Monday, June 22, 2009

Next up: politics

I have a world view. It's not great on internal consistency but is applied quite consistently, contains a bizarre mix of heavy socialism and ruthless capitalism, is heavily influenced by Christianity but strictly nontheist, rails at the weakness of humans and is staunchly pro-bacon. It doesn't have a name, because it's just mine, so doesn't need branding. I think it's better than any other world view I've encountered. This might sound arrogant, but its not really. If you don't think your world view is the best, why aren't you switching to the best one?

Lots of people's world views are dictated primarily by their religion, which is fine. I'm also willing to admit that from statistical evidence Christianity is a more compelling world view that my own, although with denominations stretching into the thousands it possibly does not provide moral guidance with as much objective clarity as is occasionally advertised. I do not begrudge anyone their right to whatever world view they want, and for the most part they do the same.

I don't mind if religious people think I secretly know God exists but for some perverse reason deny Him. They can hide a patronising pity that I am blind to the presence of the creator (should that be a capital C? I don't know). I'd prefer they didn't evangelise at me too much, I've heard the arguments, I don't agree with them and I don't think repetition is going to make a difference. If they want to disagree with my morals, that's fine, we can argue about it or let it be, either works for me. But if one more religious person tells me I am incapable of having a moral system or behaving morally because I don't believe in God, I am going to... well, probably just get angry again. Seriously though, please stop it. And no, defining a moral system or framework as something which must be set out by a transcendent lawgiver in order to allow for objective descriptions of good and evil does not make you right, it makes you a clumsy sophist.

I will try to avoid serious subjects in the future, but this has been really annoying me for the last few weeks, due to ongoing BBC World Service coverage of the atheist bus and associated religious debate.

1 comment:

  1. There's a lot of misunderstanding and hurt on this topic. I hope you don't mind if I comment with some of my own observations. These are most definitely not delivered with an intent to convert or to patronize.

    1. Biblical teaching

    a) The Biblical teaching on people knowing that God exists comes primarily from Rom 1:18-23. It's very clear.

    b) As part of the same, long argument, Paul then writes to his religious readers, "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things." (Rom 2:1-4)

    c) Again in the same argument, Paul points out that both the religious and the non-religious are capable of behaving morally. (Rom 2:12-16).

    d) The conclusion of the argument is that all are guilty, and that mere religion, even God-sent religion, is not sufficient.

    e) Which means that, yes, traditional Christians do believe that atheists secretly know that God exists. However, they have no right whatsoever to be smug or patronizing about it.

    2. Philosophy

    a) It is a sad truth that many Christians say that atheists are incapable of acting morally. Sorry.

    b) This is a relatively new teaching. Great moral respect for particular pagans is a long-running theme in Christian writings over the last two millena.

    c) It's also demonstrably incorrect.

    d) The source of the fallacy comes from late-19th century and 20th century thinking.

    e) Specifically, the idea is that even though an atheist might have a good, consistent moral framework that they live out with integrity, that framework has no philosophical basis; no justification.

    f) I repeat: This says nothing about how ethically minded nor how good the atheist is.

    g) There are some standard answers to the question, "If not from God, then where?" (intuition, culture, might, authenticity, don't need no stinkin' basis, etc.) I find none of these personally satisfying.

    h) In my experience, however, many atheists have not asked the question or thought seriously about its validity.

    i) This is partly because many Christians confuse it with accusations of amorality.

    Bah, that's way too long. Sorry I didn't have time to edit it down.


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