Saturday, July 27, 2013

Questions For Atheists - Part 4 (Evil, Morality)

I turn now to the questions on evil and morality. Let's see what they have to challenge atheism.

1. Do you acknowledge the existence of evil (at least in your practice if not in your beliefs)?

Some atheists do not acknowledge evil or even that morality exists at all, I disagree with them. I do acknowledge that evil exists but evil isn't some kind of metaphysical entity like the devil. Evil is simply a term we apply to certain attitudes and behaviors. I define evil in practical terms as lacking empathy and compassion. In every evil situation you can think of it will be described in those terms.

2. When you complain about the problem of evil, aren’t you presupposing God?

No, because as I said evil is simply a descriptive term we use. It would exist irrespective of whether or not there was a deity.

3. If God does NOT exist, can 'good' and 'evil' exist? If yes, by whose ultimate authority and how is each empirically measured? 

By "exist" I think the theist means that good and evil are ontological entities. I don't ground the existence of good or evil in any kind of being, rather good and evil are those intentions and actions that either positively benefit conscious beings or those that negatively harm conscious beings, respectively. I reject notions of 'ultimate authority' because the only authority to me are empirical facts, which would of course cancel out all religions and deities.

1. What is the basis for the common moral values Christians and non-Christians, as a whole, seem to share?

We human beings are a species of warm blooded, social primates, and as such, there will be certain behaviors that benefit us and certain behaviors that will harm us. These behaviors we generally call good and bad, respectively. That's why there exists a very basic set of moral values that are shared among all cultures.  

2. Per the atheist worldview, is society ‘really’ evolving for the better? Why?

Yes. We are generally more compassionate towards one another, to animals, and to nature than we used to. We are less racist, less sexist, and we generally care more about minorities. The rates of violence has been on the decline, as was documented by Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature. Christians will always disagree with this. They think because more people are having sex outside of marriage and homosexuality is open, that we're heading towards Sodom and Gomorrah. But liberal views on sexuality and freedoms do not translate into violence and total societal decay. A healthy compassionate society can thrive with liberal sexual attitudes. That's one of the problems of Christianity - it unfairly and ignorantly labels all non-Christian behavior as evil. That's just like thinking all drugs are equally bad, or that all religions are equally violent. 

3. Would you agree with this statement: “Child pornography is immoral even though morality cannot be proven scientifically in a laboratory experiment?” If so, what is the genetic source of morality if humans have descended from apes?

Yes child pornography is immoral because children are not old enough to consent. It also has an aspect of it that is predatory in nature. Morality is not supposed to be proven in a laboratory, and although there are scientific aspects to morality, ultimately morality is a matter of philosophy. The source of our moral compass in human beings is mainly biological and philosophical. Evolution ingrained within us certain behavioral norms that lay at the foundation of our moral nature, then philosophies and cultures tweeked and customized this. 

4. HYPOTHETICAL SCENARIO: Immediately after marrying, you and your wife attempted pregnancy. You tried conceiving for two years with no success. Requiring surgery, your wife was put under anesthesia nine months before your first child was born. While unconscious, the doctor decided to have his way with your wife. His male staff assistant watched, waiting his turn. Each unleashed their gift of procreation in her prior to completing the minor surgical procedure. That night, the two of you took full advantage of the fact she was ovulating. Unbeknownst to either of you, the doctor's sperm out swam yours. Your wife never knew she was raped while unconscious, nor did you, and no other human being ever found out - there were no consequences to this act except the celebrated arrival of a beautiful, baby boy named after his Father. QUESTION: Was it absolutely wrong for the doctor and his assistant to gang-rape your wife? Why? 

If the child doesn't look like me, I will know it's not mine, and a DNA test can check that out. But aside from this, of course it was wrong given this scenario. Why? Because in this case the women did not consent to becoming impregnated by the doctor and she and I would be raising his baby. So even if no one finds out. it's still wrong because of that. But if the questioner here wants the atheist to think it can only be wrong if god says it's wrong, then why would god say it's wrong? I'm sure he could give a good reason. And that reason will suffice for why it's wrong. 

5. Where does the non-believer’s conscience get its authority from?

The Christian puts so much emphasis on "authority" that he fails to realize that this way of thinking is the very reason why it's hard to reason with fundamentalist Muslims. They take their authority from the Qur'an, and no line of reasoning can penetrate that relationship. No one's conscience should be an authority, period. All of our thoughts have to be open to debate and criticism. 

6. In an all-natural, all-material world, how did ‘oughts’ evolve from physical matter? When, and how do you know?

Well let's say we evolved from earlier life forms. We evolved into human beings with the capacity to use reason, and to analyze the consequences and intentions of our actions, and through this we can acquire at a very minimum, a basic understanding of what allows humans to flourish. Now why shouldn't we maximize this potential within our use to do so? If the theist thinks that the only justifiable reason why one ought to do something good is because god says so, then this is indicative of his moral outlook that is akin to a child needing to be told what to do by an adult. Evolution ingrained within us (but not all of us) the desire for good behavior towards our fellow human beings because it benefits the species. We are social primates, and all social species need a positive group behavior which would include things like altruism, caring for the young and vulnerable, and being fair etc. Using our evolved intellect, proper reason alone is sufficient enough to deduce this fact and construct an 'ought' out of it.

For more on morality see here and here.


  1. The apologists and atheists see morality in a very way. To the apologist, morality can only be defined according to a transcendent authority, which they see as God's nature. Yes, some atheists don't acknowledge that evil exists, but neither do you as apologists define it. You, like myself, seem to give meaning to morality based upon relationships and interactions among social peers (and in some cases inferiors) independent of higher powers. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    1. The apologist is obsessed with absolutes and ultimate authority because that will allow him to sneak his god into the frame. To some, morality is simply used as another way to try to convince others that god exists. In fact, everything from science to philosophy to nature - it's all used to try to prove god exists, because that's all the apologist cares about.



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