Saturday, November 17, 2012

Parenting And Society's Ills

When I analyze many of society's ills, I can't help but come to the conclusion, that most of them are due to bad parenting. I think that if all parents were better informed and let go of the embedded cultural ignorances that were passed on to them from their parents, we would have a better world that maximized its potentiality. That means a world with far less violence; no war (imagine that); the humane treatment of the environment, animals and fellow human beings; technology that maximizes human well being through renewable energy; and an economy that is not based on the exploitation of finite resources and cheap labor. Sure many problems are natural: disease, famine, drought etc, so better parenting by no means would end all of our problems, but surely a great number of them could be reduced if not all but eliminated.

I have very strong thoughts about being a parent. I have to be honest when I say that I do not, and have never wanted to have kids. I don't see myself as the fatherly type. I have thought perhaps too deeply about this issue, unlike many people who simply have kids, either planned or not, without really thinking about the consequences. When I tell people that I do not want kids, I usually hear a shocked response that asks, "you really don't want to have kids, ever? I say "yes", and we usually get into a debate about why. Why I don't want to have kids is for several reasons.

The main reason why I do not want to have kids is the main reason why most people want to have kids: I do not want to pass my genetic material on to someone else. There are things about me that are genetic that I simply would not want to knowingly pass on to another human being. I don't want to go into detail about them, but I know that all the negative traits that I have that are genetic, can all be stopped by me if I don't have kids.

The other reason I do not want to have kids is the high financial cost of raising a kid today, combined with my low attention span and general dislike for kids. I like adults. I like people who are educated and cultured and intellectual, because it is these kinds of people that I can usually have the most interesting conversations with. Kids are by nature uneducated and immature, and I do not like anyone regardless of their age, who has these characteristics. Kids deserve parents that truly care about them and want them in their lives. I am sad to say that I cannot fulfill that end of the bargain. I have had so many friends over the years who have told me horror stories about their parents neglecting and abusing them, and being such bad parents that I sometimes think you should have to have a license to be a parent. I am deeply concerned about the potential that I could be a bad parent, that my way of dealing with this is to refuse to have kids. I would never want to intentionally bring anyone into the world and then mistreat them. I feel this to be the most rational and educated stance on the matter. If more people thought like me in this regard, then the brightest, most informed and most dedicated people would have children and they would grow up into the better adults.

The desire to be a parent is as natural as eating for most people, and I don't quite know why I lack this quality. I have a different twist on "reproduction". For me, passing on my ideas is how I envision my seed being spread. Children are not necessarily like their parents, and there is no guarantee that parents will get along with their kids. But if you are intelligent, and outspoken, you can pass on your knowledge and ideas to others, and influence minds, and that can make more of a difference in this world than making another human being. It is not merely the act of influencing minds that I care about so much that it is bettering the world. I truly care about the quality of life for human beings, animals and the environment. We have extremely complex problems that we must address if humanity should see the end of this millenia.

I propose a radical change in the way we raise children that is partly taking place already. Parents should wait until they are older and more responsible before they have kids. There are many cultural reasons why having kids at an early age happens, that needs to be phased out as people enter the modern world. No one should have more than 2 or 3 kids; the Earth simply cannot yield enough resources to handle litters of 10 kids anymore. Cultural practices in raising children that are shown to be harmful should be abolished. (This admittedly would probably be the greatest challenge to a world with maximized parenting skills.) A deep sense of morality must be taught to our children that emphasizes above all else, compassion and empathy towards others. We must emphasize the pursuit of knowledge, reason and critical thinking as these have shown to be the best medicine to cure the ignorance that has led to so much unnecessary suffering.

In short, better parenting means a better world for all of us.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Refuting William Lane Craig: His Attempt To Marry Evolution With Christianity

The process of evolution and its compatibility with religion has been a heated debate for 150 years. Many contemporary Christians acknowledge evolution as fact and as being compatible with the doctrines of Christianity. William Lane Craig put out a podcast addressing evolution and Christianity and how the two can be successfully married. In the podcast he says that the random aspect of evolutionary biology is not actually random, but is instead guided by god. He further says that the genetic mutations that result in organisms evolving over time do not occur with the benefit or detriment of the organism in view, and this is what he says biologists mean when they say evolution is "random".

So William Lane Craig now thinks he's an evolutionary biologist. While trying to fit evolution into Christianity, he explains that an evolutionary process that is random in the sense that it is completely unguided or without any end goal in mind is not compatible with Christianity, but one guided by god is. He even says that there is no justification for any scientist to say that the genetic mutations that result from the evolutionary process is unguided and that such a claim would be "a metaphysical statement which no scientist could justifiably make".

As far as I understood it, the genetic mutations that result from the evolutionary process are random in the sense that they are unguided, with no end result in mind. I don't see how WLC can justify saying that god designs the whole process unless he were trying to fit the process into Christianity, which he is. In evolution, when organisms reproduce, every so often there is a genetic letter that changes in the DNA molecule. So an A might turn into a G, and a C might turn into a T. This is called a single-nucleotide polymorphism. The genetic change can have no affect on the organism, or it could help or hurt the organism. If it helps the organism survive in its environment, the organism will have a greater chance to reproduce and pass on the genetic mutation, and other organism with out the genetic advantage of the same species will have a lesser chance to reproduce in that environment. That is the general basis of evolution and it is all random in that there is no end goal in mind.

Now if god guides the genetic mutations, how does the theist explain genetic mutations that hurt organisms? Is god directly interfering with the DNA of creatures to purposely make their lives more difficult? What is the justification for that? Think of diseases and deformities that are the result of genetic disorders in humans and in animals that cause them to suffer horribly from birth. Did god specifically design that? If so, why did he design specific genetic diseases that cause humans and animals alike to suffer if he is all loving and benevolent? If species are designed with an end goal in mind, why have so many millions of species gone extinct? This would mean that they were purposely designed in such a way that they were not compatible and were thus not able to survive or evolve into other species. Believing that the evolutionary process is guided by god forces you to address these problems, whereas if the process is random, there is no one to blame other than chance.

We have no evidence that mutations are chosen or designed by any kind of supernatural force, and this rather silly attempt to justify the randomness of evolution by making it part of god's grand design is just another way Christians like WLC are forced to come to the recognition of evolution's undeniable truth. WLC isn't exactly a young Earth creationist so I will give him that, and I think it is better to have creationists embrace this highly distorted view of evolution, rather than the typical young Earth creationist nonsense. At least they are getting one step closer to the truth when it comes to science, and some progress is better than no progress.

I know WLC has a large loyal following among Christians and is regarded by many as one of the best theologians alive today, but almost every time I hear him speak I can see right through his bullshit that few others call him out on.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Inter-Belief Dialogue And The Challenges Of Secularism

Earlier this year during the Republican primaries, presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum said in an interview with 'This Week' host George Stephanopoulos that he felt the separation of church and state makes him "want to throw up."  He said, "I don't believe in an America where the separation of church and state are absolute", "The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country."

Extreme right-wing ignoramuses like Rick Santorum are the intellectual enemies of those who want to preserve the separation of church and state and it is good news to know his political party is on the decline. It is people like him that are constantly trying to knock down this barrier and usher in a flood of religious influence. As secularists it is important that we remain a challenge to their agenda while at the same time do not help further the extreme partisanship that has gridlocked much of Washington. This is much easier said than done, but let me try to explain.

We can never concede our principle on the separation of religion and government. It is paramount to the atheist and secularist alike that we continue living in a society where politics is decided from the point of view using science and reason and free from the influence of religious tradition, dogma and supernaturalism.

If you consider that for quite some time secularists like myself and those against secularism will have to coexist in the US, I wonder how can this best occur while not conceding on principle. I have been trying to recently articulate my positions on secularism to make clear what I mean when I say the separation of religion and government, and what that means for a theist or someone who was anti-secularist. I haven't been able to take on every challenge of course, but I think it is important to address some issues we are facing.

It is important for those who disagree to be able to come together whenever possible on the things they have in common. Even the most ardent partisans on opposite sides of the political spectrum will have something in common that they could join together in fighting for. It is important that the secularist can recognize the common humanity bonding them together with the theist, and they should all be willing to engage with others who we sometimes disagree with. I can name a few areas where this could occur:

  1. The Occupy Wall Street movement. Although it was not as successful as many hoped, it did at least spark a serious debate on the disproportionate increases in wealth and power of the top 1 percent in recent years. Many Muslims (due to their religion's prohibition of usury) are also against the culture of greed that characterizes the financial system. Many Catholics are against this too. This is a perfect opportunity for atheists and those with faith to come together and fight a system of corruption created by the rich that hurts the poor and working class. 
  2. Working together towards the elimination of poverty and to help those less fortunate can be done between those with and without faith. 
  3. There are those with faith who also support the separation of religion from government and we can work together whenever and however possible.
  4. Working together to spread human rights and to help those in countries that are having their human rights violated, such as those suffering under dictators or from ethnic cleansing. 
  5. Working together towards unreasonable laws that we both agree are unjust, such as basic women's rights, civil rights and caste systems.
  6. Working together on environmental issues such as climate change, laws concerning pollution and waste treatment
  7. Working together for ethical treatment of animals 
There are many reasons where secular atheists can come together with those who believe in god. The other alternative is to say, "since we disagree on religion and politics, let's not even communicate or work together at all, ever." That is not a long term strategy of coexistence even if we are highly polarized in some of our politics. It is through working together, that we can best achieve our goals. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Militant Secularism And Atheism: A Practical Application To Secularism

When Malcolm X was asked whether he considered himself "militant", he jokingly responded by saying he considered himself "Malcolm". Perhaps I can answer this question by saying I consider myself "Michael".

I have asked myself the question of whether I am a militant atheist. I don't think I am militant, so much as I am polemic. I have no intention of killing or physically harming anyone on behalf of my beliefs. I believe in peace, love and justice. When it comes to politics, I will say that I am and I support those who are adamant about furthering the secular agenda. When it comes to my personal life, I am usually enthusiastic when it comes to debating my convictions and this could be perceived as being militant.

That said, I do not support state atheism in any sort of communist style system that would restrict religious practice, and I do support the rights of the religious to practice their personal faith free from persecution. My support for them ends when they begin trying to advance their religious-based beliefs in government because it is then that they are violating my freedom from religion.

But as I've engaged in debate over secularism with those who are actively against it, I feel the need to clarify my positions. One of the bonuses of debate is that it does force you to sharpen your convictions as they are cross-examined. Let me lay down for a moment some of the core points on my views towards secularism.

  1. First, secularism is not a religion. It is a principle; it is a political ideology. If secularism cannot be advanced in government because you classify it as a religion, then you would also not be able to advance democracy as well because it would be classified as a religion too and we would have a situation where no set of political beliefs would enter the government. 
  2. Secularism is to keep religious organizations and dignitaries separate from government. This does not mean that someone with religion cannot become an appointed or elected politician, it just means that those with religion in government should base laws and policy free from their religious traditions and dogma.
  3. Basing policy free from religious traditions and dogma does not mean that one cannot advance a moral position that their religion also agrees with, it means that the person in government must be able to give a valid argument on their position, without appeal to their religion. In other words, they must justify their political position in secular terms using reason and science. If their justification for their position is to say "my Bible/Torah/Qur'an says it is wrong so I do too" that is a violation of secularism. 
  4. For example, take the issue of abortion. If a politician is against abortion, a secular government means they must justify why it is wrong without using the typical appeal to religion and god by saying the fetus has a soul and that their holy book says it is wrong. This would be an appeal to religion and not to science and reason. Even though there is no scientific evidence for the soul, it is possible to mount an argument against abortion from the point of view of secularism completely absent of religion and theism. Such an argument would be valid in a secular government. 
  5. If a secular argument without appeal to religion and the supernatural cannot be made for the reason a certain law or policy should exist, then it is not admissible in a secular government. 
  6. This is a practical and fair approach towards secular laws because it does not mean that all laws and policies that exist in religion(s) will be immediately blocked, rather it means those laws and traditions must be defensible without being backed up by the religion.
Even with this approach towards secularism we are not free of conflicts. Take the issue of school sanctioned prayer that I recently explored and debated. Imagine someone who is for introducing school sanctioned prayer comes up with statistics showing that schools that have allowed it have better test scores and lower dropout rates and this is used as their appeal to science and reason for why it should be allowed. Now we have a conflict here in that something that may be good for students if applied would violate secularism by allowing a government institution to establish a religion. 

How do I weigh in on this problem? As I mentioned before, the establishment clause prevents the government from establishing any religion, and allowing any religion to be sanctioned by a government institution violates that principle. So therefore, even if you could successfully mount a secular argument in favor for school prayer, the practice itself would violate the separation of government from religion. 

Secularism and its practical application certainly introduces complex situations that have to be analyzed from multiple points of view. That is why we have armies of lawyers and liberal watchdog organizations like the ACLU as well as those who are trying to poke holes in secularism doing what they do. 

This brings me back to my point earlier about the militarism of secularism. As we head towards a majority secular society with religiosity on the decline, secularists like myself will increasingly find ourselves in the position of power. It is certainly possible for an atheist and secularist to be as fundamental as any theist in their approach towards freedoms of conscience and expression. I feel obligated to maintain a fair and practical approach towards my views on secularism so that its practice does not do to those with faith, what those with faith did towards those without faith when the faithful had the monopoly on power. 

I do not want to be called a hypocrite by simply doing to others today what people like them have done to people like me in the past. Moral integrity and virtue are more important and are the cornerstone of my character. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Masochism Of Christianity

I've always felt from an early age, that Christianity was an extremely masochistic religion. It seems rather obvious to me, that at some level, religion is a product of the sadomasochistic aspects of the human personality. The desire to be a slave, the desire to be humiliated, degraded, denied pleasure, and subject to the will of someone else's whim, characterizes much of religion, but especially in Christianity. This is evident in self-flagellation and crucifixion rituals, perverse obsessions with chastity and sexual regulation, guilt-ridden feelings of unworthiness, and many more. This is all somewhat counterbalanced with the natural solipsism and ego gratifying beliefs that the whole entire universe is human centered, that we are in the spotlight, that it is all created with us in mind and that we are all loved by an invisible being. Christianity paints a picture that plays perfectly upon the warped conditions that the human mind endures.

I've never had any doubt that all religions are man made. Their obvious contradictions, plagiarisms, and child-like observations of the natural world around them convince me beyond any reasonable doubt to their falsity. With Christianity, we are told that we are sinners from the moment of conception, that we are born sick and commanded to be perfect, that we don't deserve the life that we didn't even ask for, and that we all deserve the Christian hell by default. Now to me the masochism here is obviously apparent. This guilt ridden wallowing on one's knees in shame and terror of one's natural state, is tantamount to the slave who enjoys being urinated on and whipped.

Not that there's anything wrong with wanting to be urinated on and whipped, but when your whole life outlook concerning human nature, sexuality, desire, and existence, is from the point of view of the self-loathing masochist via the Christian mindset, and you are promoting this view towards others, that is when it becomes a problem. As atheists we do not believe in an inherent state of "sin", and we don't need to feel guilty of natural desires as long as they are not harmful to others. There is no need to seek approval from some invisible authority that we can't see, hear, touch, feel or measure in any way to justify our very existence.

The freedom involved with being an atheist is something that makes some theists anger. While they shackle themselves psychologically in manacles submitting to an invisible master, they see us laughing and enjoying our lives free from a harmful masochistic complex in our outlook on life and nature. They see us indulging in activities they consider sin, and sometimes boil with rage as to why we are not also swimming in guilt. Many Christians also want to export their Christian guilt onto us so that we too become self loathing and submit to their invisible god. The atheistic outlook does not necessary sanction a totally hedonistic indulgence for one to engage unmitigated in every desire because every rational person understands that we have to live in a society with rules. The problem is that the rules of Christianity are not based on reason, they're based on the ignorance and superstition of masochists.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Is America Becoming More Like Europe And Canada?

survey conducted by the Pew Forum on religious and public life indicates that the "nones" - those who do not consider themselves part of any organized religion, represent about 16.1 percent of the U.S., and are growing at a quicker rate than any religion. The statistics are even more encouraging when you factor in age. According to the American Values Survey 2012, the number of those "unaffiliated" by any organized religion jumps to 32 percent for those between the ages of 18-29, and falls to 19 percent for those between 30-49. This shows that the younger you are, the less religious you will tend to be. No surprise by most measures; it is already generally understood that young people tend to rebel against the religious institutions they're raised in and then become religious again as they age. But what is encouraging here as a long term trend, is that the survey also shows that as people grow older, smaller numbers are keeping the religion they were raised in.

For example, among Catholics, there is a 9.4 percent loss from those who were affiliated with Catholicism when they were children, to those whose current affiliation is still Catholic. White Mainline Protestant, Black Protestant and White Evangelical Protestant affiliations saw drops as well although not as dramatic. Those who were unaffiliated with any organized religion as children grew from 7 percent, to 18.6 percent as adults, and represent the only group that saw dramatic increases in numbers between childhood and adulthood.

See the interactive survey results here:

All these statistics provide an encouraging trend towards a gradual reduction of Americans being affiliated with any organized religion, a trend already mimicked in Europe and Latin America. For those 16.1 percent of Americans who are unaffiliated, that does not mean they are atheists. In fact, the survey shows that only 39 percent of the unaffiliated or "nones" consider themselves atheist/agnostic. Some of them believe that god is an impersonal force, others believe in a more traditional god but reject any religion organized around it. Either way, the rejection of organized religion even if one retains their belief in a deity is good news for secularists like myself.

Now even considering the good news, an openly non believing presidential candidate today has little chance to get elected in the U.S. That can all change in a moment however, but in my estimation it will take another 15 - 20 years or so until the hostility towards atheists subsides enough to the point where we can get a plausible chance at the White House.

I suspect as many others do that Barack Obama is a closet atheist, or that he is really far less religious than he has to pretend to be to the American people. This is one of the reasons why I like him. One day I hope in the not too distant future, we will see a time when presidential candidates do not have to pledge their undying love for Jesus Christ, and make the ignorant declaration that their faith guides their every decision.

In some European countries, like in England, candidates running for office do not have to overplay their religion and doing so can actually be seen as a negative. It is odd how in a country like England, which has an official state religion - the Church of England, they have a more secular approach toward their elected officials then we Americans do. I predict given the trend, that this will change in the decades to come.

On issues like healthcare, Americans voted for keeping Obamacare. Now I have given my two cents on healthcare, and fully support a system of "socialized medicine". I believe that it is a basic human right to not have to die if you cannot afford healthcare, and I also think corporations should not be profiting by being able to decide who gets to live and die based on how profitable it is for them. All signs indicate that we are headed towards a more European-style system on healthcare and in the absence of religion from politics.

During the Bush administration in the last decade there was this growing fear among liberals that the U.S. might be heading towards a fundamentally religious and conservative political system, while the rest of the developed world moved closer towards secularism. Since Obama became the president this fear has not been actualized and we are seeing the reverse, but those on the right continue to beat their war drums in the fantasy of a full-blown conservative Christian take over of American politics.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Moral Hypocracy of Religion

Debating with fundamentalist theists is always entertaining, especially on the issue of morality. It is my contention that on morality, no where is there a worse basis for moral absolutes then there is with religion. When cornered, many believing theists admit they disagree with the "absolute" morals of their own religions and struggle with the reconciliation between them and what they believe is moral in their hearts. Yet they still proclaim, often proudly, that through their religion's absolute moral stance is the best and only way to think critically of moral issues. Let's examine this issue in detail on several points.

First, what is moral absolutism?

Moral absolutism is defined as "the ethical belief that there are absolute standards against which moral questions can be judged, and that certain actions are right or wrong, regardless of the context of the act."

Moral absolutism and relativism can get us into some murky waters here so we have to be careful what we are talking about. Theists of many faiths will reluctantly admit that some moral relativism exists. I recently had a very conservative theist argue that Old Testament morality "was relative to a particular time and place." Thereby he admits that some moral actions are right and wrong, depending on where, why and how they were committed. That is moral relativism.

I would agree with this considering the virtually infinite number of possible situations where a moral choice must be made. The questions of where, why and how they were committed is often a determining factor to calculate its morality. However, this does not have to force you to dive head on into total moral relativism. The standards by which you calculate an action being wrong or right can be the same and apply across all cultures and time periods equally, even if different situations result in different determinations as to whether something is right or wrong.

No religion gives us a complete moral code. We are always going to be debating what is or is not moral, whenever new issues arise. Just think of the invention of the internet and how many new laws and regulations needed to be debated and passed as to what would be moral or not with this new advance in technology. No holy book will decide that, for this we must use our brains.

I further argue, that no religion really gives us the standards by which to calculate moral actions. In ethical philosophy, there are three main branches of thought to calculate morality: utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics. Religion uses a divine command theory of ethics. That means god commands it to be right or wrong, period. So if you're a Muslim, eating pork is wrong, because god said so. If you are a Christian, you cannot suffer a witch to live, because god said so. You are required to accept these moral commandments and thinking for yourself and reconsidering what is right or wrong is strictly off limits: The boss has already done the thinking for us.

The atheist's problem with this is the source of these ethics. We are told that we just have to accept that these commandments were revealed to people years ago, from an all knowing god, and perfectly translated through many languages and many generations to the present. What the atheist insists upon, is questioning everything, and every moral, so that nothing is accepted by blind faith. And if we can consider a better moral based on the moral calculations of utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics, guided by the latest science, then we should be perfectly right to discard the moral we derived from religion.

The Cherry Pickers of Morality

I often enjoy accusing theists that they are merely cherry picking their morality from their holy books to suit their personal beliefs, while they discard many of the other "absolute" morals. In Christianity, the Bible condones a host of "absolute" morals that include various forms of slavery, fathers selling their daughters into slavery, indentured servitude, forcing underage girls into marriages with older men, stoning to death all homosexuals, adulterers, witches, unruly children, those who worship false gods, those who work on the sabbath, allowing the rape of female captives in war, and throwing war captives off cliffs. There are certainly more that I do not have the time to mention.

Now if a theist adhering to a moral absolute standard believes that these above mentioned morals were relative to a certain time and place, that is hypocricy. You can't have all morality to be absolute and relative at the same time. This puts the theist into a bit of a conundrum.

So a theist could ask, "Does admitting perplexity about the Bible’s teachings in one area, while strongly affirming its teachings in another area, make me a hypocrite?"

Well it would certainly make the theist a selective literalist. I personally do reject the Bible on account of several things. First are its contradicting, and fallacious moral teachings, that are the product of an angry, jealous and superstitious tribe, bent on justifying the harm they committed by believing it was divinely sanctioned. Second is the historical and scientific inaccuracy when compared to modern science.

As an atheist I do not accept the authority and validity of the Bible. So how then should Biblical morality be interpreted? If one must continue believing in the god of the Bible, they should take from the Bible whatever morals are beneficial, and disregard whatever is no longer relevant. This is pretty much exactly what almost all theists do anyway. Most logical Christians today know the Bible in its entirety is not meant to be taken literally, and a strict literalist interpretation of the Bible will only continue to shave away adherents as a result of the torrent of secular criticism. The best hope for religion is to reform itself to include what modern science and philosophy provide us. If not, religion, much like the republican party, will continue to see its numbers of adherents decline with time.

The theist could counter with a comparison, "Should we reject science and its findings because it is not entirely amenable to our understanding?"

There is simply no comparison of the practice of science and the practice of religion. First, as I've written before, science is just the method by which we build and organize natural explanations for everything based on testable evidence and predictions. Science is an activity, it is not a set of faith-based beliefs. No one who uses science is forced to commit themselves to one particular scientific theory or not. There is no hell for not believing in string theory. Although when the evidence for a scientific theory is overwhelming, scientists will sometimes look down upon those who deny it (just think of how ridiculous flat Earth proponents look today).

Religion is a set of dogmatic beliefs surrounding a deity that requires faith to believe in, and skepticism and doubt about these beliefs are frowned upon. Comparing science to religion is to compare apples to oranges. They are two different camps. The scientific understanding of matter at the subatomic levels, however perplexing, is not tantamount to our understanding of morality from a Biblical perspective. Scientists are not "revealed" scientific truths from an absolute authority that they then have to reconcile with contradicting testable results. In religion however, we are "revealed" not only moral truths, but scientific "facts", that we then see are contradicted by our moral intuitions and the natural world.

The Role of Science in Morality

When Europeans first encountered black Africans, they didn't even consider the Africans to be human beings. They thought of them as some kind of sub-species, without the same intellectual and emotional capabilities as Europeans. This falsely held belief lead to centuries of slavery and colonization that they helped justify with the Bible. Today with modern genetic science, and the unraveling of the human genome, science has proved that all human beings share a common ancestor and that all human beings came from Africa. In effect, science has shown us that we are all Africans. With this new found scientific knowledge, one cannot justify the inferiority of African people with their previously held beliefs.

Having scientific knowledge about ourselves and our world is necessary for making the best possible moral choices. The reason why I don't regard Biblical or religious morality with any serious regard, is because they were decided at a time when humans lacked the most basic scientific understanding of the nature of reality. We used to be a people who believed in the powers of alchemy, sorcery, witches who could control the weather and disease; we believed that the world was flat, and that it was the center of the universe, that being left handed was a sign of wickedness, and that children should be buried beneath the foundations of buildings to ward off bad luck. Why would anyone seriously consider believing forever, moral cues derived from a time when this ignorant nonsense existed?

The problem with religion is that it is philosophy frozen in dogma. Just as we shouldn't have considered permanently freezing all of our beliefs when we were ten years old, the ignorant "wisdom" of the Iron-age should not be our permanent guidelines on how to live and think morally.

We may never have all the scientific knowledge of ourselves and the universe to guide our moral thinking. What we should do then, is make the best moral decisions given the (always) limited knowledge that we have and continue to improve them as new information is derived. This is called moral growth and we all do it, whether theists like to admit it or not.

By What Basis Is Biblical Morality Unethical?

Theists claim that an atheist is in no position to critique Biblical morality since he doesn't have his own absolute standard to judge it by. To this I respond in two parts. First the theist has no absolute standard, since all theists reluctantly admit that morality is at least in part, relative. Imagine a world with no human beings. Who would the ten commandments apply to? Lions? Dogs? The ten commandments are only relative to human beings existing. We cannot expect animals to behave to our moral laws. So all morality is at least relative to the human species. Furthermore, think of lying. It is considered generally wrong, but who would argue against lying to save a life, such as if Nazis came knocking at your door to ask if you were hiding Jews and you were. This is situational relativism which the Christian theist also reluctantly agrees is true.

Second, in what sense is morality objective? Any argument made for whether something is moral or not, has to be justified for a reason. So for example, kindness, love, compassion and fairness are good in and of themselves for justifiable reasons. It doesn't help us any better at all to believe there is a god who says these things are also good. Would kindness, love, compassion and fairness be any less beneficial to the beings affected by it if there was no god, or if god didn't agree that these actions were good? Of course not! No one's opinion, not even god's, makes any difference as to whether kindness, love, compassion and fairness are good things. They are naturally good in and of themselves and do not require to be backed up by authoritative power.

We get our moral intuitions from the sociobiological evolutionary process. As a species of social primates, human beings had to learn to get along and live civilly with one another. Living in small tribes for hundreds of thousands of years, everyone was dependent on each other for survival. Collectivism reigned supreme. In the modern world, we've had to adapt this tribal way of thinking to a world where we largely don't personally know our neighbors. The great struggle of humanity has been to look past race, ethnicity and differences to recognize all fellow humans beings as extended members of the same tribe. The tribal and ethnic warfare of the Old Testament is indicative of our early failures to understand this. That is another reason why the validity of absolute morals from this era should be disregarded.

In Conclusion

I'd like to summarize my points:

  • Religion and theism cannot provide an absolute basis for morality. Every religion created has relativistic morals for different situations and morality is only relative to human beings.
  • Divine command theory of ethics is a "might makes right" reasoning to understand moral truth.
  • The religious all cherry pick their morality. Furthermore, since some morals contradict themselves, the theist is often forced to cherry pick morals. 
  • There is no way to compare the endeavour of science with the dogmatic practice of religion. One uses the scientific method to find natural explanations of our world; the other asks believers to frown upon doubt and skepticism and to accept "revelations" as fact. 
  • Scientific knowledge has greatly helped our moral understanding and the morality of religion came largely before the scientific era, that is why many of its teaches seem ludicrous.
  • Some actions are naturally good or bad in and of themselves regardless of anyone's opinion of them.  The effects of actions are objective regardless of what someone's opinion of it is. Introducing a deity to the situation merely adds one more unnecessary opinion.

Finally, on morality the theist should consider these questions:

  • Couldn't it be possible that the counter-intuitive morality of the Bible is largely a product of our Iron-age superstitious thinking, which lacked the most basic understanding of science and human nature?
  • Isn't trying to reconcile Biblical morality so that it all fits into modern morality simply a futile waste of time? 
  • If Biblical morality is indeed right, why is it right? By what basis is this justified? 
  • If Biblical morality is indeed right, shouldn't we still be practicing it now? What are the justifications for doing so or not doing so?
  • Is something good because god commands it, or does he command it because it is good?
  • If something is good because god commands it, then couldn't he command murder to be good?
  • If god would never command murder because murder is inherently bad, then murder must naturally be bad in and of itself, and couldn't this be recognized by human beings without the requirement of god? 


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