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July 10, 2007

Comments

Resident Atheist

There are so many thing wrong here, I don’t know where to begin. This is going to be long. You might want to grab a snack before reading further.

Who says that the ‘established moral boundaries’ are correct? Perhaps our society would flourish under a mix of the ‘established’ moral boundaries and the ‘enlightened’ ones. Whose definition of ‘established’ moral boundaries are we to use? Christians can’t even agree on what they are. How are the rest of us supposed to decide?

Moral relativism isn’t just some fancy theory used by liberals to justify their behavior. It’s a requirement of living in a world with more than one person. There are always moral gray areas that two completely sane, decent, moral people will disagree upon. Is it immoral to drive with a blood alcohol content of .08? What about .079? What about .0799?

‘Without God, everything is permissible’? This is a complete falsehood. This implies that an atheistic society would never be able to understand that moral behavior would be in its best interest. There is no reason an atheistic society would not recognize this, and develop laws to require decent behavior from its citizens. I find it ironic that the very people that claim ownership of morality think they have a right to it because they believe that one must fear being penalized in the afterlife if you misbehave. Is that true morality? If the only reason I don’t kill is because I’m afraid I’ll be fried, is that morality, or fear? I think that not killing because you don't want to see others in pain is much more moral, and requires no belief system.

You are also saying that I, as an atheist, am immoral. While I have plenty of vices, I would argue that I live my life with better morals that most so-called Christians. I think many Christians would agree with me once they knew me. How is that possible since I do not have god in my life?

I also find your examples of ‘awful’ atheistic societies weak. While it is true that they were atheistic and awful, correlation is not causation. It is much more likely, to me, that the awful conditions were caused by totalitarian or oligarchy systems of government, rather than lack of faith. The reason why the examples given by Harris are compelling is because they are democracies and more atheistic. This is a much more fair comparison. Should I compare the UK to Iran?

In addition, do I really need to go into the litany of failed states that were religious? I think a more accurate statement would be ‘WITH God, everything is permissible’ because people can (and do) justify almost any behavior in the name of religion.

Finally, I would never defend the ‘Summer of Love’. However, I don’t think that we should fear questioning the boundaries of what our ancestors deemed moral. Just like every major question in life, it is healthy to revisit it periodically to make sure the answers hold.

John

Resident Atheist, Great points you've raised on this subject! I don't often take much time responding on the comment boards, as I essentially confine my commentary to the posts themselves. But in this case, it has become apparent that further elaboration is necessary. So, I'd like to, if not rebut some of your conclusions, at the very least, respond to them so as to flesh out the ideas underlying my original post further.

As I started to respond earlier today, things quickly got out of hand. Needless to say, my original comments would have taken more than a snack to get through. More like a full-blown meal. So, I've changed course. Be looking for a segmented response in upcoming posts.

Thanks again for your perspective. It serves to help us all think through these important ideas ourselves from a much broader vantage point...something more people need to be doing on a regular basis.

Pete Ross

As with good and evil, civilization and the animal kingdom are in a continual struggle for preeminence. Where "degenerate" behavior is proscribed by law or social convention in any civilization, the practicing degenerates have four options: 1) abandon the degenerate bahavior and conform to the law or social mores; 2) ignore the proscriptions of the offending behavior, risking the corrective consequences; 3) fight to change the laws and social mores to accept the degenerate behavior; or, 4) relocate to a place accepting of the degenerate conduct. The "Summer of Love" touched off a frontal assault on the status quo, luring post-war youth away from the pesky notions of hard work, self-discipline, respect for authority, self-sacrifice, personal responsibility and accountability with the promise of free sex, drugs and rock-n-roll. While adherence to the Commandments of the Bible created the framework for civilized conduct in the Judeo-Christian world, other godless civilizations have existed throughout human history with their own definitions of acceptable conduct. In Nazi Germany, it was acceptable to slaughter people for their religious belief, political belief, mental incapacity or homosexuality. Nevertheless, German society continued, and likely would have continued unabated had they not launched on the maniacal, military effort to obliterate the Jews globally. Similarly, Spanish society during the Inquisition, while devoutly Catholic, killed for religious belief or any belief considered heretical by the Catholic Church, including the preposterous notion that the Earth revolves around the Sun. The point of this comparison is that the belief in God or the lack of it does not determine one's conduct. It is the personal choice of the individual, Godfearing or otherwise, that determines conduct. If one's tolerance for the prevailing, acceptable conduct is exceeded, the choices of the degenerates listed above always apply. It was "door number four" that brought the Pilgrims to our shores to steam roll the civilization of the native Americans. And so the struggle continues.

PGR

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