Saturday, June 23, 2007

Atheism and Moral Subjectivism

Goosing the Antithesis has posted a reference to a project by the Colorado Coalition for Reason that they have mailed 16000 CDs to schools defending atheism, and intend to send 2000 more to libraries around the country.

In the video, one of the questions asked is about good and evil. As an atheist ethicist, I have some ideas on that subject.

Ms. Price, in the video, said:

Good and evil? It’s all in your point of view. People can do
things that by any definition are terrible antisocial acts, things that are harmful to others and I would call those evil acts. Ask an antelope what he thinks about being eaten and he’ll tell you the lion is evil. The lion will say he’s simply having dinner. By the way, being philosophical about it doesn't stop the pain or the death of the antelope. Nations go to war against each other. Our side is fighting for god, country, and apple pie. The folks on the other side are evil. The folks on the other side think the same think only reversed. Now that doesn't mean that people don't commit evil acts in war because they certainly do. It means that the definition of good and evil can change with your point of view. When some people talk about evil, the image that comes to mind is Satan or the Devil. Since we atheists don't believe in gods, it follows that we don't believe in devils. We don’t think of evil as a noun or a person. We also don't believe that a person must be religious to be moral. The atheists I know act ethically. To us, that means don’t hurt other people, don’t take their possessions, and don’t lie.

In other words, the Nazi will say that the Jew is evil. The Jew will say that the Nazi is evil. It all depends on your point of view.

I think that moral subjectivism is as irrational as any religion. It is effectivelyg rounded on the logical principle, "I believe that 'P'; therefore, 'P'" Sorry, that inference is as absurd as the claim that God can be three people and one people at the same time.

It is, indeed, one of the principle pieces of evidence I provide for believing that atheists can be as irrational, and have as absurd beliefs about morality, as any theist.

So, now, I am going to have to deal with 20,000 CDs out there telling people that all atheists are moral subjectivists.

Which means they are certainly going to be confused if they should come across my writing.

Here is one of the things that is of particular interest to me. That a group of people who claim to be so dedicated to reason, can so blindly adopt a theory of morality that is so blatantly contrary to reason.

Of course, in all honesty, I suppose that I cause the same sort of concern for others. "Here's this guy who calls himself 'atheist ethicist' with his desire utilitarianism, as if all atheists agree on this one point, when, clearly, we do not."

This, of course, being beside the point that I have repeatedly said in this blog that athiesm, per se, implies no particular moral theory, other than to deny any theory that includes the proposition (one or more gods exist) among its premises.

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