Why I Chose the Atheist Label

Theology

#1

#2

I think that is a helpful article. He is being honest. That doesn’t threaten me at all. In fact, I rather prefer honesty :-). I’m not entirely sure he has come to terms with all the philosophical, moral, and ethical consequences of an atheistic worldview - but he’s working on it and is being honest. When he says I can still be a “good” person - I’m not sure he fully understands the philosophical can of worms he opens up by just making that claim. He will need to engage in conversation with Sartre and Camu…and C.S. Lewis to start dealing with how one might establish if they are a “good” person from an atheistic worldview. Though I disagree with Sartre and Camu (obviously)…I respect them in that they took their atheism to its logical conclusion…as Sartre said…Life is absurd. Oh, and I almost forgot Nietzsche. Though I disagree with him…he was correct on many, many things. His death of God is not what most people think it is.

I am somewhat surprised that he has found the world so hostile to atheists. I wonder if that is some of the cultural differences between the U.S. and Canada. I’d suggest that increasingly in Canada…a Christian like me…who actually believes the stuff…and preaches and teaches it…is very suspect in our culture. It is increasingly uncomfortable to be who I am and do what I do.

My concern is not with the honest atheist. My concern is with the people who hold to a moralistic therapeutic deism and believe that to be Christianity. Or, the one who claims to be a Christian, but has little understanding of the Faith and has not been engaged in a Christian community for decades. I’d suggest this is more of a threat to the culture and the Church than an honest atheist.


#3

Thanks for bringing attention to the article!

There is a lot I agree with in that article. For me, I grew up in the church but never took it seriously past my pre-adolescent years. In my early 20’s I slowly realized I was an atheist, and had been for a few years. I never had the sharp change in beliefs that the author described. However, it seems that we both ended up in about the same place which is really interesting, and it jives with what I have heard from other atheists.

If anyone is interested in what goes on in an atheist’s head, I would strongly encourage you to read the article in the opening post.


(John Dalton) #4

I would put it to you that those consequences only exist if you adopt a theistic mindset. It seems to me she (by the way) has come to terms with things just fine!

Case in point–if you think being good is complicated, something is complicating the question for you.

Nah. Whatever that would be supposed to prove. She’s fine

I think we’ll pass on that one as well, geez.


#5

No, I don’t think this is true. Many philosophers discuss ethics from many different “mindsets,” and certainly not all are theistic.

I understand what your saying but, quite frankly, this is grossly oversimplified. Let’s start with: “What is good?” “How is that determined?” “What about contradictory claims to what is “good?” Are things good because of the result of the action, or are things good because of some ontological reason. Etc., etc., etc.

C.S. Lewis discusses some of those questions in his Mere Christianity. Not from a Christian perspective, per se, when dealing with those questions. That’s why I mentioned him. You could do a google search and find a million other choices to read if Lewis isn’t your cup of tea. However, what you have suggested is rather uncomplicated is far, far from it. That’s why people have been pondering and discussing these concepts for centuries and centuries.


(John Dalton) #6

Oh sure, all kinds of people discuss such things all the time. But you said “consequences”. Why would there be consequences if we approach ethics with a lack of belief in gods?

Being good isn’t so complicated. Many people find it quite simple! Analyzing every aspect of “good” from philosophical or other angles is certainly more complicated. But does one need to do that to be good?

It just seemed an odd choice; it’s as if I suggested you read Richard Dawkins to grasp all the implications of Christianity. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with pondering such questions; I’d go as far as to say it’s a good thing. Heck, I try to do it myself! And maybe I’ll take you up on Lewis someday (I haven’t read anything by him). But I don’t think there’s anything about being atheist that makes people especially need to consider such issues. It’s pretty straightforward really.


#7

Ok, fair enough. Just so I can understand better - how do you understand “being good?”


(John Dalton) #8

The usual stuff. Not hurting people mentally, physically, or otherwise. Helping when possible. Exhibiting qualities in line with these values such as fairness, honesty, responsibility. Why, what would you say?


#9

I don’t have much to argue with your list :slight_smile:

However, my question is why are those things good?


(John Dalton) #10

That’s another question! There are a couple of things I’d point to to explain why these things are good for us (I don’t think they’re objectively good in a cosmic sense.)

As part of our nature as social animals, we have a number of evolved tendencies which help us function better in groups, and align with the values I mention above. (I’ve been reading Jonathan Haidt, as I hope everyone else is). For my part, I want myself and those I care about, and everyone else for that matter, to live in a world where people get along well.

We’re intelligent, and we understand how our actions affect others. With this knowledge comes a concurrent moral responsibility.

I hold it as a belief that all people have equal worth.


#11

I love Jonathan Haidt! I read his book The Righteous Mind and thought it excellent. I’ve also very much appreciated the several interviews in which I have heard him speak.

So, you ground what is “good” in the evolutionary benefit. I actually believe there to be some merit in this. However, I am not convinced that such a grounding is sufficient. It seems to me that there are any number of actions that might generally be considered “good” that would contrary to evolutionary benefit and any number of actions that would be considered “bad” that would give evolutionary benefit.

I agree with you in this belief. I base this belief upon the biblical teaching that each human being has inherent dignity and worth. Upon what do you base your belief? I don’t ask this in the way of a challenge, but out of a desire to understand.


#12

Those things are good because we say they are good. We want a society where people are treated equally, fairly, and respectfully so those are the values we say are good.

You may want to check out the blog post linked below. I think it does a great job of not only explaining why morality is subjective, but why a subjective morality is actually preferred:


(John Dalton) #13

Only to a degree. I’m saying that we humans have certain evolved tendencies such as empathy and a sense of fairness which inform our perception of what is “good”. Such things tend to help us function better in groups, which is part of being human. But I agree with your other points here.

I think it’s worthy of belief in its own right.

Totally understood! Here’s a question in the same spirit, and hopefully to shed some light on my point–if the bible told you otherwise, would you accept it?


#14

That’s not a defence of the rationale behind the belief you hold. It could just as easily be posited that not all humans are to be estimated equal in worth and one could argue that it’s worthy of belief in its own right. In fact, historically, this is the default position of most cultures.

I’d suggest that the fact you believe otherwise is because you’re a product of western civilization, which is influenced to a great extent by the Judeo-Christian ethic. So, as one commentator said, western Civ, even as it cuts itself off from its roots of the Judeo-Christian ethic, lives on the borrowed capital of the Judeo-Christian ethic. How long such a rootless and borrowed ethic will be maintained is anyone’s guess. Though, many have noted the fault lines forming…

If I understand correctly - you’re asking me if the Bible taught that not all humans ought to be considered equal, would I hold to that position?

That’s a good question. And you’ve put me in a tough position with such a hypothetical question. The nature of divine revelation would be that it is authoritative.


(John Dalton) #15

PS good luck in the game tonight! Not much riding on it unfortunately.


#16

Thanks. Being an Oilers fan since I was hardly able to walk has taught me the Highs and lows of life. This past decade+ has taught all Oilers fans how to suffer.


(John Dalton) #17

Being a Rangers and Jets fan has taught me a lot about the lows :slight_smile: But we did have the one high point there at least. We were like Oilers east that year :slight_smile:


(John Dalton) #18

You didn’t ask me to defend it. You asked me how I “ground” it. Let me ask you this first. How do you defend the rationale of your belief in God?

I’d suggest that the fact you believe otherwise is because you’re a product of western civilization, which is influenced to a great extent by the Judeo-Christian ethic.

Oh I don’t know about that. People in other parts of the world do a fair job of this too you know (something I have some experience of) and many people there would argue rather strongly with your statement here, I assure you.

So, as one commentator said, western Civ, even as it cuts itself off from its roots of the Judeo-Christian ethic, lives on the borrowed capital of the Judeo-Christian ethic.

That’s a leap! You went from “influenced by” to this. This argument quickly fails when you look at the entirety of the history of the vaunted “Judeo-Christian ethic”. There are a lot of problems there, and we don’t have to go very far back to find them.

How long such a rootless and borrowed ethic will be maintained is anyone’s guess. Though, many have noted the fault lines forming…

I think we’ll do fine. This is a Chicken Little mentality to my way of thinking, and a quite arrogant one considering the history.

Yes.

I know :slight_smile: But I do have a point, would you admit? I’ll note that you have not really answered the question.

I hope I’m not coming across too combative, the results of the game may have unsettled me :slight_smile:


#19

It all hinges on the historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus.

Aside from that, throw in some Plato and Aristotle, Aquinas, the cosmological argument (the prime mover), Anselm’s ontological argument, etc., etc. The Theist/Atheist debate goes back a long ways. We could both read more learned people from both sides hash it out - so, I won’t trouble you with my weak attempts at it :slight_smile: However, the argument for Theism isn’t really the centre - its an interesting periphery discussion, but that’s all. What is central is whether or not a dead Jewish man rose from the dead as the Gospels, St. Paul, and the eye witnesses attest. If, in fact, Jesus of Nazareth rests in a tomb - Christianity fails. Christianity is the only religion that is falsifiable and is based upon an historic claim.

Perhaps. Though, such thinkers as Nietzsche and Dostoevsky, have noted this very thing of which I speak. Nietzsche, in his famous “God is dead” statement was noting that the age of rationalism, and along with it a denial of the divine, cuts the foundation out from under western civilization. Nietzsche, was no friend of the Church :-). Dostoevsky (as well as Nietzsche) predicted that it would lead to carnage. Seems to me the 20th Century proved them quite right in their predictions. However, this is not to say that there was only one cause, as history is always a result of multiple causes.

A more contemporary commentator on this would be Douglas Murray. His book The Strange Death of Europe is an interesting read. Murray, an atheist, sees the struggle for maintaining European culture (Western Civ) when there is no shared foundation of story/principles as fraught with difficulty. He expresses concern as Europe discards it’s Christian roots with nothing to fill the void (in some ways echoing Nietzsche’s concerns).One might also read Mark Steyn’s America Alone though it is somewhat dated now.

So, it seems to me that the burden of proof may fall to you in assuming “we’ll do fine” when recent history has shown that when humankind takes it to itself to mold and shape society it ends up with millions of bodies in mass graves. So, while I admire your optimism and hear your criticism of the chicken little thinking…there are some rather weighty thinkers who may not share your optimism and rather than the character chicken little - mention the character Pollyanna. :slight_smile:

I thought I did answer. I said that the nature of divine revelation is that it is authoritative. So, one takes the content of the divine revelation as authoritative and therefore one holds to what is revealed.

Not at all. I am not unfamiliar with debate and discussion and am not easily offended or upset.

The results of the game have only raised my slight hopes of a miracle playoff run just enough that they will surely be crushed in an even more painful manner.


#20

This is quickly going off topic, but that doesn’t make much sense to me. Joseph Smith and Muhammad seem just as historical, do they not?

History seems full of Holy Wars as well. The centuries long fight between Catholics and Protestants is a well known example. In modern times, the most extreme actions are often carried out by believers.

We then look at Europe which has become very secular. How is life in Europe? Pretty dang good. In fact, modern Europe seems to be the best time to live in Europe, ever. People are freer than they ever have been in the past, and the quality of life is great. People seem quite capable of filling the void after religion left society.