Tag Archives: Atheism

Is morality rational, on atheism?

UPDATE: Welcome readers from the the Western Experience! Thanks for the link, Jason!

Last week, I posted a list of 13 questions that Christians could use to get discussions going with their atheist friends. We got 10 responses to the questions. Yesterday, we took a look at the minimal requirements for robust, prescriptive morality. Today, we’ll evaluate atheism, as represented by the 10 respondents to the survey, to see whether the minimal requirements are rationally grounded by atheism.

1) Objective moral values: NOT GROUNDED

All ten respondents stated that moral values have no mind-independent existence. In other words, they are purely subjective. Eight of the respondents thought that each person should decide for themselves what is moral for them, and 2 thought that each person should act in accordance with the arbitrary social conventions of the culture where they lived. Those standards change over time and in different places, of course. They are arbitrary.

2) Objective moral duties: NOT GROUNDED

All ten respondents said that there was no such thing as objective moral values, and so there can be no objective moral duties either. Most people said that their own preferences were the source of subjective moral values. But a duty owed to oneself can be canceled when things get difficult. The best attempt was the social contract answer, but this fails because the social contract is arbitrary. There is no reason to limit your happiness because of an arbitrary social contract, so long as you can escape the social consequences of disobedience.

3) Moral accountability: NOT GROUNDED

Nine respondents did not believe in God. The one who did believe said that God did not care about our actions. Therefore, there is no accountability for the decisions we make. So long as we can avoid the consequences for violating the arbitrary fashions of the time and place where we live, nothing will happen to us if we put our happiness above the needs of our feelings of “empathy” for others.

4) Free will: NOT GROUNDED

All ten respondents were materialists, and therefore did not believe in minds or souls independent of the material that makes up the body. Therefore, everything that humans do is fully determined by the genetic programming and the sensory inputs. To expect moral choices or moral responsibility on atheism is like expecting the same from a computer. Physical systems don’t have free will. There is no “ought to do” for lumps of matter that are not designed by anyone for any specific purpose.

5) Ultimate significance: NOT GROUNDED

All ten of the respondents were materialists, so life ends in the grave for them. Scientists have discovered that in the future, the amount of usable energy, such as the heat and light emitted by stars, will run down to zero, the “heat death of the universe”. What this means is that the entire universe will become cold and lifeless at some point. Humans are therefore doomed to extinction no matter how they act.

Conclusion

On atheism, there is no reason for an atheist to constrain his pursuit of happiness. If he does take into account the needs of others because of feelings and emotions (“empathy”), he is acting irrationally. Feelings are not logical arguments. There is no such thing as a “moral” action on atheism, all actions are undertaken for pleasure or personal preference.

In the survey results, none of the ten respondents could oppose slavery on rational grounds, none of the ten respondents could perform self-sacrificial acts on rational grounds, and none of the ten respondents could explain why murder was wrong, on rational grounds. They may have chosen the right alternative, but only based on emotion, not on reason.

As Greg Koukl argues, morality is not rationally grounded on atheism. Now, it is true that atheists act inconsistently in ways that seem to be moral. This is because:

  1. Judeo-Christian morality is still floating around in out Western society, even though it is on the way out due to materialist persecution of public religious expression and the Judeo-Christian theology that grounded morality
  2. Regardless of what materialism says, God made the universe with objective moral values, and humans with free will, so even if people say that morality is relative and that they are machines, they may still act inconsistently to do the right thing, since their views are mistaken, especially if the costs are minimal

But when the heat is really on, they will cave in to their desires. Rational grounding is needed in order to do the right thing when there are consequences for doing the right thing.

Further study

You can get the full story on the requirements for rational morality in a published, peer-reviewed paper written by William Lane Craig here. You can also hear and see him present the paper to an audience of students and faculty at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2008. The audio is clipped at 67 minutes, the video is the full 84 minutes. There is 45 minutes of Q&A, with many atheist challengers.

The video of this lecture is the best material you can get on this issue, and the Q&A from the hostile audience is vital to the lesson. More debates on atheism and morality can be found on the debate and lecture page.

You can find a post contrasting the morality of an authentic, consistent Christian with an authentic, consistent non-Christian here. A post examining how atheism is responsible for the deaths of 100 million innocent people in the 20th century alone is here. A post analyzing the tiny number of deaths that religion was responsible for is here.

Is Obama a pro-life or pro-choice President?

From NewsBusters, we get a nice list of things Obama has done for the unborn.

  • January 23, 2009 – Forces taxpayers to fund pro-abortion groups that either promote or perform abortions in other nations. Decison to overturn Mexico City Policy sends part of $457 million to pro-abortion organizations.
  • February 27, 2009 – Starts the process of overturning pro-life conscience protections President Bush put in place to make sure medical staff and centers are not forced to do abortions.
  • March 9, 2009 – Obama signed an executive order forcing taxpayer funding of embryonic stem cell research.
  • March 11, 2009 – Obama signed an executive order establishing a new agency within his administration known as the White House Council on Women and Girls. Obama’s director of public liaison at the White House, Tina Tchen, an abortion advocate, became director of it.
  • March 11, 2009 – Obama administration promotes an unlimited right to abortion at a United Nations meeting.
  • March 17, 2009 – Obama makes his first judicial appointment and names pro-abortion federal Judge David Hamilton to serve on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • March 26 – President Obama announced $50 million for the UNFPA, the UN population agency that has been criticized for promoting abortion and working closely with Chinese population control officials who use forced abortions and involuntary sterilizations.
  • April 23 – Refused to appeal a ruling requiring the FDA to allow 17-year-old girls to purchase the morning after pill without either a doctor visit or parental involvement beforehand.
  • May 5 – Details emerge about a terrorism dictionary the administration of President Barack Obama put together in March. The Domestic Extremism Lexicon calls pro-life advocates violent and claims they employ racist overtones in engaging in criminal actions.
  • May 8 – President Obama releases a new budget that allows the Legal Services Corporation to use tax dollars to pay for pro-abortion litigation.
  • May 8 – President Obama’s new budget calls for taxpayer funded abortions in the nation’s capital, and eliminates all federal funding for abstinence-only education.

And we shouldn’t be surprised at his record on social issues in office, because those of us who can inform ourselves, using means other than television commercials during sports telecasts, knew about Obama’s record before he started to run for office:

  • Obama expressed support for legislation that would repeal the Hyde Amendment, which protects pro-life citizens from having to pay for abortions, and which has been credited with saving over a million lives.
  • Obama, unlike even many allegedly “pro-choice” legislators, opposed the ban on partial-birth abortions when he served in the Illinois legislature and condemned the Supreme Court decision that upheld legislation banning this heinous practice.
  • On the campaign trail, Obama referred to a baby conceived inadvertently by a young woman as a “punishment” that she should not have to endure.
  • Obama has stated that women’s equality requires access to abortion on demand.
  • Obama, despite the urging of pro-life members of his own party, did not and has not endorsed or offered support for the Pregnant Women Support Act, the signature bill of Democrats for Life, meant to reduce abortions by providing assistance for women facing crisis pregnancies.
  • Obama, as an Illinois state senator, opposed legislation to protect children who are born alive, either as a result of an abortionist’s unsuccessful effort to kill them in the womb, or by the deliberate delivery of the baby prior to viability. The Obama campaign lied about his vote until critics produced documentary proof of what he had done. In fact, Obama continued to lie about his inhuman voting record in regard to the Illinois Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, and even stooped so low as to run a disgusting television ad attacking the disabled survivor of a botched abortion.

And don’t forget his plans to enact the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which denies Christian doctors and nurses the freedom to choose not to perform abortions, in violation of their consciences:

But Obama the presidential candidate also promised that “the first thing I’d do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA),” which would create a federally guaranteed “fundamental right” to abortion through all nine months of pregnancy, including “a right to abort a fully developed child in the final weeks for undefined ‘health’ reasons”, and would abolish virtually every existing state and federal limitation on abortion, including parental consent and notification laws for minors, state and federal funding restrictions on abortion, and conscience protections for pro-life citizens working in the health-care industry.

A lot of pro-lifers say that abortion is the new slavery – you pick a group of people and dehumanize them because they are weaker than you are, for your own financial gain. At least the slave owners didn’t kill the slaves, though.

Other blogs writing on abortion:

  • Hot Air: Obama’s speech at Notre Dame
  • Nice Deb: Audio of Obama arguing in favor of infanticide in the Illinois legislature
  • Heritage Foundation: Contrasting the Notre Dame speech with Obama’s actual policies
  • Western Experience: Pro-life protesters arrested at Notre Dame

The full story of nurse Jill Stanek, who blew the whistle on infanticide in Illinois hospitals, in case you missed it.

UPDATE: Hot Air has video of John Piper speaking about what Obama’s pro-abortion stance really means: 1,000,000 dead babies every year. (H/T Gateway Pundit)

Ironic, because I was just listening to John Piper’s sermon on William Wilberforce, who abolished the “abortion” of his day: slavery.


What are the minimal requirements for rational morality?

UPDATE: Welcome readers from the the Western Experience! Thanks for the link, Jason!

Last week, I posted a list of 13 questions that Christians could use to get discussions going with their atheist friends. Basically, you ask your atheist friend out to lunch, ask them the questions. We got 10 responses to the questions, which I summarized here. And I had lunch with another one of my friends, another Jewish atheist, who goes to a Reformed synagogue, as well.

Basically, the questionnaire’s purpose is to establish whether atheism provides a rational foundation for moral behavior. Specifically, can atheism account for the minimal requirements for rational moral behavior (see below).

1) Objective moral values

There needs to be a way to distinguish what is good from what is bad. For example, the moral standard might specify that being kind to children is good, but torturing them for fun is bad. If the standard is purely subjective, then people could believe anything and each person would be justified in doing right in their own eyes. Even a “social contract” is just based on people’s opinions. So we need a standard that applies regardless of what people’s individual and collective opinions are.

2) Objective moral duties

Moral duties (moral obligations) refer to the actions that are obligatory based on the moral values defined in 1). Suppose we spot you 1) as an atheist. Why are you obligated to do the good thing, rather than the bad thing? To whom is this obligation owed? Why is rational for you to limit your actions based upon this obligation when it is against your self-interest? Why let other people’s expectations decide what is good for you, especially if you can avoid the consequences of their disapproval?

3) Moral accountability

Suppose we spot you 1) and 2) as an atheist. What difference does it make to you if you just go ahead and disregard your moral obligations to whomever? Is there any reward or punishment for your choice to do right or do wrong? What’s in it for you?

4) Free will

In order for agents to make free moral choices, they must be able to act or abstain from acting by exercising their free will. If there is no free will, then moral choices are impossible. If there are no moral choices, then no one can be held responsible for anything they do. If there is no moral responsibility, then there can be no praise and blame. But then it becomes impossible to praise any action as good or evil.

5) Ultimate significance

Finally, beyond the concept of reward and punishment in 3), we can also ask the question “what does it matter?”. Suppose you do live a good life and you get a reward: 1000 chocolate sundaes. And when you’ve finished eating them, you die for real and that’s the end. In other words, the reward is satisfying, but not really meaningful, ultimately. It’s hard to see how moral actions can be meaningful, ultimately, unless their consequences last on into the future.

Tomorrow, I will explain why the answers given by the atheists show that the worldview of atheism offers none of these 5 requirements, and that therefore morality is really, really, really irrational on atheism. Atheist can look over their shoulders at their neighbors, and act like them in order to feel happy that they are acting consistently with the arbitrary fashions of their herd, but that’s all they can do, on atheism.

Further study

You can get the full story on the requirements for rational morality in a published, peer-reviewed paper written by William Lane Craig here. You can also hear and see him present the paper to an audience of students and faculty at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2008. The audio is clipped at 67 minutes, the video is the full 84 minutes. There is 45 minutes of Q&A, with many atheist challengers.

The video of this lecture is the best material you can get on this issue, and the Q&A from the hostile audience is vital to the lesson. More debates on atheism and morality can be found on the debate and lecture page.

You can find a post contrasting the morality of an authentic, consistent Christian with an authentic, consistent non-Christian here. A post examining how atheism is responsible for the deaths of 100 million innocent people in the 20th century alone is here. A post analyzing the tiny number of deaths that religion was responsible for is here.

Bill Maher mocks Carrie Prejean’s stand on marriage

Spotted this video over at Hot Air, posted by AllahPundit, who is an atheist. He is beginning to question whether atheism leads to great heights of moral behavior. You’ll recall that this is one of the factors that convinced A.N. Wilson, as well as the Wintery Knight himself.

Atheism maintains that the universe is an accident, that there is no objective moral standard, no free will, no accountability when you die, no ultimate significance to our actions, no after-life, and no one to whom moral duty is owed. Bill Maher is a committed atheist. Let’s see what counts as morality on atheism.

And here is an excerpt from AllahPundit’s comments:

A quickie from last night’s show displaying all the charm and subtlety we’ve come to expect, and surely the first time in his life that he’s had an unkind word to say about breast implants. There’s something cosmically apt about him attacking her: No one in American media better embodies the lefty paradox of libertinism paired with judgmentalism, therefore no one’s better qualified to prosecute her for the left’s capital crime of hypocrisy.

Why are atheists making moral judgments in an accidental universe, where their moral standards are just their own personal preferences, or at best the arbitrary conventions of their society? Why even attribute blame to Carrie Prejean if she doesn’t even have free will, which is an impossibility on atheism, since we are just mindless matter?

There are some things that other people do that I don’t like based on personal preferences. For example, I do not like people who spend a lot of time following sports or watching popular movies in the theater. But I don’t insult them for not complying with my preferences. And that’s all morality is, on atheism. Individual preferences and cultural conventions.

You can only judge others if there is an objective standard that is binding on this other person. What sense does it make to mock and deride people who have different preferences than you do? It seems as if atheists do believe in objective morality, however inconsistently. But only when judging others, never when judging themselves.

Sweden legalizes sex-selection abortions

Story from Hot Air.

Excerpt:

Sweden has approved gender-specific abortions, allowing parents to rid themselves of an unwanted daughter in a closely-watched ethics case…

Last month, I noted the opposition of the abortion-rights group Center for Reproductive Rights to the same practice in China, where the state’s one-child policy makes gender selection more important for parents.  Sweden has no such restrictions; in this case, the woman already had two daughters and wants a son.  CRR opposed the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, putting their fright over what they call “fetus rights” over their objections to gender-specific infanticide.

At least Sweden remained consistent.  Unlike the CRR, their decision reluctantly noted that the woman’s motivation was irrelevant if one accepts that someone can “choose” to end human life as a right.  One wonders whether CRR will protest this decision in Sweden as they do in China, extending their intellectual confusion over the nature of “choice” as an absolute right.

Keep in mind that Sweden is the most secular nation in the world. What did we learn from the responses to our survey of atheists that would explain why they would support such barbarism?

We learned that atheists believe:

  • There is no such thing as human rights or human dignity, objectively speaking
  • There is no such thing as moral values or moral duties, objectively speaking
  • The purpose of life is happiness in the here and now
  • There is no ultimate significance to any actions – it doesn’t matter what you do, your end is the same
  • Our actions are biologically determined, so we’re not responsible anyway
  • There is no after-life, no accountability after death for actions
  • Morality is determined by each person’s personal preferences, or arbitrary cultural conventions

On atheism, the weak have no objective human rights or human dignity, because people are just arrangements of matter, not creatures made in the image of God. On atheism, there is no purpose for the weak, such as the purpose of freely coming to know God, that would give them dignity and value, regardless of their social utility.

So, the strong can oppress the weak, even to the point of slavery or murder, in order to maximize their own happiness in the short time they are allotted to live. On atheism, why not? Why let anyone else offend you, burden you and diminish your happiness, if you can use force to silence or destroy them?