Sample clip of my debate with an
atheist on the issue of morality.
Find the whole debate at this link
I Shalt Have No Other gods Before Me
I have read much of Professor Richard Dawkins' carefully crafted works. I have heard him presenting equality well prepared lectures. I have also heard him in the frays of debate. Yet, I have found that nothing is more revealing about him as a person and a thinker as when he is being interviewed. This was certainly the case when he was interviewed by Larry Taunton who published an article which included portions of the interview as, Richard Dawkins: The Atheist Evangelist.1 This interview ends up revealing the very heart and soul, as it were, of atheism.
Let us take the interview a few steps at a time beginning with this question:
"What is the objective of your anti-religious campaign?"
"'I think my ultimate goal would be to convert people away from particular religions toward a rationalist skepticism, tinged with _ no, that's too weak,' he said, correcting himself, '_ glorying in the universe and in life. Yes, I would like people to be converted away from religion to skepticism.'" [ellipses in original]
I must state that I have noted a tendency in Prof. Richard Dawkins of being somewhat of a linguistic opportunist which is to say that he tends to say whatever is convenient at the time even if he has previously made different statements. Although I will grant him that in some, just some, cases this is perhaps due to the inability to stop and carefully elucidate the terminology or concepts that one is employing. In the above quote he seeks proselytes to "skepticism" because as he explained in this same interview, "I think in a way the word 'atheism' is misleading because it suggests that there's just one alternative, which is God." However, in my essay Richard Dawkins and Bill Maher: The Dynamic Duo of Demonstrably Deleterious Delusion, Part 2 (found here and here) I note the following exchange:
MAHER: Now, you write in your book, "If this book works as I intend, readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down." How is that going for you, the rate of conversion?... DAWKINS: _people who maybe were sort of vaguely sitting on the fence, and who didn't feel very strongly about it one way or the other_they realize that they've been atheists all along; they just didn't know it.
Skepticism can be a tricky term: it can refer to someone like the apostle Thomas who would not believe in Jesus' resurrection without tangible evidence (his preferred mode of evidence, see my essay The Apostle Thomas: Patron Saint of Scientists?) or it can refer to someone whose mind is made up and sealed tight, someone who will not believe anything beyond what they already believe or do not believe no matter what. As to "glorying in the universe and in life," I have commented on these claims in my essay Atheism is Holier Than Theism, to the effect of: atheists claim that atheism is not only more logical than theism but also more moral and holier. I will get somewhat presuppositional in mentioning Romans 1:18-25,
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man-and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen."
I recall that Philip Johnson made a statement to the effect that the evidence of design is all around us. The audience's reaction was to laugh at him at which point Johnson read the following quotes: Prof. Richard Dawkins,
"Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose."2
"Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved."3
They must not only keep in mind but invent just so stories about how these apparently designed organisms "evolved."
This is the obvious design that is in the universe and which atheism begs us to deny: Firstly, "what may be known of God is manifest in them, for_His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made."
Secondly, "they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools."
Thirdly they "changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man-and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things."
Finally, "God also gave them up to uncleanness_exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator."
While this is certainly no condemnation of the study of nature it is a condemnation of denying the obvious. Prof. Richard Dawkins has, as a biologist, made a living by changing the glory of the incorruptible God into a study of birds and four-footed animals and creeping things whereby he served the creature rather than the Creator. It is now ubiquitous within the New Atheist movement to find meaning/purpose and awe in the glorification of the universe itself, which is actually something that has been done for millennia and which is readily recognizable in the form of the New Age movement "glorying in the universe and in life." Notice, by the way, that according to atheism the ultimate meaning/purpose in life is a subjective emotion, a feeling of awe. Also note that atheism is a consoling delusion that seeks subjective meaning/purpose in an objectively meaningless/purposeless universe.
Next I wanted to briefly consider an equally brief statement:
How do we account for this surge in atheism's popularity and Western culture's growing enmity for religion? Sept. 11. Dawkins says that the events of that fateful day "radicalized" him.
In my essay The Sam Harris Trivector, I pointed out that Sam Harris likewise points to 9/11 as the straw that broke the back of his metaphoric camel. Here I will just pose a question: were Prof. Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris unaware that such atrocities have taken place throughout history? Were they unaware that mere decades ago atheism brought us the bloodiest century in human history, where is their outrage? Sam Harris had his inauguration after 9/11 and Prof. Richard Dawkins had been an activist atheist already. Was 9/11 an excuse, or further excuse, for them to express their personal prejudice?
Now we come to the issue of morality as Prof. Richard Dawkins is asked "What defines your morality?" and offers the following answers
"Moral philosophic reasoning and a shifting zeitgeist."
"We live in a society in which, nowadays, slavery is abominated, women are respected, children can't be abused-all of which is different from previous centuries."
"I'm actually rather interested in the shifting zeitgeist. If you travel anywhere in the Western world, you find a consensus of opinion which is recognizably different from what it was only a matter of a decade or two ago. You and I are both a part of that same zeitgeist, and [as to where] we get our moral outlook, one can almost use phrases like 'it's in the air.'" [bracketed statements in original]
I have written extensively regarding Prof. Richard Dawkins' views on morality in the "Is and Ought" section of my essay Introducing the Dawkinsian Weltanschauung. Mr. Taunton takes a moment to elucidate the terminology:
At this point, perhaps a word of explanation is necessary. Zeitgeist is a German word meaning 'spirit of the age.' Dawkins here refers to the prevailing moral climate or mood of a given place or time. We may observe that what constitutes moral or ethical behavior differs from one culture to another; indeed, it may even differ within a given culture. This is not in dispute. The question, rather, is this: should moral standards be based on the societal zeitgeist or should they look beyond it to something else?
Thus, the operative terms, the premises, in Prof. Richard Dawkins answer are "shifting zeitgeist." This is basically moral evolution and yet, note that he did not state "progressing zeitgeist" but "shifting." This is because, as Prof. Richard Dawkins terms it, "The Zeitgeist may move, and move in a generally progressive direction, but as I have said it is a sawtooth not a smooth improvement, and there have been some appalling reversals."4 Thus, it cannot precisely be stated that morality evolved but that it is still evolving and that it periodically devolves. Therefore, while Prof. Richard Dawkins thinks that it is a grand time to be alive due to the zeitgeist's progression as of late he also admits that event such as 9/11 demonstrate some regression.
But note that this has nothing to say about what is and is not moral. It does not explain how we can tell progression versus regression. To what are we comparing the two. The answer appears to be the only thing that the atheist can muster as far as morality goes, personal preference and that, de jour, to boot. In fact, it is precisely because morality is constantly shifting that we cannot know absolutely what is moral except to appeal to personal preference. What if Prof. Richard Dawkins who lives in a first world country opposes slavery but a person living in a third world country finds slavery to be quite a good source of income? Who decides between the two? Apparently, we are left with a Darwinian solution: when more people oppose slavery than support it then it becomes immoral and the meme of the majority, the more fit, survive. Shocking to consider that this is what happened in Nazi Germany, the majority Germans did not think it immoral to exterminate the minority Jewish population for the good of the majority-winner takes all.
And so when we consider the statement, "We live in a society in which, nowadays, slavery is abominated, women are respected, children can't be abused-all of which is different from previous centuries" we are still left asking who says that it is better this way? Perhaps the freed slave, the woman and the child but what about the slave master, the wife beater and child abuser? And, of course, this is merely convenient first world country speak since there are still countries in which each of these practices continue on as they always have. Ergo, the statement, "If you travel anywhere in the Western world."
As I just stated, none of this tells us what morality is intrinsically, nor from whence it came. To state that "it's in the air" is, I cannot resist the pun, blowing hot air. And once again I ask what happens when the wind changes direction and how do we determine which way it should go?
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