A Complete and Thorough Defense of Atheism: Chapter 3
You ask some good questions. To answer them I must come to the foundations of atheism, and particularly its beliefs about morality.
Many atheists – and most agnostic evolutionists – assert that morality comes from animals. Animals help each other, they work together, they learn to cooperate; some, such as elephants, even mourn a relative’s death. Numerous experiments have been done on how far an animal will go to save a friend in distress; results have been promising for those out to look for our own evolution of morality and altruism.
But how reliable are such results? If an animal learns helping another will result in ease of hunting or survival in a group, they may well be predisposed to assisting each other, with absolutely no bearing on the morals of the situation. And of course, we humans tend greatly towards anthropomorphism. How scientific is it to record the altruistic efforts of a mouse rescuing his imprisoned friend? Where do we draw the line between human nature and facts?
Besides, the question is not, “Where does morality come from?” but “What is morality?” and “Why does it exist?” These questions are philosophical, and can be answered only by one’s religion, not a scientific realm. We, however, being atheists, can choose the most scientific religion through which to answer them.
Religious people assume that morality starts with God (or gods). Even pantheists, who believe not in a person-like deity but Nature as so, believe in morality as patterning after and helping Mother Earth. Atheists, however, are faced with a dilemma: without God, what can morality be patterned after?
The answer is it simply isn't. Morality is not the rules or patterning after some distant deity. It is an arbitrary standard that differs in every mind of every person on the planet. To Hitler, it was ‘purifying’ his country of Jews. To the crusaders, it was putting sinners to death. To the colonists, it was ridding themselves of witchcraft. Granted, to most people morality concerns not doing such wicked things, but what is defined by wicked? Since when is morality determined by democracy?
It is this dilemma that brought about our friends the Relativists. Morality (along with reality and truth, among other things) is determined by each individual as their own rules for their own lives. And this would be a very atheistic position, except that we don’t believe in rules. Relativists have two: that everyone designs their own rules and that this is the only rule.
So then, what are we left with? Simply this: anarchy. No one would decide rules for themselves because everyone would recognize there are none. We live in a godless, random, rule-less universe, so everyone may do as he pleases (or as he may not please, if it so pleases him) because his actions are not based on free will anyway. We must remember that mind and consciousness are religious, spiritual ideas. Our brains are the headquarters of chemical reactions we have little or no control over. As atheist William Provine concludes, a world of evolution – real, naturalistic, atheistic evolution – is a world lacking of free will and, thus, of morality.
You ask what a society that embraces atheism would look like. A society that embraced atheism would recognize these truths and, instead of reverting back to child-like religions to rely upon for comfort, would accept them and live according to them.
We have established what morality is: it is a foolish convention religious people are enslaved to. The second question is answered by nearly the same phrase. Why does morality exist? Partially the fact of the matter is ignorance. But the underlying problem is the dogma of religion.
Dear Mr. Dogood,
Morality certainly does not exist. Without God, there’s simply no need for it. I get that. But using that as a basis for anarchy – doesn’t that sound a little extreme?
Consider cultures that have accepted this. The French Revolution rejected God and government; ten years of carnage, including the 2-year Reign of Terror, ensued. Only Napoleon could remove them from the rubble – and he just brought this all throughout Europe.
Adolf Hitler was very heavily influenced by Darwin’s works (as evidenced by numerous allusions in his book Mein Kampf) and did not believe in God or adhere to any particular religion. And we all know what he did. Yet he attempted to justify himself through evolution and survival of the fittest.
I think I may safely conclude that we both don’t consider these two societies a paragon to model after in any way. To say that we must live with absolutely no rules in complete competition simply because there is no God or free will is damaging, not productive, to human society. We have evolved to a heightened state in which morality has become important.
I thought I had adequately defended my position in the last letter, but apparently I was wrong. You write that morality does not exist; then you tell me that what the French did in the Reign of Terror and what Hitler did under the Nazi regime was wrong.
I realize that the moral traditions of religion are difficult to break free of. It may take a while to learn the new standards here. Just remember: the Nazis, the French, the Crusaders, anyone who has ever gone and killed in mass numbers – or killed at all – had no control over their actions (there is no free will), and those who died were no worse off than those who lived. Everyone dies eventually, and no one has any real purpose in life. How long one lives and the cause of one’s death don’t really matter, since once death happens pure nonexistence (i.e. no consciousness and no memory of anything at all) leaves one to nothing at all.
Under atheism, death is good. While unpleasant, it gives way to new species and removes unwanted information from the gene pool.
So here is another fundamental of atheism: it is a religion of death. Here are, so far, the tenets I have established:
1. Atheism is dogmatic. If it is true, no other religion contains any good or any truth.
2. Atheism is religious. It is a fundamental belief about the world that cannot directly be proven.
3. Atheism is pro-death. Death allows evolution to progress and releases us from life’s hardships.
Dear Mr. Dogood,
The majority of atheists I have heard of believe quite the opposite! As an atheist I want to heal the world. I want people to live to their fullest potential, and live the best lives they can live. While you assert that no heaven means there is no reason to live life, I think this only makes it all the more important to enjoy life while you can.
As far as free will goes, there are scientists studying its origins and its implications right now, so to say it doesn't exist simply because that hasn't been discovered yet is fallacious.
Finally, I particularly disagree with your assertion, ‘death is good.’ Death brings sorrow, grieving and pain. Humans have evolved to a state of co-dependence that has given us a need to protect, support and care for each other and those in need.
To hear you actually defend Hitler’s deeds with evolution is particularly shocking.
You know very well that what the majority believes has no bearing whatsoever on what is actually the case. Your desire to help others is estimable but there is no reason to do it in atheism. You may do whatever you please, but it is not correct to say your desire to do those things stems from your belief in atheism. It is because your particular brain chemistry commands you to do so.
I did not argue that free will does not exist because the source of it has not been discovered; I argued that it should not be discovered as it is not predicted by atheistic beliefs. Atheism and Naturalism are tightly knit; if there is no God, physical matter is all that exists. Morality and free will are nonmaterial, and thus are nonexistent.
The evolution of compatibility is a fascinating research, but it is not to be considered anything more than that – compatibility. Certainly, human beings cooperate. They are social animals. But whether or not there are morals behind such deeds is a religious question that only religion can answer. And our religion says no.
I am sure we all feel very sad when a friend dies; a chemical reaction in our brains causes it. It is fallacious on your part to say that because you experience such a reaction, sorrow must be based on something other than a chemical reaction.
Finally, your last statement only shows those old superstitions’ assumptions. You are still adhering to a standard of good and evil, of shocking and reasonable.
Dear Mr. Dogood,
I still don’t agree with everything you've said, but somehow it does, atheistically, make sense. One of the reasons I became an atheist was because I was tired of all the rules of organized religion. So I guess I’m only arguing with myself.