Sample clip of my debate with an
atheist on the issue of morality.
Find the whole debate at this link
Interesting Facts the American Humanist Association (AHA) Might Not Know, part 3 of 4
In this segment we will consider part of the American Humanists Association’s “Interesting Facts You Might Not Know.” Having considered one of their facts: in part 1, I will now consider: “Without a god, why be good at all?”
This fact is elucidated thusly:
“Without a god, why be good at all?
Because you know you want to, anyway. Unless you were born a sociopath or had your natural sensibilities destroyed in childhood, you have the same general sense of right and wrong, fair and unfair, just and unjust, kind and mean that people have all over the world.
No matter whether people are raised Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Confucianists, humanists, anything else, or nothing in particular, they all have the same sorts of ethical notions and feelings. Thus, except in extreme circumstances, they all can compare notes with each other and appeal to one another’s moral sensibilities. No specific belief is necessary for goodness.
Human beings are social primates. So they have basic feelings of empathy and sociality built in, just as do other social primates like chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, baboons, and the like. These animals don’t get their social behavior from Scripture and neither do you. Morality finds its roots in human nature.
Human beings are also conceptual thinkers who have a sense of cause and effect. This allows for refinements of nature’s promptings through a better understanding of short and long-term consequences. And it allows humans to learn from experience so their natural inclinations can be made to work better for them.
Humans are also communicators. They share their thoughts and experiences with each other and across generations. This builds up a lore of ethics that further refines human notions of morality. And it allows people to apply their discoveries in evolving systems of law, religion, community standards, social organization, business ethics, etiquette, and the like.”
This argument may function in their well-within-the-box-atheistic-presupposition-goupthink yet, it fails for various reasons including:
1) It is a non sequitur.
2) It is presuppositional.
3) It is an argument to ridicule.
4) It has a defeater in the form of Judeo-Christian theology.
Let us consider each in turn: 1) It is a non sequitur:
Note that the premise was “Without a god, why be good at all?” but it is never explained why we should be good at all without a god. The only why is “Because you know you want to, anyway.”
Atheism, or atheists, offer no why but only musts, oughts and shoulds—no ontology but only epistemology—no ethos but only mores--no absolute finite regress but only an infinite regress of assertions piled one atop another like to many tels.
When it comes to moral issues atheist can, and do, make various epistemic statements. They may even claim that there are absolute morals. Yet, they cannot make ontological statements as they have no foundation for morality beyond “Because I say so,” or if enough people agree, “Because the government, state, police, etc. say so.”
In other words, atheists make dogmatic authoritarian assertions about morality but can never provide a why. As an example, consider Richard Dawkins’ words:
If somebody used my views to justify a completely self - centred lifestyle, which involved trampling all over other people in any way they chose roughly what, I suppose, at a sociological level social Darwinists did - I think I would be fairly hard put to it to argue on purely intellectual grounds…I couldn't, ultimately, argue intellectually against somebody who did something I found obnoxious.
Thus, he concludes,
I think it would be more…I'm going to do whatever I can to stop you doing this…in this society you can't get away with it’ and call the police. 1
Note that he presupposes that the police, the authority, agree with him. What if he was in Nazi Germany and called the police to complain about the mistreatment of Jews (and others)?
Note that while the question is “Without a god, why be good at all?” the one and only answer offered is, “Because you know you want to.” This raises two questions: 1) how do you know that I want to and 2) what if I do not want to?
The answers are 1) they do not know and 2) then you will either get caught and be incarcerated by other, fitter, social primates or you will not get caught, enjoy doing non-good and simply get away with it—non-good will be for your benefit as you will enjoy doing it.
Let us consider the answer to 1) again as gleaned from the American Humanist Association’s perspective. It is actually a very common atheist tactic—replace cogent and reasoned discourse with arguments to ridicule (and arguments to embarrassment, arguments from outrage, arguments from personal preferences, etc.): “how do you know that I want to?” because if not you are a sociopath (“or had your natural sensibilities destroyed in childhood”).
In other words, if you simply do not want to, then you were either born wrong or someone messed you up to the point that you are wrong (wrong according to the AHA).
Overall, I would not say that they make no sense but that there is at least one other way to understand their take of the issue.
Note that the reason that the American Humanist Association do not really answer the question, sans ridicule, is that the answer they offer after the word “childhood” deals with their interpretation of how the general sense got there and not why we should follow it; never why we should be good.
The AHA’s (non)answer is basically the same answer that atheist’s ultimately offer to any of life’s deepest questions: it just is. After all, they state that “you have the same general sense...all have the same sorts…have basic feelings…roots in human nature.”
Interestingly, at this point that atheists and theist could agree to a certain extent and only depart ways when it comes to how naturally occurring morality got there; got here, within us. According to Judeo-Christianity God has written His laws within us and they are mediated via our conscience. Sam Harris argues, actually asserts, that they are “hard-wired” into us which caused me to ask “What if I short circuit?” Likewise, while God’s law is in our hearts the Bible states that our consciences can become “seared.”
…I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts… (Jeremiah 31:33).
…the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness… (Romans 2:15).
…speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron… (1st Timothy 4:2).
Thus, “whether people are raised Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Confucianists, humanists, anything else, or nothing in particular” God has not left them unguided and has written His law in their hearts and minds.
Thus, the only reason as to why is “Because you know you want to, anyway,” but what if I do not want to? We will get to this in just a moment. Note that there may be a defeater to this claim in the form of references to us being social primates, conceptual thinkers and communicators.
2) It is presuppositional.
There are quite a few presupposed assertions that make up this fact. “you have the same general sense of right and wrong, fair and unfair, just and unjust, kind and mean that people have all over the world.”
If so, why argue against theism? Perhaps because it is wrong, unfair, unjust and mean. I actually believe that there is much truth in this presupposition which I will discuss below.
“No specific belief is necessary for goodness.”
This claim is interesting and faulty for the following reason: let us state that no specific belief is necessary for goodness. Thus, when you do good you do not need a specific belief for doing so. Fine.
What if you do have a specific belief for doing good? Again, fine.
Good is done by both specific and non-specific.
Now, what happens when non-specific belief personage does not do good, or does the opposite of good? Well, they violate nothing at all.
What happens when specific belief personage does not do good, or does the opposite of good?
Then they are violating the very specific belief upon which their good was based in the first place.
Non-specific belief personage is not accountable to anything, does good for no reason and violates nothing when they do not do good, or does the opposite of good.
Specific belief personage is accountable, does good for good reason and violates the very tenets to which they are supposed to be adhering when they do not do good, or does the opposite of good.
Moreover, when non-specific belief personage does not do good they have no good reason (pun intended), no good premise upon which to condemn their non-good.
When specific belief personage does not do good they have good reason, good premise upon which to condemn their non-good.
“Morality finds its roots in human nature…natural inclinations.”
Again, I actually find much truth here which I will discuss below. Yet, morality is taught. Children are born with a natural propensity towards selfishness that manifests itself in various forms. G.K. Chesterton wondered why the doctrine of original sin was so disputed consider that overabundance of evidence supporting it.
In a manner of speaking, considering morality to be evolveing (present tense) is problematic for atheists in that it logically disallows them from condemning any past action: that was the morality back then. Of course they, particularly the aggressing sects of atheism, disregard this logical conclusion. It also makes it difficult to ascertain today’s morality: might I be condemning something as immoral that is, even as I speak, evolving towards being moral or did it already do so yesterday? To, again, reference Richard Dawkins; he considers that we may know the evolving moral zeitgeist because “It’s in the air.”2
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