Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Atheist Ethicist: The Resurrection

I'm back.

I am making some changes in my life that will give me both opportunity and reason to spend more time reading and writing about ethics, And, as I read and write, I need a place to put the thoughts that come to me. This seems a good place to do so.

I thought about starting a new blog - specifically, one that did not have the word "atheist" in the title.

However, I remembered the reason why I selected this title. It is because there exists in the world a prejudice against atheists grounded on the premise that there is some sort of incoherence in the idea of atheism and morality. Morality comes from God. Atheists do not believe in God. Therefore, atheists do not believe in morality. Therefore, atheists will kill you, take your property, and rape and murder your children. Atheists are to be feared and hated. They particularly cannot be trusted to hold public office - nothing prevents them from abusing that power.

People who hold this view are bigots - plain and simple. Apparently, their "god-given morality" has failed to provide them with a defense of hate-mongering and bigotry, because they display those qualities here in abundance.

The argument is simple.

Atheists deny that a god created morality. This does not imply that atheists deny the existence of morality.

Atheists deny that a god created trees. This does not imply that atheists deny the existence of trees. There is no need to deny atheists a driver's license because atheists are at risk of running vehicles into trees that they cannot see and whose existence they forever deny. Atheists know that trees (and cows and people exist). They simply deny that a god created them.

One could adopt this same position regarding atheists and morality.

Atheists deny that a god created morality. This does not imply that atheists will kill you, take your property, and rape your children. Atheists still know that morality exists. They still recognize the value of putting up legal and social barriers against murder, theft, and rape. In part, because they do not wish to be murdered, robbed, or raped, and they do not wish anybody that they care about to be murdered, robbed, or raped.

Furthermore, at least some atheists care about a great many people - even strangers living on the other side of the planet. One no more needs a god to care about people than one needs a god to be averse to pain.

Given these two options, "Atheists deny that god created trees/morality therefore they deny the existence of trees/morality" and "Atheists deny that god crated trees/morality; however, they still believe in the existence of trees/morality but deny that they came from a god," why would a person choose the first option and not the second?

There is no evidence or argument that can be given that favors the first over the second. At the same time, the tree analogy favors the second over the first. So, it is against evidence to suggest that the person who denies the existence of god also denies the existence of morality. Yet, people insist on this option anyway.


Well, I propose that the first and most powerful reason is because they wish to cast atheists as morally inferior beings, so that they can justify seeing themselves and morally superior to these "others" who, themselves, are little better than animals.

It is a fundamental feature of bigotry to cast the "other" as morally inferior. Arabs are terrorists. Blacks are coked-up criminals. Latinos are lazy people who exist merely to freeload off of government handouts. And the atheist denies the existence of morality.

Bigotry is immoral.

I understand bigotry to mean the use of derogatory overgeneralizations. It asserts as true something that, in many cases, happens to be false; that just because those people are Arabian, they are terrorists; that just because those other people are black they are coked-up criminals, etc. It, in effect, declares people to be guilty of something where no evidence has been brought against them - only against others who are like them. To practice bigotry is to practice injustice - to inflict harms (or, at least, to refuse to render aid and assistance) based on a verdict that pays no attention to what is true of the individual.

Bigotry is inherently unjust.

Which, by the way, implies that derogatory overgeneralizations about Muslims in specific, or theists in general, are also immoral. While, obviously, I reject that "denying the existence of a god" implies "denying the existence of morality", I do not hold that atheists have any special insight or disposition to act morally. Nothing I write should be taken as assuming that atheists are inherently moral or "morally superior" to theists. I write only to deny that atheists are necessarily inferior.

If religion gives one special insight into right and wrong, then religion should be giving religious people special insight into the injustice of bigotry. Here, it fails spectacularly.

In light of this persistent bigotry, I think that there is still a place in the world for an "atheist ethicist" blog. Since I expect to be spending much more of my time in the future studying moral philosophy, I I have reason to resurrect this blog and make it a place to have that discussion.

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