Friday, March 28, 2008

Are Atheists Evil?

In consideration of this prickly question, Bill Vallicella at Maverick Philosopher poses two preliminary questions:

Q1. Given some agreed-upon moral code, are people who profess some version of theism more 'moral,' i.e., more likely to live in accordance with the agreed-upon code, than those who profess some version of atheism?

Q2. Given some agreed-upon moral code, are atheists justified in adhering to the code?

Visit his blog to see how he answers them in this insightful post.

5 Comments:

Blogger Joel said...

Chris, this post is an interesting one. Saturday morning I spent some time in downtown Iowa City watching a group of theists from Kansas picket the funeral of a family that was murdered this week. Apparently, God hates Iowa because there are gay people here and the murders were God's retribution for Iowa enabling homosexual lifestyles. Their message was pretty hate-filled, and, I would consider evil. I don't think theism has the market cornered on morality or "good."

Questions like these are thought-provoking, but bely one of my personal problems with religion (and atheism, for that matter). I simply don't think the lines can be so clearly demarcated: theism = good and atheism = bad or evil. I work with many atheists who share much of the same moral code I do (and, I hope I am not evil). The difference is the root for this morality. Mine is rooted in the faith tradition in which I was raised and continue to pursue. Their morality is not rooted in my faith tradition. Nonetheless, the outcome is similar. That said, I also know atheists who will point to a religious-based atrocity or injustice and generalize that event or activity to all who are religious.

As a Christian, I sincerely hope people confuse me with my atheist friends that share my values than the "Christians" who used the deaths of a mother, 4 children, and the father who killed them as a platform to spew their hate.

Sorry, for the long comment. I've probably strayed from the central thesis, but I needed to get yesterday off my chest. Seemed like a good forum.

7:50 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Wow. Probably Fred Phelps and his ilk at the funeral. Sad to say they are from Kansas, a state I hold dear. I'm sorry you had to be subjected to that.

I agree that the lines cannot be drawn this way. If there are any lines to be drawn, they should probably be drawn in the shape of a circle around individual persons or around the whole of humanity.

You didn't touch on the the more interesting question, Q2. That is the one that Prof. Vallicella spends more time on in his post.

Always good to have your comments.

4:46 PM  
Blogger Joel said...

It was fred phelps. I just didn't feel like acknowledging his name. I need to re-read the good professor's post a comment germaine to the question.

5:05 PM  
Blogger Joel said...

After re-reading, I don't think my first comment was totally without relevance to Q2, but I'll try to expand it in a lucid manner. In my opinion and experience, I have found several atheists with whom I share an accepted moral code. The root of adherence might differ for each of us, but I am of the opinion that each is justified in our adherence. Part of the fun for me though, is when atheist espouse values that are based on some theistic stance, while in the same breath devaluing the contribution of theistic religion.
My answer is probably based more in opinion than philosophy; feel free to dissect.

5:47 PM  
Blogger  said...

I bought this book just a few days ago. The author has some excellent points, and some terrible points. (ie embryonic stem cell research)

Anyway, Harris' modus tollendo tollens argument doesn't seem to me to have the non sequitur that the "Maverick" claims.

Why not? Because in the "Q1" of his argument, he holds Harris to a supposition that there is an agreed-upon moral code. Not only did Harris never make this claim, but dear goodness there most certainly is not an agreement! The fact that most people find rape, theft and murder to be "wrong" does not mean that we've established what he so neatly sums up as an "agreed-upon code". FAR from it.

The burden of proof in this instance is upon Christians (or the other religions) to affirm that there IS no morality outside their god and his word to them.

Atheists/agnostics have no reason to prove that morality lives outside your rules. The proof is made in Harris' context that atheists live some very moral lives (in the rape, theft, murder-type system)

So the question remains on Christians. Is there no morality outside your rules?

Maverick wants to stick Harris to another claim he never made... that atheists are more moral BECAUSE there's a morality outside Christianity. He doesn't say this.

Again, the burden of the necessity of a "Christian" life lies with the christians, not with us agnostics.

So the question "are atheists evil?" requires that you prove that the only source of morality is god.

10:34 AM  

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