Atheism, Freud, and the “Normal, Wholesome Life”

March 18, 2012 12:53 pm 121 comments

The other day, while scrolling through a site for non-believers on Facebook, I came across a post which featured a picture of  Sigmund Freud and the following quotation: “When man is freed of religion, he has a better chance to live a normal and wholesome life.” For any thinking person, such an assertion immediately raises a number of thorny questions: Which religion/s was Freud talking about? What parts of the religion? (“Love your neighbor as yourself?” “You shall not ill-treat any widow or orphan?”) What exactly is Freud’s definition of a “religion”? Atheistic propagandist, Bill Maher once opined that the atheistic ideology of Communism was a “state religion.” Does that mean that any ideology, including atheism, is a type of religion? What exactly does Freud mean by a “normal and wholesome life?”  Of course, any attempt to seriously answer all those questions would require a book, not an article.

What I actually posted on the site had little to do with directly addressing any of the aforementioned points:

Sigmund Freud also wrote that “the moment a man questions the meaning and value of life he is sick, since objectively neither has any existence.” Human life then, in reality, has no meaning and no value; is that a good basis for a normal and wholesome life?

Freud, of course, was absolutely correct. If the atheistic worldview is true, then we are here for no particular reason at all and a human being has no more or less value than a field mouse, or for that matter, a piece of  quartz crystal. Evolutionary biologist G. Gaylord Simpson put it this way: “Man is the result of a purposeless and materialistic process that did not have a human in mind.” Fellow scientist, Dr. James Watson, concurs: “I don’t think we’re here for anything, we’re just products of evolution.” (It seems to me that the most likely result of inculcating my children with the notion that their lives had no meaning and no value would be a desperate search, on their part, for a psychiatrist!)

A reply to my post was not long in appearing:

Life has no objective meaning? How will I ever live a normal and wholesome life? Sorry, but some things are subjective. I don’t need to invent a sky daddy as an invisible means of support to deal with the fact that the meaning of life is one of them.

In other words, he agreed with Freud and me on the essential point. There is no objective meaning to our existence and of course no objective value to life either. He then goes on to mock belief in God as an artificially manufactured solution to the problem of finding purpose and value in life: “I don’t need to invent a sky daddy…to deal with [this] fact…” What is most telling here is not only the glaring contradiction contained in his reply, but the inescapable absurdity that is reflected in every attempt to form some sort of worldview based on non-belief. Please allow me to elaborate.

Sorry, but some things are subjective.” – This concept is echoed by humanistic philosopher Paul Kurtz: “Human life has no meaning independent of itself…the meaning of life is what we choose to give it.”  Jean Paul Sartre follows suit: “Life has no meaning a priori…it’s up to you to give it meaning, and value is nothing else but the meaning you choose…”  Before going any further it is instructive to define clearly what subjective means: “Proceeding from or taking place in a person’s mind rather than the external world…existing only within the experiencer’s mind…existing only in the mind, illusory.” (American Heritage Dictionary)

The idea of creating our own subjective meaning and purpose may sound very profound in the university lecture hall but when stripped of its philosophical camouflage it really means the following: Make something up out of your own head that gives your life purpose and meaning and pretend that it’s real. In other words, create a comforting fiction to avoid getting “sick,” as Freud described it. Well then, if we must create some illusory construct to give our lives meaning and value, what’s wrong with the “God construct” or “sky-daddy” as this gentleman called it; if it makes me feel good, why not? It’s no more artificial and illusory than say humanism, utilitarianism, communism, speciesism, etc., ad nauseum. This highlights the absurdity of the atheist position. On the one hand the atheistic philosopher bids us to create an illusory meaning and value for life and on the other hand mocks religion for being illusory.

Of course, it is possible that an individual will choose to embrace reality with no sugar-coated comforting fictions at all. He will simply live life with the clear understanding that nothing he does matters at all and will relate to other people as only having as much value as suits him at any given moment. (If you ever meet such a “realist” I would advise you not to turn your back on him and to head for the nearest exit immediately.)

Dr. Paul Kurtz, humanistic philosopher. He asks us to make up a meaning and value for life and pretend it's real

For all the talk about separation of religion and state, it is obvious that American society could not exist or continue functioning without the religious, God-based principles on which it is founded. The sacred notion of the dignity of the individual that is expressed in the words “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” is only because human beings stand equal before their infinite creator; it is only because of man’s unique relationship with God that he is inherently more precious than other beasts of the field. In fact, the only possible reason that would obligate us to live like human beings rather than as two legged, upright walking primates is our unique relationship with God. The alternative to a society being founded on the principle that man is created in the image of God is one that is founded on the principle that man evolved – through a purposeless process – in the image of the bacterium. It is the contemplation of this very notion that Freud so incisively described as making us feel “sick.” All comforting fictions notwithstanding, a society that chooses the latter has no hope of ever achieving anything remotely resembling a “normal and wholesome life.”

Rabbi Moshe Averick is an orthodox rabbi, a  regular columnist for the Algemeiner Journal, and author of Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused and Illusory World of the Atheist. It is available on Amazon.com and Kindle. Rabbi Averick can be reached via his website.

121 Comments

  • Human beings are capable of leading normal, wholesome lives, i.e., of being rational. Even if they become religious, people are still capable of leading normal, wholesome lives — if they don’t take religion seriously. If people treat religion simply a set of inspiring stories but do not try to put the historic immorality of religion into practice, then their religion won’t be too dangerous (at least to others).

    But the people who try to put religion into practice — from the big stuff like inquisitions and jihads, to the small stuff like blue laws and teaching “Creationism” in public schools — do pose a danger to society.

  • Theism is a very basic rejection of reason, so should religious gatherings be called “anti-reason rallies“?

  • Still waiting…

    What is your definition of ideology? How is atheism “used by many people as an ideology”?

    I’m sorry, I know these are completely different questions than those you already answered.

  • Since you won’t come out and actually say it, I’ll have to infer that you are conceding, contrary to what you wrote in your article, that atheism is not an ideology. I’m glad that’s settled and I won’t here you referring to atheism as an ideology again.

    On to your next assertion… Care to finally define ideology and explain how atheism “ is used by many people as an ideology”?

  • So, do you concede that atheism is not, as you wrote in your article, an ideology? This is a yes or no question.

    Here are some templates of intellectually honest answers:

    a) No, atheism is not an ideology. What I meant to write is _________ .
    b) Yes, atheism is an ideology. The definition of an ideology is ____________. Therefore, atheism is an ideology because _____________.

    Feel free to fill in the blanks.

    “Well… technically no, but kinda, sorta yes” is intellectually dishonest evasion.

    • Moshe Averick

      Sivan,

      I answered your question. It might very well be that in a theoretical sense it is not an ideology, however it is used by many people as an ideology. As I have written in a previous article, atheism stands for nothing and affirms nothing, but that does not prevent people from mistakenly acting as if it does, hence the Reason Rally, hence there are Atheist societies, etc. Explain it to them, not me.

      • Atheists aren’t the ones claiming atheism is an ideology. You are (or were).

        Also, it’s called the Reason Rally, not Atheism rally, so I don’t know what that has to do with anything.

        Finally, societies, communities, clubs, etc. exist for all sorts of things that aren’t ideologies, so again, I don’t know what that has to do with anything.

        • moshe averick

          Sivan,

          Who are we kidding? “Reason” has nothing to do with it. I believe in “reason” also. It was a rally for atheism. The problem, of course, is that “RAlly for ATheism” doesn’t play very well in Peoria.

          • Fine, it was an atheism rally. Rallies are held for things other than ideologies, so again, what’s your point?

            p.s. I realize you believe in “reason”.

        • moshe averick

          PS

          You’re going to just love my next article about the “Reason Rally” that should be out shortly. Look forward to hearing from you.

  • ——“Whether or not one views the world through the eyes of a theist or atheist results in radically different approaches to life and the types of ideologies one might embrace.”——

    No, Moshe, that is certainly not true.

    Notice, for instance, that Stalin was an atheist who ran a dictatorship — and Ayatollah Khamenei is a theist who runs a dictatorship.

    And there are both theists and atheists who are in favor of limited government as established by the U.S. Constitution.

    In other words, knowing just whether a person is an atheist or a theist is basically useless for understanding whether that person is good or bad (or even smart or stupid).

    It is a tremendous error to look as atheism as if it were necessarily a bad thing or a dangerous influence in the world. (In fact, the odds are that theism is much more likely to be a negative indicator — though, of course, it isn’t always.)

  • “although in a technical sense atheism may not be an ideology, it certainly is a definition of reality that is critically significant.”

    1. I’m not interested in your word games. Either answer the questions or concdede that atheism is not an ideology. What is your definition of ideology? How does atheism fit that definition?

    2. Do the consequences of a fact determine whether the fact is true or false? This is a yes or no question.

    • Moshe Averick

      Sivan,

      I don’t see what is bothering you so much. I thought I answered your question. Whether or not it is technically an ideology, people certainly create ideologies/lifestyles with it. Why else would there be atheist conventions and “Reason Rallies.”?

      • An “atheist convention” is a truly nutty idea. It makes even less sense than a “anti-communist convention,” or a convention of people who don’t believe in Ewoks.

        I’m curious: are there “theist conventions” where Jews, Christians, and Muslims gather because they all believe the same thing?

      • To show dolts like you that your idiotic conclusions about atheists are idiotic?

  • Human beings are capable of leading normal, wholesome lives. Even if they become religious, people are still capable of leading normal, wholesome lives — if they don’t take religion seriously. If people treat religion simply a set of inspiring stories but do not try to put the historic immorality of religion into practice, then their religion won’t be too dangerous.

    But the people who try to put religion into practice — from the big stuff like inquisitions and jihads, to the small stuff like blue laws and teaching “Creationism” in public schools — do pose a danger to society.

    • Rabbi Averick wrote: “The alternative to a society being founded on the principle that man is created in the image of God is one that is founded on the principle that man evolved – through a purposeless process – in the image of the bacterium.”——

      That is a false alternative. (And of the more nonsensical variety, at that.) Man exists as a distinct species, per se, not as the image of anything else, whether “God” or “bacterium.”

      Note also that from the human perspective (qua rational animal) neither God nor bacteria represent a wholesome image as inspiration for leading a good life.

      • In others words, neither a society founded on God, nor a society founded on bacteria, is a healthy society for human beings! Neither a theocracy nor a bacteriocracy is a valid human social system.

        [It may seem for all the world that bacteria are currently running the U.S. government, but it's not quite like that. The likes of Obama, Sibelius, Holder, Reid, etc., are socialists -- and that's toxic enough to make bacteria look good (which plenty are anyhow) -- and it's just as bad as theocracy.]

  • Still waiting…

    How do you define ideology?
    How does atheism fit that definition?

    Have you really never heard someone explain how wrong this idea is? Maybe you have, and you know it’s absurd, and that’s why you’re not responding.

    Just for kicks, here’s a video from 2007!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=200qAsgpfwU&feature=related

    It took me about 2 seconds of searching on the internet. The speaker is trying to explain to someone as dense or intellectually dishonest as moshe that atheism is not a religion/ideology/whatever.

    Enjoy!

    • An ideology is a set of principles aimed at establishing or maintaining a certain political or religious system.

      “Atheism” is not an ideology because it doesn’t aim to establish any social system. “Atheism” is nothing more than a lack of belief in a supernatural God. That provides zero basis for any principles or system. At most, it could be a rejection of religious principles and systems — with no hint of what ideology any particular atheist actually has.

      Moshe Averick’s bizarre notion that being an atheist renders one unable to value human life is an exercise in wearing blinders to avoid facing reality.

    • Sivan,

      Frankly, I’ve lost the thread here, but although in a technical sense atheism may not be an ideology, it certainly is a definition of reality that is critically significant. Whether or not one views the world through the eyes of a theist or atheist results in radically different approaches to life and the types of ideologies one might embrace.

      • ——“Whether or not one views the world through the eyes of a theist or atheist results in radically different approaches to life and the types of ideologies one might embrace.”——

        Not necessarily.

        Notice, for instance, that Stalin was an atheist who ran a dictatorship — and Ayatollah Khamenei is a theist who runs a dictatorship.

        And there are both theists and atheists who are in favor of limited government as established by the U.S. Constitution.

        In other words, knowing just whether a person is an atheist or a theist is basically useless for understanding whether that person is good or bad (or even smart or stupid).

        It is a tremendous error to look as atheism as if it were necessarily a bad thing or a dangerous influence in the world. (In fact, the odds are that theism is much more likely to be a negative indicator — though, of course, it isn’t always.)

  • This pretty much covers this article, and every other stale article
    put forth by moshe. Not to mention his book of recycled, idiotic
    ideas:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSLkQnCurgs

    Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for joining us, and welcome to
    tonight’s debate, on the proposition “Christian theology is true”.

    I’m Dr. Stamp, and I’m honored to have been asked to be moderator
    tonight. With the lineup of speakers that we have before us it’s sure
    to be a lively and enlightening evening, and I’d first of all like to
    thank both the Students’ Theistic Alliance, and the Center for Secular
    Inquiry for their assistance in bringing tonight’s debate together,
    it’s been a great joint effort and we appreciate the amount of great
    work that’s gone in to organize everything.

    Before I introduce our distinguished speakers, I’d just like to lay
    out a few ground rules for everyone to make sure the debate runs
    smoothly and fairly. Firstly I’d just ask everyone to please turn off
    your telephones and pagers, for the benefit of those around you.

    I’ll ask all our speakers to please stay within their allotted time,
    as we’ve got a lot to get through. Also, let’s not have any
    impoliteness or name calling, we’d like to keep the debate civil and
    polite, and let’s not say anything gratuitously offensive to the
    beliefs or world view of the other side. I’d also like to ask the
    audience to be polite and to please not show any disrespect to any of
    our speakers, no matter how strongly you happen to disagree with them.

    We’d like to say to our speakers tonight on both sides, that we’d like
    you to not misrepresent the other side and assert things about their
    worldview that are simply not true. For example, atheists, we’d prefer
    if you didn’t criticize the Christian side by claiming something like,
    say, that they have a vendetta against the jews, or something like
    that, and the Christians aren’t allowed to assert, say, the old line
    that people who don’t believe in a single personal deity automatically
    believe that everything came from nothing, or one of those old lines
    that used to get thrown around. I think we can agree that its time to
    get past blatant misrepresentations of the other side’s viewpoint.

    We’d appreciate it neither side played the victim card and claimed to
    be being persecuted in modern society, especially if the side making
    that complaint is the recipient of massive taxation concessions, has
    astonishing access to high level politicians, and is usually honored
    by being amongst the first to be consulted by government or media on
    any issue that has some kind of an ethical aspect to it. Until your
    side loses that kind of privilege and status, and the playing field
    becomes a little more level, let’s not have any claims of persecution,
    shall we?

    Now, just before we hand over to our speakers, science is bound to
    come up tonight, so again, let’s not waste time going over the same
    old tired claims that have all been debunked, especially let’s agree
    from the outset that if scientists don’t know the answer to something
    it doesn’t automatically mean that the answer is therefore that a
    magical god being is responsible for it, that’s just a false dichotomy
    and we’re all adults here, let’s not be asked to fall for something
    like that, shall we?

    Oh yeah, before we start, we all know what the word “theory” means in
    science, don’t we? Everyone graduated from high school, did we?

    And speaking of the theory of evolution, which I obviously am, – when
    discussing the strengths and weaknesses of evolution, let’s agree that
    you’re not allowed to discuss cosmology. Because ummm, how can I say
    this – evolution and cosmology aren’t really the same thing, in case
    you didn’t know that.

    Hmmm, also, you’re not allowed to assert that human morality cannot be
    explained by evolution, because well, it is. That argument has been
    answered, with reference to the fact of genes surviving within species
    rather than individuals, and the obvious survival value of mutually
    cooperative groups, I don’t need to explain it here just go and look
    it up in a book if you’re tempted to run that old line, OK?

    Also, you can’t argue for irreducible complexity being proof of
    creationism. Again, just in the interest of saving time, just go look
    it up for yourself if you’re not quite sure why we’d want to skip past
    this tired old long-ago-debunked argument.

    Oh, and the claim that information cannot be added to a genome. Yeah,
    let’s not hear that one tonight, because that’s understood. If you
    would just read up on frameshift mutations within examples of gene
    duplication you’d understand how new information can be added to a
    genome, with a whole new and additional stretch of dna with a brand
    new protein-coding function suddenly being introduced. I mean, how
    else do you think the enzyme nylonaze came about? Anyway, check it up
    for yourself.

    Please don’t claim that the universe is less than 10,000 years old,
    because we’ve figured out that in fact that’s not true. Yeah.

    Another shocking waste of time tonight would be to use the bible as a
    source for arguing that the biblical god is true. It’s a shame that
    I’d have to say this explicitly, but that’s a circular argument and
    we’re not here to waste each other’s precious time are we, I mean in a
    nutshell, even if there IS a god, the bible proves its existence just
    as much as the Star Wars series proves the existence of Darth Vader.

    We’d also appreciate if neither side accused the other of having a
    culture of closed-mindedness, especially if the side you’re leveling
    that criticism at is in fact the very embodiment of humanity’s
    endeavor to establish truth, to question everything, and to contribute
    to mankind an explanation and understanding of reality arrived at
    through constant unbiased, open and transparent experimentation and
    discovery, in which falsifiability and replicability are highly valued
    and indeed relied upon, which, when you think about it, is kind of ….
    Well, the opposite of being closed minded, so let’s not hear that one
    tonight, eh?

    Uh and while we’re on that, can we agree that to say that an unbiased
    approach to truth that is constantly pushing the boundaries of human
    knowledge is not “changing its mind” when it discovers or proclaims
    new information? That’s called progress, it’s a good thing. Unless
    your side would prefer to live in a pre-scientific age in which
    superstition ruled then perhaps you might refrain from denigrating the
    progress of which you are the beneficiary. Please remember that next
    time you go to the doctor for the latest vaccination or remedy, and
    please remember it tonight also.

    OK, now in the interest of not having to cover the same ground as has
    been covered over the past several decades, I’d just ask the speakers
    to please not attack their opponents with the claim that they are part
    of a religion, if what they are actually part of is a rejection of
    religion. If rejection of religion is a religion, then not playing
    football is a sport, or not collecting stamps is a hobby. An absence
    of belief, such as,… I don’t know, …. atheism, is exactly the same
    absence of belief one could have in an infinite number of things, it
    needs no justification, it has no creeds, no corollary obligations, no
    dependence upon unproven propositions, no faith, no organization, no
    rules or rituals, affirmations, it’s just silly to say that atheism is
    a religion because that wouldn’t be true, would it, and it just kind
    of takes up time if we’re always going over things that just aren’t
    true. OK.

    Another rule along the same kind of lines, can we please have nobody
    claim that the mass murderers of the 20th century, Hitler, Mao,
    Stalin, that their actions prove anything about a disbelief in god,
    because that’s been dealt with adequately before, it’s been answered
    and put down every other time it’s been brought up, hasn’t it? There’s
    not really a logical link between atheism and genocidal atrocities any
    more than there’s a link between not accepting the claims of
    astrologers and genocide, or even a link between those who don’t
    accept the claims of biologists and genocide. To assert that there is
    such a link, whilst ignoring the mass murderers’ dogmatic adherence to
    communism, or fascism, or agricultural collectivism, or nationalism,
    or militarism, is obviously to take a very incomprehensive view of
    history and like I said it’s all been answered quite adequately by
    many proponents of secularism and atheism on more than enough
    occasions, hasn’t it?

    Oh, just one more thing, Please don’t claim at any time tonight that
    the founding fathers of the United States were overtly Christian or
    that the United States was founded upon Christian values when in fact
    the truth is quite the opposite as one can easily see if one actually
    reads the words that are written in the founding documents themselves.
    I mean, I don’t really need to explain that any more, do I? We’ve all
    read the treaty with Tripoli from 1796 haven’t we? Yeah.

    OK then, let’s get into it. Now we’d like to see a good debate with no
    sophistic insinuations along the lines that without religion we would
    have no moral compass, because it’s not true, is it, or that western
    civilization draws the fundamentals of its morality from the bible or
    Christianity, because we don’t.

    Let’s please not have it said tonight that the legal system of any
    civilized country is based upon the biblical ten commandments. That’s
    simply not true, I mean we all know, the first four commandments are
    out of place in the legal system of any society other than a
    theocratic dictatorship, we all either work on the Sabbath or know
    someone who does without killing them or condemning them in any way –
    in fact we often pay them extra for doing so, don’t we? The fifth
    commandment rather depends upon how honorably ones parents have
    behaved themselves, the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth are all good
    laws, even though the punishments prescribed in the bible for the
    crimes they prohibit are simply barbaric and no civilized society
    would stand for their being carried out, and the tenth commandment
    prohibits the very central mechanism and driving force of our
    capitalistic economic systems and would leave us all socialist or
    something!

    Let’s not have any condescending aspersions cast that place the moral
    standard of a book that condones slavery, burning people alive, and
    stoning them to death above what we as a society have risen to through
    centuries of reasoned debate, discussion, practice and reflection.

    And I would also ask those on my right to please, if you’re going to
    claim the inspiration for good actions came from the religion, then
    it’s only fair that you acknowledge that the inspiration for heinous
    acts of hideous cruelty such as slavery and the subjugation and murder
    of women and members of other faith traditions have also been inspired
    directly by your faith, and that license to carry out hideous actions
    has been drawn directly from your scriptures, giving a direct
    inspiration that a secular ideology or a non-believing person could
    simply never ever justify.

    Also, just one more thing, please don’t assert that any criticisms of
    Christianity that refer to the old testament are invalid, because that
    would rather be having it both ways, wouldn’t it, especially if you’re
    inclined to go back later and claim that the benevolent being who sent
    his precious son as a sacrifice for our benefit is in fact the
    murderous sadistic character of whom we read in the old testament. So
    if he was so generous, merciful and graceful, then to be fair you also
    need to acknowledge that your opponents’ observations of his violent,
    cruel, heartless and obnoxious actions are based in the same
    scriptural source as yours. OK, so either accept the old testament as
    a representation of the character of the never-changing God the
    Father, or don’t, just choose one, let’s not try to have it both ways
    tonight? Thanks.

    OK, and with the ground rules established, so as to have a debate full
    of fresh arguments and ideas rather than the stale old fallacies
    debunked years ago, I think we can begin. But given that those on my
    right don’t have any arguments that are in any way satisfying to
    anyone who is not blind to empty rhetoric, circular arguments,
    ignorance, and outright lies and misrepresentations, I declare the
    debate over before it begins, at least until the theistic side can
    come up with something that hasn’t already been thoroughly debunked at
    least a hundred times in arguments so strong and watertight that no
    theist wants to even try to address them directly and would rather
    change the subject instead. So, congratulations to our winners, thanks
    for coming everybody, and goodnight.

    • ——“… and the Christians aren’t allowed to assert, say, the old line that people who don’t believe in a single personal deity automatically believe that everything came from nothing,… “——

      Not a very smart moderator. In this debate, it is the Christians who believe that the universe was created ex nihilo.

  • Human beings are capable of leading normal, wholesome lives. Even if they become religious, people are still capable of leading normal, wholesome lives — if they don’t take religion seriously. If people treat religion simply a set of inspiring stories but do not try to put the historic immorality of religion into practice, then their religion won’t be too dangerous.

    But the people who try to put religion into practice — from the big stuff like inquisitions and jihads, to the small stuff like blue laws and teaching “Creationism” in public schools — do pose a danger to society.

  • zengardener (March 18, 2012 10:01 pm) posted this cogent comment: ——“The world is real. Consequences are real. Actions have consequences, and on that they can be judged.”——

    Clearly that is correct (and is a recognition of the human need for objectivity).

    Moshe Averick (March 20, 2012 12:18 am) posted this weak response to that comment: ——“You have money that will make me happy and able to live well – If I take it away from you, you will not be happy and able to live well – Whose happiness and well being takes precedence?”——

    This is a matter of rights. The money rightfully (objectively) belongs to the person who has earned it — NOT to the person who wants to “take it away.”

    But is the rabbi trying to claim that only atheists are capable of stealing, or otherwise violating people’s rights?

    That is obviously not the case. For instance, religious people infamously violated the rights of people by accusing them of witchcraft or heresy and murdering them. Churches have infamously violated people’s rights by banning books deemed insufficiently submissive to religious doctrines. The list goes on. And on. And on.

    Rabbi Averick has even floated his notion that only atheists will run dictatorships, citing Stalin. But he ignores the likes of Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei, Spain’s Franco, and the Inquisition’s Pope Gregory IX (to list a few examples).

    Religious peoples’ desires often conflict with other peoples’ rights.

  • Still waiting, rabbi.

    What is your definition of “ideology”?
    How does atheism fit that definition?

    Or are you just content to showcase your ignorance by repeating PRATT arguments ad nauseum?

    • An ideology is a set of principles aimed at establishing or maintaining a certain political or religious system.

      “Atheism” is not an ideology because it doesn’t aim to establish any social system. “Atheism” is nothing more than a lack of belief in a supernatural God. That provides zero basis for any principles or system. At most, it could be a rejection of religious principles and systems — with no hint of what ideology any particular atheist actually has.

    • Moshe Averick’s bizarre notion that being an atheist renders one unable to value human life is an exercise in wearing blinders to avoid facing reality.

  • “Atheistic propagandist, Bill Maher once opined that the atheistic ideology of Communism was a “state religion.” Does that mean that any ideology, including atheism, is a type of religion?”

    lol no. Atheism simply means not believing in God. An atheist is a person who does not believe in God. Religion, on the other hand, is a belief and worship of a superhuman, supernatural controlling power, such as a God or reincarnation or whathaveyou. Atheism does not have this worship or belief in the supernatural aspect, therefore it is not a religion.

    Though in communist countries, the leader was often effectively deified and attributed with supernatural powers. For example, many North Koreans believe that Kim Jong Il could control the weather, or that supernatural or strange events were associated with his birth.

    “Of course, it is possible that an individual will choose to embrace reality with no sugar-coated comforting fictions at all. He will simply live life with the clear understanding that nothing he does matters at all and will relate to other people as only having as much value as suits him at any given moment. (If you ever meet such a “realist” I would advise you not to turn your back on him and to head for the nearest exit immediately.)”

    Well, at least Rabbi Maverick isn’t disguising his bigotry towards people like us anymore. Seriously, what do you think will happen? You probably pass people like this on the street every day. You might even (gasp!) carry on conversations with a few.

    • Of course, it is possible that a religious person will choose, in spite of his sugar-coated comforting fictions of God, to treat people decently. He could simply live life with the clear understanding that nothing he believes about supernatural stuff matters at all in the practical world, and will relate to other people as having value in their own right, instead of as a gift (or commandment) from God. If you meet such a person, thank him for not taking religion seriously enough to inflict it on others.

  • —— Dyz (March 20, 2012 6:02 pm ): “To Steve Stoddard; I see we disagree on the topic of ‘free’ will. Would you like to discuss this topic (for instance on; http://www.atheist.net)?

    Do I have a choice?

  • Rabbi Averick wrote: “The idea of creating our own subjective meaning and purpose may sound very profound in the university lecture hall but when stripped of its philosophical camouflage it really means the following: Make something up out of your own head that gives your life purpose and meaning and pretend that it’s real. In other words, create a comforting fiction …”

    Rather than being “profound,” such subjectivism is nonsense in either a university, seminary, shul, synagogue, madrassa — in short, anywhere people study ideas, religious or otherwise.

    The “comforting fiction” of either “God’s higher law” or the “dictatorship of the proletariat” (to give two famous examples) is not anything reasonable to believe in.

  • Still waiting, rabbi.

    What is your definition of “ideology”?
    How does atheism fit that definition?

  • Thank you Steve Stoddard for confronting the rabbi with his ignorance fueled prejudice.

    The rabbi writes; “Of course, it is possible that an individual will choose to embrace reality with no sugar-coated comforting fictions at all. He will simply live life with the clear understanding that nothing he does matters at all and will relate to other people as only having as much value as suits him at any given moment.”

    This more or less describes me; an active nihilist (Nietzsche).

    “(If you ever meet such a “realist” I would advise you not to turn your back on him and to head for the nearest exit immediately.)”

    Why? What do you think will happen?

    This is more or less the same stuff as the german propaganda machine wrote about a certain group of people in 1939 RABBI.

    • moshe averick

      Dyz,

      It’s really quite simple. Someone like yourself is fully aware that there is no such thing as an intrinsically immoral act. The only issue is your own nature, desire, and evaluation of consequences.

      What is scary about you is your ideology not your race or ethnicity. I don’t quite see how you compare that to Jews in Nazi Germany.

      • Oh come on, don’t play dumb.

        Gnostic atheism (the kind of atheism you likely have toward Thor and Ganesh) is unreasonable (Russels Teapot). I am an agnostic atheist; I lack belief in gods but am open to evidence. That means there is nothing to compell me to do anything. Implying that my atheistic position compells me to actively do something scary is like saying not-collecting-stamps is a hobby.

        The german propaganda in 1939 would describe how the jewish idiology was somehow inherently evil. It would end with; “(If you ever meet such a … I would advise you not to turn your back on him and to head for the nearest exit immediately.)”

        There is a simple foundation for morality, even from a nihilistic perspective. When I was five years old I told my catholic mom I did not believe in her god. When I was twelve years old I decided that my goal in life was to be as happy as possible. I realized then, that to maximize my happiness, I needed to take the happines of everyone around me into account. Simple (perhaps hedonistic) selfishness becomes socially desirable behavior.

        Nowadays; ‘around me’ means everyone on the planet. When there is a conflict, reasonable people (regardless of religion or lack thereof) that strive to maximize the happiness of EVERYONE will always seek a compromise rather than a war.

        • ——“When there is a conflict, reasonable people (regardless of religion or lack thereof) that strive to maximize the happiness of EVERYONE will always seek a compromise rather than a war.”——

          Fortunately, there are plenty of ways that’s not true.

          For one thing, in some conflicts, “war” is the reasonable course while “compromise” is unreasonable.

          For another thing, it is completely unreasonable for any person to “strive to maximize the happiness of EVERYONE.” Happiness is a personal responsibility, which cannot be delegated to others (even if, like politicians, they pretend they could do it if only you gave them enough money).

          • “For one thing, in some conflicts, “war” is the reasonable course while “compromise” is unreasonable.”

            A situation I deliberately did not exclude from my statment. I chose the wording carefully to match this.

            “Happiness is a personal responsibility, which cannot be delegated to others”

            No need to kick in open doors; my statement was never meant to imply that people decide for others what will make them happy. You state what makes you happy and I’ll see what I can do to help you (if you want me to help you, if that makes you happy).

            I still stand by my statement.

          • ——“When there is a conflict, reasonable people (regardless of religion or lack thereof) that strive to maximize the happiness of EVERYONE will always seek a compromise rather than a war.”——

            Your problem is that it is not reasonable to “strive to maximize the happiness of EVERYONE.” Even if everyone wanted to be happy (which unfortunately is not the case), there would be too many people to try to do anything for ALL of them. Unless the “striving” would consist of staying out of other peoples’ pockets and leaving them free to pursue their own happiness (while not allowing those who wish to initiate force as their substitute for happiness to get away with it).

  • You lost me at “Does that mean that any ideology, including atheism, is a type of religion?”

    What is your definition of “ideology”?
    How does atheism fit that definition?

  • Pam Siegfried

    It is not inherently contradictory to say the value of life is subjective and still disagree with what the guy called a “sky daddy”. As someone said, “You are entitled to your own opinion (value of life). You are not entitled to your own facts (existence or non-existence of God).
    And the life is valueless society is AN alternative to man in the image of God. Remember the last view of Earth from one of the Voyagers? This vivid blue dot in the black? We are all we have and it is dark and cold out there. There is the sacredness of life and I have not mentioned God at all.
    On the other hand there are people ranging from Warren Jeff’s child wives to Catholic altar boys accepting sexual abuse because the predator is a man of God. Knowing whether someone is religious or atheist is not enough to know whether they are moral.

    • Moshe Averick

      Pam,

      Please forgive me, but what you wrote reflects a confusion about the issue under discussion.

      The FACT is that in an intellectually honest atheistic world view, life has no objective meaning or value. This is not a matter of opinion. When you create some illusory system of values that assigns it meaning or value you are in effect saying, “Despite the FACT that in reality human life has no meaning or value, I choose to pretend that it does because it makes me feel better.” There is no difference between this and saying “Despite the FACT that God does not exist , the illusory notion of a sky daddy makes me feel good so I will pretend that he’s there.”

      You simply have not understood what was bothering Kurtz, Sartre, and Freud and all other honest atheistic philosophers.

      • ——“The FACT is that in an intellectually honest atheistic world view, life has no objective meaning or value. This is not a matter of opinion.”——

        You are fundamentally wrong, Moshe. Not only is that a matter of opinion, it is an irrational opinion. The FACT is that it is in the THEISTIC world view that life has no objective meaning or value — precisely because you imagine that it is GOD Who gives your live meaning and value. In other words, theism is a brand of subjectivism.

        You continue to try to argue that things are the opposite of what they really are.

        The HONEST atheistic view is that human life is objectively the rational standard of value for human beings — and “God” (as well as any other issuer of “commandments,” like Stalin for instance) is not a valid part of the deal.

  • —— Moshe Averick (March 19, 2012 11:34 pm): “What I said was that ATHEISTIC PHILOSOPHY is very dangerous.” ——

    So you are talking through your hat, Moshe.

    There is no such thing as “ATHEISTIC PHILOSOPHY” in any significant sense. It is impossible to base a philosophy on atheism. Atheism merely means not believing in God — atheism, per se, says absolutely nothing about what any atheist does believe.

    A person can have a philosophy that includes atheism as a minor point, but there is no way to base a philosophy on that.

  • Rabbi Averick states: “… if God does not exist, Stalin’s value system is just as meaningful and significant as anyone else’s.”

    He couldn’t rationalize it any better if he were actually a Stalinist himself.

    The literal meaning of this belief of Rabbi Averick’s is: “Even though one can fantasize that Stalin is wrong, in objective reality (i.e., real life) there is no rational argument against Stalinism!”

    • Daniel Schealler states his agreement with Rabbi Averick’s subjectivist position: “Value is in the eye of the beholder – it has no objective existence. It is an inherently subjective term.”

      Their minor divergence is that Moshe includes “God” in his subjective world, while Daniel does not. But they are united in their rejection of human intelligence, i.e., the human capacity to grasp the objective reality of life in the real world

  • Daniel Schealler

    I can assume that God exists for the context of my disagreement with you here, Rabbi. ^_^

    So for the context of this discussion, I assume that the theistic claims are true.

    You write:

    “If the atheistic worldview is true, then we are here for no particular reason at all and a human being has no more or less value than a field mouse, or for that matter, a piece of quartz crystal. ”

    … a human being has no more or less value than a field mouse to whom?

    Value is in the eye of the beholder – it has no objective existence. It is an inherently subjective term.

    Note that ‘subjective’ is not a synonym for ‘arbitrary’. Nor is it a synonym for ‘non-existing’.

    The difference between us is that you think that only God’s values should be privileged as valid.

    This is where I we disagree.

    God’s values are meaningful to God. My values are meaningful to me.

    My values do not cease to exist in a world with no God. They only cease to exist in a universe without me… But even in a universe without me, so long as there are other observers there will continue to be values even in my absence… Or in the absence of God, for that matter.

    So your initial point is trivially false.

    A universe without observers would be a universe without values. But just introduce a single observer capable of valuing and – hey presto – that universe suddenly had values introduced into it.

    God could be such an observer. But so could I. So could a field mouse for that matter, in so far as a field mouse likely values food and warmth.

    The point that you try to push here – that only God’s values should be priviledged as ‘real’ – is an interesting one. It’s tricky.

    The assertion that only God’s values should be valued as real is something that you yourself must claim. You yourself must place greater value on God’s values than your own… But then the paradox becomes apparent.

    The value that you perceive in God’s values is yours. It has to be. It cannot be any other way.

    Even in a universe with a God in it, the ultimate source of values as the exist for you must come from yourself. Even if you choose to adopt God’s values, that in turn is only because you yourself value them.

    There is no escaping our responsibility as individuals to carefully and responsibly determine what we value and why.

    We can’t pass the buck and the responsibility over to God, even if we and He wanted us too…

    But then again, I find it hard to accept that any God worth worshiping would actually want us to be so morally lazy as to not take personal responsibility for our own values and their application.

    All the best, Rabbi.

    • Moshe Averick

      Daniel,

      If you like the taste of tuna fish, then it’s real to you. I happen to intensely dislike tuna fish, that’s real for me. There is no objective reality regarding whether tuna fish tastes good or not. you either like it or you don’t.

      There is no objective purpose to our existence. That is exactly what Kurtz, Sartre, Freud and atheistic philosophers agree on. This is not even an arguable point. Does it float your boat to “take responsibility” for your values? Be my guest, I certainly am not going to stop you. Does that make you feel as if your life actually does have a purpose if you talk about “taking responsibility” for your values?
      I think that is wonderful, that’s certainly a much better artificial construct than others that I have heard of.

      What is “responsibility” anyways? Who do we answer to? Who am I accountable to? Are we obligated to someone or something? If there is some actual reality that transcends our physical world, there might be something to talk about. If not, I only need answer to myself. who should I answer to, Daniel Shealler?

      Your entire concept of “responsibility” is artificial, manufuctured, that is to say “illusory.”

      Before we can talk about God’s values, there must be an unflinching acceptance of the simple fact that in a purely physical universe nothing you are saying has any significance outside of your own head.

      • Daniel Schealler

        You’re not getting it.

        You speak about a purpose for my life. Whose purpose?

        My purpose for my life?

        Or God’s purpose for my life?

        You agree that I can hold a purpose for my life. My purpose is subjective, relative to myself.

        I agree that God can hold a purpose for my life. God’s purpose is subjective, relative to Himself.

        Do you see?

        In both cases, value and purpose are subjective.

        If my values and the purpose I hold for my life may be dismissed on grounds of their subjectivity as you have attempted to do here, and you desire to be fair minded and consistent, then you must also dismiss God’s values and His purpose for my life on grounds of their subjectivity.

        If on the other hand you wish to insist that God’s values and purposes are to be privileged as the most valid, then you must not only accept that God’s subjective values and purpose be considered valid, but also that your subjective valuing of God’s values and purpose is itself valid.

        In other words: You can’t attempt to convince me of the primacy of God’s values and purposes without first assuming that your valuing of God’s values and purposes is itself valid… Which isn’t something that can come from anywhere other than yourself.

        Ergo, it must be possible in at least one instance for a value of human origin to be considered valid… Otherwise no values at all may be considered valid, not even God’s.

        So the argument cannot be that God must exist to support objective values and purpose – there can be no such thing.

        The argument must instead be about why God’s subjective values and purposes should be valued as more valid than the values and purposes we hold for ourselves.

        The argument must be about what we value, which purposes we privlege.

        Attempting to argue from the position of objective value and purpose is a category mistake that can only end in the very nihilism you deplore and falsely claim as an inevitable consequence of atheism.

        • Moshe Averick

          DAniel,

          Part of the problem here is that I do not think we have the same concept of God. That is not the subject here so I hesitate to get into it.

          However, if you are correct, that no matter which approach we take objective value and meaning for life don’t exist then what Freud, Kurtz and Sartre (and all prominent atheistic thinkers) said is true. All meaning and value are illusory constructs. We make them up, because to face the reality makes us “sick.”

          If we have no choice but to manufacture illusory meaning and value then go ahead and make up whatever you want. Discussing it becomes kind of silly. We are arguing whether or not your comforting fiction is better than my comforting fiction. If your comforting fiction gives you more “comfort” than mine, then of course you are going to live yours. That’s elementary.

          • Daniel Schealler

            Heh.

            Very well, I’ll let you go.

            Final parting comments:

            I don’t like calling subjective phenomena ‘illusory’. That might be acceptable if we’re very careful about how we define ‘illusory’. But the common usage of the term ‘illusory’ carries connotations of ‘not real’ and ‘not meaningful’. I think that is a mistake.

            Because the natural extension of my argument above is that meaning is, again, subjective. Meaningful to whom.

            So subjectivity is meaningful in the sense that it is meaningful to the subject. This is enough to satisfy me that the conversation regarding subjective value, purpose, and meaning is a conversation worth having.

            As always Rabbi, best wishes*.

            (* Best wishes – my nonbeliever’s version of ‘God bless’. ^_^)

      • Moshe Averick (March 19, 2012 11:27 pm): “There is no objective purpose to our existence.”

        You may, of course, speak for yourself, Rabbi, but you cannot reasonably presume to speak for everyone.

        If you believe that fantasizing about “having a relationship to God” relieves you of any responsibility for being objective (i.e., rational) about your values and actions, you need to realize that that’s just you — that’s not everybody. No matter how many others might share your fantasy, not everyone does, or should. Fantasy isn’t reality.

  • Moshe, your argument was not lost on me. I get it and I think that your point is cogent and logical. You want to ask yourself why the comment writers are having such a hard time with a relatively puerile concept. Some people deal with the subjectivity and the overwhelming nothingness that comes with it by simple diversion. Thorny questions indeed.

    • Cogent and logical? Overwhelming nothingness? Thorny questions?

      I think I read an entirely different article. The theistic position is unreasonable by definition (both gnostic and agnostic) and you cannot get to a cogent and logical position from an unreasonable position.

      What is overwhelming nothingness? Is that like beeing scared of the dark?

      Where are the thorny questions?

      • moshe averick

        Sivan,

        Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, Dennet, Stenger, Maher et al have created entire cults of personality around their atheistic world view. Why would it not fit in the category of an ideology?

        • Cults of personality?

          I have been an outspoken atheist since I was five years old. I have simply never been convinced that god(s) exist. Where is the personality cult or ideology in that?

          It seems the only members of these atheistic personality cults are theists.

  • These arguments Averick keeps making that atheists are evil and dangerous because they don’t have religion never seem to take reality into account. Honestly, this is basically just very long winded slander.

    You gotta love the concept of a rabbi who’s into persecution and religious discrimination.

    • Moshe Averick

      Andrew,

      Your statement is a red herring. I did not write that atheists are evil and dangerous. What I said was that ATHEISTIC PHILOSOPHY is very dangerous. An intellectually consistent ATHEISTIC WORLDVIEW is very dangerous.

      To educate children with an intellectually honest atheistic worldview, that is to say, that there is no objective meaning or value to human existence,(or any existence for that matter), that we are highly glorified bacteria, that a human being is to a cockroach what the cockroach is to the ameoba, is very dangerous.

      Most atheists in our society, like Christopher Hitchens, took the basic Jewish concept of the inherent dignity and rights of the individual, and simply eliminated God from the picture. Of course, once God is out of the picture there is no rational basis for assigning inherent dignity to the indidvidual, as Freud’s observation makes clear. When things get very dangerous is when you have an entire generation of people raised this way, who do not have these concepts in their consciousness and they take the atheistic worldview to its logical consequences.

      • Your inability to recognise the existence of empathy is positively sociopathic.

        • Moshe Averick

          JP,

          I think that what you are saying is beside the point. If I came to the conclusion that God does not exist, I would be a hard core materialist. That does not mean I do not feel empathy, I certainly do. It also does not mean that I wouldn’t enjoy relating and helping others, I would. The question is what happens when either (A.) I don’t feel particularly empathic towards another upright walking primate who I understand has no objective meaning and value or (B) My feelings of empathy conflict with another desire that I have. In a God-based reality, I am accountable to a higher law, in an atheistic/materialistic world I answer only to myself.

          • Your god(s) exists only in your mind (untill proven otherwise); If you are accountable (which you are not because free will is an illusion), then it is only to yourself, wether you believe in god(s) or not.

          • In a “God-based reality,” you envision yourself as accountable to your subjective feelings about what “God’s higher law” might seem to you to be. In fact, there is no “higher law” than objective reality, that is, the actual material world in which we live.

          • Even if you believe in God, Moshe, you do have free will, so you can choose to follow His mystic commandments — or be rational instead. It is up to you.

            But if you choose to follow “God’s higher law,” whom do you choose to have tell you what it is?

          • To Steve Stoddard; I see we disagree on the topic of ‘free’ will. Would you like to discuss this topic (for instance on; http://www.atheist.net)?

          • In a God-based reality, I am accountable to a higher law, in an atheistic/materialistic world I answer only to myself.

            And AGAIN with the denial of the existence of society. No man is an island. If you interacted with no other beings, then yes you would answer only to yourself. But as long as you recognise that there are other people, and have enough empathy to know that they’re much like you, then you recognise that you must also answer to them for your behaviour towards them (unless you’re a sociopath, which given how much the idea of society seems absolutely incomprehensible to you, is becoming a stronger and stronger hypothesis.)

      • Moshe,

        You are trying extremely hard to conflate “atheistic” with “non-objective” — but that makes no sense whatsoever. It is close to being exactly backwards.

        And it is a solid contradiction to equate “theistic” with “objective”!! Being theistic is the OPPOSITE of being objective — at least on the subject of the supernatural (which is something utterly illusory, i.e., totally subjective).

  • You’re a bit confused on this issue, Moshe. While God is fictional, life is quite objectively real. “Having a relationship with God” is an exercise in subjectivity, an illusion or delusion. But having real-life problems is quite an objective reality — and it really, really makes a difference whether you deal with them rationally or not.

    No belief in “having a relationship with God” is going to help you succeed in life if you decide to act irrationally. And if you face life by acting rationally to deal with reality, then not having a belief in “having a relationship with God” does not affect your chances of success in the pursuit of happiness.

  • Good article—I enjoyed reading it.

    First, you say, ”a society that chooses the latter has no hope of ever achieving anything remotely resembling a ‘“normal and wholesome life.’” A bold assertion considering the mountain of evidence flat-out contradicting it. Sociologists like Phil Zuckerman have written books on modern societies that live without god. And guess what? In nearly every sociological measure, these societies outperform those countries with higher levels of religiosity. Your statement is wrong, and the evidence refuting it requires a stronger response than some recycled apologetics.

    With that said, my life has no absolute meaning, but rather a meaning that I objectively choose based upon evidence in the world and how it relates to me. Values and morality seem tricky when you are so accustomed to deferring the responsibility to the creator of the universe. Yet, millions of people manage to live equally fulfilling lives without a modicum of belief in the supernatural.

    For your article to have any force, you need to show some evidence that atheism logically entails misery and amorality. Instead, you simply erect a straw man argument and proceed to burn it to the ground: “Make something up out of your own head that gives your life purpose and meaning and pretend that it’s real.” No atheist I know does this. I don’t “make up” my desire for reciprocal altruism; I don’t “make up” my feelings for my family or my passion for my field. These meanings aren’t chosen randomly, nor did I lie in bed and conjure them up in my imagination. Some I learned through experience (like passion for my field), others I’ve received from my ancestors through millions of years of evolution. Viewing the human being outside of the context of our species’s history—without innate desires or complex genetic codes, for example—and outside of our current environment is a profound mistake.

    Your notion that “the alternative to a society being founded on the principle that man is created in the image of God is one that is founded on the principle that man evolved – through a purposeless process – in the image of the bacterium” has so many problems embossed within it that I don’t know where to start. In the image of bacterium? Really? No—I mean, REALLY? I appreciate the rhetorical style here, but this seems like nothing more than an appeal to emotion. The veracity of evolution doesn’t depend on whether it makes us “sick” or not—it depends on the evidence we discover. Furthermore, meaning is often informed by this process. A simple example is motherhood. Someone who identifies the meaning of life in terms of motherhood is acting on some of the same impulses that her great great…great grandmother acted on. This doesn’t mean that evolution dictates our meanings and values, but it certainly plays an integral role in who we are. Evolution may repulse you, but I personally find it profoundly eye-opening. That the trees rustling outside of my window have a common ancestor with me; that the process began with chemicals, which after becoming self-replicating, created the first forms of life; that we have dated our mitochondrial DNA to hundreds of thousands of years old; and that every single discovery we make fits into a falsifiable, scientifically tested theory is mind-boggling.

    Finally, I’d like to point out that I have no idea what you mean by describing “the inescapable absurdity … reflected in every attempt to form some sort of worldview based on non-belief.” The meanings of life I choose aren’t BASED ON nonbelief—they are based on respect for human dignity, a desire to increase well-being, decrease suffering, etc. My atheism isn’t the root of any of those ideals, because atheism consistently fails to be a worldview. It isn’t like Christianity or Judaism; it doesn’t come complete with a set of morals or guidelines for politics. It’s a simple affirmation that there isn’t enough evidence to accept belief in gods. Thus, you might ask atheists about morals and values and get multiple answers. An atheist who is also a humanist is very different than an atheist who is an anarchist. Same rejection of the supernatural, VERY different worldviews. This, by the way, covertly preempts any replies along the lines of “the atheist worldview led to communism; it aided Hitler’s agenda, too.”

    Yet, despite our many areas of disagreement, I don’t mind the “god construct.” I just want people to keep whatever supernatural constructs they may have to themselves.

    • To Brien Z Thank You for a most informative, rational, and truthful response to the paranoia of people like Rabbi Moshe regarding Atheism. These people are usually so brainwashed that it becomes impossible for them to see the forest for the trees.

      Sincerely, Gerry Hirsch

    • Moshe Averick

      Brian,

      The first thing we have to agree on is whether or not what Freud, Kurtz, and Sartre say is true. In a purely materialistic world does human life have objective meaning or value? Does any value system have objective reality? The obvious answer to both those questions is no.

      I don’t know what societies Phil Zuckerman studied,and I have no idea what standards he was using to evaluate their “success.” The moral underpinning of all western society are basic jewish, biblical ideas: Man is in the image of an infinite, transcendent God, therefore he has inherent preciousness, dignity, and rights. Therefore we have certain duties, responsibilities, and obligations towards one another.
      This concept has been drilled into our heads for a long time. Even if we eliminate the ultimate basis for such an idea – the one, infinite, God – it takes a while for its influence to disappear.

      Little by little it will crumble however. We kill untold thousands of unborn children. I am talking about late term pregnancies when no honest person could possibly say that we are not dealing with human life. The pioneers of abortion rights in this country were for the most part ideologically driven atheists. I recently wrote an article about philosophers of “ethics” who are discussing “after-birth” abortions. I have also cited prominent atheistic philosophers who say quite openly that there is nothing inherently immoral about pedophilia. Many atheists find that so disturbing that they get angry at me instead, but it is a perfectly intellectually consistent position.

      I have never said that all atheists will act like Joseph Stalin, I simply point out the obvious: if God does not exist, Stalin’s value system is just as meaningful and significant as anyone else’s.

      Most atheists that I speak with have a hard time accepting that if God does not exist we are simply advanced animals driven by the same desires and impulses as all animals. Some animals are harmless, like goats, cows, sheep, etc. Some animals are friendly , like dogs, cats, horses, etc. Some animals are hunters and animals of prey. Human animals are like that too. The atheist who becomes a “humanist” has the nature of a goat or cow or perhaps more like a beagle. He is friendly and harmless. Sam Harris seems to fit into this category.

      Then there are the human animals of prey, like Stalin, Mao, and Hitler. The lion is not good or bad when he kills the Zebra, and the Zebra is not good or bad for not wanting to be eaten. Each lives according to his nature and impulses.

      Within several decades of Darwin’s theory, there emerged an atheistic ideology called Communism that brought more misery and shed more innocent blood in a relatively short period of time, than any previous religious tyranny. The notion that “in order to make an omelet you must crack a few eggs” makes perfect sense in an atheistic world. Eugenics also makes perfect sense. Let’s make our species more fit by eliminating the unfit.

      The notion of one race that, through natural selection, evolved to a higher level than other races is a perfectly reasonable proposition in a Darwinian world. This is undeniable, in my opinion. As I said before, this does not mean that all atheists will be communists or nazis but what I said is still true.

      • The notion of one race that, through natural selection, evolved to a higher level than other races is a perfectly reasonable proposition in a Darwinian world.

        Your ignorance is showing again, Moshe. There’s no concept of “higher levels” in evolutionary theory. The idea that one species (ours in particular) is superior to another is a Biblical concept, not a Darwinian one.

        • Moshe Averick

          Jp,

          “There is no concept of higher levels in evolutionary theory” ?! What have you been smoking JP? Are you telling me that we are not on a higher level than monkeys? If not, how come we are the ones looking at them in the zoo and not the opposite? How come we do medical tests on them for our benefit and not the opposite. From a Darwinian point of view it is the ridiculous notion that “all men are created equal” that does not exist. We are EVOLVED very unequal. Sorry to spoil the party with that simple reality.

          • “If not, how come we are the ones looking at them in the zoo and not the opposite?”

            What a stupid nonsensical question.

            Only a theist who compares everything to an imagined absolute can view himself as ‘higher’ than a monkey.

            You are not spoiling parties; your party is a disaster and in your ignorance you do not even realize it.

          • And then a virus comes along, kills all primates except monkeys because it turnes out a mutation has mutation makes them immune. A few million years later the descendants of those monkeys find human remains. One of those monkeys believes in god(s) and calls the human remains a ‘lower’ species.

          • Moshe, every time you put finger to keyboard you prove even more that you understand nothing of evolution.

            Are you telling me that we are not on a higher level than monkeys? If not, how come we are the ones looking at them in the zoo and not the opposite?

            Because we’ve adapted better to tool usage. They’ve adapted better to tree-climbing and finding their own food. You feel superior because you value the attributes at which you’re better. When the monkey climbs the tree faster than you, you’re like a child who pouts and says “who cares about that, the race I won is the only IMPORTANT race”.

            We are EVOLVED very unequal.

            There you go again, parading your ignorance. Evolution occurs at a species level, not an individual level. Sure individual mutation and variation is something that leads to evolutionary effects, but variation is not the result of evolution, it’s just an observed fact of reality. Evolution theory is an explanation of what the long-term consequences of that variability are, not the cause of the variability.

            I don’t know what your education was like on evolution, but here in Australia understanding that variation drives evolution and not the other way around is in the school syllabus for 14-year-olds. My daughter gets it, and she’s only 9.

            So don’t apologise about spoiling the party. The party here for me is watching you act like an ignoramus while regarding yourself as a genius. I know, that probably makes me a bad person, but no worse than the millions who watch those “Funniest Home Videos” show where people ride their bikes into power poles, or trip over their dog and fall in the swimming pool. You’re a cheap laugh. Don’t ever change.

      • So long as you believe that “Man is in the image of an infinite, transcendent God,…” then you view man as amounting to literally nothing.

        In this context, “infinite” and “transcendent” mean: not of this world, i.e., not real.

      • ——‘The notion that “in order to make an omelet you must crack a few eggs” makes perfect sense in an atheistic world.’

        Using that saying in the sense that “for the good of society you have to kill unbelievers (in either Communism or God),” that notion makes no sense at all.

        Notice that Stalin inherited that notion from Moses.

        It didn’t make any sense in the Bible, and it still didn’t make any sense in The Communist Manifesto. It will never make any sense.

      • Gerry Hirsch,

        I appreciate your kind words :)

        Moshe,

        Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I’m sure everyone else reading the discussion here are appreciative of your response.

        I’ll start from the top. You ask, “In a purely materialistic world does human life have objective meaning or value? Does any value system have objective reality? The obvious answer to both those questions is no.”

        There is absolutely, positively nothing obvious about that. Please see my paragraph beginning “For your article…” for my response.

        I redirect you to my previous comment because we have a problem here: you define “subjective” and then apply it to your argument after covertly switching its meaning to something new—a meaning closer to the term, “absolute.” Resist the temptation to equivocate these terms. I agree that atheists do not have absolute values, but having no absolute values does not in any way imply that we have no objective values. Your entire argument rests on this equivocation/misunderstanding.

        Thank you for acknowledging the points I made with Zuckerman’s research. He was just a mere example of a researcher who is intimately familiar with the data and augments those data with his own research. Keep in mind, though, that I’m not citing a single fringe study, here. I’m citing a robust area of research (that he happens to be part of)that directly refutes your statement that “a society that chooses the latter has no hope of ever achieving anything remotely resembling a ‘“normal and wholesome life.’”

        I understand the moral underpinnings of religious individuals in western society. My point is that research on societies WITHOUT that moral foundation seems to be demonstrating that, despite your confidence, those underpinnings aren’t necessary.

        Abortion is a tricky issue that engenders debate even within religious frameworks. The issue of weighing a mother’s rights against those of a developing fetus’s isn’t an easy one. I suspect that laws will gravitate toward legal abortions in the first trimester, MAYBE for the second. But these laws will be based on the best available evidence that we collect, not on religious authority. Nevertheless, I have to point out that for the most part religious individuals who preach against abortion do society no favors by vehemently opposing contraception. Once again the data are telling: countries with comprehensive sexual education courses boasting affordable and accessible contraception have fractional abortion rates compared to the U.S. With readily cheap and available contraception, abortion rates will likely decline.

        I’d like to mention a quick point about these atheist philosophers you mention. Nearly any belief can be used to justify pedophilia (ask Catholic priests), but nothing objective about what we know about the dignity of the human person, including how to treat children, justifies it at all. I’m not surprised that ANY philosopher who divorces him/herself from objective reality would arrive at such a grotesque conclusion—atheist or theist alike.

        I apologize if I implied that you said “that all atheists will act like Joseph Stalin”—I know you said no such thing. Unfortunately, you lose me a few words later when you state the “obvious” that “if God does not exist, Stalin’s value system is just as meaningful and significant as anyone else’s.” You throw around the word “obvious” too frivolously. Maybe your point is obvious following your equivocation of subjective and absolute, but it’s not obvious to any atheist I know (or based on their comments, to any in this discussion). What’s obvious (the word does have rhetorical power, I’ll give you that) to me is that Stalin’s regime was an insult to human dignity, personal freedom, and rational and skeptical thought. He forced people to become atheists, prohibiting religious freedom, and controlled the marketplace of ideas. That you believe any rational atheist is obliged to give Stalin’s value system any merit whatsoever illuminates your misunderstanding of what it means to simply say, “I have no evidence to believe in god/s.”

        You mention that “most atheists that I speak with have a hard time accepting that if God does not exist we are simply advanced animals driven by the same desires and impulses as all animals.” Yes, we have some instincts that our animal relatives have, such as fight, flight, freezing, taking care of offspring, etc, but you seem to be underwriting your adjective, “advanced.” Homo-sapiens is capable of self-reflective thought and of devising scenarios to help us deal with potential future events. We have the capability to supersede instincts (like using a condom to override our instinct to procreate) and to evaluate the usefulness of what we are evolutionarily endowed with. Each of us most certainly do not need to live according to our nature and impulses.

        Your analogy between more peaceful animals and predators is so off the mark that I’m not sure I even want to entertain it. A fifth grader could show that lions kill (not mass murder) to eat and survive, whereas Stalin killed to keep people quiet, instill fear, etc. You’ve got to do better than that.

        Yes, Darwin’s theory was perverted by some mass murderers to further their warped agendas. But as I’ve argued above, nothing about evolution implies we should kill people by the millions. In fact, in my experience it’s usually people contaminated by religious dogma who maintain those twisted misunderstandings of the theory, thereby indirectly promoting these false justifications for anarchy and communism.

        What I’m ultimately failing to detect is any evidence these horrific acts of violence were the RESULT of atheism, as opposed to the result of dogma, irrational thinking, a misunderstanding of science, and/or a lack of skeptical thought. Any dogmatic worldview without those critical thinking faculties is doomed to failure—whether god is present in that worldview or not.

        It’s perfectly deniable that “the notion of one race that, through natural selection, evolved to a higher level than other races is a perfectly reasonable proposition in a Darwinian world,” as long as “higher” remains undefined. There is no ultimate life form that evolution strives to create; there are no higher species. Species may be more complex than others, and species may be better adapted to their environments than other species (as humans seem to be), but to say that one is higher than the other? I’m not sure what that means.

        Thanks again for the discussion.

        • Moshe Averick

          Brian Z,

          Not quite sure how to respond. Dr. Joel Marks, a prominent atheistic “ethicist” wrote a column about his “epiphany” that he had been operating under a false notion. He realized that the religious fundamentalists “were correct”, without God there is no morality. He wrote that atheism clearly implies amorality and that since he is an atheist he must embrace amorality.
          Perhaps you should read his article. The fact is that Peter Singer, Michael Ruse, etc. all agree with him. I think the term “epiphany” is appropriate here. Believers, who all understand this simple point, are constantly shaking their heads in wonder why so many atheists just don’t seem to get this point.

          I never said that you “made up” your feelings of compassion. Your feelings of compassion are just as real as Joseph Stalin’s desire for power and domination. My point simply is that neither have any more or less significance or value. They are what they are. When you assign value to them, THAT is what you are making up.

          Again, if you have the nature of a beagle, you will be friendly and loyal, if you have the nature of a Tasmanian devil or a leopard you will act very differently. Sam Harris has the nature of a beagle, Stalin’s nature was quite different. Neither was right or wrong. Neither’s purpose was higher or lower.

          I simply am at a loss how to respond when you say that although your values are not “absolute” they somehow are still “objective”. This is self-contradicting. In order to evaluate something you must have first principles. Where do your first principles come from? If the principles of your value system originate from you, they are no more significant than your personal taste in food. This seems so obvious that I am astonished anyone even argues the point.

          • Still acting as an apologist for Stalin, Rabbi Averick writes: “Sam Harris has the nature of a beagle, Stalin’s nature was quite different. Neither was right or wrong.”

            Sorry to burst your bubble, Moshe, but Stalin was objectively dead wrong to be a Communist and a killer.

          • “I simply am at a loss how to respond when you say that although your values are not ‘absolute’ they somehow are still ‘objective’.”

            I honestly don’t see why this distinction is so difficult to make. We can examine our environments, collect data without bias, and think rationally. My values are based on this approach. I don’t just wake up and decide that contraception is morally acceptable. I look at the research we have on it and make a rational decision based on what will best increase human well-being. Now imagine that it turns out that with additional investigation, contraception turns out to be detrimental to society. A rational person would then be inclined to say that she was mistaken about her initial conclusion that contraception was good for society. Morality in this case is based on objectivity, but is freed from the rigid dogma of absolutes that’s getting religion in so much trouble today.

            Objectivity and absolute are contradictory? Science operates with objective principles to discover phenomena. None of those principles or the models that arise from them are absolute. No contradiction at all.

            I’m unfamiliar with Marks, but again I have to reiterate that if Atheism so easily leads to amorality, we’d expect to see total anarchy in societies without god belief. Instead we see godless societies more well-adjusted than the U.S. with its high god belief. There’s a real danger in ignoring scientific evidence, and philosophy hasn’t caught onto this yet. <<<<<This is the brunt of my argument. You make lots of claims about how we NEED religion. Yet there's absolutely NO SCIENTIFIC basis for those claims.

            I'm not sure what you mean by "first principles," but I'll play along. If I'm the originator of my first principles and therefore "they are no more significant than…personal taste in food," then by what possible logic can you justify their "significance" if they originate with god (granting you the assumption that god even exists)? What allows you to justify that your idea of those first principles is any more correct than anyone else who justifies first principles with a DIFFERENT god? Unlike using god, defining morality is terms of what increases well-being is not only tangible, but it lends itself to objective research and justifiable answers.

            Of interest here, too, is that even if I concede that atheists have no basis for morality whatsoever, neither you nor any other believer has come close to offering an alternative. That much is evident in the amount of dissent between religions, and the amount of disagreement between believers in the same religion (especially Judaism—just hunt down some surveys). I think people are beginning to realize that religion just doesn't supply meaningful answers to moral questions.

            You can imply that without religion/god we have no ABSOLUTE moral foundation. But it seems to me, and many other atheists, that even WITH religion/god we have no absolute moral foundation. Your argument may have merit if the godless overpopulated prisons and ran destructive and dangerous societies; if believers showed higher levels of moral reasoning and better societal adjustment. But none of those "if"s reflect reality, and what's worse for you is that people are catching onto it.

            If we have to give up purportedly absolute morals for morals that are based on tangible facts about human beings and the real world, then it's a worthy trade.

        • Brian,

          “I look at the research we have on it and make a rational decision based on what will best increase human well-being.”

          By what standard do you evaluate human well-being? Ask a thousand people and you will get a thousand different answers. Every society has a different answer. One side says abortion is murder, one side says it is a sign of the advanced progressive nature of our society.

          I recently wrote an article (as did many others) about two obviously very nice and educated philosophers who talked about the proposition of after-birth abortions. They are respected academics (like Peter Singer). As far as I’m concerned they are monsters. Who is right? To say that an atheistic society (not sure which you are referring to) is “better” than others requires a standard. Where does the standard come from? I think our society is guilty of mass murder with our abortion policy. What do you think?

          Nazi Germany was a wonderfully well run society in 1940 as long as you weren’t Jewish.(As long as you’re not an unborn child you can do nicely here also) It had laws, police, bars, movies, etc. The same with Imperial Japan. In an atheistic world it is absolutely and completely in the eye of the beholder.

          Eventually, people live in accordance with their concepts and ideas of reality. If human beings are nothing more than animals and have no absolute value, in the end that is how they will be treated. When your son asks you, “Dad, if we are to the cockroach, what the cockroach is to the amoeba, why should I treat human beings as special” you will have no intellectually satisfying answer, only an emotional appeal.

          • How to define well-being. Sam Harris makes the following argument much better than I ever could in The Moral Landscape: What standard does medical science evaluate health? A hundred years ago living to age 45 might be considered healthy. Today, it’s not. Does the mere fact that health has a slippery definition invalidate the entire field of medicine? Certainly not.

            It’s the same with well-being. Of course people disagree on abortion. But ask people in any culture and I’d say they’ll agree that slowly torturing offspring to death represents a low point for well-being. Not everyone needs to agree on everything. We merely need to define the worst possible world and the best possible worlds based upon what we do agree on (and that’s a lot). Then any “moral” action takes us away from the worst possible world and advances us toward the best possible world.

            Abortion is difficult because it’s unclear how much, if at all, it allows us to inch toward higher levels of well-being—and that’s okay. Dissent and disagreement will occur, but at least now that we have a tangible basis for morality, we can be better informed about the issues, how they relate to human beings, and how they contribute or detract from well-being.

            So no, it’s not “in the eye of the beholder” unless you’re an atheist who is an anarchist, or an atheist who is a relativist. I’ve already discussed your misunderstanding of this in my first response when I said:

            ———-
            My atheism isn’t the root of any of those ideals, because atheism consistently fails to be a worldview. It isn’t like Christianity or Judaism; it doesn’t come complete with a set of morals or guidelines for politics. It’s a simple affirmation that there isn’t enough evidence to accept belief in gods. Thus, you might ask atheists about morals and values and get multiple answers. An atheist who is also a humanist is very different than an atheist who is an anarchist. Same rejection of the supernatural, VERY different worldviews. This, by the way, covertly preempts any replies along the lines of “the atheist worldview led to communism; it aided Hitler’s agenda, too.”
            ———-

            You’re fooling yourself if you think that atheism was the proximate cause of those horrific societies. Rather, I maintained in a previous comment that it was more likely their “dogma, irrational thinking, a misunderstanding of science, and/or a lack of skeptical thought. Any dogmatic worldview without those critical thinking faculties is doomed to failure—whether god is present in that worldview or not.”

            If you want to know about the research on godless societies you need to look it up. From what I can remember, most of them have better economies, health care, education, cheap and available contraception, and most importantly, happier citizens.

            As far as I know, many of them have come up with a compromise for abortions for up to 12 months. Rather than appealing to religious dogma, rational people have balanced the potential life of the fetus with the rights of the mother. And guess what? Despite their legal abortions, their abortion rates are substantially lower than here in U.S. So you can call them guilty of murder all you want, their policies lead them to “murder” fewer unborn children than ours.

            I have to reiterate the great irony when religious individuals dub abortion mass murder, and then vilify the education system for teaching teenagers about sex and the government for requiring contraception to be readily available for people.

            By the way, if my son asks me, “Dad, if we are to the cockroach, what the cockroach is to the amoeba, why should I treat human beings as special,” I’d explain that we ought to treat all forms of life with as much respect as we can. Why? Because we’re all related to one another. So, all of life is special, from the amoeba to the human.

            I think at this point we’ve both pretty well demonstrated our arguments, so I’m going to duck out unless there’s something you’d further like me to address. We may disagree substantially on many issues, but it seems that we both agree with the usefulness of discussions like this. So thanks again, Moshe, and best of luck to you.

            -Brian

          • There is a simple foundation for morality, even from a nihilistic perspective. When I was five years old I told my catholic mom I did not believe in her god. When I was twelve years old I decided that my goal in life was to be as happy as possible. I realized then, that to maximize my happiness, I needed to take the happines of everyone around me into account.

            Nowadays; ‘around me’ means everyone on the planet. When there is a conflict, reasonable people that strive
            to maximize the happiness of EVERYONE will always seek a compromise rather than a war.

      • ——“Most atheists that I speak with have a hard time accepting that if God does not exist we are simply advanced animals driven by the same desires and impulses as all animals.”——

        Sounds like you know a pretty sharp bunch of atheists, because it would be absurd to accept your notions of either “an infinite, transcendent God” or “humans as driven by the same desires and impulses as all animals.” Both are incorrect ideas about the world. Neither notion has any logical, empirical grounding. In fact, both notions are contrary to what we actually know about the world.

      • Pam Siegfried

        “In order to make an omelet one must crack a few eggs.” How about instead “Kill them all. The Lord will know His own.” said by thye Papal nuncio during the crusade against the Cathars. Or Numbers 31:15-17 “…have ye saved all the women alive? Behold these caused the children of Israel through the counsel of Balaam to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter or Peor and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD. Now therefore kill every male among the little ones and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.” said by Moses.

      • “The notion of one race that, through natural selection, evolved to a higher level than other races is a perfectly reasonable proposition in a Darwinian world.”

        This is so wrong (and such a fundamentalist classic; I think I should submit this to http://www.fstdt.com.);

        You clearly do not (want to) understand evolution.

        What would be consistent with evolution;
        The notion of a subset of a species that, through natural selection, evolved to a relatively better fitness to a certain environment is a perfectly reasonable proposition in a Darwinian world.

        Using words like “race” and “higher” really shows you do not understand biology.

        • moshe averick

          Dyz,

          Let’s rephrase it. The notion of a particular race of humans (for example the Aryans) evolving to a state of higher fitness, intelligence, etc. is a perfectly reasonable proposition in a Darwinian world. The idea that other races might be inferior in intelligence, fitness, etc is likewise a perfectly reasonable proposition.

          The eugenic idea of making our species more fit by eliminating the unfit (killing off the weakly, sickly, genetically afflicted, etc.)is also a perfectly reasonable proposition.

          Because its a reasonable proposition does not necessarily mean that the Aryans actually were more fit or that anyone has an obligation to be a eugenecist, but they are not unreasonable ideas.

          • —— moshe averick (March 20, 2012 2:31 pm): “The notion of a particular race of humans (for example the Aryans) evolving to a state of higher fitness, intelligence, etc. is a perfectly reasonable proposition in a Darwinian world.” ——

            Moshe, you are drifting farther and farther from reality. This “racial superiority” bunk is some of the most obnoxious stuff you’ve pushed yet. People are going to get the idea that you are not serious about discussing your articles if you keep up these unreasonable responses to comments.

            To be honestly “Darwinian,” you need to pay attention the the actual facts about the species that exist in the world — instead of indulging in religious fantasies about “racial superiority.”

  • Marty Kay Zee

    ‘(If you ever meet such a “realist” I would advise you not to turn your back on him and to head for the nearest exit immediately.)’

    I am such a realist, as are most of my family and friends. We are loving compassionate individuals living fine productive lives.

    The bigotry of this author to make such a statement is a testament to the bankruptcy of religion

    • Amen.

      I think it’s very sad that there are people who claim to sincerely believe that people are not capable of working out for themselves how to live a good, purposeful life. Do they think themselves likewise incapable? Or is it their sincerity rather than their moral incapacity that should be questioned? Either way, it’s unfortunate.

    • Moshe Averick

      Marty Kay,

      I was specifically talking about a person who believes that nothing that they do matters at all and only assigns as much value to others as suits him at any given moment. Does that describe you and your family?

  • Religionists always talk about “God” but they never tell you what God actually DOES, assuming He/She/It does something except sit around all millenium long meditating.

    Most humans who believe in God think that God’s most important job tasks are twofold:
    1. Answering prayers
    2. Keeping humans “alive” in some form after they’re dead — as spirit, a ghost, an afterlife, etc.

    So let’s consider an example or two of Task 1. 11 million innocent people were murdered by Hitler. 3 million of those were Polish Jews, another three million were Polish non-Jews. Of the remaining, 3 million were Jews of other nationalities and the rest were non-Jews of other nationalities. Virtually all of them were members of one or another religion, and almost all of them prayed to God to be saved.

    None were. So where was God? The answer to that question appears to be universal among believers: “I don’t know.”
    Then the following question must then be put to them. “Is it possible — not probable but just a tiny bit possible — that God was nowhere because He/She/It doesn’t exist at all?” Their answer, again, is universal: No, of course not. God exists and is very selective about answering prayers.

    Maybe the Rabbi could answer that before he tackles God’s Number 2 task. My own feeling on that is no matter what an eternal afterlife is like, wouldn’t it get awfully boring after a trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion (or more) years of this “existence”? I’d rather be asleep or unconscious instead, which is exactly the state you’re in after you die.

    • Moshe Averick

      David,

      Before responding to your question, which is kind of off-topic, do you then agree with the basic point of the article? That is, in an atheistic world view, life has no objective meaning or value and atheistic philosophers call on us to manufacture an illusory meaning and value while at the same time mocking religion for being illusory.

      • ——“… do you then agree with the basic point of the article? That is, in an atheistic world view, life has no objective meaning or value …”——

        No. That’s not true, so agreeing with it wouldn’t make sense.

        You seem to be trying to say that it is impossible to deal with the real world with a straight-forward objective approach — since “true objectivity” can only be gained by going through the subjective exercise of believing in God.

        That’s a bizarre notion: that one can only be “objective” by being subjective first — instead of simply being reasonable about things (including avoiding the religious approach of confusing fantasy with reality).

    • Moshe Averick

      David,

      Question: Have you ever felt the ecstasy of looking into the eyes of someone you love very deeply?
      What if you multiplied the intensity of that feeling, say by an order of a trillion trillion and then you would experience that feeling for all eternity. Do you think you would get bored?

  • Maher was right about Stalinism as a religion, but he didn’t invent that idea. Khrushchev was saying as much within a couple of years of Stalin’s death – see the “Secret Speech” for details.

    “Does that mean that any ideology, including atheism, is a type of religion?” Maybe, if atheism was an ideology, but it’s not, so that’s that OK then. The way some politicians talk about their policies, you do wonder sometimes.

  • Rabbi Averick manages in this article to fall into the single worst argument theists have to offer: that religion is necessary for humans to behave in a civilized manner. In addition to being irrelevant to whether or not any kind of deity actually exists, it also contains the huge unfortunate implication that it is only the author’s own belief in a deity that keeps him from acting like a barbarian, in other words, a backhanded admission that he is a sociopath. Is that really what he intends to convey? If not, he might wish to reconsider his approach.

    • Brian Westley

      Joe, given Averick’s irrational hostility towards atheists in past columns, I really think he IS a sociopath. Let’s hope his superstitious fears keep him in check…

    • Moshe Averick

      Joe,

      I think you are mistaken. “Acting like a barbarian” is already a value judgement. What is the source of your values that you are framing it that way?

      I am simply pointing out what many have pointed out: Ideas are critically important. If at bottom line you do not believe that there is any objective value and meaning to life, eventually it will filter down to your actions and be reflected in the way you live and relate to others. If you believe that human beings are created in the image of God and all men are created equal, eventually it will also reflect in the way you live and relate to others. I don’t see why there is anything to argue about regarding such an observation.

      I don’t know exactly what you mean by “religion” when you write that “religion is necessary….” Ultimately, people’s actions will be influenced by the ideas that they believe are true. Perhaps let’s rephrase it: In order to act in a way that both of us consider civilized, society needs God-based values. A society that denies the existence of anything other than the material, will act on the impulses and preferences of the moment, whatever they may be. (Why shouldn’t they, they are masters over themselves?)

      • “If at bottom line you do not believe that there is any objective value and meaning to life, eventually it will filter down to your actions and be reflected in the way you live and relate to others.”

        This is not reflected in the research done on Atheists. Atheists are found to be as “good” as any group of moderate believers, while most say that they do not feel there is any inherent meaning to life. People can care and be good without God or objective meanings.

        What people like the author seem to disregard are the day to day interactions between people, animals and things that add to our identity and feelings towards others. Humans (besides socio-paths) are endowed with a natural sense of empathy and a need to interact with other beings and make sense of their world (particularly humans). A lack of God or objective meaning takes nothing away from these interactions.

        A lack of universal meaning does nothing to suppress my feeling that each individual being deserves respect and kindness, because they, like me, are lucky to be alive, and we only get one chance to be so. I think it sad that there are people who need “objective meanings” in order to care.

        • Alan Nixon – Thanks. Your response to this article cuts right through to the point unlike most of the other comments that I’ve read. I consistently see articles like this. The authors always seem to jump right in to these philosophical precepts that confuse a subject that, in my opinion, can be and should be discussed “in the real” – which I felt your response did quite well.

        • ——“I think it sad that there are people who need “objective meanings” in order to care.”——

          It might be sad that there are people who need subjective fantasies of otherworldly Commanders to care about instead of facing reality.

          But the people who care about the objective meanings of their lives are the people we need to admire and respect. These are the people who really know how to live. It is not at all sad that there are such rational people in the world.

        • Moshe Averick

          Alan,

          Your “values” did not pop out of a vacuum. You have grown up in a society that is built on the idea that “all men are created equal, that all men are endowed by their creator with unalienable rights.” It has heavily influenced the way you see the world and other people.

          Do you respect others because you “feel” that way naturally? What about someone who does not “feel” that way naturally? Are they entitled to act according to the way they “feel” or is everyone obligated to act the way you “feel” they should?

      • “If at bottom line you do not believe that there is any objective value and meaning to life,… If you believe that human beings are created in the image of God…”

        You are repeating yourself, Moshe.

        Since God does not objectively exist, if you believe “human beings are created in the image of God,” then you do not believe that there is any objective value and meaning to human life.

        Thank God you’re all wrong about it!

    • Moshe Averick

      Joe,
      You also didn’t address what I think is the most important point I was making: namely, that there is an inherent absurdity in the fact that atheist philosophers instruct us to manufacture an illusory meaning and value for life and then mock religion for being illusory.

      • Moshe Averick,

        ” In order to act in a way that both of us consider civilized, society needs God-based values.”

        That is simply not true. Any “God-based value” that is not also consistent with the golden rule, and does not increase wellness, and happiness is at best, morally neutral.

        Any “God-based value” that is consistent with the golden rule, and increases wellness, and happiness is redundant.

        God is not required.
        Consequentialism, when applied to Happiness, health, and wellness is unassailable.

        • Moshe Averick

          Zen,

          Whose happiness? Whose health? Whose well being?

          What is your definition of well being? What if it conflicts with mine, who wins?

          If I was an atheist, I would not begrudge you your artificial consequentialist structure, but I certainly would have no obligation to follow it. Consequentialism, or any of the other constructs you mentioned are only as significant as you wnat them to be, none have any objective reality. That was the point of the article.

          • “Whose happiness? Whose health? Whose well being?”

            Everyone’s.

            What if it conflicts with mine, who wins?”

            Since everyone includes you, it cannot conflict.

            “What is your definition of well being?”

            Closer to the best possible world, and further from the worst possible world. Sorta like healthy is more like Superman and less like a dead person.

            “Consequentialism, or any of the other constructs you mentioned are only as significant as you wnat them to be, none have any objective reality.”

            Your actions are significant no matter what you want. They are either better for the world, worse, or perfectly neutral.

            The world is real. Consequences are real. Actions have consequences, and on that they can be judged.

            I don’t have to construct anything.

          • Moshe Averick

            Zen,

            “Since everyone includes you it cannot conflict”?! – What exactly do you mean here? I’ll give you an example. You have money that will make me happy and able to live well – If I take it away from you, you will not be happy and able to live well – Whose happiness and well being takes precedence? How can you possibly say that people’s interests don’t conflict?

      • ——“… there is an inherent absurdity in the fact that atheist philosophers instruct us to manufacture an illusory meaning and value for life and then mock religion for being illusory.”——

        Certainly that is an absurdity. You need to become familiar with the better class of “atheist philosophers,” the ones who aren’t in favor of manufacturing illusions.

        Such “manufacturing of illusions about the meaning and value of life” is the fundamental error of theism/religion, so you are correct that it is absurd for an “atheist philosopher” to commit the same error. But that does show how popular an error it is!

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