I thought, as a change of pace, that I would let an atheist have a shot. Here, without further ado, is an atheist’s answer for morality without God, by a man whose Web name is Vagon. (I won’t have time to write my own exceptions to this very selfish perspective, but I do encourage you readers to offer your own.)
So Steve Sanchez has been suggesting that atheists have no grounds by which to judge Ted Bundy’s serial killings as immoral. A commenter under the handle Ryan Shirtz then asserted that atheists cannot logically support morality apart from God and cannot objectively define good and evil. He then said, “Show me any objective proof under a truly atheistic worldview that Ted Bundy’s actions are evil.” Finally another commenter, Dennis, suggested that without God all you are left with are subjective values. [He] later implied that all morality required a higher authority. You can view the chain of thought under Steve’s post here.
Despite several attempts to provide the theists with some objective ways to approach morality, they continued to assert that atheists had none, so I asked Steve if he’d be willing to have me guest post on objective morality without religion and he accepted, providing the post was interesting and provocative enough. I can guarantee neither, but this is that post and it will mean that Steve and his commenters can have no excuse for their continued assertions that atheism has no objective morals.
To have a moral framework considered objective you must begin with foundations that are undeniable by any rational person. Here are three basic premises that are objective and true for every person:
It is impossible to reject the statement “something is existing”, because a statement itself presumes existence. In order for anything at all to follow there must be existence. The process of contemplating this existence is consciousness. To be conscious of your own existence, as separate from the existence of others is to have identity. I, as a man, can identify my own existence via consciousness and also the existence of other people and things in reality. It is from this point that morality flows.
Once I realize that I exist I have two options, to continue to live or to cease to exist. If I choose life I have made it clear that I value life and the standard by which to judge the living of this life is morality. That which allows me to flourish and succeed in my life is good and that which impedes or destroys my life is bad. Morality rests on the foundation of existence and my basic choice to continue living.
The only way to judge my life is against reality. The actions which allow me to flourish and succeed are understood and made repeatable by knowledge. Knowledge is only knowledge when it correctly corresponds to reality, if it does not correspond to reality it is irrational. Knowledge of the outcome is what feeds ours actions and our actions are judged as moral only if the aid in the maintenance, excellence and enjoyment of life. The continuation of man’s life is his purpose, a purpose that is only possible if he has the self-esteem to reflect upon himself and consider that he has chosen life and that he should make this life a happy one. Similarly if he is rational he will see that others also have chosen life and measure them by their rationality, their purpose and their sense of self and also value their lives.
Compare this to Christianity:
The foundation of Christianity is the Bible, and in a vicious circle the foundation of the Bible is Christianity. From the start it is a castle built on sand.
Christianity strips man of self-esteem by holding sacrifice as the highest moral action. We have seen that morality flows from the choice of life, by valuing life you seek to act in a way that progresses your life and yet at the outset this religion attempts to strip the worth out of life, the very thing that defines morality.
If you are forced to do something without any other option you cannot be held accountable, there is no moral choice. Consider the Christian default assumption that man is born with “sin”. Morality is the choice of the rational action, the choice that corresponds to creating the best possible situation given the circumstances. When a man wills bad things upon you he is surely evil, but if man has no intent and no will he is amoral. Yet man does not will to be born, this is not a choice. There can be by definition no moral action in being born and yet these mystics would have you judged as evil in the clear absence of morality. The very notion of being born with sin is an affront to morality!
Finally consider what the Christian attempts to replace morality with: the ten commandments. This is perhaps the most ironic of all, that somehow something you are commanded to do can be considered moral. The moral action is the action that is chosen, not the action that has been foist upon you with no alternative. The ten commandments can never be considered moral, because a commandment is not moral by definition.
You exist and you have self worth, founded in axioms which are objective to any man who could be viewing this now. The choice you have made to live has given you the ability to act rationally in the interest of your life. That is true objective morality, not the false contradiction in terms religion tries to lampoon you with.
Steve’s Note: A few atheists commented on his article from their site WeAreSMRT.com (WARNING: Rough language. Remember, they are atheists). Here are some I liked:
*****Comment by Azou » Mon Feb 21, 2011 6:29 am
I’m not saying that automatically makes them wrong, as I can see how overwhelming it can be to respond to people dog-piling on your with lengthy responses, but they’ll be back in a few weeks/months ignoring everything you said. Steve did the serial killer article twice nearly within a month, I think.
They’re not interested in discourse: they want to use the discussion as way to segue into their pitch. You can see them quickly try to transition to a gospel message in the Bundy post. They don’t care about reason or logic, and just hope to find someone lacking in both to join the cult. We’re just a “lost cause” they can use as an enemy.
Also, hi Steve! I know you’re reading this, you pitiable coward.
Instead, I think they’ll ignore most of what you wrote, and repeat the question.
If I was going to offer critique, I’d suggest spending less time ragging on Christian ‘objective’ morality; it’ll distract them from the points you make in the essay. I myself would also expand (a little) on how valuing things which allow me to live/thrive can conflict with the things valued by others, and how that gets resolved. For the folks who read it, I think this is going to be their biggest objection.
Interesting stuff, I hope it gets posted.