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Morality and the 'new atheism' - Comments

ianmkz's Avatar Comment 1 by ianmkz

So if you're thinking of becoming an atheist so that you can murder, rape and pillage... think again.

Thu, 31 Jan 2008 16:33:00 UTC | #113834

Melomel's Avatar Comment 2 by Melomel

Here's a quick answer: game theory. There are mathematically derivable systems of ethics that make everything better for everyone, and for individuals. To the first approximation, the Golden Rule exists independently of any religion: it is a mathematical fact.

Thu, 31 Jan 2008 16:35:00 UTC | #113838

MPhil's Avatar Comment 3 by MPhil

The mirror neuron thing - my thoughts exactly: Animal "morality" is empathy qua mirror neuron activity and the thereby effected further neuronal activity. Very interesting field of study.

But a "comeback of virtue ethics" in academic philosophy? Well, there was Anscombe in the 50s and since the 80s there's MacIntyre... and maybe Nussbaum. A few people jumped the bandwagon, but I wouldn't call it a "comeback". It's not "the" major movement.

Thu, 31 Jan 2008 16:40:00 UTC | #113845

Noodly's Avatar Comment 4 by Noodly

So if you're thinking of becoming an atheist so that you can murder, rape and pillage... think again.

It's more fun kicking away psychological crutches!

Thu, 31 Jan 2008 16:42:00 UTC | #113847

Kergillian's Avatar Comment 5 by Kergillian

ianmkz wrote:
So if you're thinking of becoming an atheist so that you can murder, rape and pillage... think again.


DAMMIT! Why didn't some one tell this me BEFORE I became an Atheist?

Thu, 31 Jan 2008 16:59:00 UTC | #113874

jimbob's Avatar Comment 6 by jimbob

This would all be quite funny if it wasn't for the fact that yahweh-based dogmas (and others) are an obstacle to humanistic morality -- but the dogma book thumpers have everybody convinced that the opposite is true.

That's why I was hoping that our horsemen could use the Afghan reporter death sentence outrage to increase public realization of the (im)moral reality of dogmatism (and to help the reporter of course).

Thu, 31 Jan 2008 16:59:00 UTC | #113875

Gustaf Sjoblom's Avatar Comment 7 by Gustaf Sjoblom

Why be good if you are a christian. You can just do evil and then ask forgivness and accept Jesus and you are home free.

This is as good an argument as the anti-atheist argument.

Thu, 31 Jan 2008 17:08:00 UTC | #113883

SPS's Avatar Comment 8 by SPS

Anyone who's gone to church for any length of time knows that the attendees generally are not any more moral for it, can be quite immoral, and seldom if ever does god-given morality come up in conversation. Knowledge of the bible by churchgoers is generally very little at best. This at least was my experience, and does not do much for the argument that religion/Christianity is needed for morality. There's an interesting article related to this post here:

From the Minds of Babes Come the Beginnings of Morals

Thu, 31 Jan 2008 17:13:00 UTC | #113890

ianmkz's Avatar Comment 9 by ianmkz

DAMMIT! Why didn't some one tell this me BEFORE I became an Atheist?
Okay, maybe a bit of light "out-group" pillaging then. Just a bit.

Thu, 31 Jan 2008 17:50:00 UTC | #113915

Tack's Avatar Comment 10 by Tack

Why be good if you are a christian. You can just do evil and then ask forgivness and accept Jesus and you are home free.
The stock response is that if you sin with the intention of later repenting, you're not likely to actually be genuinely remorseful. You're only forgiven if you truly repent.

Thu, 31 Jan 2008 17:57:00 UTC | #113920

Greyman's Avatar Comment 11 by Greyman

There's an interesting article related to this post here:

From the Minds of Babes Come the Beginnings of Morals.

Interesting experiment indeed! I wonder if anyone has done something similar with chimps?

Thu, 31 Jan 2008 18:20:00 UTC | #113937

LorienRyan's Avatar Comment 12 by LorienRyan

"As we apply our reason to our urge to be altruistic, and as we become more interconnected with strangers, we see fewer reasons to put people into the "out group". Our psychological "in group" expands until in some people it covers not just the whole human race, but sentient non-human animals too."

"For my part, I think an important answer was provided by the ancients - virtue or self-respect. (And isn't it interesting that "virtue ethics" is making a comeback in academic philosophy?)"

I think this is what Prince Siddhattha was trying to say circa 500BCE

Thu, 31 Jan 2008 18:37:00 UTC | #113951

The Anti-Pope's Avatar Comment 13 by The Anti-Pope

"So if you're thinking of becoming an atheist so that you can murder, rape and pillage... think again."

*Hides the giant sword splattered with baby brains*

Oops.

"Okay, maybe a bit of light "out-group" pillaging then. Just a bit."

Hell yeah, sign me up :D Catholics first, a bit of revenge for the last 1000-odd years :D Do we just go "viking style" or can we do it like my avatar (V from V for Vendetta for anyone who dosnt know)and go terrorist?

Thu, 31 Jan 2008 20:11:00 UTC | #114041

sarah95's Avatar Comment 14 by sarah95

What a wonderfully concise presentation of the arguments! I must have this on hand when arguing with theists.

I actually first heard about mirror neurons from Al Gore's book "The Assault on Reason". While the book is a little too sympathetic to religion, other types of non-thinking are sufficiently attacked. I would recommend it to anyone interested in or affected by(the second one being quite a large category) American politics.

The Anti-Pope: As for techniques, we should be the Dawkins-esque symbolic intellectual version of V, while remembering to still have fun:
"A revolution without dancing is a revolution not worth having." ~V

Thu, 31 Jan 2008 20:42:00 UTC | #114048

LorienRyan's Avatar Comment 15 by LorienRyan

I think all the theists arguments against atheism is just a reflection of their inability to let go of their addiction to the concept of god - the big daddy in the sky who will save them from the fear of death.

Thu, 31 Jan 2008 20:51:00 UTC | #114051

Atticus_of_Amber's Avatar Comment 16 by Atticus_of_Amber

Hi Guys, It seems this one was less controverisal than my last. Kelly from RationalRespodners.com also has a piece in OLO today, so it might be worth clicking over there to have a look. Cheers, Ben.

Thu, 31 Jan 2008 21:28:00 UTC | #114059

LorienRyan's Avatar Comment 17 by LorienRyan

can you provide the link

Thu, 31 Jan 2008 21:31:00 UTC | #114060

Atticus_of_Amber's Avatar Comment 18 by Atticus_of_Amber

www.onlineopinion.com.au - second item on teh front page.

Thu, 31 Jan 2008 21:36:00 UTC | #114061

LorienRyan's Avatar Comment 19 by LorienRyan

thanks for the link

Thu, 31 Jan 2008 21:51:00 UTC | #114062

LorienRyan's Avatar Comment 20 by LorienRyan

wow, she's smart... and gorgeous.

Thu, 31 Jan 2008 23:42:00 UTC | #114067

JemyM's Avatar Comment 21 by JemyM

Really... the claim that one who do not fully agree with an ideology is immoral is a classic and primitive way to downgrade human beings into less than human. It's one of the least moral and most poisonous ideas available to mankind. More people need to get aware of that.

Thu, 31 Jan 2008 23:51:00 UTC | #114070

Reg's Avatar Comment 22 by Reg

Comment #119675 by Greyman


"Interesting experiment indeed! I wonder if anyone has done something similar with chimps?"


I’m sure they will, but I being an Atheist, then want to see it kicked in the testicles.


Reg

Fri, 01 Feb 2008 00:47:00 UTC | #114087

SteveN's Avatar Comment 23 by SteveN

I found the description of mirror neurons firing in the brain of macaques when observing the distress in another to be interesting. It's a pity that the author didn't point out the experiments referred to here http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/edge206.html#NYTwade in which monkeys, if faced with a situation in which by pulling a chain will receive food but will also induce a painful electric shock in another monkey, choose to starve themselves for many days if necessary. This shows, in my mind, a level of empathy and morality not too disimilar from our own and is strong evidence for the evolutionary roots of our own standards of ethics and morality.

Fri, 01 Feb 2008 01:04:00 UTC | #114092

stag's Avatar Comment 24 by stag

Good summary of the most salient points, though a little more detail on some of the more prominent secular moral philosophies (social contract, utilitarianism, etc.) would have been appreciated. I liked the bit on virtue ethics though, the most substantial counter to the "moral relativism" argument in my opinion.

Fri, 01 Feb 2008 01:13:00 UTC | #114098

Artful_Dodger's Avatar Comment 25 by Artful_Dodger

Moreover, the argument that people would be horrible without belief in God seems to have been falsified by the experience of organically atheist societies such as Sweden
I thought there was a consensus on this site that there is no such thing as an "atheist society" or an "atheist regime", only atheist people. What is an "organically atheist society"? How can a society be organically atheist? Furthermore, is that not the same as stating what RD has been arguing against: that you cannot label people as anything until they have made a conscious commitment to that worldview? There is no such thing as an "atheist child" just as there is no such thing as a "Moslem child" or a "Catholic child". I agree with him there by the way. So how can a society be labelled "organically atheist"?

Fri, 01 Feb 2008 01:16:00 UTC | #114100

epeeist's Avatar Comment 26 by epeeist

Comment #119895 by Artful_Dodger

There is no such thing as an "atheist child"
Of course there can be such a thing as an "atheist child", if you don't teach a child about gods it will be the natural position.

Fri, 01 Feb 2008 01:26:00 UTC | #114103

PJG's Avatar Comment 27 by PJG

Good article.

epeeist is right. All children are atheist until they are taught there is a God. However, that doesn't mean there is such thing as an "atheist belief system" as many theists contend.

By "organically atheist society", I suspect the writer means a sort of "culturally atheist" one in that the majority of the citizens behave as if there is no God (in that religion is irrelevant)whatever their actual belief.

Fri, 01 Feb 2008 01:47:00 UTC | #114106

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 28 by Steve Zara

How can a society be organically atheist?
It is populated by atheists grown without the use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides?

Fri, 01 Feb 2008 01:57:00 UTC | #114108

Adam Morrison's Avatar Comment 29 by Adam Morrison

Steve, That was fantastic.

Fri, 01 Feb 2008 02:17:00 UTC | #114111

LorienRyan's Avatar Comment 30 by LorienRyan

epeeist - "Of course there can be such a thing as an "atheist child", if you don't teach a child about gods it will be the natural position."

can a child who has no concept of god be dubbed an atheist if an atheist is the negative of a theist conceptually?

a more neutral term would be needed.

Fri, 01 Feb 2008 02:24:00 UTC | #114115