Hopefully soon, I’ll have an email debate between myself and fellow blogger, Lyle Duell, who recently wrote two scathing pieces against atheists, particularly the ‘New Atheists’. We’re still working out the ground rules for the debate, as well as the topic, but I’m very much looking forward to further discussions with Lyle. We will be publishing the results on our blogs.
In the meantime, he asked me to respond to one of his blog posts and I’ve chosen his most recent one, ‘The Amazing New Atheists‘.
He starts off with:
I am truly amazed at people that claim they are atheist and then spent a great deal of their time talking about or even arguing about transcendental concepts like love, justices and truth. Well, not so much about love, but a lot about truth and morality. If there is no God, are these concept not just empty expressions?
Not sure why it amazes him, since we’re all human and it would make sense that we’d all be concerned with such topics, since they partially define what it means to be human.
I don’t know why without God such concepts would be empty expressions. I spend a great deal of my time thinking about ethics. What’s truly amazing to me is that people think they need this god in order to ponder these concepts, especially since holy books often carry with them all sorts of bigotry, superstition and violence. As a society, we’ve outgrown many of these concepts, such as sorcery, which can be easily found in the bible:
2 Chronicles 33:6, He sacrificed his children in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced divination and witchcraft, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, arousing his anger.
When I ponder a moral or ethical question, I do so using reason and rationality. True, some questions are harder than others.
For example, I recently wrote a post about whether we should allow people (even depressed ones) to commit suicide. There may not be a good (or perfect) answer to that question, but there are certainly wrong answers, such as just killing people if they’re suffering from a mental illness. Or judging people to have a mental illness as having demons inside them, such as you’d find in the bible:
That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. – Matthew 8:16
Very few people would say killing anyone who had a mental illness or pronouncing that all such people were demon possessed would be a good answer to the dilemma of whether or not we should prevent people from committing suicide. We may not have the perfect answer, but we know there are a number of wrong answers.
However, as shown above, we could make the case for demon possession by using the bible.
When I was contemplating the ethics behind eating meat, I looked at it from as many angles as possible. For example:
- Can animals suffer and feel pain (answer is yes)
- I watched several documentaries on farming and raising livestock (animals are treated horrendously)
- Can I supplement the nutritional value I get from meat using plant based products? (answer is yes)
- Was I eating meat because it was socially acceptable or because I really needed to eat meat (answer being I don’t need to eat meat)
- Statistics on how many animals were slaughtered per year and was it necessary (a lot of animals killed)
And so forth. I looked at the problem for some time before finally deciding to become a vegetarian. I didn’t consult an ancient book of superstition. I used reason and rationality to make the best decision for me. I saw no reason why I should be eating meat, and I realized I did it mostly because my culture reinforced the idea that eating meat was good. Even now I get made fun of for not eating meat, but because I took the time to explore the subject, it doesn’t bother me at all because I feel I made the best choice (for me) that I could. I’m comfortable with my choice and it boiled down to causing the least amount of harm or suffering. I feel a vegetarian lifestyle best serves that goal of causing the least amount of suffering.
I understand that morality and ethics isn’t easy, but that doesn’t mean we should consult ancient books of nonsense to make those decisions. In every way, secular morality has outstripped biblical or religious morality.
He then says:
When we are talking about ultimate concepts we are talking about the very foundations of human culture and civilization. To take the idea of a deity or a cosmic order out of the equation would necessitate the complete remaking of everything, our language, our culture, values, civilization and in essences the very way we think about everything.
I don’t see the connection. Why would we have to remake everything just because we didn’t believe in a deity as a species?
I don’t believe in a deity and I can understand our language. I have values. Civilization suits me fine. You might have to remake how you think about things, but as I pointed out above, I’m not sure why that couldn’t be a good thing.
I’m looking at the word count and I will need to create a part 2. This post has already gotten rather lengthy.
If you’re reading this, what do you think about what Lyle has said? Or about what I’ve said?
As always, thank you for reading and comments are always welcome.