Atheism and the Arc of Justice

At the risk of getting into the weeds…

@Patrick that’s a common atheist assertion unsupported by the data: New Harvard Research Says U.S. Christianity Is Growing Stronger

Where does love and caring fit in your world? Does meaning have meaning? Why do we want our lives to have purpose? How can you know you are believing truth based on a process whose sole criteria is survival? There are too many questions that your world view cannot answer, and where it leads seems to me sterile and empty.

Hi T. I agree with you that there is a danger in ID circles of exalting science above it’s proper place.

But this is Scientism. Which, BTW, is a philosophical argument postulating that philosophical argument is not valid. How about you point me to the peer reviewed papers that show that only peer reviewed papers can ever contain truth.

I think that in dealing with Evolution, the ID folks are providing an alternative narrative to wrap around the data. And “macroevolution happened by natural causes only” is the main narrative for larger changes. But many of us don’t believe the processes we know about are adequate to produce that much highly organized change. I think design is a rational alternative.

Hope this helps.


A group of Christian got together and elected an extremely hateful man as US President. And that group of Christian continues to support his hateful deeds and actions.

For sure, we will not find much love in that branch of Christianity.

My life is very meaningful, thank you.

Truth emerges from that struggle for survival.

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Loving and fits in the same way as in your world but only it is you who defines meaning and purpose to your life. There is much to live for for me and my family and the generations to follow. Realizing that it is our responsibility to make the world better and we can do it small ways and large ways. We don’t need the promise of an afterlife to make something out of this life. In fact, the false promise of an afterlife diminishes this life. Get off your knees and stop praying for a better life and a next life, do something now about YOUR life (and the people you care about). You only get one life. Live it the best you can with purpose and meaning.


That’s a bit of a caricature. Here’s how I look at prayer:

It seems to me that when there is a disaster, it’s the Christians who are on the ground early and still working late to roll back the damage. I don’t see any atheist organizations doing that.

Those concepts are so much a part of us humans, unlike the other species here. But apart from some reference point, they vanish in the ultimate heat death of this universe. In the atheist big picture, it seems to me it’s just an illusion of meaning and purpose meant to make people feel better about themselves. Like Ozymandias.

A lot of heat there, Neil, and I feel your pain, but this is really not the forum for it.

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There is a misunderstanding happening here. @Patrick is correct that an atheistic world can have purpose, in that humans can find purpose and meaning on their own. That is certainly correct. @Marty is pointing out that this type of purpose seems to be fragile, and ultimately we can be certainly is goes away (such as when we all die or when our purposes are frustrated). That also seems true.

The existential question is whether or not there is any purpose in the universe that transcends us as humans, and if matters. @Patrick, I am sure, would say no on both counts, and @Marty would say yes. I think this debate is clarified in the context of clear violations and contradictions of humanistic purpose (such as genocide). When humans construct purpose their own, we can never be certain such purposes will be ultimately good or achieved.

Contrast that with what MLK says (The Arc of the Moral Universe Is Long, But It Bends Toward Justice – Quote Investigator):

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

He is quoting a long theological tradition:

“We must believe that the arc of the universe is long, but that it bends toward justice, toward one Divine end towards which creation moves onward and onward, forever.”


We cannot understand the moral Universe. The arc is a long one, and our eyes reach but a little way; we cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; but we can divine it by conscience, and we surely know that it bends toward justice. Justice will not fail, though wickedness appears strong, and has on its side the armies and thrones of power, the riches and the glory of the world, and though poor men crouch down in despair. Justice will not fail and perish out from the world of men, nor will what is really wrong and contrary to God’s real law of justice continually endure.

Any notions we have of being on the “right side” of history, or conceptions that ground the type of voice we have in MLK, can’t really be justified in secular humanistic point of view (or at least I can’t see how).

Sure, the idealism exists, as we are all gear to talk about utopias. In practice, these utopias quickly slide to dystopia. We could just as easily argue that the arc bends towards injustice, and perhaps the winners are the oppressors. In fact, that is exactly what many do, and they seem to be very successful.

This, I think, is the sort of thing that should give us pause to dismissing questions about transcendant purpose. Without some normative purpose beyond that which humans create, there is no clear grounding (other than preference) to denigrate one man’s decision to find his purpose to genocidally end another community so that his progeny can rule the earth.

Without doubt, @patrick is aligned with us against such evil, however, I’m not clear the resources his conception of the world brings to the table to push back against such evil. We should have no confidence that evil people might respond to the call to goodness. We are left with a power struggle, without a way to even know what is good and what is evil. Of note, that is very much what society looks like now too. So, in one sense, @Patrick’s view is very coherent with the world. It does seems that right and wrong are ambiguous, and that power rules the day, so we should amass power and use it. After all, if coercive power is the rule, it is better to hold that power and either use it for ourselves, or (if we are more moral) at least prevent others from using it coercively. That makes some sense until society as a whole choses together to do evil. We have certainly seen this time and time again.

From @mary and my point of view, we see a hidden order, that can emerge. The world seems unjust, but could be just. Injustice is not merely a human construct, and our relationship to justice and injustice is not indeterminate. Our purpose is to be a just society. Society, however, is not just. Just like MLK, we believe that the Day of the Lord is coming, where God will rebalance the world even for those who died. In the meantime, we believe (or at least we should believe) He works with us now to bring forth a new sort of Kingdom on Earth, one that is just and redemptive precisely because it is not merely our construction. Likewise God made us, even those who turn to evil, such that we can respond to the call to justice.

We believe even racists are redeemable. The world is not just, but God made all of us, including racists, to thrive in a just world. This, it seems to me, is a critical part of MLK’s message that makes it so coherent and attractive, even to those that do not believe in God.


Prayer is a waste of time. Ask 1.5 billion Muslims who are REQUIRED by their theocratic government to pray five times a day. The efficacy of prayer has been scientifically analyzed and it has the same effect as doing nothing.

Secular organizations out spend, out staff, and overall help people by 100 to 1 when compared to the entire Christian and Catholic charities.

I think this is the wrong way to look at prayer, Patrick. First, even if prayer was found to be efficacious, then that would basically turn God into a vending machine that we could manipulate at will - not the kind of God that I would worship. God does call us to have faith that he will grant us what we ask, but sometimes he does say no. God’s providence and ways are beyond our crude scientific models.

Secondly, even if prayer did not significantly affect outcomes, the experience of communing with God while praying is efficacious enough for me. You get to talk to the Creator of the Universe. Imagine if you could get a 24/7 hotline to your favorite scientist or other admired person. Even if you couldn’t ask him/her to do anything for you, wouldn’t it be great just to talk to them? And I’m sure you enjoy talking with your family members even if you’re not discussing anything super serious or substantial. It’s the experience, not just the results.


How do you know that you are not talking to yourself?

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We’ve gone over this before, Patrick. I have rational and personal reasons to believe that Christianity is true and that there is a God listening to my prayers. Of course, I could be wrong, and I would be talking to myself. But that’s not the point. The point is that even if you pointed out prayer is not efficacious to a Christian, that shouldn’t change our prayer habits even one bit, because that’s not the motivation why we pray.

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This is pretty much how you guys look to us too :slight_smile:


Totally believe you on that :slight_smile:. I’m just glad we don’t have to agree on everything to find expansive common ground on these matters.

My post was explaining the metaphysics, not the epistemology. As for how we could know we are correct, that comes another way.

Hint: it is not Creation Science.

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And it seems to work for you. So I will not be critical of you for praying. Perhaps if we were in a life boat together I would pray with you as long as you continued to encourage me not to give up!


I give up :slight_smile: Frankly, I can’t imagine how you could “know”. It would seem to be a belief stance.

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