Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Do people think atheists are more likely to do evil?

Apparently, even atheists think this. Here. 

26 comments:

Legion of Logic said...

I don't think atheism per se automatically translates into immorality. However, I have yet to see a rational justification for moral outrage from an atheistic standpoint. Antitheists in particular are extremely quick to get outraged at the slightest thing having anything even possibly due to religion, yet turn around and deny that there is in fact an objective measure by which they can judge such things. Sure doesn't stop them, though.

Then again, I'm not sure there are many groups quite as irrational as antitheists. Extreme feminists maybe. Atheism Plus potentially combined the two...*shudder*

B. Prokop said...

It's that little "plus" that's so often the problem. As C.S. Lewis pointed out concerning "Christianity and..." (in The Screwtape Letters), the "and" seems to always outweigh whatever preceded it. Works with atheism, too.

im-skeptical said...

" I have yet to see a rational justification for moral outrage from an atheistic standpoint."

That's not quite correct. You have yet to see a rational justification for moral outrage from an atheistic standpoint that complies with your theistic assumptions of where morality comes from. There are evolutionary explanations of human morality.

B. Prokop said...

"There are evolutionary explanations of human morality."

Exactly. Just as Legion said: no rational justifications.

Chris said...

"There are evolutionary explanations of human morality."

No,there isn't. Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as morality from a naturalistic standpoint. Conventions do not constitute morality.

im-skeptical said...

"No,there isn't. Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as morality from a naturalistic standpoint. Conventions do not constitute morality."

Put down your bible and learn a little science. At least you could step outside your theistic bubble and learn more about the philosophy of ethics and morality. The world is much broader than your theistic bubble would have you believe.

B. Prokop said...

"The world is much broader than your theistic bubble would have you believe."

Au contraire, Bubble Boy. It is the atheist materialist, who mistakenly (and irrationally) regards the observable universe as "all there is" that lives in a bubble. The Christian (I have no idea who is meant by "theist") acknowledges that Creation is a subset of a greater True Reality, which we call Heaven.

And the existence of Heaven can be proven by reason alone.

1. We observe that evil and suffering exist in the observable universe.

2. The existence of evil indicates that something is amiss with the universe (Else why call it "evil"? Just call it "the way things should be").

3. In order for anything to be amiss, broken, bent, flawed, out of order, falling short of perfection (or however you wish to label it), there necessarily must exist a corresponding entity which is not flawed. (No line is crooked except by comparison with a straight line. No machine is out of order, other by by comparing it with one that is fully operational.)

4. Therefore, there necessarily must exist a reality in which there is no evil.

5. We call that perfect reality Heaven.

Legion of Logic said...

"There are evolutionary explanations of human morality."

All so-called "evil" actions and mindsets are equally explained by evolutionary theory. It's not just the good behaviors. Are you really going to attempt to use evolution to justify moral outrage at people who are wired differently than you are?

im-skeptical said...

This argument hinges on the existence of evil. But you have conveniently neglected to provide a definition of evil. Any generally accepted definition of evil involves the concept of morality, which requires a moral agent.

Aside from humans, are there any moral agents in the universe. Most Christians will assert that animals are not moral agents. So despite the fact that animals suffer and cause suffering, they are not moral agents. therefore, they (or their actions) are not evil. Furthermore, God himself is not a moral agent, according to classical theism. So as far as we know, humans are the only source of evil in the universe.

Statement 2 claims that human immorality indicates that something is amiss in the universe. Not so. The existence of human immorality only indicates that humans exhibit a range of behaviors, and those behaviors that are at the fringes of the range are regarded as being deviant from the "normal" behaviors that we see as being "moral". This says nothing at all about whether something is amiss. In fact, it is to be expected. As long as there are ranges of behavior, there are behaviors at the fringes of the range. Therefore, nothing is amiss, as Bob claims. What we observe is just the way the world is.

Statement 3 claims that there must be a standard of perfection against which this deviant behavior must be measured. Well, there is a standard, and that happens to be the center of the range, by definition. Behavior that deviates too far from the center of the range is precisely what we see as evil.

So the implication of a heaven does not follow logically from Bob's argument. But nice try.

B. Prokop said...

Well, Skep. If nothing else, you have effectively de-fanged the so-called "problem of evil" from ever being used by atheists in any argument against the existence of God.

im-skeptical said...

It is important to distinguish between suffering and evil. You may wish to conflate them because you think it helps to confuse the logical issue in your favor. As far as I'm concerned, it is the problem of suffering that provides a convincing argument against God.

Chris said...

Absent a moral ground, strictly speaking, morality doesn't exist. Sorry.

B. Prokop said...

Skep appears to not realize it, but he's backed himself into a corner in which he must give up one of two atheist standards.

Either he must

a) surrender the "argument from evil" to the Christian, or

b) abandon the pretense that atheism is compatible with morality.

You can't have both. He has apparently given up on point a (see his latest posting), which means he can no longer claim that one can still be moral without God. (That is, he cannot without first abandoning reason and logic.)

im-skeptical said...

Chris,

Who says there's no ground for morality?

Bob,

All I reject is the use of the term 'evil' if is is defined in strictly theistic terms. I haven't backed myself into any corner at all. In fact your argument simply begs the question by assuming a theistic explanation of evil.

Dustin Crummett said...

3. In order for anything to be amiss, broken, bent, flawed, out of order, falling short of perfection (or however you wish to label it), there necessarily must exist a corresponding entity which is not flawed. (No line is crooked except by comparison with a straight line. No machine is out of order, other by by comparing it with one that is fully operational.)

Why think that? Perhaps a perfect counterpart must be *possible,* but why think it has to be actual? There are no perfectly straight lines, and its surely possible for all machines to be broken without any properly functioning ones (maybe they were all destroyed in a war. Or maybe we were just really incompetent, and none of our machines ever worked correctly.)

Well, Skep. If nothing else, you have effectively de-fanged the so-called "problem of evil" from ever being used by atheists in any argument against the existence of God.

Presumably, all the argument from evil requires is the claim that these things are evil *if theism is true.*

More generally: why think atheists can't believe in objective morality? Has anyone here actually given an argument for that?

B. Prokop said...

"More generally: why think atheists can't believe in objective morality? Has anyone here actually given an argument for that?"

Dustin,

You have the question backwards. There's no requirement to show that atheists can't believe in objective morality until they first demonstrate that they can. Thus far, they have failed to do so.

As for "why think it has to be actual?", have you never heard of the ontological argument?

im-skeptical said...

"have you never heard of the ontological argument?"

The ontological argument falsely assumes the existence of God.

Victor Reppert said...

There are atheists who believe in objective morality, and actually Sam Harris is one of them. Though I think Erik Wielenberg is the atheist who makes the best case.

http://philpapers.org/archive/WIEIDO.1.pdf

Legion of Logic said...

There is no good naturalistic argument for an objective morality. There simply isn't.

You can't go by evolutionary explanations, because those who deviate and do harmful acts are acting on impulses that are just as natural. And even with that aside, the urge to do a good or bad act is no more imperative than the urge to eat. It can be ignored without being "wrong".

You can't use the standards of society, either, since those standards change. It's not like slavery was once right and now it is wrong. It was always wrong. But how would an atheist show this?

The only possible model of morality for naturalism that I can see would be to build the model based upon an assumed, subjective premise, such as Harris' idea of maximizing well-being for as many as possible. That's fine, but it's not objective, and is still not a basis for justified condemnation against those who deviate.

im-skeptical said...

" That's fine, but it's not objective, and is still not a basis for justified condemnation against those who deviate."

Show me the official set of objective moral standards, as revealed by your religious authority, or whatever authority you choose. People like you keep harping about objective morality, but when it comes down to it, you can't tell me or anyone what those objective standards are, except perhaps in terms of the broadest generalities. You can't even agree between yourselves what they are. So much for your objectivity.

If you observe and measure norms of behavior, at least then you have something objective. And guess what - it does change along with society.

You say slavery is wrong. Sure, bu our current societal standards, it is wrong. But it wasn't wrong in the days of the New Testament, and you won't find anything in the bible that says it is wrong. Had you lived in those days, you attitude about it would not be the same. That's because morality is judged by the standards and norms of your society. Your objective moral facts are nothing but a myth.

B. Prokop said...

"Show me the official set of objective moral standards"

And Moses summoned all Israel, and said to them, "Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I speak in your hearing this day, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. Not with our fathers did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive this day. ... He said:

[1] I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

[2] You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

[3] Observe the sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, or your manservant, or your maidservant, or your ox, or your ass, or any of your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your manservant and your maidservant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out thence with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.

[4] Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you; that your days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with you, in the land which the LORD your God gives you.

[5] You shall not kill.

[6] Neither shall you commit adultery.

[7] Neither shall you steal.

[8] Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor.

[9] Neither shall you covet your neighbor's wife;

[10] and you shall not desire your neighbor's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor's.

Dustin Crummett said...

You have the question backwards. There's no requirement to show that atheists can't believe in objective morality until they first demonstrate that they can. Thus far, they have failed to do so.

Let me try to rephrase: why is there some *special problem* for an atheist who believes in objective morality, that isn't a problem for, you know, theists or Keynesians or Bruins fans? If we start out with the assumption that there's some tight connection between God and morality, it's easy to see why there's this special problem. But what reason have you given for accepting this assumption?

As for "why think it has to be actual?", have you never heard of the ontological argument?

Yes, I've taught it. It's an argument for the existence of God, not heaven or straight lines or functional machines, so its relevance isn't immediately clear to me here. Do you want to just Gaunilo's conclusion and believe in a necessarily existent perfect specimen of every type? Doesn't that seem a little implausible? (And in any event, the version of the argument I assume you're appealing to is invalid--it doesn't follow from the fact that something needs to actually exist in order to satisfy a description that something really does satisfy that description.)

There is no good naturalistic argument for an objective morality. There simply isn't.

You can't go by...


But of course, Wielenberg doesn't go by any of those things.

im-skeptical said...

Bob,

So according to your definitive objective moral code (taken from the bible), slavery is perfectly acceptable. I thought so.

B. Prokop said...

So what?

Legion of Logic said...

You're missing my point, Skep. It's not even about whether I can lay claim, rightly or not, to an objective moral system. My whole point is that, despite the high speed at which many atheists will not only cry foul at common religious beliefs they object to - stance against gay marriage, for example - but will also consider themselves to hold the moral high ground.

And yet, without an objective measure of morality, they literally have zero rational justification for doing so.

Your rebuttal about slavery seems to indicate that you are okay with morality being based on popular opinion of a society (hope you don't consider yourself a so-called Freethinker, basing your beliefs on popular opinion like that). If that is the case, not many years ago Christians were perfectly moral for being against gay marriage. Correct or no?

im-skeptical said...

"but will also consider themselves to hold the moral high ground."

- What on earth makes you think your morality is in any way superior to mine?

"And yet, without an objective measure of morality, they literally have zero rational justification for doing so."

- I have every bit as much justification for my morality as you do.

"you are okay with morality being based on popular opinion of a society"

- It's not a question of what I'm OK with. That's just the way it works.