.

Of course, the follow up question is obvious (but was not asked in order to save face for Russell.) The priest pointed out the corner into which Russell had backed himself by posing this dilemma. “Mr. Russell, in some cultures they love their neighbors; in other cultures they eat them. Do you have a personal preference, and if so, what is it?”

At least Russell is more honest about his agnosticism and the ambiguity of his own views on ethical values than is Mr. Harris. Sam enjoys a morality developed in his own mind but he never answers the question, from where does his intuition as to what is right and wrong come? The Atheist never provides an adequate explanation for how an intuition toward morality can develop from nothing but matter and chemistry.

So, the question we are left with today is, can morality exist apart from a Moral Lawgiver? Discuss amongst yourselves until next time.

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Atheist Certainty vs The Reality

Sam Harris poses this question, “One wonders just how vast and gratuitous a catastrophe would have to be to shake the world’s faith?” He goes on in support of this question; “The Holocaust did not do it. Neither did the genocide in Rwanda, even with machete-wielding priests among the perpetrators. Five hundred million people died of small-pox in the twentieth century, many of them infants. God’s ways are, indeed, inscrutable. It seems that any fact, no matter how infelicitous, can be rendered compatible with religious faith.”

Yes, one wonders that belief continues despite a purported lack of evidence.

Mr. Harris, why hasn’t the evidence of there being no God changed the religious views of billions of people through the number of centuries that you might want include in consideration? Why, if the evidence is so apparent, so powerful, and beyond question, does Atheism not represent the dominant worldview? That is the question that you must answer before excoriating the belief of others, whether or not they are able to slake your cynically formulated demand for apologetic proof.

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