Richard Dawkins on atheism, morality, free will and human rights

What happens to your worldview if you reject a Creator / moral lawgiver?

I noticed that there was a news story about how belief in God is declining even further in America. And it’s happening the most among younger Americans. In this post, I wanted to talk about the common atheist idea that you can just remove God, and life will go on as before, with everything making perfect sense.

I don’t think I’ve ever written a post about ALL the changes that happen when a person ejects a Creator / Moral Lawgiver from their worldview. And now I don’t have to, because this blogger has done the work for us.

He introduces his post like this:

I recently wrote an article targeted at committed atheists who claim that Christians carry all the burden of proof. There, I pointed out that atheism is not a neutral position and is justified only if it, too, can provide answers for the hard questions of science and human experience. In this article, though, I’d like to offer something similar only targeted to the agnostic, who flirts with the idea that this universe may be devoid of a God after all. My intent is to get such persons to consider the impact that true atheism would logically have on their beliefs and values, and to consider whether this package deal sounds more reasonable than theism.

Now, I’ve interacted with the author a little by e-mail, and it turns out that he actually spent a good part of his life living as an atheist. And he’s got a bunch of friends and relatives who don’t exactly fit in with the standard raised-in-a-Christian-home happy path. And best of all, he’s a software engineer, so you know he’s practical and sensible about these topics.

Here are the major areas of worldview that are affected by the rejection of God:

  • Meaning
  • Sovereignty
  • Morality
  • Rights
  • Mind
  • Free Will
  • Science

When I talk about these things, I usually talk about the 3 Ms: Mind, Meaning, Morality. You can see he’s got a lot more there. And he quotes a lot of prominent atheists that you’ve probably heard of: Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Sean Carroll, Jerry Coyne, etc.

Here’s the one on Rights:

Universal human rights presuppose that each of us has unique, intrinsic value. The Founding Fathers asserted that our rights were endowed by God, and Scripture claims it is His own image within us that makes us special. If you dispense with this idea, what standard do you use to ground human rights?

We are not equal by any measure one could offer, such as fitness, talent, race, or intelligence. Even grounding it in our mere humanity is arbitrary, since there is no higher standard that would favor humans over the rest of the biological world, and some animals are more fit or intelligent than young, elderly, or disabled humans. Animal rights activists understand this and traffic in this “speciesist” notion. They point out the blight of the human race’s impact on nature, and do not temper that with any belief in the special value of humanity.

The loss of intrinsic human value leads to creative redefinitions for personhood and rights which traffics in things like contribution to society and a life worth living. This road leads to infanticide for the unwanted, eugenics for the unfit, and euthanasia for the elderly. We saw these ideas on display in Nazi Germany as well as, to an extent, the US and other European countries. However, they have been making a comeback in an increasingly secular western culture that has forgotten its dark past. But what principle does atheism offer you to object to any of this beyond your instinctive revulsion?

The conclusion cannot be missed:

Embracing atheism has consequences. Removing God from your life is not like removing a piece of furniture from your house. It’s more like replacing the foundation, which impacts anything that has been built upon it. I’ve discussed several important things that are affected, but many more could be offered, like beauty and the arts, logic, truth, and even the reliability of our senses. In fact, every area of thought and life are affected, or are at least fair game for deconstruction by the universal acid that is atheism.

He also links to a post by James Bishop in the comments, featuring TONS of interesting quotes by famous atheists, about the implications of adopting the worldview of atheism.

Here’s one by former Cornell University paleontologist Will Provine:

Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear … There are no gods, no purposes, no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end for me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either.

Is Provine smarter than the average atheist? I think he is, and he’s certainly thought about it more than the average Twitter atheist in his 20s.

I guess what I would say to young atheists is that you probably haven’t 1) evaluated the evidence for a Creator / Designer / Moral Lawgiver at age 14, and 2) you certainly haven’t considered the implications of the decision.

Earlier this week, I wrote a post about an educated 24-year-old feminist woman who was trying to get a man to commit to her. She was choosing men and the timing of sexual activity based on her atheist worldview. As she tells her story, you can clearly see the difference that the worldview makes in the area of relationships. She doesn’t have the resources in her atheism to conduct herself wisely enough to get the results she is looking for.

What kind of “Constitution” can there be for a relationship, if the universe is an accident, human beings are robots made out of meat, and the purpose of life is to be happy here and now? Relationships are stable when each person is able to execute self-sacrificial love. Can you ground a respectful, committed relationship in a worldview of “survival of the fittest”? I think not. And yet this is the approach that most young people take.

11 thoughts on “What happens to your worldview if you reject a Creator / moral lawgiver?”

  1. Great post, Wintery. Also another great resource that does an excellent job of comparing worldviews and what they entail is “The Universe Next Door” by James Sire. There is a chapter in there on atheism.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Nice analysis!

    Yeah, I could not get past the problem of objective moral values and duties in my atheist years. Also, Leibniz Contingency had a pretty strong affect on me.

    The atheist life is one of extreme cognitive dissonance. “Objective moral values and duties for thee, but not for me” is an extremely hypocritical and wicked way to live for an atheist that believed in the Golden Rule. It also helped that God gave me the light that abortion was barbaric, and the atheist tribe, which supports abortion at well over 90%, was not one that I was going to be able to stay in with that belief.

    It’s also pretty easy to prove that life is (nearly) completely meaningless on atheism, and that affected me too. It’s not a proof of God, of course, but it’s one Hell of a way to live.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes that’s why I raised the case of that lady.

      In her writings, she has all sorts of expectations on the atheist men she’s having sex with because they are good looking and they dont judge her.

      She wants atheism for herself – freedom to be immoral and selfish and reckless and irresponsible – but she doesn’t want the atheist men she is choosing to act like that. And this pattern of choosing “dont judge me” men, then expecting them to care about moral values, is ubiquitous among young women. They dont see the double standard, and just keep playing the victim card when they get the predictable consequences of their own actions.

      The choosing of the “dont judge me” men – atheist moral relativists – cannot be stopped or questioned.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. When I first started engaging atheists online I had been led to believe that they were all moral relativists. Surprisingly, I found most of them wanted very much for their morality to be objective in some way and I spent much time debate over how each proposed means of grounding failed. I came to realize that this is one of the hallmarks of the new atheists, but another is that they don’t have much tolerance for arcane philosophizing that leads to these kinds of challenges. However, the past two atheists I’ve debated outright own relativism, but try to claim that Christians are effectively relativist, too. I’ve had much the same experience with the concept of “meaning.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think that they might “want” to achieve objective morality, but only in the sense that it applies to others – if they are being honest with themselves, which does not happen a lot, unfortunately. They still want the freedom to skirt around the moral edges themselves, and then try to justify it afterwards. Or apologize for being caught, like Bill Clinton did when the blue dress came out, not because what he did was wrong.

        I’ve never understood the New Blind Faitheist need to evangelize their non-faith! They act like this “evangelization” is somehow transcendent. “I want to convert you to atheism, so that we can spend our lives converting others to atheism before we go in for the long sleep.” That was NOT me. I was having fun, taking great vacations, etc, because this was the ONLY life that I had to live. What fools the New Atheists are for spending their lives on religion while Old Atheists were having so much fun!

        There are only two major explanations for this “evangelization” that I can think of:

        1. Misery loves company. This is the same reason why women who have had abortions love to convince other women to have abortions. They want others to be as miserable as they are and to join their miserable tribe (post-abortion or atheism).

        2. Satan is pulling their strings. This makes a lot of sense in terms of the big “deconstruction” fad that we are seeing in this age. Most of their arguments are truly awful in the intellectual sense, although a few are actually interesting.

        There are probably other reasons. WK has published evidence that most atheists have “daddy issues” and hate the God Who they claim they do not believe in. Why the New Atheists support abortion I will never understand! The science is LONG settled and any minimal morality that excludes giving the death penalty to the innocent would automatically condemn abortion. Just the most basic application of the Golden Rule, and avoidance of hyper-hypocrisy, would make an atheist anti-abortion. But, the Golden Rule is objective and requires atheists to apply objective morality to themselves too, a big no-no. I know some New Atheists who are anti-abortion, but goodness, they are somewhat rare!

        Since the New Atheists form a religion, I came up with a creed for them a long time ago. I’ve published it here before, but will do so again in case others have not seen it. It’s completely supported by scientific evidence (that this is what they MUST believe if they were scientifically honest enough to admit it). I hope you like it.

        The Atheist Creed:

        I, the atheist, recite my blind faith:

        1. That the universe miraculously popped into existence out of nothing uncaused by anything.
        2. That life magically sprang forth from non-life when lightning hit some mud.
        3. That minds and morals evolved from molecules through monkeys.
        4. That there is no God, and I hate Him.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Yes, people are more likely to be moral objectivists regarding other people’s behavior. If someone insults, cheat, lies, or hurts you, then it’s a concrete moral wrong demanding justice (or at least a nice grudge).

          Atheists tend to define morality as a pretty thin broth, like theological liberals, so that it doesn’t impinge upon their inclinations, as you say. A guarantee is that just about anything goes sexually. Wasn’t it Aldous Huxley that claimed he and his atheist gang were basically driven by their desire for sexual freedom and not rationality?

          To be accurate, I was never a self-professing atheist. I was a functional one, though, in that my anemic view of a higher power both did not make much difference for me and could not, as (ill) defined, give much guidance anyway. I, too, was driven more by fun than anything else, though I was willing to kick around ideas and debate things like evolution (me for it then, of course) simply because I love(d) to be right about whatever I believed in the moment.

          I’ve wondered over the atheist evangelism thing myself after encountering so many of them who seem to make a hobby of lambasting religion (primarily training their guns at Christianity). I think you’re onto something with the misery loves company angle. Part of that company is the support and affirmation they get in the community of other hecklers.

          There’s also the logistics of “suppressing truth in unrighteousness,” which can take a lot of energy. I find the shakier the ground someone is on, the thinner the skin and the more likely they are to appeal to scorn over reason. The LGBTQ@#$% movement is particularly susceptible to this problem, but I’ve seen atheist thought-leaders come right out and say that they recommend ridicule over arguments.

          Some atheists may claim that they are fighting for their right to live life free of the impositions of religion. Fair enough, but they should 1) frame it that way and not simply attack the opposition at the core of their being, and 2) realize that they, too, attempt to shape the moral and ideological landscape with their own dogma.

          Perhaps also this is the adult outworking of an apparent instinct to bully people who are fatter, uglier, weirder, or stupider than yourself. In spite of their likely objection to bullying, this is exactly how they often act. This is weird given that they often characterize us as less intelligent, or emotionally needy, or in some other way inferior to themselves. You’d think there might be more sympathy toward us poor misguided believers. And the fact that on their view we are free to make our own meaning implies that Christianity is as good as any other.
          Atheist: “There’s no actual meaning to life, so you can define your own.”
          Christian: “Okay. I like Christianity.”
          Atheist: “God no! Anything but that!”

          I once wrote a pretty risky article on this themes:

          I think I remember that WK article. It may have been based upon Paul Vitz’s book pointing out how all the historical atheist luminaries had missing fathers or troubled relationships with them. This is the case with so many people who have poor outcomes in life (e.g., crime, drug addiction, teen pregnancy, poverty, suicide, and even LGBTQ+), and I suspect you’ll find a high degree of non-belief among them. I don’t normally psychologize to atheists unless they first try to assert that I have some kind of psychological need to believe in God. That’s a dangerous two way street for them.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. That’s a great article you wrote! I really loved that! Frankly, I’m at the age where I’ve debated atheists so many times and found them disingenuous that I now just point out their gross hypocrisy, warn them of Hell, and sometimes toss in a little mockery for seasoning.

            I’ve gone from spending an hour of evidential reasoning with them to 5 minutes of “giving them my mind.” I answer questions with questions to get them back on topic and no longer suffer fools gladly. I’ve gone full on presuppositional, even though I was sure I never would, and I don’t know if it’s just age related (“Get off my lawn, punks – this is Boomer territory!”), my intuition that we really are in the End Game, an increasing lack of patience, or what. But, I do find myself saying “If they can’t even figure it out in THIS kind of Freak Show, maybe they’ve been turned over to their delusions?”

            I really am comforted by the young people I see who ARE exceptionally strong Christians, and I hand the torch over to them gladly. I can’t imagine how centurians age gracefully when I just pray “Beam me up, Scotty!”

            I saw a neat hymn on YouTube today called “Send Thine Asteroid, O Lord” or something to that effect, and I shared it with my text group. They were laughing, but I said “Why is it funny? That’s my prayer every morning!” I don’t know, maybe I’m a “little” jaded? When I was growing up, abortion and sodomy were illegal, and divorce was exceedingly shameful. In the very rare cases where we heard about a mom and dad divorcing, we cried the kinds of tears you would expect at a funeral. We assumed that the children had no future, and we shunned the divorcing parents for their evil selfishness.

            In other words, we were more “Christian” in those days as atheists than churchians are today. Sorry to get this off my chest, but this is an absolute Freak Show. It’s disgusting, and yes, it’s Biblical, or worse. Tell me how we are even remotely “better” than Sodom and Gomorrah???
            I’ve gotta run, because “Scotty” might be trying to beam me up. :-) Thanks for that superb link! Extremely well written.

            Liked by 2 people

          2. WGC, Thanks for reading!

            I sympathize with your fatigue in debating with skeptics. Seems the most I get out of it is an acknowledgement that some Christians aren’t as dumb as they thought, but sometimes they will shrug off intelligence as pretension or sophistry. It’s still interesting, though, to converse with the rare atheist who will actually engage your arguments. The reason I’m still willing to put in some work on it (when I have time) is for the sake of anyone else that might be observing the conversation (ricochet evangelism, as Greg Koukl calls it). It’s important to try to keep the tone civil, because all some people see is your attitude, and pushing back on other people’s ideas is already seen as offensive.

            It’s amazing how even self-described Christians can be turned off of apologetics conversations. I sometimes think their aversion to it is a cover for their lack of willingness to become knowledgable in any of it. I’ve heard a number of people say things like “I wish I had you there during my conversation with X”, but few ever ask what they should read to equip themselves. One of the few was a kid from my old Sunday School class (where I taught apologetics) who went off to college and experienced a hail of all the bad ideas I’d been teaching about, and then next summer came to visit and asked me for a summer reading list.

            I do think the socratic approach is ideal for saving time, avoiding offense, and flushing out presuppositions. It’s hard to practice effectively and stick to very long in the conversation. I’ve also settled on a kind of presuppositional approach, and I identify with Bahnsen’s “impossibility of the contrary” justification for Christianity. The 2 articles of mine that WK references here are an outworking of this, where I think it important for atheists to make a rational case for their own worldview, and not just think poking sticks in our spokes is a justification for their own view. They don’t like it one bit, though, and as the commenter on my recent blog claims: atheism doesn’t come with any beliefs and when she went from Christian to atheist it didn’t change anything for her.

            I’m old enough to remember the Christian assumptions of my youth as well, and I’ve watched the taboos slowly slip away. The slippery slope is real, and precipitated by all the ideological axioms put into place by our elders and peers. It’s a freak show, but not an unpredictable one. I used to be able to use certain things as reductio ad absurdum arguments, but those are expiring. Normalizing pedophilia is now on our doorstep, not just because we hear hints of it, but that all the ideological chess pieces are arranged for that checkmate move. I’ve been very tempted to spell that out in an article, but I don’t want to give aid and comfort to the enemy.

            Liked by 1 person

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