Atheism and moral condemnation

In another very interesting discussion on Uncommon Descent, Chris Doyle asked:

1. Why should… a miserable atheist bother with life at all?

2. How do you dissuade an atheist from free-riding?

 

And later, in a post on another thread:

…how can any atheist condemn Breivik in terms that can be reconciled with their worldview? If life is meaningless and we face oblivion then nothing really matters – there is no wrong or right, because there is no Good or Evil: even the purpose we forge for ourselves is an act of self-deception if the atheistic worldview is true.

I’m reposting selected portions of my original response below, because, although the conversation has continued in a lively fashion since then, Chris gave me an opportunity to think though my views on this, and I thought like to invite him, or anyone else who wants to continue the discussion, the opportunity to do so in the quieter backwaters of this blog.

I wrote:

To take your first question: “how can any atheist condemn Breivik in terms that can be reconciled with their worldview?” Well, this doesn’t seem very difficult to me! Acts have consequences, and those consequences include making people feel better and harming people. But as words are awkward, and come with baggage, let me invent two new ones: I’m going to call acts that make you feel better at the cost of harming other people “gak”. Now, if everyone goes around making themselves feel better, and no-one else is harmed, there is no gak, and everyone has a good time. But if people go around doing stuff that makes them feel better, but harms other people, not everyone has a good time.

So although it might be tempting to give yourself a good time by doing gak stuff, nobody else is going to agree with you, because they are going to get the rough end of the gak. So we make some social rules: we say: if nobody does gak stuff, everyone will have a pretty good time. But if people do gak stuff, some people will have a horrible time, even if the gak-doers get a heck out of a kick out of it. So, for the good of us all we will declare gak taboo.

And to make sure that as little gak is done as possible, if people are found doing gak stuff, we try a number of things; we lock them up so they can’t do it (containment); we make them do something they don’t like doing, so that they (and others) learn that even if gak stuff makes them feel better at the time, they end up having a rotten time in the end anyway (deterrence); we try to make them see that if everyone forgoes the gak stuff, everyone else, including them is better off, and anyway, it’s much more fun making other people feel better than making them feel worse (rehabilitation); and we try to get them to undo the harm they did (reparation).

And this works pretty well, because as human beings we have this remarkable capacity called “Theory of Mind”, which enables us not simply to see things from our own point of view, but from other peoples, and even to feel things on other people’s behalf – what we call “empathy”, or, better, “love”, although some people seem unable to do that last part. For those, sometimes, some kinds of rehabilitation can help, but unfortunately, sometimes, permanent incarceration is the only answer, if the rest of us are to be safe from the gak.

So that’s it really. Instead of “evil” we have “gak”. But we call it “evil”, because it looks exactly the same as what you call evil. It’s just, like the old gag about Shakespeare goes (“Did you know that Shakespeare’s plays weren’t actually written by Shakespeare, but by another man living at the same time, with the same name?”), another thing with the same properties and the same name.

 * * * * * * * * * *

1. Why should such a miserable atheist bother with life at all?

Because it’s fun, and beautiful, and filled with good things! Including joy, and curiosity, and love. Why does an otter bother with life? Think of atheists as otters.

2. How do you dissuade an atheist from free-riding?

Well, firstly, because atheists are as human as you are (:)) they share the same capacity for empathy, and the same capacity for joy in another’s joy, and grief in another’s grief. So it’s not a major problem, and, in any case, not all free-riders are atheists! But there are indeed free-riders, and we deal with them as above, which includes persuasion (“look, if you don’t do gak stuff, you still have a good time, and so does everyone else – in fact you have a better time, because actually it’s a lot more fun to enjoy things that other people enjoy too, than to do stuff that only you enjoy and other people hate. Also they are more likely to like you, which is nice, and less likely to incarcerate you, or make you do stuff you don’t like in return. Also gak is ungood, and ungak is good. You don’t know what good is? Here, let me show you….” *demonstrates kindness and empathy*). But if that doesn’t work, deterrence and incarceration are backups.

 * * * * * * * * * *

 

…it seems that you think a miserable atheist simply needs to recall that “one of our drives is to be, simply, happy.” But I don’t think a miserable atheist needs reminding of this fact, do you? He is all too aware that happiness is what he wants but he is struggling and suffering on a regular basis.

Why is he? I don’t mean that you have the answer, but if someone is unhappy, it’s good to know why. Then either they can fix it themselves (as long as that doesn’t involve gak) or someone else can help. Usually a bit of both. We all need a little help from our friends :)

Even if a miserable atheist does experience glimpses of happiness, they are all too brief and soon disappear to be replaced by the norm: drudgery and hopelessness. You then point out that “We are… therefore able to transcend ourselves.” Again, I don’t see how this provides a reason for the miserable atheist to bother with life at all.

But life is good! I mean, not for everyone, but it’s not only atheists who suffer, and the answer could be anything from relief of poverty to treatment for a mental disorder. Or, even, getting out a bit, and helping other people. That cheers most people up.

I’m not meaning to be flippant here, Chris, I just think you are describing a non-problem. Or, rather, a problem that is not at all unique to atheists. I do know of a few nihilist atheists, but most are not, and I’ve known pretty nihilist Christians as well. And anyone who hates being alive needs help. Think of those otters.

If he can feel another’s pain, then that is only adding to the pain he is already experiencing on a daily basis!

hmmm. Empathy is an odd thing. Yes, another’s pain hurts, but shared hurt is not something on the whole one shuns. And sharing hurt can help. It’s like that old saying (golly I sound like the Readers Digest today) about love being the only thing where the more you give the more you have.

But you know this, Chris. What I’m saying is that atheists know it too, they just don’t give it the same name. I still do (habit, I guess, I call it grace) but atheists are just as capable of, and receptive to, grace. It’s just they don’t call it that. Not sure what they call it, but not everything needs a name.

 * * * * * * * * * *

 

 

Looking at the second question, you first of all appeal to the “collective” over the individual. If we had all been assimilated by the Borg, then resistance to that argument would indeed be futile! But, we’re not. And an intelligent, rational, logical but selfish atheist knows just how to exploit that. He knows that the moral society we live in isn’t about to break down just because he is free-riding on it. He “can look at that situation logically and decide that as long as he maintains a public appearance of moral steadfastness, he can commit immoral acts whenever he desires as long as he avoids detection.” And, your very interesting response to this was:

“Well, sure, but so can a theist.”

Woah! Blink and you miss it! Let’s rewind and slow that down before getting ahead of ourselves. A rational atheist can logically free-ride: maintaining a public appearance of moral steadfastness while committing immoral acts whenever he desires (as long as he avoids detection) and your response is “Well, sure…”

I think we should pause there for a moment, Lizzie, to let that important fact sink in rather than trying to gloss over it by changing the subject to theism.

If you agree that a rational atheist can logically choose immorality then atheistic morality fails.

Well, it’s only logical as long as there is no system, agreed by “the collective” to deal with the free-riders.

It comes back to this gak-thing again. In atheist terms, free-riding is gak. And we don’t want to live in a society where gak is easy to do. So a) we persuade people of the benefits of not doing gak stuff (for them, not just for everybody else) and b) if that doesn’t work, we invoke our gak-minimising system.

Which is, of course what in your mirror-world is called a justice-system. So we call it that too, even though it’s “really” a gak-minimising system. It just happens to be an identical system with the same name. We also call the process of devising anti-gak rules “ethics”, like yours, and the incentive to keep to them “morality”, like yours. Except of course it’s really just our anti-gak drive.

;)

The whole point of morality is that it should take precedence over all other considerations. Morality is easy when the right thing to do is the thing we want to do. But, as soon as the wrong thing to do is the thing we want to do then, providing we can get away with it (or can live with the consequences) then atheistic morality is over-ruled by logic and reason.

Ah, but you are moving the labels. No, the anti-gak drive behaves exactly like morality. The only difference is that your justice system is has an infinity-drive powered CCTV camera and an automated incarceration system, complete with highly deterrent torture rigs, that infallibly awaits any freeloader who escapes the human-derived one.

Except that, weirdly, it has a “faint hope” clause, which means that the infinity-drive judge will waive the incarceration under certain (not terribly well specified) conditions. For no terribly obvious reason, except that the uncertainty probably keeps people on their toes.

Or perhaps that’s not your vision (although it certainly is in some versions of Christianity). Perhaps in your vision, nobody gets the incarceration – in which case, it’s no more effective than our gak-minimising system.

What I’m saying, Chris is that all the aspects of morality that you see in terms of a judging God have their exact counterparts in atheism, with the sole exception of this bit that happens after we die.

So we have:

gak=evil.
anti-gak rules =ethics
anti-gak drive =morality
gak-minimising system=justice system

So to say, oh, but atheist morality is over-ruled by reason if they can’t be found out, is,as I said, shifting the labels out of their categories. Atheist morality is a drive – the anti-gak drive, just as theistic morality is – the drive to be good, the love of God, if you like. In fact, I’d go so far as to cite Jesus in claiming they are identical: The two greatest commandments, in Matthew, are 1) to love God, and 2) “which is like it” is to love your neighbour as your self. And lest there be doubt as to whether loving your neighbour as your self was really “like” loving God, Jesus said “whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me”.

Well, as I think I’ve said before – atheists just cut out the middle man. Or may be the end man. You love God by loving your neighbour; we just love our neighbours. Both are what we call “morality” (although for us it’s just our anti-gak drive of course….)

Taking that further, we can now argue that it would be irrational and illogical for an atheist to choose morality when there are literally no drawbacks to the immoral choice.

Well, practically, there are always drawbacks. Even hiding the body is a drawback. The loneliness. The regret. The nightmares. That’s what I meant by “moving the labels”. Atheists are as capable as anyone else of foreseeing the consequences of their actions, including those consequences for their own peace of mind. We are an empathetic species. We are stuck with it. We can over-ride it, and do, but always at a cost.

I’m probably not being as clear as I could be (but I’m trying!) – but I think your mistake (and I’m convinced it’s a mistake!) is in thinking too narrowly of what “benefits me”, and envisaging atheist “morality” as merely “what would suit me now that I can get away with”. Because you think that’s what logic dictates. But what you are missing is the anti-gak drive. We are not, in general, comfortable with doing gak-stuff. At its most shallow, people don’t like to be disliked, or considered selfish. More deeply, people don’t like to see the pain they caused, even if it was fun at the time. That’s why reparative justice works so much better than you might think it would. Doing gak stuff actually makes people unhappy, and one of the things we do when we raise children to be good (“teach them right from wrong”) is to make them realise that if they are mean to another child, that other child will be unhappy, and unhappiness is infectious. Which it is. Again, for us it might “really” be showing children that gak usually rebounds in the end, and that gak now means misery later, rather than showing them the difference between right and wrong, but we call it that, because, yet again, it looks exactly the same:)

Free-riding is undoubtedly the best course of action available to intelligent, rational and logical atheists (especially ones who are more selfish than selfless). And, if the more selfless atheists ever truly realise that they are needlessly denying themselves on many occasions, then what is to stop them saying “well, if you can’t beat them, join them!” Based on your responses so far, Lizzie, absolutely nothing.

No, free-riding is not “the best course of action available to intelligent, rational and logical atheists”. You let slip the reason in your parenthesis “(especially ones who are more selfish than selfless)”. The best course of action availabe to intelligent, rational and logical people is to do things that will bring about their own long-term happiness. Sadly few of us are that intelligent, rational and logical, but we try. And for most of us, our long-term happiness depends on being decent people, and avoiding doing gak stuff. In other words, by being moral. And for those who are “more selfish than selfless”) then those who have anything to do with those people (husbands, wives, siblings, parents, offspring), the first response strategy is to try to demonstrate the long-term benefits that they seem unable to see.

Actually there’s another point here, which I think is important: most people are not so much “selfish” as “short-termist”. We do what makes us feel good now, no matter how bad we will feel later. My own take on “free will” is that it’s best thought of as “freedom from immediacy”. And most people as they grow, learn that gak-stuff usually brings only short-term fun. So with good, caring, wise (if only) mentors, we should grow up with a well-rooted anti-gak drive, i.e. become moral adults. And I’d say that athetists are just as capable of developing thus into moral adults, and indeed of being good, caring and wise mentors, as anyone else, because it doesn’t actually require belief in God, just the conviction that the more people with a strong anti-gak drive in the world, the happier we all shall be.

(fixed duplicate paragraphs – h/t to Amy.

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86 thoughts on “Atheism and moral condemnation

  1. “Because it’s fun, and beautiful, and filled with good things! Including joy, and curiosity, and love. Why does an otter bother with life? Think of atheists as otters.”

    My life sucks with very little hope. Why not kill myself? It’s looking like a very good option.

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  2. When I saw Chris Doyle’s comment, I wondered about how empty is his life, if the only meaning he can find comes from his religion. Or perhaps he was just spouting dogma, without having thought it through.

    I’m glad you have started this site. I have added it to my blog bookmarks.

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  3. I don’t think that’s the only valid inference 🙂 I think that people who have a fulfilling life find it hard to understand how anyone who has a radically different view on what gives life its richness could possibly have anything comparable. I guess I’m looking into my own soul here – my religion was very important to me for half a century, and while I had many atheist friends, I was always saddened to hear they were atheists, as that seemed to me that they must have something missing that to me was hugely important.

    The interesting thing I have found of course, is that the richness isn’t tied to the belief I thought it was tied to! Though my world teetered for a while, it righted itself again, and I found myself with everything I had before, and a much more parsimonious model!

    And of course I like parsmonious models 🙂

    Glad to see you here!

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  4. I’m sorry to hear that, govt mule. I hope things go better for you soon.

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  5. This is fantastic, Lizzie, well done! Okay, I will study what you’ve written above and respond accordingly (I might break up my responses to concentrate on one area at a time). Looks like I’m going to be spending some time here… I look forward to it!

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  6. Hiya Lizzie,

    There was some further discourse that is not referenced in the OP. So, on the subject of atheism offering a meaning to life, here we go:

    I highlighted the fact that there is a lot of darkness in human existence: some people experience much more misery than joy throughout their tragic lives. It seemed that you agreed with me when you said:

    “So yes, there is plenty of darkness, suffering and despair. I don’t have a solution. And I don’t think an afterlife provides one, either.”

    So I said,

    “…then you are agreeing with me that the atheistic worldview – complete with its indifferent universe and inevitable oblivion – cannot provide any sort of motivation, hope, purpose or meaning to tragic, miserable people (of which, there are, and has been, plenty).”

    But, then you returned to an atheistic solution after all:

    “If a person is tragic and miserable, what might be able to do to give them hope and joy will, in part, depend on why they are tragic and miserable. And I’ve known tragic and miserable atheists – tragic because of a personal bereavement, and miserable because of fallout from that bereavement – who have indeed been helped – by other atheists – to recover motivation, hope and purpose.”

    Now that’s all fine and well, Lizzie. I accept that sometimes miserable atheists can indeed get by with a little help from their friends, even just their atheistic friends! But, you must also agree that, for one reason or another many miserable people – be they believers or atheists – don’t get the help they need and could consider themselves lucky when there are brief spells in their life where it is just about tolerable.

    So, in the absence of help from others, can an atheist consult his own worldview and draw comfort from it? Or even just a single good reason to delay his inevitable oblivion any longer? Because I put it to you, Lizzie, that atheism leaves us empty. That’s alright when life is full of pleasing distractions to fill the emptiness or, as David Berlinski puts it, when we “snore on the down of plenty”. But when existence itself is a source of misery, the rational atheist should merely give up: stay in bed all day, escape from reality with the help of booze and drugs or even just end it all with a one-way ticket to the nearest railway line.

    That conclusion is unavoidable if the atheistic worldview is true.

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  7. This works both ways. There are religious people who find that their religion leads them to self-condemnation and self-hatred.

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  8. Hi Neil,

    Don’t worry, you’ll get your chance to criticise the theistic worldview! In the meantime, do you agree with my conclusion about atheistic meaning or not?

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  9. Is Chris Doyle suggesting that if God does not exist that we should trick Atheists into believing in him?
    Any requirement we have for a God has no bearing on his existence.
    If he does not exist then our needing him does not make him exist.

    I would ask Chris Doyle how Theists dismiss needing evidence and reasoning to believe something? How do they simply choose to believe something simply because they desire to?
    If they do have evidence and reason then they should present it.
    And “we need God therefore he exists” is not valid logic.

    And Buddha found a solution that did not require pretending that God exists.

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  10. Hi buttershug,

    See my comment to Neil just above yours.

    Cheers,

    Chris

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  11. Hi, Chris:

    There was some further discourse that is not referenced in the OP

    Yes, there was – feel free to quote it as necessary!

    So, on the subject of atheism offering a meaning to life, here we go:

    I highlighted the fact that there is a lot of darkness in human existence: some people experience much more misery than joy throughout their tragic lives. It seemed that you agreed with me when you said:

    “So yes, there is plenty of darkness, suffering and despair. I don’t have a solution. And I don’t think an afterlife provides one, either.”

    So I said,

    “…then you are agreeing with me that the atheistic worldview – complete with its indifferent universe and inevitable oblivion – cannot provide any sort of motivation, hope, purpose or meaning to tragic, miserable people (of which, there are, and has been, plenty).”

    But, then you returned to an atheistic solution after all:

    “If a person is tragic and miserable, what might be able to do to give them hope and joy will, in part, depend on why they are tragic and miserable. And I’ve known tragic and miserable atheists – tragic because of a personal bereavement, and miserable because of fallout from that bereavement – who have indeed been helped – by other atheists – to recover motivation, hope and purpose.”

    Now that’s all fine and well, Lizzie. I accept that sometimes miserable atheists can indeed get by with a little help from their friends, even just their atheistic friends! But, you must also agree that, for one reason or another many miserable people – be they believers or atheists – don’t get the help they need and could consider themselves lucky when there are brief spells in their life where it is just about tolerable.

    Yes, indeed.

    So, in the absence of help from others, can an atheist consult his own worldview and draw comfort from it? Or even just a single good reason to delay his inevitable oblivion any longer? Because I put it to you, Lizzie, that atheism leaves us empty. That’s alright when life is full of pleasing distractions to fill the emptiness or, as David Berlinski puts it, when we “snore on the down of plenty”. But when existence itself is a source of misery, the rational atheist should merely give up: stay in bed all day, escape from reality with the help of booze and drugs or even just end it all with a one-way ticket to the nearest railway line.

    That conclusion is unavoidable if the atheistic worldview is true.

    I just don’t get this, Chris. Are you saying that if you took two equally isolated people, with an equally miserable lot (pain, poverty, whatever), the atheist would have less reason to continue with life than the theist?

    Why? The atheist knows she only has this life, and if she ends it, that’s it. The theist knows that however miserable this life is, the next one should be better.

    Who has the biggest incentive to leave early?

    Now, because the answer to my question is self-evidently the second, I must be missing a key point 🙂 And I suspect it lies in your postulate that ” that atheism leaves us empty”, and I’m sure you believe it. But you have not explicitly supported it 🙂 Perhaps because you look at the space God occupies in your own life, and cannot imagine that the hole it would leave if you lost your God is not an equally large hole in the lives of those who have. And all I can say from the other side of the fence is that removing God from the God-space simply removes a slighly awkward wrapper from something that remains firmly present. In other words, I put it to you, that the thing that occupies the God space in your life, is largely something that the rest of us have as well, it’s just that you’ve modeled it as a thing called God. We model it as a composite of other things with the same properties.

    The biggest difference, I suggest, is not between those who believe in God and those who do not, but those who believe in an afterlife and those who do not (obviously the two are highly correlated, but my point is that it’s the afterlife bit that makes the difference). And, if anything, I’d say that atheists have more incentive to make the most of the life they have, than theists who know they have another one to look forward to.

    If not, why not?

    Cheers

    Lizzie

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  12. In the meantime, do you agree with my conclusion about atheistic meaning or not?

    No, I don’t agree.

    I do not claim that atheism provides meaning. I equally deny that theism provides meaning. I see meaning as arising out of our biology.

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  13. Interesting point about Buddha.

    As I understand it, Buddhists have an afterlife but no god. I seem to have a god but no afterlife 🙂

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  14. In the absence of any substantiation, I’m going to take that as very reluctant agreement, Neil.

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  15. Yes, and I’ll even give all three of the karma-believing atheists who are looking forward to reincarnation and eventually becoming devas an exemption from this conclusion 😉

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  16. Let’s forget about theists just now and concentrate on atheists. After all, if we want to learn about the consequences of atheism we should assume that the atheistic worldview is true (meaning theism is false). So, comparisons are irrelevant.

    The point is this: when oblivion becomes more appealing than sober miserable consciousness, the atheistic worldview offers nothing. Because, to such tragic people, if this is your one and only life, it’s not a life worth living so you can stick it where the sun don’t shine. Feeling and knowing absolutely nothing is preferable to feeling pain and knowing there’s no point in it.

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  17. I wrote one reply to you, deleted it, then another, and a downtime ate it!

    So let me try to reconstruct it:

    A light finally went on in my head, and I think I understand what you have been getting at. But I’m to struggle to articulate it without comparison with theism! So please bear with me.

    I think what you are saying might be this:

    Let’s say a theist has an utterly miserable life. However that theist knows that her life has a purpose, and that for some reason, and that purpose is good. So despite the misery, she struggles on, knowing that it is worth it, that although she can’t see the benefit, she has faith that somehow her suffering is part of some greater noble purpose.

    Now take her twin, an atheist. Same utterly miserable life. But being an atheist, she knows that there is absolutely no point to this suffering, and absolutely no reason to prolong it. So she ends it now.

    That wasn’t quite how I put it before, so it’s a bit stark, but is that the sort of thing you are getting at? Why should a miserable atheist continue, having no faith that her suffering serves any purpose other than making her miserable?

    I’ll wait for your reply before I continue!

    (Edited to fix sillies)

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  18. You’re making the assumption that providing “motivation, hope, purpose or meaning” is part of the job of a “worldview”. I think that’s one of those priors that we are asked to park at the door. 😉

    Could you elaborate on why you make so many objections every time someone brings up theism for comparison in this context? Atheism doesn’t exist in a vacuum. How can it reasonably be discussed at all without making comparisons to theism?

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  19. I agree Brother Daniel. Religions may provide meaning, purpose, etc. for their adherents. Atheism is not a religion, and it does not provide meaning and purpose, and that is not a “failure” of atheism. Atheists have to get those somewhere else. And they generally do.

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  20. When you’re alive there’s usually, though not always, options, if not now then maybe a little ways down the road. When you’re dead, there’s none. It’s a bit like Clint Eastwood’s lines in The Outlaw Josey Wales:

    Now remember, when things look bad and it looks like you’re not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean. I mean plumb, mad-dog mean. ‘Cause if you lose your head and you give up then you neither live nor win. That’s just the way it is.

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  21. 1. Why should… a miserable atheist bother with life at all?

    If the afterlife is so much better than this one, why should the theist bother with this one at all?

    As for the theist’s claims to the moral high ground, they run straight into the Euthyphro Dilemma.

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  22. Firstly, Lizzie, congratulations on the new web site. I’ve admired your posts on UD for a while now, so this is a welcome addition.

    I’ll try and respond to Chris too if I may. Yes, it’s true the atheistic “worldview” does not offer much in the way of purpose or meaning. But then who said it was supposed to (and that’s assuming there is even such a thing as an atheistic “worldview” exists). My atheism informs me very little about my career, my politics, my hobbies, my relationships. All of the worldviews that govern these parts of my life do not come from my atheism. Although I admit I do have more atheistic friends than Christians!

    For me, when I left Christianity, and realized I had no “God” to rely on, it became quite apparent that I really did have to create my own meaning, my own purpose – or if you like my own overarching “myth” that governs my life. As such I have goals and plans for what I want to do with the rest of my life. Of course the difference now is that *I* am solely responsible for them myself. You could say I substituted one “myth” (the Christian one) for one of my own making. And naturally the one of my making doesn’t have much in the way of doctrine, theology or holy books.

    And I appreciate that for some this transition could be a difficult one and some may not be able to reconstruct this “myth” for their lives. Perhaps they would be more comfortable with a more structured belief system. Probably for somebody like that I would encourage them to seek out some form of “spirituality” – maybe Buddhism, Unitarianism, or some non-dogmatic spiritual practice that can provide that structure. In fact I did so myself for 3-4 years after leaving Christianity, but eventually realized that I was really more comfortable forging my own philosophy of life.

    Personally, it’s been incredibly freeing and wonderfully liberating that I have to take control of my own destiny and there is no “god” out there to turn to. That may same despairing to a theist who of course wants to “trust and obey” but has probably brought me the most joy in my life (and honestly beyond what I ever knew as a Christian).

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  23. Totally agree. I build my “worldview” from a wide mixture of modern science, philosophy, psychology, human rights, literature, history, art, music, relationships, travel, work and more.

    My worldview used to be based more-or-less solely on the rather contradictory words of a set of books of unclear provenance and authorship written over 2000 years ago, and whoever the authors were did not have access to the richness and wealth of knowledge that we now enjoy.

    So is it any wonder that I find my new worldview more enriching and rewarding than the old one?

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  24. And “we need God therefore he exists” is not valid logic.

    Indeed. As one who never felt the need to believe so tend to find the various religious dogmas I come across appear to me as human constructs, I find it impossible to comprehend how Dr. Liddle could be drawn to a religious faith for a half-century. I have often wondered if there is a genetic element in the propensity to religious belief.

    @ Chris Doyle

    You seem to know a lot about atheists. How have you formed your opinion?

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  25. I disagree that atheism provides meaning too. It’s like saying that because it is a sunny day outside everybody should be happy, or if it’s rainy and sunny everybody must be sad.

    Again the difference is that for a theist their belief system and meaning is all nicely packaged (and usually includes a belief in the afterlife), whereas atheism is essentially a blank slate. But even for theists that is no guarantee of a happy and meaningful life – I have known many, many Christians who lived unhappy and purposeless lives (and spent considerable amount of time and energy trying to discover “God’s will” without any success). And the hope of an afterlife did nothing to assuage their existentialist anxiety and misery. Perhaps it’s because evidence for a afterlife does not really exist? (other than what’s written down in a book). I don’t know.

    Sure, I would love to believe in an afterlife. I would love to know I’m going to persist. But I cannot in all truth and honesty find any evidence for this. Whether I like it or not then, I have no choice but to find meaning and hope and love and joy all in this single life that has presented itself to me. That’s not such a bad thing.

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  26. Hello Elizabeth, I have a question: If “priors” are to be left at the door, then why are chris doyle’s priors a topic of discussion here?

    And since his priors are the topic of discussion, I have some comments about them:

    chris doyle, like other theists, is being presumptuous and sanctimonious by claiming that atheists are miserable and have no purpose in life. Life is what occurs when one is alive, and atheists are concerned with what they do in life, not what might happen in an afterlife.

    Religious people, like doyle, are the ones who adjust their morals in life, because they believe that they can get away with anything and be forgiven and still get into ‘heaven’. Just consider all of the murderers and other criminals in prison who have ‘found god’, and all the ones who were already god believers when they committed their crimes. Religions like christianity give bad people a way out of their bad-ness, and religions like christianity give people an excuse (the fall/original sin) for their bad behavior. Religions like christianity say that everyone is a sinner, and that the only way to salvation is through the christian god. Yeah, the christian god who destroys or wants to destroy anyone (or their kin) who doesn’t obey his every command. He even destroys trees just for kicks.

    chris doyle doesn’t have a clue about atheists. He ASSUMES that atheists are miserable and that he has the key to happiness, but it’s obvious to me that doyle is the miserable one. He can’t stand the thought that people who don’t believe in his chosen god can be and are just as happy as anyone who does believe in his chosen god. In fact, I would say that atheists can be and usually are happier than religious people because they aren’t worried about the threats of punishment, during life or after it, from some imaginary, ruthless, demanding, jealous god.

    Think about an abused child. The child would be miserable and constantly afraid of their abuser. They would fear the punishment that could come at any time if they don’t obey their abuser’s every command. When the child grows up and moves out or otherwise gets away from their abuser, they would be a LOT happier.

    Now imagine an abuser that can allegedly see whatever you’re doing and thinking at all times. I can’t imagine anything more miserable than believing that the monstrous god of the bible is watching my every action and thought and is just looking for any lame excuse to punish me in some horrible way, during life and/or after it.

    Just by reading what doyle and his fellow religious zealots write, I can easily say that I’m WAY happier than he and they will ever be. I don’t tolerate abuse from anyone, or from any alleged god, and I’m not at all worried about what will happen to me after I die. I live in this life and I’m concerned about this life. I know people who are very religious and they are all constantly worried about things over which they have no control, and are imaginary. When there isn’t anything real to worry about they make up something to worry about. Fear and worry control their thoughts. To them, everything is doom and gloom. Misery, to them, is the self-imposed way of life.

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  27. chris doyle said:

    “The point is this: when oblivion becomes more appealing than sober miserable consciousness, the atheistic worldview offers nothing. Because, to such tragic people, if this is your one and only life, it’s not a life worth living so you can stick it where the sun don’t shine. Feeling and knowing absolutely nothing is preferable to feeling pain and knowing there’s no point in it.”

    So, what is the “point”? Is it that “God” likes to see people suffer, but he might get around to doing something nice for them after they die as long as they willingly suffer at god’s hands while they’re alive in the hope that god might be nice to them later? What a screwed up belief system.

    Instead of trying to get people who may be “miserable” or “tragic” to turn to some imaginary god, you should be encouraging them to seek out people who care, and to do something worthwhile and real that will make them feel better in THIS life.

    You obviously believe that all atheists are miserable and tragic. Your delusional arrogance is what is tragic, and your existence must be miserable.

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  28. Hello Lizzie,

    It’s been a good start so far, don’t you think? The way things are looking right now, there’s a possibility that I will become to The Skeptical Zone, what you have become to Uncommon Descent! If I can follow your example, I’ll be doing well.

    Right then, onto your question. Is the sort of thing I’m getting at this:

    Why should a miserable atheist continue, having no faith that her suffering serves any purpose other than making her miserable?

    Yes, we’re getting there. But I wouldn’t want to place emphasis on the need to find a purpose for her suffering. It is simpler than that. She merely needs to reflect, that her life is basically miserable, she can’t stand it and the only relief she gets is when she sleeps. So why not end it all now? Oblivion will be bliss.

    Suicide isn’t necessarily the first option. Depending on the circumstances, giving up on life can involve other options, such as getting wasted every day or locking yourself in your bedroom to escape from the world. But, yes, eventually, a miserable atheist has to look at her life and wonder why she is bothering to delay the inevitable oblivion that awaits us all.

    Is that any clearer?

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  29. Well, one of the reasons I started this site is because I know that it is often “impossible to comprehend” how someone else could hold a position.

    And it is hard not to infer willful ignorance, cognitive dissonance, dishonesty, or, simply, stupidity.

    But the curious thing is that exactly the same criticisms turn out, no matter what position is held!

    I put it down to the phenomenon by which faked old masters are very difficult to spot around the time of their fabrication, but become dead obvious after a decade or two. What was invisible at the time, because universal, and therefore discounted, now stands out, because canons of beauty have moved on.

    I watched Dr Zhivago the other night. Being a child of the sixties (well, a teenager, which was even better) I loved the film at the time, and went out and bought a Zhivago coat and imagined I was Julie Christie in early 20th Russia.

    But now it looks quintessential sixties.

    What I mean is – our own unchallenged assumptions are invisible to us, but visible to others who do not share them.

    I’m curious about what Chris’s are. I’m also curious about what mine are 🙂

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  30. Yes, I think Chris does make a lot of assumptions. But then I’d say so are you 🙂

    I mean, I mostly see where you are coming. I find it hard to understand where he’s coming from.

    But when I said “Park your priors at the door” (I may end up changing that, if it gets interpreted in some sense other than the sense I intended it) I guess I really meant – try to come here prepared to have your priors adjusted, and don’t assume things about other people – at least personally – without trying to check them first.

    So your assumption (and it is one) that “chris doyle, like other theists, is being presumptuous and sanctimonious by claiming that atheists are miserable and have no purpose in life” is also a prior.

    There are other possibilities. He may not be claiming that (actually, I don’t think he is – he’s asking what happens when atheists become miserable, not assuming that they are), and he may not even be being “sanctimonious”, whatever that means.

    Anyway: as I said, there are loads of sites where people can take potshots at theists, and where theists can take pot shots at atheists. I actually think that’s just fine, and I’m very grateful for the time I spent at IIDB, being pot-shotted at, until a giddy day when I suddenly saw something different.

    And I guess there are many Christians around who are grateful to those who persuaded them that atheists were wrong.

    So I don’t mean to be sanctimonious when I say: this place isn’t for that kind of discussion. It’s just that I think there is a shortage, on the net, of forums where people can actually expose their own assumptions to challenge, and try to find out what it really is that makes one set of people think another set is “obviously wrong” – and vice versa!

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  31. Clearer, perhaps, but more puzzling. An atheist doesn’t believe that “oblivion will be bliss”. An atheist believes that “oblivion is oblivion”.

    Again, what seems “obvious” to me (but obviously not “obvious” to you :)) is that if you think you’ve only got one life, the incentive to value it, and get the best out of it, and if it sucks right now, all the more reason to grit your teeth until the sucky part is over, and get your life’s worth out of the next part.

    Can you explain why this isn’t “obvious” to you? 🙂

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  32. Greetings Woodford,

    Nice to meet you. I used to live around the corner from South Woodford… just in case that means anything to you!

    First of all, I’m glad you agree that “it’s true the atheistic “worldview” does not offer much in the way of purpose or meaning.” This was the point I was trying to make to Lizzie originally over on Uncommon Descent.

    You then suggest that it is nonetheless possible to embrace the atheistic worldview and “create my own meaning, my own purpose – or if you like my own overarching “myth” that governs my life.”

    I agree that this is possible. I would even go as far as saying that all the happy atheists in this world – those who have material comfort and a support network of genuine, loving family and friend – needn’t even bother with meaning or purpose. Lizzie made this point too by saying that atheists are like otters.

    But the problem is this. There is lot of darkness and suffering in the world that comes in all shapes and sizes. The tragic people that lead such miserable lives can only dream of living like an otter or having the freedom and opportunity to create their own meaning and purpose. They are haunted by such dreams in fact! These are the people I’m concerned with. I’m specifically concerned with the atheists who sadly fall into this category.

    So tell me, Woodford, given that the atheistic worldview “does not offer much in the way of purpose or meaning”, why do you think such tragic atheists should bother to prolong their miserable existence, just to put off the blissful peace of oblivion?

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  33. Yes, because when it seems like your only choice is pain or oblivion, then the rational choice is oblivion.

    There are many circumstances in life in which we try to relieve the pain with oblivion, albeit temporary oblivion. For example, depressed people often sleep for longer. Sleep is like oblivion. Miserable people often try to drink themselves into oblivion (certainly, the more you drink, the better you feel!) In desperate circumstances, people want to be knocked out rather than be conscious when there leg is being hacked off without anaesthetic.

    So, if a miserable atheist believes that they have the opportunity or capability (even if that’s not true) to grit their teeth and bear it until live becomes worth living again, then there is at least a reason to carry on. But in fact, even if a miserable atheist believes that there will be joy in the future, they might consider that the suffering they must endure until then is frankly not worth it. However, if a miserable atheist is overcome with hopelessness and can see no way out (even if that’s not true) then there is no reason to carry on. If they’re convinced that they must suffer until the day they die, then the sooner that day comes, the better.

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  34. But the problem is this. There is lot of darkness and suffering in the world that comes in all shapes and sizes.

    While I agree that there is a lot of suffering, I think we need to be careful in making such an assessment. There are people who have birth defects, live in poverty, yet seem to live reasonably happy lives. It sometimes seems that our biology leads us to make the best of the kind of life that is available to us, and to get joy and fulfillment from doing that. And, conversely, some people who are well off are nevertheless bored and miserable.

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  35. Given that convinced atheists strongly believe that the atheistic worldview is true, which means they strongly believe that all theology is man-made myth, then, if we are assuming that the atheistic worldview is true, it is important to concentrate solely on atheism because theism can shed no light on atheism whatsoever.

    Additionally, it is too tempting for atheists to change the subject to religion whenever we close in on uncomfortable but unavoidable conclusions that we must draw from atheism. I think it is very important that we all concentrate solely on those uncomfortable and unavoidable conclusions so that as many atheists as possible truly understand what it is that they believe.

    If the uncomfortable and unavoidable conclusion of atheism is that existence is meaningless, then what reason can a miserable atheist have to prolong their meaningless existence? Why delay the inevitable oblivion any longer than necessary?

    See you in another life, Brother (Daniel) 😉

    [a reference to ‘Lost’, for the uninitiated]

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  36. “Somewhere else”, Walter KL? Where does the miserable atheist get their meaning and purpose from?

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  37. Sounds like you have a very rich and rewarding life, Woodford. It also sounds like you might also be letting religion in through the back door and you know that’s not allowed!

    Sadly, not everyone leads such a rich and rewarding life.

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  38. That is exactly what “(it) comes in all shapes and sizes.”

    I totally agree that there are people in the world who have every reason to be miserable but actually don’t feel miserable at all (not sure how many of them are atheists though). On the other hand, there are many people in the world who have no reason to be miserable but hate their lives nonetheless.

    But that just adds another category to miserable atheists: you’ve got those who have every reason to feel miserable… and do. Then you’ve got those who have no reason to feel miserable… but still do.

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  39. Sorry, I omitted the word ‘means’ from the first sentence which should have read:

    That is exactly what “(it) comes in all shapes and sizes” means.

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  40. It seems to me that you, Chris, would have the most wretchedly miserable, sick, agonised individual struggle on in pain and misery until a deity took pity on them and translated them to heaven. Speaking for myself, I find no particular problem if that individual should choose suicide. Tragic it would be, and devastating for family and friends left behind, certainly a failure of society if no help had been available, but what meaning does continued suffering of that desperate sort have? What purpose?
    I know that some religious people believe that such profound suffering somehow glorifies god. That’s sickening. For an omnipotent and “loving” being to CHOOSE not to relieve prolonged agony is truly abominable.
    As an atheist I am perfectly content that my life has no “meaning” in a pitiless cosmos. My joy is that my life has VALUE to my family, my friends, and in smaller degree to colleagues and community.I know this because it’s demonstrated in countless tiny ways every day in normal routine human interactions. Their lives have concomitant value to me. I have boundless pity for the misery of anyone who truly believes their life has no such value, who experiences no such demonstrations – not even from the local deity – , and would not blame them in the least for choosing not to continue.
    The only compassion there is in this world comes from people. If gods exist, they are not of this world and can’t “do” compassion where it counts.

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  41. Chris Doyle: Nice to meet you. I used to live around the corner from South Woodford… just in case that means anything to you!

    Hi Chris,

    Yes, if it’s the South Woodford that’s on the Central Line, then I grew up just around the corner too. I live in the USA nowadays but still go back to visit family there. Nice to “meet” you too.

    Let’s get to your question

    So tell me, Woodford, given that the atheistic worldview “does not offer much in the way of purpose or meaning”, why do you think such tragic atheists should bother to prolong their miserable existence, just to put off the blissful peace of oblivion?

    I guess my first reaction to the question is to ponder and ask “are there more tragic atheists in the world, then say tragic Christians, tragic Sufis, tragic Scientologists?” I really don’t know if there is a larger percentage of the Atheist population that has existentialist despair than others. I do know from my own experience as a former Christian, I did meet some quite unhappy Christians (including one who tried to throw himself in front of a tube line because he doubted his salvation). And in their cases, even the hope of eternal life did little to deal with their unhappiness.

    Of course some people, regardless of faith, just have nasty lives – if you live in Somalia and you are starving, perhaps is of help, but it is thin gruel compared to actual physical sustenance. And of course there are many, many people in all walks of lives (and income levels) who suffer from depression, again regardless of their faith.

    I suppose in the hypothetical situation you described I would do my best to help the person understand that life can be worth just for the sake of it, that whatever their circumstances, there is always that something could change. But of course, I know, for many it doesn’t, and sadly many people in this world live short hard hungry lives without knowing any of what we enjoy in the West. So honestly, I don’t think I have a simple “do this” kind of answer, because I think it is a difficult problem. But then atheism is simply a tool to understand what the world really is (or isn’t) and doesn’t or shouldn’t pretend to have all the answers. I do know that humans are capable of compassion, making amazing sacrifices, love, charity – and that this can be done just as effectively without any religious system as a foundation.

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  42. Yes, I think Chris does make a lot of assumptions. But then I’d say so are you 🙂

    I’m going by what doyle said.

    I mean, I mostly see where you are coming. I find it hard to understand where he’s coming from.

    As a former theist, I would think that you would understand where he’s coming from but not necessarily agree with him.

    But when I said “Park your priors at the door” (I may end up changing that, if it gets interpreted in some sense other than the sense I intended it) I guess I really meant – try to come here prepared to have your priors adjusted, and don’t assume things about other people – at least personally – without trying to check them first.,

    Then I don’t understand why you let doyle assume negative, personal things about atheists and I don’t understand why you would think that he could possibly be willing to adjust his priors. He’s only here to preach and proselytize, and talk down to anyone who doesn’t worship him and his chosen god. Surely you’ve seen his behavior on UD and Mark Frank’s blog?

    So your assumption (and it is one) that “chris doyle, like other theists, is being presumptuous and sanctimonious by claiming that atheists are miserable and have no purpose in life” is also a prior.

    Everything he has said is presumptuous and sanctimonious, and personally denigrating to atheists. It’s just his usual shtick.

    There are other possibilities. He may not be claiming that (actually, I don’t think he is – he’s asking what happens when atheists become miserable, not assuming that they are), and he may not even be being “sanctimonious”, whatever that means.

    sanc·ti·mo·ni·ous/ˌsaNG(k)təˈmōnēəs/
    Adjective: Making a show of being morally superior to other people.

    That describes doyle and most or all other religious zealots, and that isn’t an assumption. It’s a fact.

    Anyway: as I said, there are loads of sites where people can take potshots at theists, and where theists can take pot shots at atheists. I actually think that’s just fine, and I’m very grateful for the time I spent at IIDB, being pot-shotted at, until a giddy day when I suddenly saw something different.

    Well, doyle is taking his usual pot-shots at atheists.

    And I guess there are many Christians around who are grateful to those who persuaded them that atheists were wrong.

    christians and other religious people are already convinced that atheists are wrong, and evil too.

    So I don’t mean to be sanctimonious when I say: this place isn’t for that kind of discussion. It’s just that I think there is a shortage, on the net, of forums where people can actually expose their own assumptions to challenge, and try to find out what it really is that makes one set of people think another set is “obviously wrong” – and vice versa!

    The why did you bring up what doyle said on UD about atheists and why are you allowing him to post an article that brings up exactly that kind of “discussion”? And how is anyone supposed to challenge him and his assumptions if they can’t respond to the “discussion” that he (or you) brought up?

    When I first saw that you were going to start a blog I thought it would be a place where people could discuss science and reality, and not have to tolerate preaching, proselytizing, and condemnation of science, scientists, science supporters, Darwin, “Darwinism”, “Darwinists”, naturalists, materialists, agnostics, atheists, and atheism. I thought that it would be a place where ID/creation proponents could be challenged and exposed for their usual evasion, lies, false accusations, and all the other games they play on UD and elsewhere, without fear of moderation/banning. Apparently I was wrong.

    You can, of course, allow or disallow whatever you want here but don’t be surprised if or when some people don’t like being condemned for being atheists, agnostics, “Darwinists”, scientists, science supporters, etc., or for not being an ID-ist/creationist.

    Keep in mind that I didn’t start any of the topics or discussions here. I’m responding to them. Don’t blame me for standing up to sanctimonious, phony jerks who think that they know everything and are the arbiters of all that is good or bad. If you allow people to throw religious crap here, some people are going to throw it back.

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  43. Chris Doyle:
    Given that convinced atheists strongly believe that the atheistic worldview is true, which means they strongly believe that all theology is man-made myth, then, if we are assuming that the atheistic worldview is true, it is important to concentrate solely on atheism because theism can shed no light on atheism whatsoever.

    Additionally, it is too tempting for atheists to change the subject to religion whenever we close in on uncomfortable but unavoidable conclusions that we must draw from atheism. I think it is very important that we all concentrate solely on those uncomfortable and unavoidable conclusions so that as many atheists as possible truly understand what it is that they believe.

    Do you ever stop playing games? Bringing up theism and religion is what you did, indirectly, by bringing up atheism. No one is changing the subject. You are trying to limit the subject so that you can just continue to bash atheists.

    “uncomfortable but unavoidable conclusions that we must draw from atheism”? No, they’re your sanctimonious, ridiculous assumptions. And who’s “we”?

    “what it is that they believe”? Do you believe that romcooties exist or don’t exist? Have you ever heard of romcooties? Do you care one way or another about romcooties? If I said that romcooties do exist, and that all morals are created by and derived from them, and that your not knowing about or caring about or believing in or worshiping them is your belief system, and that you’re an aromcootie-ist with no moral foundation and no reason to live, would you agree?

    If the uncomfortable and unavoidable conclusion of atheism is that existence is meaningless, then what reason can a miserable atheist have to prolong their meaningless existence? Why delay the inevitable oblivion any longer than necessary?

    Are you encouraging atheists to kill themselves? And where do you get the insane idea that existence is meaningless? I’m sure that this will be a shock to you but life, the life we live now, is a LOT more meaningful than some imaginary fairy tale afterlife. You’re the one who believes that your existence now is essentially meaningless, and is only a precursor to your imaginary afterlife, which of course, in your delusional mind, is what really counts. You’re just being ‘tested’ in this life by your chosen god, and if you pass the tests, you get the prize, right?

    See you in another life, Brother (Daniel)

    [a reference to ‘Lost’, for the uninitiated]

    You’re right about one thing, “theism can shed no light on atheism whatsoever”.

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  44. OK, seems like I have to make the rules here more specific 🙂

    I’ll write them up later, but in the mean time:

    Please make the assumption, however unwarranted you may personally consider it, that other people are posting in good faith. Think of this site as a game, where the object is to address your arguments solely to the content of the post you are responding to, not against any unstated position you think the poster may hold.

    If you don’t enjoy this particular game, that’s fine, but that’s the game we are playing here 🙂

    Later today I’ll make a more explicit rule list, and I’ll also start a guano page where I will move any posts that seem to me to break the game rules. Don’t be offended if your post ends up there; guano is useful stuff.

    It’s just that I don’t want it messing up the game, because there aren’t many places where this particular game can be played.

    You won’t be able to comment here about the guano, but you are welcome to do it elsewhere 🙂 We can probably do quite well from guano export. In other words, don’t worry about losing posting rights here just because you are participating in a peanut gallery elsewhere. Just keep it elsewhere.

    Cheers

    Lizzie

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  45. the whole truth:

    When I first saw that you were going to start a blog I thought it would be a place where people could discuss science and reality, and not have to tolerate preaching, proselytizing, and condemnation of science, scientists, science supporters, Darwin, “Darwinism”, “Darwinists”, naturalists, materialists, agnostics, atheists, and atheism. I thought that it would be a place where ID/creation proponents could be challenged and exposed for their usual evasion, lies, false accusations, and all the other games they play on UD and elsewhere, without fear of moderation/banning. Apparently I was wrong.

    My intention is that it will be a place where ideas can be challenged, and flaws in arguments exposed. It is not my intention that it will be a place where people’s personal integrity is called into question. There are plenty of places where that can be done freely, including some listed on my blogroll.

    It is my experience that one problem with such forums is that positions rapidly become so polarised and so emotionally held, that reasoned debate becomes very difficult, and those in the minority (whichever it is) simply take their bats home.

    Or their penguins. Whatever.

    So this one is supposed to be different. Not better, just different. And possibly unique.

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  46. “It is not my intention that it will be a place where people’s personal integrity is called into question.”

    But that is exactly what happens when religious people, like chris doyle, denigrate others for not having the same religious beliefs as they do. Saying or implying that atheists are amoral or immoral, and saying or implying that the ‘existence’ of atheists is a waste, and saying or implying that atheists have no foundation for morality, and saying or implying that atheists just do whatever bad things they want to do with no regard for others, and saying or implying that atheists might as well just kill themselves, is an attack on the personal integrity of atheists.

    People like doyle start with the premise that they’re superior to atheists, and act accordingly.

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  47. It is still an interesting question, even if posed by a xtian.
    I tend to look a bit to Buddhist thought.
    And I’ve never understood Buddhist reincarnation.
    How can that happen if there is no personal survival?

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  48. if we are assuming that the atheistic worldview is true, it is important to concentrate solely on atheism because theism can shed no light on atheism whatsoever.

    You can’t bring up atheism without implicitly bringing up theism.

    If you present something that (you say) follows from atheistic premises, and one of your interlocutors here argues that the same conclusion follows equally well from theistic premises, then it’s simply cheating to dismiss their objection as off-topic.

    Additionally, it is too tempting for atheists to change the subject to religion whenever we close in on uncomfortable but unavoidable conclusions that we must draw from atheism.

    Sounds like a strawman to me. In any case, perhaps you should wait for it to happen before objecting to it, instead of trying to impose arbitrary constraints on the flow of the conversation in order to prevent it.

    I think it is very important that we all concentrate solely on those uncomfortable and unavoidable conclusions so that as many atheists as possible truly understand what it is that they believe.

    I hope you’re open to the possibility that your understanding of what atheists believe, rather than the atheists’ own understanding of what they believe, is faulty.

    If the uncomfortable and unavoidable conclusion of atheism is that existence is meaningless,

    It seems to me that the claim “existence is meaningless” is meaningless, except perhaps in a poetic, figurative sense.

    then what reason can a miserable atheist have to prolong their meaningless existence?

    Are you presuming that no one should ever do anything that they don’t have a knock-down philosophical reason to do? If so, you could simply turn your question around: What reason does anyone have to kill themselves (or do whatever the opposite of “prolong their existence” is in this context)? You haven’t provided one, let alone one that follows specifically from atheistic premises.

    But if you’re not making that presumption, then what reason do you have to attribute any relevance to your question?

    Why delay the inevitable oblivion any longer than necessary?

    Why not?

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