Tag Archives: Rational

Satire: The end of moral duties

New Zealand philosopher Matt Flannagan wrote a satirical piece on moral duties from a naturalistic perspective: (H/T Michael’s Theology)

Some people claim we have a duty to not rape women, or that religious people have a duty to not engage in wars or acts of terrorism, conduct inquisitions and so on. I think this is nonsense as it assumes there is such a thing as a moral duty and this is false and here’s why:

First, the burden of proof is on he who makes a claim, as an amoralist I am not making a claim I am simply not affirming that moral duties exist, so I don’t have to justify my non-belief in duties. Instead those who believe in duties have to come up with compelling proof they exist.

Second, one cannot empirically verify the claim duties exist so it’s meaningless incoherent nonsense until such verification is given.

Third, no one has yet to provide a proof that duties of any sort exist. Such things if they can be decided at all must be shown to exist by the methods of natural science and to date no one has shown that belief in moral duties is necessary to any scientific theory. Neither physics or chemistry or biology has need of that hypothesis to explain the world.

Fourth, think of all the evil done in the name of duties, almost every war fought through out history has been justified by those who did it claiming they were doing the right thing. Inquisitions, crusades and the suppression of science were all done in the name of doing the right thing and avoiding the wrong thing.

Fifth, if you claim you believe we have duties such as a duty to not rape, I’ll ask you to explain “which duty” do you follow. There are so many different “duties” appealed to. Some people claim there is one fundamental duty, but those who do disagree as to what it is or exactly how to conceive of it. Others claim there are many duties and a small number of people claim there are none. Everyone rejects some concept or account of duty; us ‘adutyists’ just deny one more duty than everyone else.

Sixth – Think of how degrading and contrary to human autonomy the belief in duties is, duties are things we are supposed to live our lives in allegiance to. Rational people can figure out what to do for themselves using reason, we don’t need moral duties to tell us what to do, it stifles human autonomy and is childish to believe in duties.

Seventh – Evolutionary psychology shows us that small children from a very young age have evolved a disposition to believe certain things are right and wrong. The fact we can explain this belief entirely in evolutionary terms shows duties don’t exist.

Eight – What duties you believe is determined largely by your family and cultural background. If you were raised in Iran you would believe you had a duty to execute homosexuals. If you were raised in secular western Europe you would believe you had a duty to support same sex marriage. Clearly therefore, belief in duties is the result of parental and cultural brainwashing and up bringing.

Ninth – We should treat all our beliefs from the perspective of a sceptical outsider, hence we should treat our belief in moral duties from the perspective of moral skeptics.

Tenth – Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The claim there are moral duties is extraordinary. It claims that there are things that tell us what to do and that we have to do it and this trumps every other reason or desire we have in favour of the action and that failure to do it makes us guilty or blameworthy. No other thing in reality has these features, hence those who believe in duties must provide us with extraordinary evidence.

Eleventh – No-one has ever seen a duty. Duties have no colour, shape or smell, or sound hence they are invisible to sensory perception.

Michael’s blog post on this added two more to the list:

12. Duties were developed by bronze age, desert dwelling peoples and we should grow out of such myths.

13. Those who argue for moral duties use metaethical reasoning and metaethics is not an academic subject.

I think that it’s possible – but not rational – for naturalists to treat moral duties as objective. And that’s good, because otherwise you couldn’t trust them further than you could throw them for even little things. However, I wouldn’t put naturalists into situations of extreme temptation where they felt were not being monitored. I don’t think that they have what it takes in their worldview to do the right thing when no one is watching, especially when it goes against their own self-interest. It’s just not rational for them to care about moral duties, on their worldview – they think that they are just accidents and they think that moral duties are just arbitrary conventions that vary arbitrarily in different places at different times. They are really up front about this view, and I think that we should take them at their word and understand that there are limits to their “moral” behavior. Certainly you don’t want to be in a cloe relationship like a business partnership or a marriage with someone who thinks there is no free will, and therefore no moral duties and no moral responsibility. You might get lucky with them for a while, but eventually, they are going to break down.

For a more detailed look on what a typical non-theist might mean by “morality”, take a look at this post on Uncommon Descent about the famous progressive lawyer Clarence Darrow.


In 1912, in Los Angeles, for example, Darrow himself went through two trials where he was both the defense lawyer and the defendant – on two counts of attempting to bribe jurors in the union-related murder casein which he had been, as usual, counsel for the defense. In response to the first charge Darrow told the jury:

“I have committed one crime: I have stood for the weak and the poor.”

And at that first trial the verdict was in Darrow’s favour, though it is now generally accepted – even by Darrowphiles – that he was in fact guilty on both counts, plus other similar activities that he was never charged with. At the second trial Darrow proved less able to “soft soap” his way out of trouble, and the proceedings ended with a hung jury. But although Darrow escaped being convicted, he certainly didn’t escape the consequences of his actions.

Firstly he was made to leave California after undertaking never to practice law again in that state.

Secondly he was dropped by the unions as one of their regular attorneys – which is why he spent the last part of his career practising criminal law.

And thirdly, he reportedly suffered what would nowadays be described as a “nervous breakdown” and became, if it were possible, even more pessimistic and morose than had previously been the case.

Clarence Darrow is a hero for atheists like Jerry Coyne, and it’s interesting to see what this Darrow’s “morality” amounted to in practice. When a person denies free will, as Coyne and Darrow do, you can be sure of one thing – nothing evil that they do will be viewed by them as their responsibility. It was the fault of their genes, they’ll say. They will never admit that they are wrong, and their resistance to temptation will be lower than someone who believes in free will – and personal responsibility. I think that at the very core of atheism is this desperate, overarching desire to dispense with moral obligations – or at least to make them optional so that they are only binding if they don’t require any self-sacrifice. That’s why atheists are always celebrating each fresh assault on traditional morality, like gay marriage. They celebrate the breakdown of morality even for things they themselves don’t do, because they just want to be rid of moral duties and accountability entirely. I think there are some exceptions to this, but definitely it’s true of the rank-and-file atheist.

Was Hitler a Christian? Is Nazism similar to Christianity?

One of the strangest things I have heard from atheists is the assertion that Christianity is somehow connected to the fascism, such as the fascism that existed under Adolf Hitler. Two posts by Jewish author Jonah Goldberg from National Review supply us with the facts to set the record straight.

Let’s start with the first post.

Here are some of the points:

1) Hitler wanted Christianity removed from the public square

Like the engineers of that proverbial railway bridge, the Nazis worked relentlessly to replace the nuts and bolts of traditional Christianity with a new political religion. The shrewdest way to accomplish this was to co-opt Christianity via the Gleichschaltung while at the same time shrinking traditional religion’s role in civil society.

2) Hitler banned the giving of donations to churches

Hitler banned religious charity, crippling the churches’ role as a counterweight to the state. Clergy were put on government salary, hence subjected to state authority. “The parsons will be made to dig their own graves,” Hitler cackled. “They will betray their God to us. They will betray anything for the sake of their miserable little jobs and incomes.”

3) Hitler replaced Christian celebrations with celebrations of the state

Following the Jacobin example, the Nazis replaced the traditional Christian calendar. The new year began on January 30 with the Day of the Seizure of Power. Each November the streets of central Munich were dedicated to a Nazi Passion play depicting Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch. The martyrdom of Horst Wessel and his “old fighters” replaced Jesus and the apostles. Plays and official histories were rewritten to glorify pagan Aryans bravely fighting against Christianizing foreign armies. Anticipating some feminist pseudo history, witches became martyrs to the bloodthirsty oppression of Christianity.

4) Hitler favored the complete elimination of Christianity

When some Protestant bishops visited the Fuhrer to register complaints, Hitler’s rage got the better of him. “Christianity will disappear from Germany just as it has done in Russia . . . The Germanrace has existed without Christianity for thousands of years . . . and will continue after Christianity has disappeared . . . We must get used to the teachings of blood and race.”

5) Hitler favored the removal of mandatory prayers in schools

In 1935 mandatory prayer in school was abolished…

6) Hitler favored the banning of Christmas carols and nativity plays

…and in 1938 carols and Nativity plays were banned entirely.

7) Hitler abolished religious instruction for children

By 1941 religious instruction for children fourteen years and up had been abolished altogether….

And now the second post.

8) Hitler opposed the ideas of universal truth and objective moral absolutes

…Just as the Nazi attack on Christianity was part of a larger war on the idea of universal truth, whole postmodern cosmologies have been created to prove that traditional religious morality is a scam, that there are no fixed truths or “natural” categories, and that all knowledge is socially constructed.

Practically everything this man believed was 100% anti-Christian. But he fits in fine on the secular left.


Adolf Hitler was a man influenced by two big ideas: evolution and socialism. His party was the national SOCIALIST party. He favored a strong role for the state in interfering with the free market. He was in favor of regulating the family so that the state could have a bigger influence on children. And he favored the idea of survival of the fittest. His ideas are 100% incompatible with Christianity and with capitalism as well. Christians value individual rights and freedoms, small government and the autonomy of the family against the state. The differences are clear and significant.

How to respond to an atheist who complains about slavery in the Bible

I often hear atheists going on and on about how the Bible has this evil and that evil. Their favorite one seems to be slavery. Here are three things I say to atheists when they push this objection.

The Bible and slavery

First, you should explain to them what the Bible actually says about slavery. And then tell them about the person responsible for stopping slavery in the UK: a devout evangelical named William Wilberforce.

Here’s an article that works.


We should compare Hebrew debt-servanthood (many translations render this “slavery”) more fairly to apprentice-like positions to pay off debts — much like the indentured servitude during America’s founding when people worked for approximately 7 years to pay off the debt for their passage to the New World. Then they became free.

In most cases, servanthood was more like a live-inemployee, temporarily embedded within the employer’s household. Even today, teams trade sports players to another team that has an owner, and these players belong to a franchise. This language hardly suggests slavery, but rather a formal contractual agreement to be fulfilled — like in the Old Testament.3

Second, inform them that moral values are not rationally grounded on atheism. In an accidental universe, there is no way we ought to be. There is no design for humans that we have to comply with. There are no objective human rights, like the right to liberty (that would block slavery) or the right to life (that would block  abortion). Although you may find that most atheists act nicely, the ones who really understand what atheism means and live it out consistently are not so nice.

Atheism and moral judgments

Second, inform them that moral values are not rationally grounded on atheism. In an accidental universe, there is no way we ought to be. There is no design for humans that we have to comply with. There are no objective human rights, like the right to liberty (that would block slavery) or the right to life (that would block  abortion). Although you may find that most atheists act nicely, the ones who really understand what atheism means and live it out consistently are not so nice.

Dawkins has previously written this:

The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.

(“God’s Utility Function,” Scientific American, November, 1995, p. 85)

When people like Dawkins talk about morality, you have to understand that they are pretending. To them, morality is just about personal preferences and cultural conventions. They just think that questions of right and wrong are arbitrary. Things that are wrong in one time and place are right in another. Every view is as right as any other, depending on the time and place. That’s atheist morality.

What’s worse than slavery? Abortion!

Third, you should ask the atheist what he has done to oppose abortion. Abortion is worse than slavery, so if they are sincere in thinking that slavery is wrong, then they ought to think that abortion is wrong even more. So ask them what they’ve done to oppose the practice of abortion. That will tell you how sincere they are about slavery.

Here’s Richard Dawkins explaining what he’s done to stop abortion:

That’s right. The head atheist supports killing born children.

The blind men and the elephant: an argument for religious pluralism?

From Please Convince Me, a post by Aaron outlining 7 problems with the blind man and the elephant story.

Here’s the set up:

Maybe you’ve heard the parable of the six blind men and the elephant. In this parable, six blind men feel a different part of an elephant and come to different conclusions regarding what the elephant is actually like.

One blind man grabs the tusk and says, “An elephant is like a spear!” Another feels the trunk and concludes, “An elephant is like a snake!” The blind man hugging the leg thinks, “An elephant is like a tree!” The one holding the tail claims, “An elephant is like a rope!” Another feeling the ear believes, “An elephant is like a fan!” The last blind man leaning on the elephant’s side exclaims, “An elephant is like a wall!”

This parable is often used to illustrate a view known as religious pluralism. Like the blind men, no religion hasthe truth. Rather, all religions are true in that they accurately describe their personal experience and the spiritual reality they encounter, given various historical and cultural backgrounds.

There are various types of religious pluralism, but one way to define it is as follows: “the view that all religious roads – certainly all major or ethical ones – lead to God or to ultimate reality and salvation.”1 This idea is commonly reflected in such statements as “All religions basically teach the same thing” or “All roads lead to the top of the mountain.”

The elephant parable, while attractive to many, suffers from a number of problems.

And here’s one problem:

Problem #4: The parable commits the self-excepting fallacy.

The religious pluralist who tells this parable claims everyone is blind, except the religious pluralist himself! In other words, there is an objective perspective presented here. However, if all religious views are essentially blind, this would include the religious view of religious pluralism. But the religious pluralist conveniently exempts himself, having somehow escaped the spiritual blindness which has enveloped all other religious views and has come to see the truth of religious pluralism! In so doing, the religious pluralist claims to have the only objective perspective:

In fact, he wouldn’t know that the blind men were wrong unless he had an objective perspective of what was right! So if the person telling the parable can have an objective perspective, why can’t the blind men? They could – if the blind men suddenly could see, they too would realize that they were originally mistaken. That’s really an elephant in front of them and not a wall, fan, or rope. We too can see the truth in religion. Unfortunately, many of us who deny there’s truth in religion are not actually blind but only willfully blind. We may not want to admit that there’s truth in religion because that truth will convict us. But if we open our eyes and stop hiding behind the self-defeating nonsense that truth cannot be known, then we’ll be able to see the truth as well.5

5 Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (Wheaton: Crossway, 2004), 49.

Read the whole thing!

UPDATE: Greg West of The Poached Egg tweets an announcement of his post on the same topic.

Paul Copan on whether the Bible endorses slavery

Before I link to Paul Copan’s article, (H/T The Poached Egg), I want to say that I actually don’t see why atheists are so bothered by slavery, since there no such thing as morality if atheism is true. If atheism is true, then slavery isn’t wrong. It’s just unfashionable in some societies who have evolved one way, versus other societies that have evolved to think slavery is OK. Whatever has evolved is right, on atheism – there is no transcendent objective standard by which atheists can condemn any practice as wrong. They also can’t prescribe moral behavior, for at least two reasons. First, there is no reason to be moral on atheism if you get more pleasure from being immoral and you can escape the consequences. Second, there is no free will on atheism, because matter is all there is and the interactions of particles in motion is determined by the laws of physics that govern matter.

Having said that, let’s assume slavery is wrong, which it is on Christian theism, and see what Paul Copan has to say about the practice of slavery and the Old Testament.


We should compare Hebrew debt-servanthood (many translations render this “slavery”) more fairly to apprentice-like positions to pay off debts — much like the indentured servitude during America’s founding when people worked for approximately 7 years to pay off the debt for their passage to the New World. Then they became free.

In most cases, servanthood was more like a live-in employee, temporarily embedded within the employer’s household. Even today, teams trade sports players to another team that has an owner, and these players belong to a franchise. This language hardly suggests slavery, but rather a formal contractual agreement to be fulfilled — like in the Old Testament.3

Through failed crops or other disasters, debt tended to come to families, not just individuals. One could voluntarily enter into a contractual agreement (“sell” himself) to work in the household of another: “one of your countrymen becomes poor and sells himself” (Leviticus 25:47). A wife or children could be “sold” to help sustain the family through economically unbearable times — unless kinfolk “redeemed” them (payed their debt). They would be debt-servants for 6 years.4 A family might need to mortgage their land until the year of Jubilee every 50 years.5

Note: In the Old Testament, outsiders did not impose servanthood as in the antebellum South.6 Masters could hire servants “from year to year” and were not to “rule over … [them] ruthlessly” (Leviticus 25:46,53). Rather than being excluded from Israelite society, servants were thoroughly embedded within Israelite homes.

The Old Testament prohibited unavoidable lifelong servanthood — unless someone loved his master and wanted to attach himself to him (Exodus 21:5). Masters were to grant their servants release every seventh year with all debts forgiven (Leviticus 25:35–43). A slave’s legal status was unique in the ancient Near East (ANE) — a dramatic improvement over ANE law codes: “Hebrew has no vocabulary of slavery, only of servanthood.”7

An Israelite servant’s guaranteed eventual release within 7 years was a control or regulation to prevent the abuse and institutionalizing of such positions. The release-year reminded the Israelites that poverty-induced servanthood was not an ideal social arrangement. On the other hand, servanthood existed in Israel precisely because poverty existed: no poverty, no servants in Israel. And if servants lived in Israel, this was voluntary (typically poverty-induced) — not forced.

Read the whole thing. And if you think that’s interesting, you can listen to this debate on slavery and the Bible.