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PostPosted: Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:04 pm  I am seriously questioning my atheism Reply with quote

Disclaimer: This post may be out of place on the Christianity and Apologetics forum (even though it does have some relation to Christianity), if it is, I apologize and ask that it be moved to a more appropriate place on the forum. However, I do intend this thread to be a discussion, if not a debate, so I felt this was the best place for it.

As many of you know, I am an ex-evangelical Christian and a current atheist. By "atheist," I mean I lack belief in god(s) of any kind, although I do not assert that there are definitely no gods. Since departing from Christianity, everything has made so much more sense: an eternal Universe (defined as the totality of natural existence) explained existence, evolution explained the diversity of life on earth, the absence of god(s) explained the problems of evil, inconsistent revelation, and so on.

However, there is one thing that I have been unable to account for under atheism: morality. Atheists almost invariably state that moral values and duties are not objective facts, but are simply subjective statements of preference and have no ontological value. That is, of course, until we are presented with cases of true evil, such as the Holocaust, the atrocities of Pol Pot, or the horrible psychopathic serial killings of individuals like Jeffery Dahmer. Then we as atheists tacitly appeal to objective moral values and duties, saying that individuals who commit should be severely punished (even executed) for doing "evil," saying that they "knew right from wrong." But if right and wrong are simply statements of subjective opinion, then how can we say that others knew "right from wrong" and are accountable for their actions? If relativism is true, they simply had differing opinions from the majority of human beings. However, it seems obvious to me (and to the vast majority of others, theist and atheist alike) that this is absurd -- the monsters who carried out the aforementioned acts really, objectively did evil.

Given this, the only reasonable conclusion is that moral facts and imperatives exist.

However, atheism appears to offer no framework for moral facts. Because of this, a few weeks ago, I started up a discussion on Wielenbergian moral realism, which states that objective moral values are simply "brute facts" that exist without any explanation. However, others rightly pointed out that the existence of "brute facts" is ontologically problematic and that the best explanation (on atheism) is that morality is simply subjective. Additionally, even if atheistic moral facts existed, the Humeian problem of deriving an "ought" from an "is" would preclude them from acting as moral imperatives; commands which human beings are obligated to follow.

In light of these airtight logical objections to atheistic moral realism, I was forced to abandon my position on moral facts and tentatively adopt moral relativism. However, relativism still seems problematic. After all, if morality is subjective, no one person can accuse another of failing to recognize the difference between "right and wrong," however, it is obvious to me (and, I would suspect, to other atheists as well) that right or wrong really objectively (not subjectively) exist.

The only rational conclusion I can seem to come up with is that there is a (are) transcendent moral lawgiver(s) who both grounds moral facts and issues binding moral commands on all humanity; i.e., God(s). This echoes evangelical Christian philosopher William Lane Craig's moral argument, which syllogism reads:

WLC wrote:
Premise 1: If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.
Premise 2: Objective moral values and duties do exist
Conclusion: Therefore, God exists


Premises 1 and 2 seem bulletproof -- (1) was demonstrated earlier in this post, leaving (2) as the only premise to attack. However, (2) seems to be as obvious as a hand in front of my face. The conclusion necessarily follows from (1) and (2), so is there any rational reason for me to reject the conclusion of the argument?

Remember, I am no believer of any kind. I am a staunch, educated, informed atheist, and I am well aware of the philosophical arguments against God(s), such as the problem of evil, the dysteleological argument, the problem of omniscience, etc. I'm also well aware of the plentiful empirical evidence against the existence of God(s), for instance, evolution, mind-body physicalism, etc. These are the reasons I reconverted from Christianity in the first place. However, I don't see way around this problem other than to accept either that our apparently obvious sense of moral facts is somehow mistaken, or that (a) theistic being(s) exist.

Debate question: Are my issues with atheism legitimate? Can atheism provide a coherent moral framework other than nihilism, relativism, or subjectivism? Do these problems really present evidence for theism? Is William Lane Craig right? Is this a real problem for atheism, or are my (our) emotions simply overriding my (our) rationality?

Feel free to present evidence for or against atheism, Christianity, or any religious or nonreligious perspective in this thread.
Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 451: Mon Apr 16, 2012 3:05 pm
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JoeyKnothead wrote:
From Post 447:

1robin wrote:

...
Let Christ define what a Christian is, not wikipedia. The bible always makes it clear that true born again Christians have always been a small minority. I realize this is my word and that you can't have confidense in it's accuracy unless you are a true Christian, but this is irrelevant anyway. Christianity itself cannot be judged by people prefessing faith that are acting contrary that faith. You can assign guilt to the person but not the religion.

Plenty fair.

1robin wrote:

Stalin acting the way he did is perfectly cinsistent with atheism.

This atheist contends that the moral values I derive "after" accepting atheism would preclude my wanting to slaughter folks, while also contending some folks are of such a character as to warrant their own slaughter (murderers, rapists, pedophiles, etc.).

1robin wrote:

Atheism cannot account for the sanctity of life...

This atheist accounts for the sanctity of life 'cause here I am in among it.

1robin wrote:

nor objective morality...

I challenge anyone to produce an "objective moral" that doesn't rely on the subjective to get it there.

1robin wrote:

so why not kill someone.

I don't go around randomly killing folks because of my stance on the sanctity of life.

1robin wrote:

To bring this sidetracked line of reasoning to an end the U.S. gives more than any other country to charitable causes...

Yours is ostensibly an argument from numbers, where such skews the contributions of poorer nations. We also incarcerate folks for smoking a hooter.

I leave the remainder of the post for others.


I was not speaking of any atheist's moralty in particular. I was making a point that in atheism there is no compelling reason to respect or value other life forms that do not directly help you in some way. An atheist can have moral ideas but cannot justify them by their atheism unless they engage in wishful thinking. It requires sneaking in some Christian like system while trying to deny the God of that system. That last point I made was terribly written but maybe you will get it anyway.

How does your behing a human prove that atheism can account for the value of life? You lost me on that one.

I didn't understand what you were specifically saying with your objective and relative statement. Maybe give me an example.

You don't go around killing people for a lot of reasons but none of them can be justified by atheism except the fear of punishment. I suspect you have a lot of Christian values that you don't attribute to their rightful source (western christian or islamic society)

My comments about charity were not made to prove anything. They were made to disprove someone elses statement about how terrible the US is. I don't think this has anything to do with the thread and would rather have not had to deal with it.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 452: Mon Apr 16, 2012 6:05 pm
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From Post 451:

1robin wrote:

I was not speaking of any atheist's moralty in particular. I was making a point that in atheism there is no compelling reason to respect or value other life forms that do not directly help you in some way.

Such condition is concurrent to the position of "God's there" - only when one tacks on their theology do they start creating a philosophy of respect or value for other life forms that do not directly help them in some way.

1robin wrote:

An atheist can have moral ideas but cannot justify them by their atheism unless they engage in wishful thinking.

[url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_projection]Projection[/i].

1robin wrote:

It requires sneaking in some Christian like system while trying to deny the God of that system. That last point I made was terribly written but maybe you will get it anyway.

Where you admit to your own inability to accurately or effectly express your own position, you display the very doubts you project onto me.

1robin wrote:

How does your behing a human prove that atheism can account for the value of life? You lost me on that one.

Because I value my life.

1robin wrote:

I didn't understand what you were specifically saying with your objective and relative statement. Maybe give me an example.

I requested that you offer just one example of an objective moral issue, value, or such.

Then, explain how it is 'objective' without resorting to subjective evaluations.

1robin wrote:

You don't go around killing people for a lot of reasons but none of them can be justified by atheism except the fear of punishment.

Reciprocity. I don't go around randomly killing folks 'cause I don't want folks killing me.

1robin wrote:

I suspect you have a lot of Christian values that you don't attribute to their rightful source (western christian or islamic society)

Bull feathers.

And projection to boot.

Where my value system coincides with other religious beliefs is essentially just that - coincidence.

1robin wrote:

My comments about charity were not made to prove anything. They were made to disprove someone elses statement about how terrible the US is.

Or, those comments were made to prove the US isn't as terrible as some believe. Either way, yours was an argument from numbers that, as I said, doesn't reflect on other nations' inability to offer as much aid.

1robin wrote:

I don't think this has anything to do with the thread and would rather have not had to deal with it.

Yet you were perfectly happy "dealing with it" when you weren't being challenged - as evidenced by responding to the notion to begin with.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 453: Mon Apr 16, 2012 10:42 pm
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1robin wrote:
Artie wrote:
1robin wrote:
Atheism cannot account for the sanctity of life, nor objective morality so why not kill someone.
Drowning practically every person and a lot of the animals on the planet is the same as showing sanctity for life? How do you even manage to say that a being performing genocide has any sanctity for life? Atheism has nothing to do with sanctity of life. It's just a non-belief in deities. The sanctity of life is accounted for by logic, reason and common sense, knowledge of how and why morals developed, conscience, upbringing, the social contracts and laws of the land you live in.


I guess the original subject of objective morality has been substituted with somehow convincing yourself that you have the intelligence, wisdom, and knowledge to evaluate God almighty's moral state. Since we always come back to your unqualified accusations against an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent entity I will play along until I get bored.


It's not really a good tactic to misrepresent things. On the other hand, I would love to see you provide actual EVIDENCE of 'God Almighty's moral state', and so show that 'objective morals' actually exist.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 454: Tue Apr 17, 2012 4:27 am
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1robin wrote:
I was not speaking of any atheist's moralty in particular. I was making a point that in atheism there is no compelling reason to respect or value other life forms that do not directly help you in some way.

So, the same goes for theism - there is no compelling reason to respect or value other life forms that do not directly help you in some way in theism either.

Quote:
An atheist can have moral ideas but cannot justify them by their atheism unless they engage in wishful thinking.

Again the same goes for theists, they can can have moral ideas but cannot justify them by their theism unless they engage in wishful thinking - i.e. filling in the generic deities in theism with specifics. The point is you are not comparing like to like. You should be comparing atheism with theism, or humanism with Christianity.

Quote:
It requires sneaking in some Christian like system while trying to deny the God of that system. That last point I made was terribly written but maybe you will get it anyway.

What I see are theists sneaking in some humanism like system while trying to attribute it to their deities. I suspect you have a lot of humanism value that you don't attribite to their rightful source.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 455: Tue Apr 17, 2012 10:26 am
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JoeyKnothead wrote:
From Post 451:

1robin wrote:

I was not speaking of any atheist's moralty in particular. I was making a point that in atheism there is no compelling reason to respect or value other life forms that do not directly help you in some way.

Such condition is concurrent to the position of "God's there" - only when one tacks on their theology do they start creating a philosophy of respect or value for other life forms that do not directly help them in some way.

1robin wrote:

An atheist can have moral ideas but cannot justify them by their atheism unless they engage in wishful thinking.

[url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_projection]Projection[/i].

1robin wrote:

It requires sneaking in some Christian like system while trying to deny the God of that system. That last point I made was terribly written but maybe you will get it anyway.

Where you admit to your own inability to accurately or effectivly express your own position, you display the very doubts you project onto me.

1robin wrote:

How does your behing a human prove that atheism can account for the value of life? You lost me on that one.

Because I value my life.

1robin wrote:

I didn't understand what you were specifically saying with your objective and relative statement. Maybe give me an example.

I requested that you offer just one example of an objective moral issue, value, or such.

Then, explain how it is 'objective' without resorting to subjective evaluations.

1robin wrote:

You don't go around killing people for a lot of reasons but none of them can be justified by atheism except the fear of punishment.

Reciprocity. I don't go around randomly killing folks 'cause I don't want folks killing me.

1robin wrote:

I suspect you have a lot of Christian values that you don't attribute to their rightful source (western christian or islamic society)

Bull feathers.

And projection to boot.

Where my value system coincides with other religious beliefs is essentially just that - coincidence.

1robin wrote:

My comments about charity were not made to prove anything. They were made to disprove someone elses statement about how terrible the US is.

Or, those comments were made to prove the US isn't as terrible as some believe. Either way, yours was an argument from numbers that, as I said, doesn't reflect on other nations' inability to offer as much aid.

1robin wrote:

I don't think this has anything to do with the thread and would rather have not had to deal with it.

Yet you were perfectly happy "dealing with it" when you weren't being challenged - as evidenced by responding to the notion to begin with.


1. I am not tacking on any arbitrary religion to some assumed starting point. I am referencing the most widely accepted religion in the history of man. It exists separate and previous to me so it is not subject to distortion by me. It contains the only justification for the value of life not any assertion "smuggled in by me". It is part and parcel of "God is there" not as a separate system, it is how we know God is there. There is no reasonable argument for God is there without the religion. They are not separate and can't be divided.

2. I did not have time for your link but I have already seen many atheist's (Hitchens, Dennet, Dawkins, etc.....attempt to get morals out of evolution and it is one of the weakest arguments and most desperate attempts I have ever heard.
But I apologize for not having time to check your out.

3. I didn't see what you are talking about with the my doubts projected on something else point.

4. Because you value your life is not evidence for an atheistic sanctity of life proof. The motivation for that fact is selfish. The sanctity of all life is not selfish but objectively benevolent.

5. The sanctity of life issue only is only valid from a personal but objective point of view any subjective point of view of it is deficient in explanatory power for it's existence.

6. You proved my point in that reprisal is a fear of punishment and your motivation, which doesn't account for any act of altruism and so lacks explanatory power.

7. Non-bull feathers. Many philosophers and historians point out the obvious fact that most people in the west especially are the product of Christian and democratic influences so deep that they may not be recognized in connection with their original source. For example our inalienable rights found in the constitution. Your value system like it or not is based in large part on society and society is largely based on the influences mentioned above.

8. I'm bored so I will leave your last points for another time.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 456: Tue Apr 17, 2012 10:37 am
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Goat wrote:
1robin wrote:
Artie wrote:
1robin wrote:
Atheism cannot account for the sanctity of life, nor objective morality so why not kill someone.
Drowning practically every person and a lot of the animals on the planet is the same as showing sanctity for life? How do you even manage to say that a being performing genocide has any sanctity for life? Atheism has nothing to do with sanctity of life. It's just a non-belief in deities. The sanctity of life is accounted for by logic, reason and common sense, knowledge of how and why morals developed, conscience, upbringing, the social contracts and laws of the land you live in.


I guess the original subject of objective morality has been substituted with somehow convincing yourself that you have the intelligence, wisdom, and knowledge to evaluate God almighty's moral state. Since we always come back to your unqualified accusations against an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent entity I will play along until I get bored.


It's not really a good tactic to misrepresent things. On the other hand, I would love to see you provide actual EVIDENCE of 'God Almighty's moral state', and so show that 'objective morals' actually exist.


If this was for me to resond to, your asking me to do what I wrote all that stuff above to suggest no one should do. I can't evaluate God's moral state in any meaningful way that was my point. I can only look at his actions and motivations if given and compare that to our social moral conventions but that would be of little use in this discussion.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 457: Tue Apr 17, 2012 10:53 am
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Bust Nak wrote:
1robin wrote:
I was not speaking of any atheist's moralty in particular. I was making a point that in atheism there is no compelling reason to respect or value other life forms that do not directly help you in some way.

So, the same goes for theism - there is no compelling reason to respect or value other life forms that do not directly help you in some way in theism either.

Quote:
An atheist can have moral ideas but cannot justify them by their atheism unless they engage in wishful thinking.

Again the same goes for theists, they can can have moral ideas but cannot justify them by their theism unless they engage in wishful thinking - i.e. filling in the generic deities in theism with specifics. The point is you are not comparing like to like. You should be comparing atheism with theism, or humanism with Christianity.

Quote:
It requires sneaking in some Christian like system while trying to deny the God of that system. That last point I made was terribly written but maybe you will get it anyway.

What I see are theists sneaking in some humanism like system while trying to attribute it to their deities. I suspect you have a lot of humanism value that you don't attribute to their rightful source.


The sanctity of human life is inherent in our unique relationship to God. The bible reenforces the idea of human worth incessantly. While our inherent value being important, given relevance, and explanation by God I do not suggest they it's importance outweighs Gods Justice in some instances where they are in conflict. If there is one religion that is true then it is the natural progression that the aspects of that religion are used in the explanation of issues related to it. There is no conflict with referencing a religion and it's specifics to propose a likely or possible explanation for human worth unless you presume that all religions are false which is unknowable. It is possible that humanism has some influence on me but I doubt it is very much at all. Humanism was not the dominant formative force on the society I live in and is a poor explanation for my values. When I have looked into humanism I found many of it's tenants to be inconsistent with my values so once again it has little effect on me. Humanist philosophy is wuite a bit younger than the major religions so who influenced who should be obvious. What I have read about Humanism does not speak of a objective justification for human value and many times scholars admit to the borrowing of ideas from religion(many catholicism) by humanists

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 458: Tue Apr 17, 2012 11:07 am
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1robin wrote:
The sanctity of human life is inherent in our unique relationship to God. The bible reenforces the idea of human worth incessantly. While our inherent value being important, given relevance, and explanation by God I do not suggest they it's importance outweighs Gods Justice in some instances where they are in conflict.

You are talking about Christianity again and not theism.

Quote:
If there is one religion that is true then it is the natural progression that the aspects of that religion are used in the explanation of issues related to it. There is no conflict with referencing a religion and it's specifics to propose a likely or possible explanation for human worth unless you presume that all religions are false which is unknowable.

Then compare the specifics with humanism, and not atheism.

Quote:
It is possible that humanism has some influence on me but I doubt it is very much at all. Humanism was not the dominant formative force on the society I live in and is a poor explanation for my values. When I have looked into humanism I found many of it's tenants to be inconsistent with my values so once again it has little effect on me.

Well of couse not all of your values came from humanism, just the stuff like loving your neighbours or equality.

Quote:
Humanist philosophy is wuite a bit younger than the major religions so who influenced who should be obvious. What I have read about Humanism does not speak of a objective justification for human value and many times scholars admit to the borrowing of ideas from religion(many catholicism) by humanists

That's because the ideas behind humanism is so ingrained in humanity, you don't even recognize them as borrowed.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 459: Tue Apr 17, 2012 11:11 am
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From Post 455:

1robin wrote:

1. I am not tacking on any arbitrary religion to some assumed starting point.

Though you arbitrarily tack on notions to atheism that are not warranted, and have been explained to you (while obviously being well within your rights to reject those explanations).

1robin wrote:

I am referencing the most widely accepted religion in the history of man.

Argumentum ad populum. If the majority of folks think the moon ain't there, will it fall from the sky?

1robin wrote:

It exists separate and previous to me so it is not subject to distortion by me.

That distortion you speak of, are you certain you ain't doing it? That doesn't imply nefarity.

1robin wrote:

It contains the only justification for the value of life not any assertion "smuggled in by me".

You call it the "only" justification as you reject other justifications that have been presented to you.

1robin wrote:

It is part and parcel of "God is there" not as a separate system, it is how we know God is there.

A bald-faced assertion devoid of any reasonably confirmatory data in its support.

1robin wrote:

There is no reasonable argument for God is there without the religion. They are not separate and can't be divided.

The various sects, demoninations, and interpretations of the god concept put the lie to that statement.

1robin wrote:

2. I did not have time for your link but I have already seen many atheist's (Hitchens, Dennet, Dawkins, etc.....attempt to get morals out of evolution and it is one of the weakest arguments and most desperate attempts I have ever heard.
But I apologize for not having time to check your out.

So, you "don't have time" for the data I present, while you yourself say you'll "think about" presenting data that confirms your own position.

Please pardon me if I find you incapable of engaging in a proper and thorough analysis of the situation.

1robin wrote:

3. I didn't see what you are talking about with the my doubts projected on something else point.

I don't doubt ya didn't.

1robin wrote:

4. Because you value your life is not evidence for an atheistic sanctity of life proof.

Why not? Is it because you deem your religious beliefs so superior to any competing notions that you are incapable of thinking folks just may consider life precious?

1robin wrote:

The motivation for that fact is selfish.

I s'pose one man's "selfish" is another's "I can relate to my own kind".

1robin wrote:

The sanctity of all life is not selfish but objectively benevolent.

So you say, while admitting yourself that you will only support your contentions if you feel like it, or if you remember to do so.

1robin wrote:

5. The sanctity of life issue only is only valid from a personal but objective point of view any subjective point of view of it is deficient in explanatory power for it's existence.

That you consider any subjective evaluation of the sanctity of life insufficient, while admitting that you will only support your contentions if and when you feel like it indicates, if only to me, one who is so self-assured as to be beyond believing. You use your own subjective evaluations to determine what you consider constitutes "objective".

1robin wrote:

6. You proved my point in that reprisal is a fear of punishment and your motivation, which doesn't account for any act of altruism and so lacks explanatory power.

And your fear of the retributions of a god are not fear of punishment?

1robin wrote:

7. Non-bull feathers. Many philosophers and historians...

Argumentum ad populum.

1robin wrote:

...point out the obvious fact that most people in the west especially are the product of Christian and democratic influences so deep that they may not be recognized in connection with their original source.

If, by your own admittance, "they may not be recognized in connection with their original source", then how can we "recognize" them as coming from Christian sources, as opposed to being co-opted from even 'previouser' sources?

1robin wrote:

For example our inalienable rights found in the constitution.

"Rights" are as subjective as they come.

1robin wrote:

Your value system like it or not is based in large part on society and society is largely based on the influences mentioned above.

This should not lead us to conclude those values are objective.

1robin wrote:

8. I'm bored so I will leave your last points for another time.

Are you confident the observer won't think you just can't rebut them - given your previous admittance that you'll only support your own contentions at your whim?

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 460: Tue Apr 17, 2012 12:24 pm
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1robin wrote:


1. I am not tacking on any arbitrary religion to some assumed starting point. I am referencing the most widely accepted religion in the history of man. It exists separate and previous to me so it is not subject to distortion by me. It contains the only justification for the value of life not any assertion "smuggled in by me". It is part and parcel of "God is there" not as a separate system, it is how we know God is there. There is no reasonable argument for God is there without the religion. They are not separate and can't be divided.


Well, you are right, you can't have a reasonable argument for god without the religion, and it is reasonable for you to choose the religion you are most familiar with, and in this case, the religion that the original poster was coming from.

However, the question remains 'Can you have a reasonable argument for God WITH the religion. The original poster was having doubts about that. His specific issue was that was resolved when it could not be shown that 'objective morals' exist. That could not be shown to be true.

Can you show a 'reasonable argument for God' WITH the religion? I have yet to see any , no matter what religion is assumed.

Quote:

2. I did not have time for your link but I have already seen many atheist's (Hitchens, Dennet, Dawkins, etc.....attempt to get morals out of evolution and it is one of the weakest arguments and most desperate attempts I have ever heard.
But I apologize for not having time to check your out.


Considering the vast differences in morality between different Christians, can you show that Christian morals 'came from God'? "God did it" is a heck of a lot weaker than showing how morality can evolve is.


3. I didn't see what you are talking about with the my doubts projected on something else point.

4. Because you value your life is not evidence for an atheistic sanctity of life proof. The motivation for that fact is selfish. The sanctity of all life is not selfish but objectively benevolent.
[/quote]

Is it 'objectively benevolent"?? Care to prove that? If the 'sanctity of all life' is true, then you approve of making sure that the hook worm, malaria, and the bubonic plague survive in a robust manner.

Quote:

5. The sanctity of life issue only is only valid from a personal but objective point of view any subjective point of view of it is deficient in explanatory power for it's existence.


Please support this is true, other than your personal opinion, or based on the opinions of writers from 2 to 3 thousand years ago?


Quote:

6. You proved my point in that reprisal is a fear of punishment and your motivation, which doesn't account for any act of altruism and so lacks explanatory power.


Empathy and recipricol altruism is a survival characteristic. You help me, and I'll help you, and we both can survive better.

Quote:


7. Non-bull feathers. Many philosophers and historians point out the obvious fact that most people in the west especially are the product of Christian and democratic influences so deep that they may not be recognized in connection with their original source. For example our inalienable rights found in the constitution. Your value system like it or not is based in large part on society and society is largely based on the influences mentioned above.


And, many philosophers and historians point out that the source is far older than Christianity.. Your point?

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