- Religion and Philosophy
The Top 10 Atheist Inconsistencies?
The following is a hub in response to a hubber called grayknight, in particular I am responding to a hub called: Top 10 Atheist Inconsistencies. I suggest you at the very least skim over it.
Let me start by saying that grayknight seems entirely misled about what atheism is and what it is not. His title itself betrays this fact. Atheist Inconsistencies. I find that there is a tendency among believers of certain types to think that atheism somehow must conform itself to a dogma or certain system of thought. Allow me to clear this up: Atheism is NOT consistent. The fact that atheism is inconsistent is entirely irrelevant.
Imagine if I were to post a hub called Top 10 Theist Inconsistencies in which I point out that some religions allow the consumption of pork and others don't and that some sects of Christianity hate gays while others are accepting of them. I could even criticize the inconsistency that Hindus do not worship Yahweh and that Jews and Christians do not believe in Shiva and Krishna. By now I hope you get the point but I will go further to explain the definition of these two words.
Theism - Belief in God(s).
Atheism - No belief in God(s).
Warning - This gonna be a long one folks.
Now let's get into the meat of the hub, the actual arguments being made:
Part 1 - Murder and War?
grayknight opens with:
"One of the biggest lies told by atheists is that the majority of martial conflicts in the world have occurred as a result of people believing in God."
My response: I'm tempted to once again remind everyone that atheism has no dogma however I'm also tempted to agree with grayknight. I'd also like to point out that it is not just atheists who make this fallacious argument there are even open-minded Christians who I've known to make similar arguments about how much war religion has caused. The primary reason I agree with this statement is that mere belief in a God does not necessarily lead to more war. While I do agree I think that there is a fundamental misunderstanding.
grayknight goes on to explain that many conflicts merely use religious belief as an excuse, a way of swaying the masses to go to war. Later on in the paragraph however his reasoning becomes dangerously flawed. Rather than say the truth, Theism and Atheism themselves do not cause wars, and leave it at that he commits a common fallacy which is to bring up supposed "Atheist atrocities". I'm sorry isn't he guilty of the same fallacy that atheists blaming all the world's problems on religion are guilty of?
"Compare the nobility of the American Revolution (which cited God as its inspiration) to the nightmare of the French Revolution (which raged on under the assumption that God was dead)."
My response: The nobility of the American Revolution? I fail to see why theistic bloodshed is more noble than atheistic bloodshed. He's also forgetting that the Founding Fathers set up a profoundly secular government and were influenced not by religious ideals but by enlightenment ideals. Plus wasn't he just saying that wars inspired by or using religion as an excuse were a problem? He had just brought up the Crusades... I'm confused at how inconsistent he's being, ironic eh?
"Also bear in mind that Hitler was more motivated by his hatred of a particular religion than by a belief in one, and that Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot murdered millions of their own people in the name of a new human-worshiping religion that thought itself too advanced to believe in God."
My response: No one should blame religion or lack thereof for what any of these men did. The reason Communism is often atheistic is simple, they don't want rival power structures and religion, especially pre-existing churches with great power (such as the Catholic Church) could have encroached upon the power of the despots. It was thirst for power, not atheism or theism, motivating these men.
I would also like to explain where the trouble of religion comes from. It is true that the belief or lack of belief in god(s) is not itself the source of much anguish however religion too often comes with dogma. Any system, political, social or religious which has dogma is likely to do bad things. A belief in God is not harmful but if a belief that homosexuals should be stoned to death is attached to that God than it can be. It is not God itself, it is the web of dogma that surrounds it. Nearly all God concepts have this swirling sea of other beliefs save perhaps the deistic and pantheistic gods.
The other element that is destructive about religion (not theism, religion) is that it often grows powerful and, if powerful enough, can impose its dogma. Converting people to Christ under the threat of violence, condemning and burning people are heretics, preventing new information and discovery from contradicting dogmatic beliefs held by the Church.
Even today religious believers stop homosexuals from getting married directed by nothing other than dogma. Denying people their equal rights is no laughing matter and while it may not be the belief in God that does it religion certainly plays a part in keeping society from progressing. Even believers must admit that without the belief in God the web of poisonous dogma would likely collapse.
Religiously motivated murder?
Part 2 - Love?
"You cannot claim that your world views are purely scientific and then start throwing around the "L" word as if it actually means something."
My response: While I found myself agreeing with Part 1 I found myself slack jawed and, to be honest, pissed off, when I read part 2. Although grayknight keeps this section short that doesn't stop him from devaluing human love as if it counts for nothing without a supernatural counterpart. Why is it that some religious people think that things cannot have meaning without the supernatural? I just don't understand it. And then they make insulting statements like this which are tantamount to saying that atheists cannot love and also are not allowed to attach meaning to love merely because we take science seriously.
Simply because we can scan the brain and figure out how love works does not mean that when we subjectively experience love it somehow loses its power or meaning. What meaning must love have? Why is the basic meaning it has to human beings not good enough? Why must there be a God in order for you to truly love your wife or your kids?
To suggest that love has some supernatural origin or NEEDS supernatural origin to have meaning is insulting not just to atheists but to people who don't subscribe to his Christian beliefs as well as their love can't possibly count either. And how does adding an arbitrary supernatural element to life for which there is no evidence automatically make love, life or anything else meaningful?
Part 3 - Fidelity and Procreation?
"Furthermore, having a moral code that is established solely on scientific fact, would not an understanding of the theories of evolution and speciation require one of such unrivaled intelligence as a freethinking atheist to fill the world with his seed?"
My response: Umm... What? Since when do atheists have moral codes based solely on scientific fact? Here's a hint grayknight - ATHEISTS ARE NOT SPOCK. Other than Sam Harris I can't name a single atheist who thinks that human moral values can be gathered from science and even in Harris' case he wants human well-being to be what determines our values.
As for the procreation stuff I have to wonder why grayknight has gone to such a dark dystopian future. I'm also not sure why he seems to think that somehow intelligence is genetic. Intelligence is something that has to do with both nature and nurture however I would argue that nurture has much more to do with it.
The insulting idea that atheists who think they're so smart should be out pumping people full of semen is absurd considering that the Christian and Jewish God tell people to "Be Fruitful and Multiply". There is even an underground movement amongst the religious known as the Quiverfull movement which is centered around women being fruitful and multiply and men going back to their misogyny approved "head of the household" status.
grayknight is also forgetting that people with an appreciation for science might also understand something called OVER-POPULATION, a problem we humans could be facing in this century. So perhaps some atheists are choosing not to spread their seed due to not wanting the Earth to be destroyed. Some others might be opting not to have children because they have a family history of some sort of genetic problem, in an evolutionary view intelligence wouldn't be the only thing to look for.
Most atheists get their moral code from the same place most theists do, their parents and the people around them. I refer to this as Societal Collective Morality. Personal experience also plays a part on shaping morality.
Part 4 - Altruism?
"However, many atheists still cling to these concepts of virtue - not because they can actually make any arguments against the "great" atheist minds like Rand and Nietzsche, but because they cannot bring themselves to let go of these last vestiges of theist irrationality."
My response: This is another one which is insulting and poorly reasoned. As I explained in the opening there is no atheist dogma. To suggest that all atheists must either agree with Ayn Rand and Nietzsche or else argue against them is a fallacy. I'm an atheist and I have never extensively studied the philosophy of either Rand or Nietzsche, neither of them played any part in my becoming or remaining an atheist. Imagine how insulting it would be if I told all theists they had to subscribe to William Lane Craig or Ray Comfort or else come up with elaborate arguments refuting them.
Gray is also insulting the entirety of the human race by claiming that altruism, charity and humility are somehow dependent upon a belief in God. Um... What? What sort of sloppy reasoning is this? One has to believe that a supernatural being exists in order to be humble? Do you see any connection there because I don’t. I also fail to see how the oft held Christian belief that an all powerful being hand crafted the entire Universe just for us is humble.
"In short, both authors quite adequately show that, in a universe with no God and no life after death, there is only one thing that matters: me.”
My response: I have to take his word for it that both Rand and Nietzsche do argue a selfish philosophy however one look at the nature of humanity instantly dismisses the idea that people have no reason to be altruistic or empathetic. WE ARE A SOCIAL SPECIES. Human beings thrive in communities and groups from the hunter-gatherer tribes of old to our massive sprawling modern civilization we have always lived in groups. Even most people who live in their home or apartment alone dwell in a community with people nearby. As such human beings have evolved with instinctual empathy.
Empathy promotes good moral behavior because we can see how our actions affect others either negatively or positively. When the group or individuals within the group are affected negatively this can thus turn around and negatively impact us as well. While on the surface this seems simply like more selfishness it isn’t as our empathy also creates care that goes beyond that.
For instance many people have given and are continuing to give to Japan even if they are not going to be negatively impacted by the earthquake. Also I would encourage Gray to look up altruism in nature, there are astounding examples of other social species behaving in much the same way illustrating how altruism and other moral behaviors evolved rather than being passed down on stone tablets atop a mountain while no one was around.
Part 5 - Abstract Immortality
I really have nothing to say about this one other than to say I fail to see how the unrealistic supernatural comfort spread by theists is superior to the true belief that I will only live on in the fallible and ultimately doomed memories of those who knew me. One comfort relies on the truth as best we understand it realistically and the other is superstitious hogwash.
Part 6 - Literal Immortality
“But does he believe it's possible that there just might be another being in this vast universe who has achieved all knowledge before he has? No, that is ludicrous."
My response: First off he is attaching an absolutist position to Ray Kurzweil. I’ve never met an atheist who would claim there absolutely can’t be a God. Of course what grayknight is referring to IS NOT A GOD but merely an advanced alien being or an advanced human being. Appealing to the supernatural is not the same thing as speculating that one day, due to technological knowledge, we may be able to live forever.
Part 7 - Feelings?
"Many atheists proudly say that they do not need dogma to tell them what is or is not right. They do not lie, cheat, kill, or insult because they "just know" that such things are wrong, and not because some old book tells them so. However, ask an atheist to provide logical and scientific proof that such actions are unacceptable, and all of their arguments will boil down to the fact that it "just feels right." They do not care for the hedonistic arguments of Nietzsche and Rand, because they know better. But when theists say that they believe in God because it "just feels right," that is proof of a lack of intelligence."
My response: I’ve never met a single atheist who would argue that they know right from wrong merely by what “feels right”. But I guess we can chalk that up to the fact that atheists are so damned inconsistent right? At this point in reading I can recall wanting to slam my head into the keyboard.
When I want to defend my morality I typically bring up empathy, the ability to perceive the emotional state of others and to be able to experience that same state. For instance I know that it is generally wrong to punch people in the face due to the fact that being punched in the face causes physical pain and can cause emotional distress as well. It is empathy, something instinctual, which allows us to develop morality.
Another tool which goes hand in hand with empathy is weighing pros and cons. If an action has no benefit and only does harm to the individual or group it is generally considered immoral or evil. If an action has a benefit and has no negative consequences it is generally considered good. This method leaves some gray areas and is far more nuanced than religious dogma.
Also God is not the same as morality. It is one thing to claim that I know punching people in the face is wrong based on how it would make them feel to be punched but another thing entirely to support the existence of an intelligent supernatural being solely on feeling.
Part 8 - Meaning?
"I have heard it many times: "No, I don't believe in God or final judgment, but I have still found meaning in life." However, when your friend says this, ask him what great meaning he or she has found, and the response is sure to disappoint you profoundly. The truth is that those who say this have found no such meaning - they have simply found a way to keep living in the hope that they will one day find real meaning in life."
My response: This is a similar argument being made to the love argument, the idea that somehow positing an after-life gives live meaning and that without a God or an after-life we all have to be nihilists or else. Well sorry Gray but it doesn’t work that way.
Human beings have always attached subjective meaning to things. For instance there might not be an over-arching supernatural meaning to cuddling with your significant other on movie night but I’m guessing you find your time together meaningful right? What about bonding with your children? Does such an act really matter if we’re all just worm food? Does such an act matter if you’re going to be spending eternity in Heaven? Surely cuddling with your lover or bonding with your child aren’t what decide your eternal fate (heaven or hell) are they? Well then they have no meaning either...
An after-life and a God do not necessarily give meaning to life and they certainly don’t offer meaning to all the little things that humans subscribe meaning to. For instance I might be dedicated and passionate about my job but my job might have nothing to do with whether I go to Heaven or burn forever in Hell. So are Christians who ascribe meaning to their jobs, their relationships, etc ALSO mistaken?
If that’s the case than the majority of things we humans deem meaningful would actually be meaningless since so few of them would have any real bearing on your final eternal destination. And what is that destination? Heaven and Hell? Living forever or burning forever? And those are somehow more meaningful than rotting forever? In what way?
In short: Face palm
Part 9 - Mutability
Part 10 - Suffering
“The idea that an omnipotent and benevolent God would never let us suffer at all is ludicrous - especially when even He, being perfect, suffers still.”
My response: I’ve never heard anyone argue that there should be NO suffering if a good God exists. I have heard that there should be no NEEDLESS suffering though. Such as ten year old kids getting cancer and dying despite the fervent prayers of their parents.
Gray then goes onto list an example by Sam Harris about a girl being raped and murdered. So how is grayknight going to get around this?
A) Appeal to free will and claim that the rapist and murderer is the only one responsible
B) Claim that sin in the world is the cause of all human suffering, perhaps even include an Old testament appeal about the sins of the Father being passed to the girl
C) Skirt around the issue by claiming God will make it all better at a later date
"Just as the Lord caused Lazarus to rise from the dead, that girl who is raped will be made whole in the Lord, who will not only treat her wounds, but remove her scars as well. For all of their conjecture and argument, the atheists of the world cannot bring such salvation for those who have suffered unjustly - just as they cannot construct any ideology sufficient to keep humans from committing such wrongs against each other in the future."
My response: I shit you not this is his argument. His argument for why God didn’t save a girl who was brutally raped and murdered when it would have been quite an easy task for an all powerful being is that some day in the future God will bring her back to life and make her all better. It was this pathetic attempt at an argument that I responded to in the comments of his hub.
Here’s an example: Let’s say I’m a retired paramedic and I come upon you standing in a dark alley about to be stabbed repeatedly by some thugs. I have a gun or some pepper spray and I’m good at martial arts so I could easily step in and stop the thugs. Instead I sit back and watch as you are brutally stabbed, robbed, and left for dead. I sit back and wait a few minutes. By the time I move in to help you your heart has stopped. I bring you back from the brink of death and mend your wounds. Does the fact that I eventually got around to healing you somehow morally absolve me from helping you when I had the power?
He skirts his way around the argument by appealing to some future Heaven that he and those who believe like him cannot promise any more assuredly than an atheist could promise a Utopian society. The difference is that in a Universe with no omnibenevolent God there is nothing to account for. Human beings are responsible for good and evil deeds and much suffering comes from those. However if an all powerful deity exists than it logically must hold ALL responsibility. The problem of suffering isn't one atheists must account for Gray.
I do apologize for the excessive length of this hub however as you can see there is no shortage of problems with the arguments grayknight made and there was a lot to offer rebuttal to. For one thing he mistakenly thinks that atheist inconsistency is a problem. Most atheists, however, are also free thinking meaning that we disagree and have no dogma, no priests or prophets we have to listen to and no sacred texts.
Hopefully this has been enlightening or enjoyable for a few of you out there. Thank you for reading, if you have any questions, comments, rebuttals, etc please leave them below.