Let’s face it. Atheism isn’t classy any more. Gone are the witty people and instead you fuckers are stuck with people like me who swear and spell things incorrectly.
Apparently we aren’t what we used to be. We haven’t replace the titans of “atheist thought”. We don’t have a “modern day Nietzsche”. We lack the great thinkers that were household names. That our once “mighty” stable of intellectual debaters has been replaced by what can only be described with the euphemism of “Maths Debaters”. That the god-bashers du jour have nothing of significance to say about life.
How do we determine our morality? Did we make it? Is it intrinsic?
After all, either there is an intrinsic “truth” to the way we live our lives or we impose our order and rules on “nature” to civilise it.
But this last simply cannot be true. There is meaning in the universe which we discover, and which we do not create. Well, how did that meaning get there?
I don’t think this is a stupid question.
I think it’s a cognitive bias. The meaning we see are no different from the portents of augurs. We see what we want to see in the Universe. It’s the double rainbow viral video. To us it is the refraction of sunlight in a specific way through rain. To him it’s the most beautiful event EVER.
Again, we are “egocentric” creatures. We like to think we are the centre of everything. That our world revolves around us. Hell if you are a believer in astrology then the stars themselves move in order for you to get lucky with that hot thing from checking and accounts.
The meaning of life is to survive.
It’s just that humans can do that with style. We can create value and do things other than survive. Survival for us is easy so we survive in style. We fulfil our lives through a variety of ways. Money and Power? Relationships? Experiences? Objects? And indeed Spirituality and Religion.
I think religion is a fantasy but it does help people feel “happy and fulfilled”.
As for contemporary barbarism? I assume that’s a casual dig either at poor people, Islam or the Visigoths are on the move again.
We kind of have to deal with these two topics separately. Let’s first deal with the Catholic Herald’s main argument. Because the Catholic Herald has a more political agenda than the Spectator article.
The Chief Rabbi speaks of the threat of contemporary barbarism. He is right about that. But if we are to build civilisation, or to reinforce it, we have to have agreed foundations, and where are we to find them, unless in some shared metaphysical belief? This metaphysical belief does not have to be in God, but it does have to be in some shared value. It must at least be based on an admission that values, absolute values, exist.
The difference between our viewpoints is simple too.
The foundation of civilisation has always been the people who live within it. A shared metaphysical belief or “Religion” has however been the cause off the cessation of a lot of civilisations.
Values are not absolute. Thou Shalt Not Kill?
Unless it’s ordered by a duly stated authority.
Absolute Morality is rigid, inflexible and unfair. It does not take into account circumstance. It is a hammer and when the law is a hammer all crimes are nails.
No, I am afraid the foundation of society is human beings and the moral framework we utilise is the notion that all human beings are equal and have the same will to happiness and prosperity as each other. So we must treat each other as we wish to be treated and that requires laws.
The law and human society pre-date modern religion. Laws are there to help us survive. Laws change and are mutable.
If we had this conversation a hundred years ago and stood by principles at the time we would still be living in a world where I wouldn’t be allowed to sit on the same seat as a white man. No. I am afraid morality progresses and the rules change. And morality is based on our understanding of how our actions interact with others and how it affects them.
Incidentally, it has to be admitted, and as a religious person I have no difficulty admitting it, that several avowed theists in our world may well be the sort of people who have no real value system whatever, or indeed may be the proponents of a system of profound ‘disvalues’ (as they are called). Cameron, Haig and others, in their desire to arm the Syrian “rebels”, show a profound lack of common sense, as well as a failure to grasp what is at stake here; they have advanced no proper argument for their position, at least none that would sound good outside a school debating chamber, to the level of which our Mother of Parliaments has long descended.
And how would believing in a magical entity that wrote a 2000 year old book help them make this decision? Where in the Bible does it say “Don’t Equip Syrian Rebels. Seriously? Those guys are cocklords.”.
Equipping Rebels in Syria is a historical repeat of the Mujahadeen. Added to which “tales” of Rebel atrocities to match the Syrian government have started trickling out. What’s at stake here is the lives of the people of Syria which is being systematically destroyed by the actions of a dictatorial government resulting in a “rebel group” and war between the two.
Right can never be reduced to the concept of “because I will it so.” Right must rest upon some reasoning process, and must have some reference to something that is greater than ourselves. Metaphysical truths represent a break, perhaps the only break on human stupidity, and human barbarism. They hold back the tide, they command us to think again, and sometimes to stop what we are doing. To deny any such absolute truths and values is to open ourselves up the ultimate horrors of the Holocaust, to which the former Chief Rabbi alludes.
Except right isn’t reduced to the will of the people. Many a time “right” has been done against the will of people.
And there is something greater than ourselves out there. You think it’s god? I think it’s our future. Our children and those who come afterwards. We leave the world for them and they leave it for those who follow just as our parents left it for us.
We should aspire to leave it better than we received it. Greater than ourselves? Humanity and society is bigger than one man is it not?
The very metaphysical truths that religion claims are part of the human stupidity and barbarism. It commands us to not think about what our actions really mean. The very adoption of absolute truth and values lead to the sort of Horrors of the Holocaust.
At no point during the Holocaust did the people doing it consider themselves anything but Moral Upstanding Citizens.