Saturday, May 16, 2015

Atheism Cannot Sustain Morality

There was whining about my post doubting the cultural endurance of such basic ideas as a moral obligation to equally observe the rights of all other people under atheism.  That atheism will not lead to behavior respecting the moral obligations you have to other people unassociated with you, including those you would never see and would never know about as well as those you could see and didn't like, under a cultural regime of atheism.  Well, I never had those doubts before reading lots and lots and lots of things said by atheists online, leading me to look at the writings of those atheists who were widely respected by other atheists.  I got my doubts about that from atheists, not from what religious folk said about atheists.

In the explosion of atheist discourse online and in current books and magazine articles I have seen an absorption into self-centered, self-interest widespread among them.  Instead of the current atheist fad being the result of science education, it is a result of the encouragement of narcissism and consumerism.   That's not atypical of the human population, there are plenty of people who profess religion who exhibit a massive amount of those vices.  Only atheism contains nothing to identify them as vices to be discouraged, to be resisted.   Every substitute for the traditional religious exposition of morality, in the west and much of the world that of the popularly detested "monotheistic faiths," fails in compelling adoption and overcoming selfish behavior, centered on the god of the idolatry we are all burdened by.  Any proposed break on that proposed to atheists by atheists is as liable to the same refusal as those proposed to them by religion,  "why should I" or merely said another way,  "why shouldn't I".  Atheism contains no adequate response or even one that works very well.

And that's not to mention the serious defects inherent in some of those proposed substitutes.  Utilitarianism, one of the older and perhaps more popular ones includes the possibility of killing many people, causing harm to many people if the calculations of the amount of happiness that results is held to be more widely distributed than the alternatives.   I've mentioned the frequently encountered encouragement to adopt infanticide made by utilitarian "ethicists".  It's fairly easy to talk one into asserting the morality of some enormity or other, sometimes posed as a possibly ethical act.   And one of the other large flaws in the theory is that it necessitates a belief in the ability of people to accurately predict the ultimate results of their acts when that is not possible to do.  Who knows what the ultimate results of their acts will be in time.   Things that seemed right or wrong ten years ago may seem to have quite a different character based on what resulted from it.  And who knows how some of our decisions will play out in future generations?   Who knows what the results of some utilitarian killing would be in the future.   That attempt at precognition is the result of some rather flawed thinking by some very clever people, and when you read Bentham or Mill and really think critically about what they're saying instead of on their own terms, they don't seem to make much sense.  The current crop don't approach their level of thinking that I've noticed.

I would like a list of times when the high lights of utilitarianism proposed beneficial actions be taken that would seriously impinge on their, their family and their friends' well being on behalf of the greater good.  I have a strong feeling that the utilitarians who have advocated considering killing other people have not frequently included themselves as among those whose slaughter would benefit the greater good.

There is simply nothing provided by atheism or, as Steven Weinberg demonstrated, in science that can compel someone to adopt moral behavior if they choose not to.   That religious assertions of morality fail quite often even with those reasons contained in their beliefs provides good reasons to believe that absent those reasons that moral behavior will happen significantly less often. And that's not mentioning the popularity of anti-moral systems among atheists, such as Ayn Rand's and Friedrich Nietzsche's and that derived from such scientific thinkers as Ernst Haeckel.  They have their champions and successors who promote self-centered amorality today, it is ubiquitious in popular culture, a good deal of it bleeding into and melding with the anti-Christianity of the far right without them even realizing that they are expounding the morality of atheists so depraved that some atheists reject them.

That many of the professorial atheists are rather more otiose and pacified than the fire breathers, such as the psychotic dormouse, Fredrich Nietzsche isn't very reassuring.  That Nietzsche has been a full fledged member of the canon as taught to the young in places of higher learning has been noted since  the early decades of the last century.   Such warnings as those given by Vernon Kellogg and William Jennings Bryan that the promotion of immorality, a certain outcome of promoting amorality, would lead to utter depravity was proven by the genocidal regimes of the 20th century.  Their writings in the nineteen teens and twenties, especially the ridiculed and derided warnings of Bryan proved quite accurate in the next three decades.  That a lot of the ridicule of Bryan came from one of the most serious students and promoters of Nietzsche, H. L. Mencken, is certainly significant.  It's no accident.

Mencken's continued popularity among the fashionably cynical should have never happened, considering the lessons that should have been learned about the application of their philosophy of nihilistic materialism which the world was treated to in the 1930s and 40s and even today.   But there was nothing in the acculturation and educations of so many of our elites in the media and culture that gave or took those lessons seriously.  In place of that there are the disincentives to take the only available force to counter that depravity effectively seriously, and that force, religious morality was presented as unfashionable and, on that basis discredited.  The Nazi era, fascism, Stalin, Mao and his successors, the regimes of the Eastern Bloc, Albania, Pol Pot, the Kim dynasty in North Korea comprise the test of time given to government and societies under a regime of materialism.   As the most mature and largest of those still standing, China, proves even socialism as an asserted national economic faith can't endure under materialism, as it now consists of the spectacle of Communism as a dictatorship of a party elite with an economy which eats up workers and peasants like Victorianism on steroids.

Given the various examples of what results from materialists with power I doubt that its diffusion in American or European countries will make retaining democracy possible.  Democracy is based in beliefs about people, about their inherent rights and moral obligations that everything in materialist discourse undermines, hollows out and denies.   Replacing an asserted substitute for morality based on natural selection, the baseless and most fashionable contestant, these days,  is as liable to any individual or collective assertion of indifference to future generations as any rabid millennial fundamentalist can be accused of having.  And it doesn't have to get that dramatic, most of the materialist refusal is based on that question mentioned above you may hear from any bratty four-year-old , "why should I".  Or, more to the point, "Who's going to make me?"  When there's no who to make you, you're not going to get better behavior than that of spoiled children, grown up.   In most cases.  That's what our popular culture produced by those who were acculturated that way, what has replaced boring, old, unfashionable moral education.


  1. The current crop don't approach their level of thinking that I've noticed.

    Richard Dawkins and Stephen Pinker have decided their best arguments can be made in 140 characters or less; apparently.

    These aren't valid arguments, period. I know more about zoology, genetics, and the fields Jerry Coyne and Pinker work in, than they know about philosophy of religion and theology; and yet they put the burden on proof on people like me.

    Well, they think they do. It's like arguing with howler monkeys. The only people who take them seriously are the other howler monkeys. I honestly know next to no one in real life who's ever heard of Dawkins (much less Pinker, Coyne, or Dennett). The impact they have in the "real world" is nil. As you pointed out, in 2 decades atheists have climbed from 1.6% of the American population, to 3%. In the old adage, "Twice nothing is still nothing."

    No wonder they scream so loudly and impotently.

  2. I would add to your list of horribles the complete destruction of the "welfare state" and the complete disregard for the individual (who at least has her liberty! Wheeee!) in modern America.

    It's always been bad, but it is, in the popular phrase, "on steroids" since the economy collapsed due to inflation in the '70's. Since that decade the economy has been run for the wealthy and the rest of us suck hind teat. It started with the apotheosis of the stock market as the holy grail of our national wealth and the Dow Jones as the Delphic Oracle of our national merit.

    And it's only gotten worse, through the Reagan Era and the Clinton Era and even surviving the Great Recession, which should have reset the game board (at least) the way the Great Depression did (for a moment, that turned into half the 20th century).

    Utilitarianism is our national ethic, and money is our deity. In the words of Kurt Vonnegut: "The winners are at war with the losers, and the fix is in. The prospects for peace are awful."

    But who cares? Richard Dawkins knows what the truth is, and Daniel Dennett knows religion is over (even as most serious philosophers are discussing the resurgence of religion, a topic they've been discussing for a decade now; but Dennett didn't get the memo, I guess), and Jerry Coyne will explain it all to you in a blog post, even though he knows less about the subject than I do about black holes.

    I know one when I see one, though; which puts me up on those who can't even look in the mirror.