Seeing as my last article was such a hit wih the atheist folk here on jolly old News24, I thought I would publish something more along the same lines: you did such a good job of refuting my assertions last time, that I feel I have to defend myself.
First, the silliest argument ever posed by ANY atheist, and there are some doozies on this forum.
THE ARGUMENT FROM MORAL EVOLUTION
The idea that morals are not defined by sacred texts but have instead evolved naturally is the subject of much pseudo-scientific speculation and a few books, such as Marc Hauser’s Moral Minds, have been written about it. Christopher Hitchens is the foremost advocate of this idea among the New Atheists. While they admit that morality exists, they argue that it has evolved naturally through a material process, therefore it cannot have been acquired through divine revelation. However, like Richard Dawkins’s concept of the meme, the idea of moral evolution is little more than the use of an applied metaphor, a fundamentally unscientific concept that appears to be increasingly popular in the softer sciences today. Hauser articulates a concept of ‘primitive detectors’ that are suspiciously similar to Dawkins’s imaginary ‘original replicators’ that he supposes to have started the process of our moral evolution.
There are a number of problems with the idea of moral evolution if we pretend that it is not a metaphor but literal evolution. First, if the mechanism of evolution takes place at the gene level, it is very difficult to understand how one moral would mutate and replicate itself genetically. Second, it is easy to observe that the pace of moral transformation is rapidly accelerating. Less than forty years ago, homosexuality was universally considered an immoral action. Today, there is a substantial minority in the West that insist the belief in either the immorality or the psychological abnormality of homosexuality is itself immoral, a rapid notional transformation that is consistent with neither past moral transformations nor biological evolution. Furthermore, moral evolution depends upon the group selection aspect of evolutionary theory that has largely fallen into disfavour among modern evolutionary biologists.
And with South Africa being the best possible laboratory in the world in which to study man’s innate goodness borne from his moral evolution, we have to admit failure. With almost no law enforcement, we have become one of the most decadent and degraded societies in the world, where babies as young as four months, are being raped!
Oh, that’s progress alright.
THE ARGUMENT FROM THE GOLDEN RULE
It is often asserted that Christian morality is no different than other ethical systems that are based on the Golden Rule. And it is true that one can find pre-Christian examples of the same concept in the Analects of Confucius, in the Mahabharata, the Dhammapada, the Udanavarga, and even the histories of Herodotus. Still, there are two errors in this argument because Christian morality is not based on the Golden Rule, and because the Golden Rule, which states that a man should not do to others what he would not have them do to him, cannot provide a basis for a functional moral system.
Jesus Christ’s version of the Golden Rule, given in Matthew 7:12, is merely summary advice, not the basis of Christian morality. ‘So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.’ This is practical advice given in the context of a general admonishment and it cannot possibly be the essence of Christian morality, for in the very same chapter, Jesus informs his listeners that ‘only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven’ will enter that kingdom. He did not say, ‘only he who does to others what he would have them do to him.’ This mention of the Heavenly Father’s will, which also appears in the Lord’s Prayer, foreshadows the true foundation of Christian morality, which was articulated when Jesus answered an expert in Jewish law in Matthew 22:37:
‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the
Prophets hang on these two commandments.’’
Obviously, a moral system based on loving the Lord your God and obediently submitting your will to His is a very different moral system and a far more objective one than the Golden Rule, which is not only entirely subjective, but incapable of accounting for either rational calculation or human psychopathy. It provides no moral basis to criticise a man for crawling into Sandra Bullock’s bed unannounced so long as he harbours no desire to bar Sandra Bullock from doing the same to him, and sanctions a thief to steal on the grounds of a belief that he wouldn’t miss that which was stolen were the thief himself the prospective victim. The Golden Rule is also too easily transformed into the idea of doing unto others as you believe they wish to do unto you, which can lead to a lot of confused fumbling and slapping.
THE ARGUMENT FROM SUPERIOR MORALS
There are many atheists who live lives that are morally exemplary according to religious standards. This causes some atheists to claim that this exemplary behaviour is evidence of atheist moral superiority, because the atheist is behaving in a moral manner of his own volition, not due to any fear of being eternally damned or zapped by a lightning bolt hurled by an offended sky deity. However, this is a logical error, because while motivation plays a role in how we judge immoral actions, there are no similar gradations of that which is morally correct. There are many evils, there is only one Good.
For example, the act of stealing a loaf of bread is considered more immoral if the theft was committed by a rich thief who simply didn’t feel like paying for it than if the bread was stolen by a poor man who needed to feed his two hungry children. But the act of driving an injured person to the hospital is no more right when performed by a good Samaritan who just happened to be passing by than by a paramedic team who will be financially compensated for their actions.
We may find the one more admirable, being less expected, but it cannot be more morally correct because that would imply that there was some degree of moral incorrectness to a correct action. To do right is to do right, the amount of rightness in the action no more depends upon the motivation than the amount of a woman’s pregnancy depends upon whether she is a married woman whose third round of I.V.F. treatment has finally proven the charm or a high school girl falling pregnant on her first experimental fumble.
An atheist can certainly behave better than a theist by the theist’s own moral reckoning. But it is logically incorrect to insist that identical moral behaviour on the part of an atheist and a theist is proof of the atheist’s moral superiority.
The Irrationality of Atheism
Our actions generally satisfy us. . . . But that does not mean they are rational in a narrower sense: the product of serial reasoning.
—Daniel C. Dennett, Consciousness Explained
History’s first confirmed atheist, Jean Meslier, wrote that banishing the ‘vain chimeras’ of religion would be enough to cause rational opinions to fill the minds of the formerly faithful, and anticipated Sam Harris by several centuries with his announcement that the moral precepts of Christianity were no better than those that every rational man could imagine.
Almost 300 years later, forty-three commenters at the militantly atheist science blog Pharyngula reported the results of an online personality test they had taken. Similar to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator survey, the test was hopelessly transparent and subjective, but provided a useful means of examining how these predominantly atheist individuals view themselves. They reported an average Rational rating of 94 out of 100, compared to an Extroverted rating of 32 and an Arrogance rating of 49. They do not see themselves so much as champions of reason, but paragons! Is this a justified belief?
While the atheist may be godless, he is not without faith, because he puts his trust in the scientific method and those who use it whether he understands their conclusions with regards to any given application or not. But because there are very few minds capable of grasping higher-level physics, for example, let alone understanding their implications, and because specialisation means that it is nearly impossible to keep up with the latest developments in any of the more esoteric fields, the atheist stands with utter confidence on an intellectual foundation comprised of things he himself neither knows nor understands.
In fairness, he cannot be faulted for this because there is simply too much information available for all of it to be processed by any individual. He can, however, be legitimately criticised when he fails to admit that he is not actually operating on reason in most circumstances, but is instead exercising a faith that is every bit as blind and childlike as that of the most thoughtless, Bible-thumping fundamentalist.
Still, it can be argued that this is not necessarily irrational, it is only ignorance and a failure of perception. The fundamental irrationality of the atheist can primarily be seen in his actions, and it is here that his general lack of intellectual conviction is also exposed. Whereas Christians and the faithful of other religions have rational reasons for attempting to live by their various moral systems, the atheist does not. Both ethics and morals based on religion are nothing more than man-made myth to the atheist, he is therefore required to reject them on rational materialist grounds.
He can, of course, make a perfectly rational decision to abide by ethics and morals to which he does not personally subscribe because it would be dangerous to do otherwise in a society where he is outnumbered. This is W. Somerset Maugham’s semi-rational atheism, which states ‘do what thou wilt, with due regard for the policeman around the corner.’
So the atheist seeks to live by the dominant morality whenever it is convenient for him, and there are even those who, despite their faithlessness, do a better job of living by the tenets of religion than those who actually subscribe to them. But even the most admirable of atheists is nothing more than a moral parasite, living his life based on borrowed ethics. This is why, when pressed, the atheist will often attempt to hide his lack of conviction in his own beliefs behind some poorly formulated utilitarianism, or argue that he acts out of altruistic self-interest. But this is only post facto rationalisation, not reason or rational behaviour.
One need only ask an atheist what his morality is and inquire as to how he developed it and why it should happen to so closely coincide with the dominant societal morality to discover that there is nothing rational about most atheists’ beliefs. Either he has none and is ‘immorally’ practicing Dennett’s doxastic division of labour by unquestioningly accepting the societal norms that surround him, or he is simply selecting which aspects to credit and which to reject on the basis of his momentary desires. In neither case does anything that can legitimately be described as reason enter into the picture. The same is often true of his atheism itself; it is telling to note that Hitchens and Dawkins became atheists after long and exhaustive rational inquiries into the existence of God, both at the age of nine. The idea that there is any rational basis for atheism is further damaged by the way in which so many atheists become atheists during adolescence, an age that combines a tendency toward mindless rebellion as well as the onset of sexual desires that collide with religious strictures on their satisfaction.
With this in mind, it’s interesting to note that intelligent men of intellectual repute such as Francis Collins and Antony Flew should have rejected atheism at the tender ages of twenty-seven and eighty-one, respectively. Atheism is not only irrational, it is quite literally childish in many instances.
But the ultimate atheist irrationality is the idea that Man himself is rational. Despite the fact that many of our behavioural sciences are founded on this principle, including the dismal science so dear to me, almost all the observable evidence, scientific and anecdotal, forces one to conclude otherwise. Consider how the way in which the educated Western voting class manages to combine total ignorance with fundamental misconceptions to achieve a higher state of irrational consciousness that is breath-taking in its delusionary confidence, the miracle of aggregation notwithstanding. And in Consciousness Explained, Daniel Dennett describes a Multiple Drafts model of consciousness that renders the most basic concept of Man’s rationality suspect; he notes that the closer one examines the human mind, the more its fragmented and internally competitive nature becomes apparent.
You need only look around to see hundreds of examples of totally irrational human behaviour every single day. Indeed, you need only spend a moment of honest introspection to find dozens of examples in your own life. Perhaps you bought Internet shares in 1999, or are dating a girl who cheated on her last boyfriend with you.
The chances are good that you spent tens of thousands of Rand on a degree that not only cost you five years’ worth of wages and work experience, but has nothing to do with your job now. You probably vote in the national elections even though it is statistically improbable and logically impossible for your one vote to have any impact on the final result. And yet despite the irrationality of your activities, you will continue to vote, invest, love, and live because you are not a robot, you are a human being. Man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing one who uses his intellect to construct reasons in post facto defence of his irrational desires. Predicated on an unreliable human attribute that may not even exist, rejecting the foundation of Man’s most successful civilization, trusting a notoriously quixotic institution for a miracle as a means of replacing that foundation and refusing to learn from its past disasters, atheism is not so much the basis for an irrational philosophy as for an insane one. Attempting to build a society on reason is like waging a war on terror; the effort is doomed to failure because it’s a category error. There is no evidence, scientific or historical, that any human society can survive its establishment on an atheist foundation, let alone thrive, and a fair amount of evidence to the contrary.
We are fortunate, therefore, that so many atheist individuals nevertheless continue to openly adhere to conventional religious morals and ethics that they have no rational grounds for respecting. This irrational, if pragmatic, compromise between a public nod to morality and its private dismissal is an ancient one. When Socrates taught his students that knowledge is the only good and ignorance the only evil more than 2,000 years ago, he was fully aware of the potentially dangerous repercussions of this teaching and argued in The Republic that it was necessary to keep such virtuous knowledge to the ruling elite. The knowledge of the nonexistence of morality was the great secret to which only the rulers were to be privy and the justification for keeping their subjects in ignorance for their own good, lest the herd break out into rebellion.
The ever-practical Romans understood this, too. Seneca the Younger described religion as being regarded as true by the common folk, false by the wise, and useful by the rulers. But as an aristocrat in a cruel and brutal culture, he may have understated religion’s importance to social stability, because it is more than useful for the peaceful maintenance of a civilized society, it is a downright necessity.
Even the greatest champions of reason reluctantly accepted this bitter reality. Despite his distaste for Christianity and contempt for the Catholic Church, Voltaire regarded the belief in God and in an afterlife of rewards and punishments to be the basic requisites of ethical behaviour.
Still, the irrationality of the New Atheists and their faithless flock does not mean that there are no atheists who are rational, or that there are none who are true to their godless convictions. Friedrich Nietzsche is the foremost example, but there is certainly no shortage of other individuals who do not fear to determine their own moral compass in the absence of God. We call them sociopaths and suicides.
Three Rational Atheisms
His nature being what it is, man is born, first, with a desire for gain. If this nature is followed, strife will result and courtesy will disappear. Second, man is born with envy and hate. If these tendencies are followed, injury and cruelty will abound and loyalty and faithfulness will disappear.
While most atheisms are irrational regardless of whether they are considered from an individual or a societal perspective, this is not always the case. There are three variants of atheism that can be considered at least partly rational: these can be described as Somerset atheism, Nietzschean atheism, and post-Nietzschean atheism. Somerset atheism is the common practice of moral parasitism described in the previous section. It is a partially rational atheism that functions perfectly well on an individual level but cannot function on a societal level because it depends entirely on the existence of an external morality to support it. In the West, it amounts to Christian atheism, in which the atheist accepts the entire body of traditional Christian morality less whatever elements do not appeal to him, so long as the subtraction does not land him in jail. This is entirely rational behaviour for the atheist who wishes to participate in society as a member in good standing, but it cannot reasonably be described as having its ultimate basis in reason because it has no essential foundation
of its own.
Somerset atheism is a pragmatic variant of the atheism of Aleister Crowley and Friedrich Nietzsche, which takes no account of society’s mores in stating that ‘do what thou wilt’ based on the individual’s will to power is the whole of the law. This is entirely rational from the individual’s perspective and it is the variant to which history’s great killers have subscribed. Three years before he joined the Communist Party, Mao Tse-Tung articulated his personal morality in his commentaries on Friedrich Paulsen’s A System of Ethics:
I do not agree with the view that to be moral, the motive of one’s actions has to be benefiting others. Morality does not have to be defined in relation to others. . . . [People like me want to] satisfy our hearts to the full and in doing so we automatically have the most valuable moral codes. Of course
there are people and objects in the world, but they are all there only for me. . . . I have my desire and act on it. I am responsible to no one.
Mao is unconsciously echoing the pagan philosophy of the Noble Soul, which Nietzsche adopted and transformed into his doctrine of the übermensch, thus he wrote ‘Egoism is the very essence of a noble soul.’ The Nietzschean atheist refuses to recognize the limits of either God or Man on his desires, the very possession of which is proof of his superiority and inherent right to fulfil them regardless of the cost to others. Although not an atheist, Hitler fully subscribed to this philosophy, which is why he is often confused with one; in truth, his paganism was more true to the philosophy’s source than the atheist variants of Lenin, Mao, and the many other communist killers.
This philosophy is rational, but it is literally psychopathic in the sense described by Dr. Robert Hare, developer of the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised, a clinical scale used to diagnose psychopathy. He describes psychopaths as predators who use intimidation and violence to satisfy their own selfish needs. ‘Lacking in conscience and in feelings for others, they take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without guilt or remorse.’
While it is not possible to diagnose the mental health of a dead man, the tens of millions of Chinese murdered by the Mao regime tend to indicate that the close correspondence between the words of the twenty-four-year-old philosophy student and Dr. Hare’s description of psychopathy is not entirely coincidental.
The post-Nietszchean atheism of Michel Onfray is also entirely rational. Onfray recognizes that if one rejects the source of a moral system, one has no logical basis for retaining that which derives from it. For example, if all men are created equal, removing the Creator from the equation therefore requires abandoning the idea that men are equal unless another basis for that equality can be provided. This is the reason for his contempt for the irrational New Atheists, who attempt to maintain most of the traditional Christian moral structure while simultaneously kicking out its support. Onfray may be completely unreliable when it comes to facts, but his logic is much stronger than any of the New Atheists, including that of his fellow philosopher, Daniel C. Dennett.
But where Nietszchean atheism limits its psychopathy to the individual, however powerful he might be, post-Nietszchean atheology expands the primacy of desire to a societal level. It is social psychopathy that is an order of magnitude beyond that envisioned by the most rabidly psychopathic intellectual. Not even Leon Trotsky’s vision of an international Communism is as ambitious in its ghastly grandeur as Onfray’s sociopathic philosophy of desire. Nietzsche only wished to slay God and rule over His Creation, the post-Nietzschean dreams of total destruction so that he may build a new creation from the ashes.
It is not the irrational atheist who is dangerous to those around him; the very unreason that makes him a part of the human race renders him mostly harmless. It is the towering narcissism that follows from his strict and logical devotion to pure rational materialism which causes the rational atheist to disavow his connection to humanity and calmly embark on a well-reasoned descent into inhuman madness.
Try and give a reasoned response, if at all possible. I know the usual suspects will not read past the first few paragraphs, because it is long, but for those who persevere, I look forward to your comments.
And enjoy your weekend!
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