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Human rights activist
I don’t remember exactly when I stopped believing in God. Having been raised in a fairly open-minded family in Iran, I had no encounter with Islam that mattered until the Islamic movement took power on the back of a defeated revolution in Iran. I was 12 at the time.
I suppose people can go through an entire lifetime without questioning God and a religion that they were born into (out of no choice of their own), especially if it doesn’t have much of a say in their lives. If you live in France or Britain, there may never be a need to renounce God actively or come out as an atheist.
But when the state sends a “Hezbollah” (the generic term for Islamist) to your school to ensure that you don’t mix with your friends who are boys, stops you from swimming, forces you to be veiled, deems males and females separate and unequal, prescribes different books for you and your girlfriends from those read by boys, denies certain fields of study to you because you are female, and starts killing indiscriminately, then you have no choice but to question, discredit and confront it – all of it. And that is what I did.
The main reason I don’t believe in God is the missing evidence. There could logically be no evidence that he doesn’t exist, so I can only go by the fact that, so far, I’ve discovered no evidence that he does: I have had no personal experience of being spoken to by God and I see nothing in the world around me, wherever I look in history or science or art or anywhere else, to persuade me that it was the work of God rather than
To that extent, I’m an atheist. I would have to agree, though, that God might exist but be in hiding (and I can understand why – with his record, so would I be). If I knew more, I’d be able to make an informed guess about that. But the amount of things I do know is the merest tiny flicker of a solitary spark in the vast encircling darkness that represents all the things I don’t know, so he might well be out there in the dark. As I can’t say for certain that he isn’t, I’d have to say I am an agnostic.
Neurobiologist, writer and broadcaster
I am an atheist because I see no need for God. Without God, it is said, we cannot explain the creation of the cosmos, anchor our moral values or infuse our lives with meaning and purpose. I disagree.
Invoking God at best highlights what we cannot yet explain about the physical universe, and at worst exploits that ignorance to mystify. Moral values do not come prepackaged from God, but have to be worked out by human beings through a combination of empathy, reasoning and dialogue.
This is true of believers, too: they, after all, have to decide for themselves which values in their holy books they accept and which ones they reject.
And it is not God that gives meaning to our lives, but our relationships with fellow human beings and the goals and obligations that derive from them. God is at best redundant, at worst an obstruction. Why do I need him?
Psychologist and author
What reason for belief could I possibly have? To explain suffering? He doesn’t. Unless, that is, you buy in to his giving us free will, which conflicts with all we know about human decision-making.
To give me hope of an afterlife? My 30 years of parapsychological research threw that hope out. To explain the mystical, spiritual and out-of-body experiences I have had? No: our rapidly improving knowledge of the brain is providing much better explanations than religious reasoning. To explain the existence and complexity of the wonderful world I see around me? No – and this is really the main one.
God is supposed (at least in some versions of the story) to have created us all. Yet the Creator (any creator) is simply redundant. Every living thing on this planet evolved by processes that require no designer, no plans, no guidance and no foresight. We need no God to do this work. Where would he fit in? What would he do? And why? If he did have any role in our creation, he would have to be immensely devious, finickity, deceitful and mind-bogglingly cruel, which would be a very odd kind of God to believe in. So I don’t.
I don’t believe in leprechauns, pixies, werewolves, jujus, Thor, Poseidon, Yahweh, Allah or the Trinity. For the same reason in every case: there is not the tiniest shred of evidence for any of them, and the burden of proof rests with those who wish to believe.
Even given no evidence for specific gods, could we make a case for some unspecified “intelligent designer” or “prime mover” or begetter of “something rather than nothing”? By far the most appealing version of this argument is the biological one – living things do present a powerful illusion of design. But that is the very version that Darwin destroyed. Any theist who appeals to “design” of living creatures simply betrays his ignorance of biology. Go away and read a book. And any theist who appeals to biblical evidence betrays his ignorance of modern scholarship. Go away and read another book.
As for the cosmological argument, whose God goes under names such as Prime Mover or First Cause, the physicists are closing in, with spellbinding results. Even if there remain unanswered questions – where do the fundamental laws and constants of physics come from? – obviously it cannot help to postulate a designer whose existence poses bigger questions than he purports to solve. If science fails, our best hope is to build a better science. The answer will lie neither in theology nor – its exact equivalent – reading tea leaves.
In any case, it is a fatuously illogical jump from deistic Unmoved Mover to Christian Trinity, with the Son being tortured and murdered because the Father, for all his omniscience and omnipotence, couldn’t think of a better way to forgive “sin”.
Equally unconvincing are those who believe because it comforts them (why should truth be consoling?) or because it “feels right”. Cherie Blair ["I'm a believer", New Statesman, 18 April] may stand for the “feels right” brigade. She bases her belief on “an understanding of something that my head cannot explain but my heart knows to be true”. She aspires to be a judge. M’lud, I cannot provide the evidence you require. My head cannot explain why, but my heart knows it to be true.
Why is religion immune from the critical standards that we apply not just in courts of law, but in every other sphere of life?
I stopped being a believer when it became clear to me that the various versions of Christianity were mutually contradictory and that none had empirical evidence to support it. From the recognition that “knowing in my heart” was an unreliable guide to reality, I began to explore other types of explanation for life, the universe and everything, and discovered in science – biology, chemistry, physics, cosmology, geology, psychology - answers that genuinely explain, as opposed to those of religion, whose aim is to shroud their lack of substance in a cloak of mystery and metaphor.
All-importantly, these scientific answers, even when tentative, are supported by evidence. That they are also far more thrilling, far more awe-inspiring, than anything religion can offer, and that I find life fuller, richer and more satisfying when it’s looked firmly in the eye and wholeheartedly embraced for the transient and finite wonder that it is, is a happy bonus.
The most common impediment to clear thinking that a non-believer must confront is the idea that the burden of proof can be fairly placed on his shoulders: “How do you know there is no God? Can you prove it? You atheists are just as dogmatic as the fundamentalists you criticise.” This is nonsense: even the devout tacitly reject thousands of gods, along with the cherished doctrines of every religion but their own. Every Christian can confidently judge the God of Zoroaster to be a creature of fiction, without first scouring the universe for evidence of his absence. Absence of evidence is all one ever needs to banish false knowledge. And bad evidence, proffered in a swoon of wishful thinking, is just as damning.
But honest reasoning can lead us further into the fields of unbelief, for we can prove that books such as the Bible and the Quran bear no trace of divine authorship. We know far too much about the history of these texts to accept what they say about their own origins. And just imagine how good a book would be if it had been written by an omniscient Being.
The moment one views the contents of scripture in this light, one can reject the doctrines of Judaism, Christianity and Islam definitively. The true authors of God’s eternal Word knew nothing about the origins of life, the relationship between mind and brain, the causes of illness, or how best to create a viable, global civilisation in the 21st century. That alone should resolve every conflict between religion and science in the latter’s favour, until the end of the world.
In fact, the notion that any ancient book could be an infallible guide to living in the present gets my vote for being the most dangerously stupid idea on earth.
What remains for us to discover, now and always, are those truths about our world that will allow us to survive and fully flourish. For this, we need only well-intentioned and honest inquiry – love and reason. Faith, if it is ever right about anything, is right by accident.
The concept of God has gradually retreated from the concept of an anthropomorphic creator figure, judge and overseer to a mystery-shrouded Wonderful Something-or-Other utterly beyond human ken. It is impossible for me to believe in any of the anthropomorphic gods, because they are simply ridiculous, and so obviously the fantasy-projections of scientifically ignorant minds trying to understand the world. It is impossible for me to believe in the laundered versions, because they are systematically incomprehensible. It would be like trying to believe in the existence of wodgifoop – what’s that? Don’t ask; it’s beyond saying.
But why try anyway? There is no obligation to try to believe in God; that’s a particularly pernicious myth left over from the days when organised religions created the belief in belief. One can be good without God, obviously.
Many people feel very strongly that one should try to believe in God, so as not to upset Granny, or so as to encourage others to do likewise, or because it makes you nicer or nobler. So they go through the motions. Usually it doesn’t work.
I am in awe of the universe itself, and very grateful to be a part of it. That is enough.
A C Grayling
I do not believe that there are any such things as gods and goddesses, for exactly the same reasons as I do not believe there are fairies, goblins or sprites, and these reasons should be obvious to anyone over the age of ten.
Nobel laureate in physics
I do not believe in God – an intelligent, all-powerful being who cares about human beings – because the idea seems to me to be silly. The positive arguments that have been given for belief in God all appear to me as silly as the proposition they are intended to prove. Fortunately, in some parts of the world, religious belief has weakened enough so that people no longer kill each other over differences in this silliness.
It is past time that the human race should grow up, enjoying what is good in life, including the pleasure of learning how the world works, and freeing ourselves altogether from supernatural silliness in facing the real problems and tragedies of our lives.
In part because there is no evidence for a God (sentimental longing, desperation, ignorance and angst are not evidence) and in part because science is showing that it is capable of answering all the questions that the religious have argued, without any evidence, require the activities of a God, I dismiss holy scripture as evidence. I also discount the argument that a majority of people in the world claim to be believers, because truth is not decided by majority vote.
I acknowledge the power of cultural conditioning, especially when it is larded on to the young and impressionable, and can even accept that there might be an evolutionary advantage in believing; but neither is an argument for the truth of the existence of a God. Moreover, the horrors of the world, both personal and societal, do not convince me that the creation is an act of infinite benevolence.
It is often said that religious faith is about mankind’s search for a deeper meaning to existence. But just because we search for it does not mean it is there. My faith is in humanity itself, without attaching any metaphysical baggage.
Sir Roger Penrose
I don’t believe in the dogmas of any religion (or any that I have ever heard of), because the associated myths sound far too fanciful and arbitrary for them to have any credibility, in my opinion. If you ask me about a belief in some more abstract notion of “God”, I would, of course, have to know what you mean by such a term.
I suppose the closest I could get to anything that bears any relation to the kind of notion that the term “God” might be used for would be something along the lines of Platonist ideals. These could include some sort of objective moral standpoint that is independent of ourselves, and not simply definable in terms of what might be of benefit to human society. This would imply, for instance, that conscious beings such as elephants would have rights, in addition to those of humans.
I am also prepared to accept that there might be objective (“Platonic”) elements involved in artistic achievement, and certainly I assign a Platonic objectivity to truth (especially unambiguous mathematical truth). But I am not at all sure that it is helpful to attach the term “God” to any of this. Moreover, thinking of God as a benevolent creator is particularly misleading, as is made clear, in my opinion, by the problem of the existence of evil – or natural, indiscriminate calamity.
If “God” is to be a sentient being of some sort, I also find that incredible. A conscious being would have to be one that I could just about imagine myself being. I certainly cannot imagine myself being “God”!
I think probably the main answer to your question is: I just don’t have any interest either way, but I wouldn’t want to understate how uninterested I am. There still hasn’t been a word invented for people like me, whose main experience when presented with this issue is an overwhelming, mind-blowing, intergalactic sense of having more interesting things to think about. I’m not sure that’s accurately covered by words such as “atheist”, and definitely not by “agnostic”. I just don’t care.
Journalist and president, British Humanist Association
The only time I am ever tempted, momentarily, to believe in a God is when I shake an angry fist at him for some monstrous suffering inflicted on the world for no reason whatever. The Greeks and Romans and other pagans probably produced the most convincing gods – petulant, childish, selfish – demanding sacrifices to their vanity and inflicting random furies. At least that’s a logical explanation. But an all-powerful God of goodness and love is evidently impossible. He would be a monster. Voltaire said so after the Lisbon earthquake.
I not only do not believe in God, I am almost 100 per cent certain the God of Abraham worshipped by Jews, Christians and Muslims does not exist. This God supposedly plays such an important role in the universe that there should be evidence he exists. There is nothing in the realm of human knowledge that requires anything supernatural, anything beyond matter, to describe our observations.
Furthermore, religion is immoral. It is bad for individuals and bad for society.
There is simply no good data pointing to a supernatural being who either takes an interest in the world or actively affects it. Isn’t it curious that all the big miracles, resurrections and ascensions to heaven occurred in the distant past, documented by single, dubious books? Besides, the “truth claims” of the various faiths about prophets, virgin births, angels, heaven and the like are not only scientifically unbelievable, but conflicting, so that most or all of them must be wrong. To Christians, Jesus is absolutely the scion and substance of God; to Muslims, that’s blasphemy, punishable by execution.
The more science learns about the world, the less room there is for God. Natural selection dispelled the last biology-based argument for divinity – the “design” of plants and animals. Now physics is displacing other claims, showing how the universe could have begun from “nothing” without celestial help.
There’s not only an absence of evidence for God, but good evidence against him. To the open-minded, religions were clearly invented by human beings to support their fervent wishes for what they wanted to be true.
Our very world testifies constantly against God. Take natural selection, a process that is cruel, painful and wasteful. After Darwin’s idea displaced Genesis-based creationism, the theological sausage-grinder – designed to transform scientific necessities into religious virtues – rationalised why it was better for God to have used natural selection to produce human beings. Needless to say, that argument doesn’t fit with an all-loving God. Equally feeble are theological explanations for other suffering in the world. If there is a God, the evidence points to one who is apathetic – or even
a bit malicious.
To believers, testing the “God hypothesis” is not an option because they will accept no observations that disprove it. While I can imagine scientific evidence for God, even evidence that would make me a believer (a reappearing Jesus who instantly restores the limbs of amputees would do), there is no evidence – not even the Holocaust – which can dispel their faith in a good and loving God.
I am not claiming there is no God. The scientific account is complete, but it does not predict human behaviour, because there are too many equations to solve.One therefore uses a different model, which can include free will and God.
Publisher of Skeptic magazine
I do not believe in God for four reasons. First, there is not enough evidence for the existence of an omniscient, omnipotent being who created the universe and ourselves and hands down moral laws and offers us eternal life. Second, any such being that was supernatural would by definition be outside the purview of our knowledge of the natural world and would necessarily have to be part of the natural world if we did discover such an entity. This brings me to the third reason, Shermer’s Last Law, which is that any sufficiently advanced extraterrestrial intelligence is indistinguishable from God. (Because of Moore’s law [of increasing computer power] and Kurzweil’s law of accelerating returns, we ourselves will be able to engineer life, solar systems and even universes, given enough time.) Fourth, there is overwhelming evidence from history, anthropology, sociology and psychology that human beings created God, not vice versa. In the past 10,000 years there have been roughly 10,000 religions and 1,000 different gods. What are the chances that one group of people discovered the One True God while everyone else believed in 9,999 false gods? A likelier explanation is that all gods and religion are socially and psychologically constructed. We created gods.
There is no good reason to believe that anything that could coherently be called God exists. A rational person does not waste time believing or even being agnostic about things that there are no good reasons to accept. Even if there was a more powerful being (or, more likely, society or planet of beings) than ourselves with a technology that could have created even our solar system and everything in it, that would not give us anything but prudential and scientific reasons to take any notice of them whatsoever – certainly no reason to worship them.
Bertrand Russell pointed out long ago that the moral character of the Judaeo-Christian God as revealed in the writings of his sycophants leaves much to be desired. The same seems to go for other gods as well. So God is not only non-existent, but also wicked and useless.
Editor of the Humanist
The short and easy answer is lack of evidence. I also see no value in believing in God, because if you’re thinking clearly and honestly you necessarily must face the issue of suffering, and the ensuing existential crisis wastes precious time and energy. Alleviating suffering is what we should pour our minds and hearts into.
Moreover, I simply don’t want to believe, because the notion of an all-knowing, all-seeing God who lets bad stuff happen really gives me the creeps.
I do not believe in God because it seems both illogical and unnecessary. According to the believers, their God is an all-powerful and almighty force. However, despite this, their God allows for huge amounts of suffering and disease. Also, if I were to believe in God, logically speaking I would have to believe in a wide range of other entities for which there is no evidence, including pixies, goblins and gnomes, etc. It’s a long list and I don’t have room in my head for all of them. So, I am happy to believe that there is no God. We are just insignificant lumps of carbon flying through a tiny section of the universe. Our destiny is totally in our own hands, and it is up to each of us to make the best of our life. Let’s stop worrying about mythical entities and start living.
P Z Myers
I am accustomed to the idea that truth claims ought to be justified with some reasonable evidence: if one is going to claim, for instance, that a Jewish carpenter was the son of a God, or that there is a place called heaven where some ineffable, magical part of you goes when you die, then there ought to be some credible reason to believe that. And that reason ought to be more substantial than that it says so in a big book.
Religious claims all seem to short-circuit the rational process of evidence-gathering and testing and the sad thing is that many people don’t see a problem with that, and even consider it a virtue. It is why I don’t just reject religion, but actively oppose it in all its forms – because it is fundamentally a poison for the mind that undermines our critical faculties.
Religious beliefs are lazy jokes with bad punchlines. Why do you have to chop off the skin at the end of your penis? Because God says so. Why should you abstain from pork, or shrimp, or mixing meat and dairy, or your science classes? Because they might taint your relationship with God. Why do you have to revere a bit of dry biscuit? Because it magically turns into a God when a priest mutters over it. Why do I have to be good? Because if you aren’t, a God will set you on fire for all eternity.
These are ridiculous propositions. The whole business of religion is clownshoes freakin’ moonshine, hallowed by nothing but unthinking tradition, fear and superstitious behaviour, and an establishment of con artists who have dedicated their lives to propping up a sense of self-importance by claiming to talk to an invisible big kahuna.
It’s not just fact-free, it’s all nonsense.
Chief executive, British Humanist Association
I don’t believe in any gods or goddesses, because they are so obviously human inventions. Desert-dwellers have severe, austere and dry gods; suffering and oppressed people have loving and merciful gods; farmers have gods of rain and fruitfulness; and I have never met a liberal who believed in a conservative God or a conservative who believed in a liberal one. Every God I have ever heard of bears the indelible marks of human manufacture, and through history we can explain how and why we invented them.“
Andrew Zak Williams has written for the Humanist, the Independent and Skeptic. His email address is: email@example.com
N.B.:More than ever, we need, really need, the First Amendment…
N.B.: It was interesting to watch Fox News scramble on Breivik’s religious and political views.
From Alternet, by Max Blumenthal.
“Few political terrorists in recent history took as much care to articulate their ideological influences and political views as Anders Hans Breivik did. The right-wing Norwegian Islamophobe who murdered 76 children and adults in Oslo and at a government-run youth camp spent months, if not years, preparing his 1,500 page manifesto. Besides its length, one of the most remarkable aspects of the manifesto is the extent to which its European author quoted from the writings of figures from the American conservative movement. Though he referred heavily to his fellow Norwegian, the blogger Fjordman, it was Robert Spencer, the American Islamophobic pseudo-academic, who received the most references from Breivik — 55 in all. Then there was Daniel Pipes, the Muslim-bashing American neoconservative who earned 18 citations from the terrorist. Other American anti-Muslim characters appear prominently in the manifesto, including the extremist blogger Pam Geller, who operates an Islamophobic organization in partnership with Spencer. Breivik may have developed his destructive sensibility in the stark political environment of a European continent riveted by mass immigration from the Muslim world, but his conceptualization of the changes he was witnessing reflect the influence of a cadre of far-right bloggers and activists from across the Atlantic Ocean. He not only mimicked their terminology and emulated their language, he substantially adopted their political worldview. The profound impact of the American right’s Islamophobic subculture on Breivik’s thinking raises a question that has not been adequately explored: Where is the American version of Breivik and why has he not struck yet? Or has he? Many of the American writers who influenced Breivik spent years churning out calls for the mass murder of Muslims, Palestinians and their left-wing Western supporters. But the sort of terrorism these US-based rightists incited for was not the style the Norwegian killer would eventually adopt. Instead of Breivik’s renegade free-booting, they preferred the “shock and awe” brand of state terror perfected by Western armies against the brown hordes threatening to impose Sharia law on the people in Peoria. This kind of violence provides a righteous satisfaction so powerful it can be experienced from thousands of miles away. And so most American Islamophobes simply sit back from the comfort of their homes and cheer as American and Israeli troops — and their remote-controlled aerial drones — leave a trail of charred bodies from Waziristan to Gaza City. Only a select group of able-bodied Islamophobes are willing to suit up in a uniform and rush to the front lines of the clash of civilizations. There, they have discovered that they can mow down Muslim non-combatants without much fear of legal consequences, and that when they return, they will be celebrated as the elite Crusader-warriors of the new Islamophobic right — a few particularly violent figures have been rewarded with seats in Congress. Given the variety of culturally acceptable, officially approved outlets for venting violent anti-Muslim resentment, there is little reason for any American to follow in Breivik’s path of infamy. Before exploring the online subculture that both shaped and mirrored Breivik’s depravity, it is necessary to define state terror, especially the kind refined by its most prolific practitioners. At the dawn of the “war on terror,” the United States and Israel began cultivating a military doctrine called “asymmetrical warfare.“ Pioneered by an Israeli philosophy and “practical ethics” professor named Asa Kasher and the former head of Israeli military intelligence, Lt. Gen. Amos Yadlin, and successfully marketed to the Pentagon, the asymmetrical warfare doctrine did away with traditional counterinsurgency tactics which depended on winning the “hearts and minds” of indigenous populations. Under the new rules, the application of disproportionate force against non-combatants who were supposedly intermingled with the “terrorists” was not only justified but considered necessary. According to Kasher and Yadlin, eliminating the principle of distinction between enemy combatants and civilians was the most efficient means of deterring attacks from non-state actors like Hamas and Hezbollah while guarding the lives of Israeli soldiers. Asymmetrical warfare has been witnessed in theaters of war across the Muslim world, leaving tens of thousands of civilians dead in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gaza Strip. The strategy was formalized in the Dahiya district of southern Beirut in 2006, when the Israeli military flattened hundreds of civilian structures and homes to supposedly punish Hezbollah for its capturing of two Israeli soldiers. From the ashes of the Israeli carpet bombing campaign emerged the “Dahiya Doctrine,” a term coined by an Israeli general responsible for directing the war on Lebanon in 2006. “IDF Northern Command Chief Gadi Eisenkot uttered clear words that essentially mean the following,” wrote Israeli journalist Yaron London, who had just interviewed the general. “In the next clash with Hezbollah we won’t bother to hunt for tens of thousands of rocket launchers and we won’t spill our soldiers’ blood in attempts to overtake fortified Hizbullah positions. Rather, we shall destroy Lebanon and won’t be deterred by the protests of the ‘world.’” In a single paragraph, London neatly encapsulated the logic of state terror. While Israel has sought to insulate itself from the legal ramifications of its attacks on civilian life by deploying elaborate propaganda and intellectual sophistry (witness the country’s frantic campaign to discredit the Goldstone Report), and the United States has casually dismissed allegations of war crimes as any swaggering superpower would (after a US airstrike killed scores of Afghan civilians, former US CENTCOM Director David Petraeus baselessly claimed that Afghan parents had deliberately burned their children alive to increase the death toll), the online Islamophobes who inspired Breivik tacitly accept the reality of Israeli and American state terror. And they like it. Indeed, American Islamophobes derive frightening levels of ecstasy from the violence inflicted by the armed forces against Muslim civilians. The Facebook page of Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer’s hate group, Stop the Islamicization of America (SOIA), is Exhibit A of the phenomenon. During a visit to SOIA’s Facebook page, which is personally administered by Geller and Spencer, it is possible to read rambling calls for killing “the diaper heads” and for Israel to “rule the whole Middle East.” A cursory glance at the website will also reveal visual propaganda reveling in the prospect of a genocide against Muslims. One image posted on the site depicts American and British troops dropping a nuclear bomb in the midst of thousands of Muslim pilgrims in Mecca. “Who ya gonna call? Shitbusters,” it reads. A second image portraying a nuclear mushroom cloud declares: “DEALING WITH MUSLIMS — RULES OF ENGAGEMENT; Rule #1: Kill the Enemy. Rule #2: There is no rule #2.” Another posted on SOIA’s Facebook page shows the bullet-riddled, bloodsoaked bodies of Muslim civilians splayed out by a roadside. “ARMY MATH,” the caption reads. “4 Tangos + (3 round burst x 4 M 4′s) = 288 virgins.” However pathological these images might seem to outsiders, in the subculture of Geller and Spencer’s online fascisphere, they are understood as legitimate expressions of nationalistic, “pro-Western” pride. Indeed, none seem to celebrate violence against Muslims by anyone except uniformed representatives of Western armies. The anti-Muslim fervor of Geller, Spencer and their allies reached a fever pitch during the controversy they manufactured in 2010 over the construction of the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” in downtown New York City. Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away, in North Carolina, a right-wing Republican ex-Marine named Ilario Pantano made opposing the mosque the centerpiece of his campaign for Congress, proclaiming that New York was “forsaking Israel” by allowing the mosque’s construction. During the height of the his campaign, a report relying on documented evidence and confirmed testimonies revealed that while serving in Iraq in 2004, Pantano had executed two unarmed civilians near Fallujah, firing 60 bullets into their bodies with his M16A4 automatic rifle — he even stopped to reload — then decorated their corpses a placard inscribed with the Marine motto: “No better friend, No worse enemy.” The incident did not hinder Pantano’s campaign, however. His Democratic opponent never mentioned it, Pam Geller hailed Pantano as “a war hero,” and he cruised to a resounding victory. Pantano was sworn into Congress alongside another US military veteran closely allied with the Islamophobic right: Republican Representative Allen West. While serving in Iraq, West was discharged from the military and fined $5000 after he brutally beat an Iraqi policeman, then fired his pistol behind the immobilized man’s head. As in Pantano’s case, reports of the disturbing incident only helped propel West to victory. In fact, West boasted about the beating in his campaign speeches, citing it as evidence of how hard he would fight for his constituents if elected. Though Breivik’s hatred for Muslims clearly spurred him to violence, he wound up murdering scores of the non-Muslims. He believed they were enabling an Islamic takeover of Europe, or what he called the creation of “Eurabia,” and that the “traitors” deserved the ultimate punishment. In homing in on liberal elements in Norway, Breivik borrowed from the language of right-wing figures from the United States, labeling his targets as “Cultural Marxists.” Initially introduced by the anti-Semitic right-wing organizer William Lind of the Washington-based Free Congress Foundation, Breivik understood the term as a characterization of liberal advocates of open immigration and sympathizers with the Palestinian cause. “Let us fight together with Israel, with our Zionist brothers against all anti-Zionists, against all cultural Marxists/multiculturalists,” Breivik wrote in his manifesto. The killer also sought to differentiate between good Jews (supporters of Israel) and bad Jews (advocates for Palestinian rights), claiming that “Jews that support multi-culturalism today are as much of a threat to Israel and Zionism as they are to us.” Breivik’s characterizations of the left and of left-wing Jews echoed those familiar to right-wing bloggers and conservative activists in the US, particularly on the issue of Israel-Palestine. The only difference seems to have been that Breivik was willing to personally kill sympathizers with Palestinian rights, while American Islamophobes have prefered to sit back and cheer for the Israeli military to do the job instead. The tendency of the American right was on shocking display this June when the Free Gaza Flotilla attempted to break the Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip (during the previous flotilla in 2010, nine activists were killed by what a United Nations report described as execution style shootings by Israeli commandoes). As the debate about the flotilla escalated on Twitter, Joshua Trevino, a US army veteran and who worked as a speechwriter in the administration of George W. Bush, chimed in. “Dear IDF,” Trevino tweeted. ”If you end up shooting any Americans on the new Gaza flotilla — well, most Americans are cool with that. Including me.” While Trevino hectored flotilla participants, Kurt Schlicter, a former American army officer and right-wing blogger for Andrew Breitbart’s Big Peace site, joined the calls for bloodshed. ”Sink the flotilla,” Schlicter wrote on Twitter. “Enough screwing around with these psychos.” Neither Schlicter or Trevino saw any reason to apologize for inciting the murder of fellow Americans, nor did Trevino appear to face any consequences at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, where he serves as Vice President. Instead, Trevino earned a rousing defense from prominent conservative personalities like Erick Erickson, a paid CNN contributor who lauded ”the correctness of Josh’s opinion” that Israel should kill American leftists. Indeed, no one from inside the American right’s online media hothouse condemned Trevino, Schlicter or Erickson, or even brooked a slight disagreement. Meanwhile, the incitement against Palestine solidarity activists has continued, with pro-Israel operatives Roz Rothstein and Roberta Seid writing this July in the Jerusalem Post that “Flotilla Folk are not like other people.” When the smoke cleared from Breivik’s terrorist rampage across Norway, American Islamophobes went into intellectual contortions, condemning his acts while carefully avoiding any criticism of his views. While making sure to call Breivik “evil,” the ultra-nationalist commentator and former Republican presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan insisted that “Breivik may be right” about the supposed clash of civilizations between the Muslim East and the Christian West. Pipes, for his part, accused Breivik of a “purposeful” campaign to discredit him by citing him so frequently in his manifesto, while a panicked Geller claimed that Breivik “is a murderer, a mass murderer. Period. He’s not anything else.” The comically revealing reactions by American Islamophobes to Brevik’s killing spree demonstrate the politically catastrophic situation they have gotten themselves into. All of a sudden, their movement was under intense scrutiny from a previously derelict mainstream media. And they were likely to be monitored to an unprecedented degree by federal law enforcement. These same figures who influenced Breivik had been printing open calls for terrorist violence against Muslims and leftists for years — while a few, like Pantano, went a step further. Before Breivik killed 76 innocent people, they had generally gotten away with it. Why were America’s Islamophobes able to avoid accountability for so long? The answer is not that their yearnings for righteous political violence had not been fulfilled until Breivik emerged. The truth is far more uncomfortable than that. America’s Islamophobic right was only able to make so much political headway because a broad sector of the American public had tolerated and even supported the kind of terror that they openly celebrated.”
Because the Bible Tells Me So: Why Bachmann and Tea Party Christians Oppose Raising the Debt Ceiling
Serparation of Church more important than ever.
From Alternet, by Adele M. Stan
“ It’s a deal not even its parents could love, but if Congress manages to pass the plan to lift the debt ceiling arrived at last night by President Barack Obama and congressional leaders, the United States of America will manage to have avoided default on its debt — for the price of deep cuts to public programs.
In a scheme designed to cut $2.4 trillion in spending, the plan devised by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, with buy-in from House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, relies on a special bipartisan, bicameral committee of Congress to meet certain spending-cut targets, with the threat of automatic across-the-board cuts to everything from social programs (including Social Security and Medicare) to defense spending if Congress does not act. (You can see the PowerPoint presentation Boehner sent out to his caucus here[PDF]; note that the Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein says the speaker’s wrongwhen he asserts the plan does not allow for the raising of revenue.) If Congress passes the plan, it should push the next action needed on the debt ceiling to after the 2012 presidential election.
Dubbed a “compromise” by the White House, the deal looks like more of a grand capitulation than a grand bargain, effectively handing the Republicans a reward for dangling the economy off a cliff with their refusal to raise the limit on the amount of debt the nation could assume. It’s not “the deal that I would have preferred,” the president said while making a brief statement in the White House press room. The brinksmanship was driven by the most far-right members of the GOP majority in the House of Representatives, who embarrassed Boehner earlier in the week with their refusal to support a deal that would have given them nearly everything they demanded. That required Boehner to come back with a bill that seemed designed to waste time and bring the U.S. that much closer to default: it contained a requirement for passage of a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which led to its predictable rejection by the Senate.
‘A Sugar-Coated Satan Sandwich’
As last night’s agreement was shaping up, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus described it “shady” — a “sugar-coated Satan sandwich.” He did not rule out, however, the possibility of the CBC supporting it — apparently because the price for keeping the economy from crashing on all Americans just may be the devil’s ransom.
It remains to be seen, however, whether the far-right members of the Republican caucus will go for a deal that could, theoretically, cut defense spending. And then there are those even further to the right, such as Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, the Republican presidential contender and chair of the House Tea Party Caucus, for whom the devil isn’t simply in the details — it’s in the point of focus of the bill itself, its organizing principal, the thing that was used to create the hostage-taking crisis in the first place: the lifting of the debt ceiling.
Even some of the more right-wing members of the notoriously right-wing GOP House caucus began to get nervous last week, as the tick-tock of the doomsday default clock grew ever louder. The stock market had fallen every day, posting its worst week in more than a year, with the Dow dropping 4.2 percent for the week. Christine Lagarde, the newly appointed chief of the International Monetary Fund, warned, “A crisis in the US faith and credit has global implications.” By Thursday, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., House Budget Committee chairman and author of the draconian budget named for him, fell in line behind Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, ready to back his plan to lift the debt. So did House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Va., who had give the speaker a serious case of agita during the latter’s negotiations with the White House, and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, Calif.
But not Bachmann. Never, she said, would she vote for raising the debt ceiling. America should borrow no more.
If Bachmann’s oppostion — and that of some of her fellow Tea Partiers — to raising the debt ceiling seems fraught with a fervor best described as religious, perhaps that’s because it is. For Bachmann and some of her right-wing evangelical compatriots, financial, fiscal and economic issues are not matters to be considered with the knowledge imparted by economists and policy experts, but rather through the economic policy of ancient Israel as described in the Holy Bible.
The Hooey Offensive
For inside-the-Beltway political consumption, Bachmann keeps her ruminations on the debt ceiling strictly secular. All that talk of default on the national debt, and how that could destroy the economy, here and abroad? A whole lot of hooey, Bachmann asserts.
“The president has been scaring senior citizens and military veterans into thinking that we might be defaulting,” Bachmann said to supporters gathered in Iowa via telephone from Washington, D.C., according to the Des Moines Register.
Even if the debt ceiling isn’t lifted, she told a group of supporters on Saturday, the United States does not have to default on its debt. The nation can simply slash its way out of the mess, she contends. Last month, in fact, she co-authored a proposal with Iowa Congressman Steve King that would set priorities for just what the government would and wouldn’t pay if the debt ceiling, currently set at $14.3 trillion, was not lifted. The Register described it this way:
The U.S. could pay creditors as well as the military and fund Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid without increasing the debt limit, King and Bachmann said. Their list, however, did not contain such items as homeland and border security, federal prisons, veterans’ benefits or unemployment insurance.
“Shame on President Obama for casting the American people aside as collateral damage, as he continues his political gamesmanship with the national debt crisis,” Bachmann wrote in a statement issued last Tuesday, after the president’s speech about the current crisis in the nation’s borrowing authority.
For Bachmann, this position is likely borne from something other than secular economic conservatism: it seems more an article of faith, a product of what has come to be known as biblical economics. Its acceptance by Tea Partiers may indicate that the apparently upstart movement isn’t nearly as secular as its proponents would have you believe. A Pew poll released earlier this year found that while only a sizable minority of Tea Partiers said they agreed with the religious right (42 percent), a mere 11 percent expressed opposition to the religious right. And many of those regarded as Tea Party movement leaders — from Tim Phillips of Americans for Prosperity, to Rep. Mke Pence, R-Ind. to Bachmann herself, were part of the religious right before the Tea Party was a twinkle in David Koch’s eye.
The question is whether Bachmann and those who join her in opposing a raising of the debt ceiling actually believe the U.S. can avoid default through spending cuts alone, or rather, as Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner asserted last week on “Fox News Sunday,” they are actually “praying for default” — a scenario that would bear out a religious philosophy known as Christian Reconstructionism.
The Invisible Hand of Christian Reconstructionism
As I wrote earlier this month, Bachmann’s notions regarding gay rights appear to be shaped by the Christian Reconstructionist views that gave birth, as Sarah Posner of Religion Dispatches reported, to the law school at Oral Roberts University where she earned her degree. (The ORU law school has since been absorbed by the Rev. Pat Robertson’s Regent University.) Likewise, Bachmann’s position on the national debt, and her opposition to raising the debt ceiling or ending the Bush-era tax breaks for top income-earners, also finds commonalities with the interpretations of the Christian Reconstructionism founder, the late Rousas John Rushdoony, as well as several evangelical Christian writers who prescribe a “godly” approach to economic and even monetary policy.
Bachmann herself cites, as one inspiration, the religious-right philosopher, Francis Schaeffer, father of writer Frank Schaeffer, who authored the recently released book, God, Mom and Sex. (See Frank discuss Bachmann’s ideology with Thom Hartmann, here.) While the elder Schaeffer was not a Reconstructionist per se, the urgency with which he held Christians must act in the secular sphere to oppose laws they deem to be unjust overlaps in some ways with Reconstructionism, which author Frederick Clarkson says influenced the elder Schaeffer.
In the Christian Reconstructionist’s idea of a perfect state, the law of ancient Israel, with its death penalty for “homosexual” men and adulterers, would constitute the law of the land. Christian Reconstructionists assert there is no law but “God’s law,” by which they mean the law as laid out in the Bible. Any secular law that contradicts God’s law is viewed as invalid by a hard-core Reconstructionist. That may account for why there are so few hard-core Reconstructionists; to live literally by its precepts would likely mean doing serious jail time for all that defiance of ungodly laws.
But Reconstructionist thought has had a profound influence on Christian evangelicals from a wide range of sects — from austere Baptists to tongues-speaking charismatics. Bachmann, who says she was called to public office by God, would seem to be no exception. Indeed, many small-government Christians credit their poltiical views to the Old Testament story of Samuel, who advised the ancient Hebrews against installing a king, because, as Chad Hovind, author of the Godonomics blog on BeliefNet explains it, a king requires a government which, by its very nature, is essentially designed to steal from you.
Purveyors of biblical economics contend that most of the practices of modern government – especially government assistance to the poor — run contrary to biblical principles, and should therefore be halted. Alex McFarland, an evangelical author who appears regularly on “Fox & Friends,” sent out a press release this week stating that the answer to “stop[ing] the bleeding” of government spending is to “Stop the addiction and return to biblical principles when handling the country’s finances.” The government, the release says, is addicted to spending.
Hovind, on the other hand, doesn’t bother with newfangled theories of addiction, and instead goes straight to the Old Testment story of King Solomon’s son, Rehobaom:
There is no place in the Bible more “ripped from today’s headlines” than King Rehoboam’s cabinet meeting in 1 Kings chapter 12. His father, Solomon was a extremely successful leader who led the nation into incredible historic success. His dad expanded government, over-committed the kingdom’s spending, and taxed the “little people” for many years. His father was known for his building projects, national attention, and global influence; however dad had slowly eroded the liberty and love of the people through high taxation and high control. The people were ready for a new administration. There was buzz in the community about the high hopes for changes and renewal under the new king. All of Israel came out to cheer on their new leader.
Hovind goes on to explain how Rehoboam blew his chance to win the adoration of the people by liberating them, and instead vowed to visit scourges upon them where his father had oppressed them only with a heavy yoke. In the worldview of the Reconstructionist-influenced evangelical, Rehoboam makes a handy stand-in for Barack Obama, the man Michele Bachmann claims has “cast the American people aside as collateral damage.” (The collateral damage reference comes from Obama’s own assertion that in the wrangling over the debt, the American people were poised to become collateral damage of partisan political warfare.)
Hovind’s invocation of the Rehoboam story in order to make a case for spending cuts — as opposed to a raise in the debt ceiling — comes straight from the pages of the Institutes of Biblical law, the Christian Reconstructionist text penned by Rushdoony. Reconstructionist theologian Gary North, Rushdoony’s son-in-law, describes the story here.
Thou Shalt Not Tax
One can easily find, within the pages of Rushdoony’s tome, the roots of opposition to ending the Bush-era tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans. In a section called “Robbing God” in a chapter on the Eighth Commandment (“Thall Shalt Not Steal”), Rushdoony writes in The Institutes of Biblical Law that the rich should not be required to pay more than those who are not rich. (Never mind that a tax plan such as Bachmann’s would essentially remove 23,000 millionaires from the tax rolls altogether, according to ThinkProgress.) Rushdoony writes of the ancient Israelites: “The same tax was assessed on all men: ‘The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less.’ (Ex. 30:15)”
“A tyrannical state,” Rushdoony writes in another section of the same chapter, “always limits a man’s use of his property, taxes it, or confiscates that property as an effective means of enslaving a man without necessarily touching his person.” Remember that quote the next time you hear those ostensibly secular Tea Partiers go on about tyranny, enslavement and taxes.
Rusdoony also decries paper money not backed by precious resources, as well as inflation, as forms of theft, and declares reserve banking illegitimate. (Still think Ron and Rand Paul are secularists?)
Julie Ingersoll, a professor of religious studies at University of North Florida, agrees that Bachmann’s position against raising the debt ceiling is rooted in a “theocratic reading of the Bible, arising out of the nexus between (Ron) Paul … Howard Phillips and his Constitution Party, and Gary North and the Christian Reconstructionists.” But she also puts forth a more sobering theory — that Reconstructionists, and perhaps neo-Reconstructionists such as Bachmann, actually want the U.S. to default on its debt. They want this, Ingersoll wrote last year at Religion Dispatches, not in spite of the destruction in would wreak on both the U.S. and global economies, but because of it:
North’s overarching schema is that there is an impending social collapse which will provide the opportunity for biblically based Christians to exercise dominion by replacing existing humanistic institutions with biblical ones. In Honest Money, he wrote:
First, the bankers and the politicians will continue to try to make the present system work. This will make the present system worse. Second, there will be a collapse in stages: inflation, then mass inflation, then price controls, then tyranny, and finally a worldwide deflationary depression. At that point, there will be new demand from the voters for answers. Third—and this is my hope and my prayer—people will at last decide that they have had enough moral and legal compromise. They will at last decide to adopt a simple system of honest money, along with competitive free market principles throughout the economy.
The current system, North maintains, violates the Ten Commandments, in particular the prohibition against theft.
Many believe Michele Bachmann to be a fool, finding themselves confounded by her success so far in her presidential bid, as she leads the GOP in the all-important state of Iowa. When she first ran for Congress, Michele Bachmann described herself to a church audience as “a fool for Christ,” whose will she believes she was doing by running for office. She may be a fool, but she’s not just anybody’s fool.”
Why “Non-Religious” Is the Fastest-Growing Preference in America.
From Alternet.Authors Phil Goldberg and Greg Epstein share their provocative views on why a quarter of Americans now call themselves agnostic, atheist or nonreligious.
“Currently more than one billion people around the world define themselves as agnostic, atheist or nonreligious — including 15 percent of Americans. Perhaps more striking, “nonreligious” is not only the fastest growing religious preference in the U.S., but also the only one to increase its percentage in every state over the past generation.
Phil Goldberg and Greg Epstein have provocative perspectives on who these people are, what they believe, and how they arrived at their worldviews and their moral codes.
In February, 1968, the Beatles went to India for an extended stay with their new guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It may have been the most momentous spiritual retreat since Jesus spent those 40 days in the wilderness.
With these words, interfaith minister Goldberg begins American Veda, his look at India’s impact on Western culture. From Emerson, Thoreau and Whitman, succeeding generations absorbed India’s “science of consciousness,” and millions have come to accept and live by the central teaching of Vedic wisdom: “Truth is One, the wise call it by many names.”
Acccording to Greg Epstein, the humanist chaplain at Harvard University, recent bestsellers from Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris stress the irrationality of belief and what’s wrong with religion, while offering few positive alternatives. In Good without God, Epstein explains how humanists strive to live well, build community, uphold ethical values, and lift the human spirit…all without a god. “It’s not enough to just ‘discover’ the meaning of life. Humanism is concerned with one of the most important ethical questions—what we do once we’ve found purpose in life.”
Emphasis above mine.
In general, the question is not whether we need religion to achieve morality, but can we achieve morality with religion?
Those who desire to replace our US secular government with a theocracy are the most unamerican conceivable - but I don’t expect a House committee to investigate them soon.
“Despite the width and diversity of their philosophical views, secular ethicists generally share one or more principles:
- Human beings, through their ability to empathise, are capable of determining ethical grounds.
- Human beings, through logic and reason, are capable of deriving normative principles of behaviour.
- This may lead to a behaviour preferable to that propagated or condoned based on religious texts. Alternately, this may lead to the advocacy of a system of moral principles that a broad group of people, both religious and non-religious, can agree upon.
- Human beings have the moral responsibility to ensure that societies and individuals act based on these ethical principles.
- Societies should, if at all possible, advance from a less ethical and just form to a more ethical and just form.
Humanists endorse universal morality based on the commonality of human nature, and that knowledge of right and wrong is based on our best understanding of our individual and joint interests, rather than stemming from a transcendental or arbitrarily local source, therefore rejecting faith completely as a basis for action. The humanist ethics goal is a search for viable individual, social and political principles of conduct, judging them on their ability to enhance human well-being and individual responsibility, ultimately eliminating human suffering.
The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) is the world-wide umbrella organization for those adhering to the Humanist life stance.
- Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.
Humanism is known to adopt principles of the Golden Rule, of which the best-known English formulation is found in the words of Jesus of Nazareth, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Also consider the quote by Oscar Wilde: “Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.” This quotation emphasizes the respect for others’ identity and ideals while downplaying the effects one has on others.”
There are those who state that religion is not necessary for moral behavior at all. The Dalai Lama has said that compassion and affection are human values independent of religion: “We need these human values. I call these secular ethics, secular beliefs. There’s no relationship with any particular religion. Even without religion, even as nonbelievers, we have the capacity to promote these things.” 
Those who are unhappy with the negative orientation of traditional religious ethics believe that prohibitions can only set the absolute limits of what a society is willing to tolerate from people at their worst, not guide them towards achieving their best. In other words, someone who follows all these prohibitions has just barely avoided being a criminal, not acted as a positive influence on the world. They conclude that rational ethics can lead to a fully expressed ethical life, while religious prohibitions are insufficient.
That does not mean secular ethics and religion are mutually exclusive. In fact, many principles, such as the Golden Rule, are present in both systems, and some religious people, as well as some Deists, prefer to adopt a rational approach to ethics.“
Morality without religion addresses the question of whether religion is necessary for moral behavior. Even though societal norms of morality and virtue are universal elements of all religions, acceptable moral behavior may differ from religion to religion. Religious traditions by themselves are also generally diverse, with different sects or forms of heterodoxy, and will disagree over various topics. As well, there’s no reason to assume a priori that non-religious people would be able to come to a consensus on complex moral issues.
The subject of morality without religion is dealt with by several prominent scholars as well as more popular culture-based writers. These include Robert Buckman in Can we be good without God, Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, Michael Shermer in the The Science of Good and Evil, Christopher Hitchens in God Is Not Great, and Paul Chamberlain in Can we be good without God.
Several figures from religious traditions have stated that while the non-religious can and do act morally, the idea of morality and abstract standards of good and evil cannot exist without some kind of religious component. For example, Irish-born British academic and writer Clive Staples Lewis made the argument in Mere Christianity that if a supernatural, objective standard of right and wrong does not exist outside of the natural world, then right and wrong becomes mired in the is-ought difficulty. Thus, he wrote, preferences for one moral standard over another become as inherently indefensible and arbitrary as preferring a certain flavor of food over another or choosing to drive on a certain side of a road.
In the same vein, Conservative Christian theologian Dr. Ron Rhodes has remarked that “it is impossible to distinguish evil from good unless one has an infinite reference point which is absolutely good”. Author and commentator Peter Robinson has commented that if an inner moral conscience is just another adaptive or evolved feeling in the human mind like simple emotional urges, then no inherent reason exists to consider morality as over and above other urges.
Various counterarguments have been made by non-religious thinkers. For example, Richard Dawkins, writing in The God Delusion has stated that religious people have committed a wide variety of acts and held certain beliefs through history that are considered today to be morally repugnant. He has stated that Hitler and the Nazis held broadly Christian beliefs that helped inspire the Holocaust through Christian antisemitism, that Christians have traditionally imposed unfair restrictions on the rights of women, and that Christians supported slavery through most of the religion’s history. Since, Dawkins wrote, Christians have made large, significant changes in their interpretations of holy texts so that what was formerly moral is now immoral, it is intellectually dishonest for Christians to believe that they offer an absolute, firm moral guide outside of secular logic and secular reason.
I think our knowledge of right and wrong is innate in us. Religion gets its morality from humans. We know that we can’t get along if we permit perjury, theft, murder, rape, all societies at all times, well before the advent of monarchies and certainly, have forbidden it… Socrates called his daemon, it was an inner voice that stopped him when he was trying to take advantage of someone… Why don’t we just assume that we do have some internal compass?
Alternately, some non-religious nihilistic and existential thinkers have stated that questions of right and wrong inherently have no meaning and that any notions of morality are nothing but a fantasy. Writer and philosopher Albert Camus discussed the issue of what he saw as the universe’s indifference towards humankind and the meaningless of life in his prominent novel The Stranger, in which the protagonist accepts death via execution without sadness or feelings of injustice.
On Feb 19, 2009, Dr. Frank Zindler – former president of American Atheists – spoke on “Ethics Without gods” at an event sponsored by the Case Center For Inquiry student group. He presented the group with several books, one of which he authored.
Exploring the nature of morality, Dr. Zindler observed that it is as much a part of human nature as is hunger. All Morals are human made – none originate from a higher authority – they are part of our DNA.
On a higher power:
If god is perfect, then why is there good and evil? If god is good and has the power to prevent evil, they why doesn’t she? If god does not have the power to prevent evil, then is he all powerful?
On the Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”:
How does one apply this to masochists? Or to Human Sexuality? (It might be noted that Lao Tzu’s form of this rule- “Don’t do to someone else what you would not wish them to do to you”- avoids these issues.
Ethics must be: improvable, adaptable, and self-correcting - our survival depends on ethics based on science, not superstition.
On Religion in general:
Religion was part of our evolutionary progress, as are other things we no longer need. There is no external standard for religion, as opposed to science. Religion contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction. We are all atheists in our minute to minute activities – one does not need piety to wash the dishes or repair the car. He shared Steven Wienberg’s observation;
“With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil — that takes religion.”
We must develop an enlightened self interest: maximize intensity and duration of doing well for ourselves and for others.