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Why Atheism Demands Social Justice

This piece was originally published in Free Inquiry magazine.

I’m going to go out on a limb here. Being an atheist demands that we work for social justice.

A lot of atheists will argue with this. They’ll say that atheism means one thing, and one thing only: the lack of belief in any god. And in the most literal sense, they’re right. It’s different from secular humanism in that way. Secular humanism is more than just not believing in gods or the supernatural: it’s a positive, multi-faceted philosophy that includes specific principles of ethical conduct. Atheism, technically, means only the conclusion that there are no gods.

But conclusions don’t stand in a vacuum. They have implications. That’s true for the conclusion that there are no gods, as much as any other conclusion. And when you conclude that there are no gods, I would argue that one of the implications is a demand that we work for social justice: an end to extreme poverty, political disempowerment, government corruption, gross inequality in economic opportunity, misogyny, racism, homophobia, and so on. For reasons that are high-minded and noble and altruistic… and for reasons that are pragmatic and Machiavellian to the point of being crass.

Let’s start with the crass, Machiavellian reasons. (Those are always more fun, right?) If we want to make a world that’s better for atheists, making a world with more atheists would certainly be an excellent step. Safety in numbers, and all that. And if we want to make a world with more atheists, an excellent first step would be to work towards a world with greater levels of social justice. According to Phil Zuckerman’s carefully researched “Society Without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment,” countries with the highest rates of atheism tend very strongly to be countries with the highest scores on the “happiness index”: low rates of violent crime, low rates of government corruption, excellent educational systems, strong economies, well-supported arts, free health care, egalitarian social policies, and so on.

Now, there’s no reason to think that atheism creates these high levels of social functioning. In fact, it seems to be the other way around. When people are happy, stable, well-educated, empowered, and have high hopes for their children, they’re more likely to let go of their belief in God. A high level of social functioning creates atheism. Or contributes to it, anyway.

So if we want to create a world with more atheists — and thus a world that’s safer and better for atheists — it would be very much to our advantage to create a world that’s safer and better for everybody. A world with greater social justice is far more likely to be a more atheist world.

Hey, I warned you I was going to be crass.

So what are the noble, high-minded reasons?

If you don’t believe in God or an afterlife, and you think this world is the only one we have… I bet you see where I’m going with this.

If you don’t believe in God or an afterlife, and you think this world is the only one we have, then this life suddenly matters a whole lot more.

If religious believers were right, and this mortal life really were just a trivial eyeblink in the eternity of our real spiritual afterlives, then making this life happy and meaningful wouldn’t be so important. If we really did live forever in Heaven after we died, it wouldn’t matter so much that children around the world are born into hopeless lives of misery and despair. Hey, a few years of hunger and disease and violence and helplessness, compared to a blissful eternity in the arms of the Lord.. what’s the big deal?

But religious believers aren’t right. There is no God. There is no Heaven. This mortal life is all we have.

And if this mortal life is all we have — and there are millions of people whose only lives are hopeless lives of misery and despair, for no reason other than the bad luck of how and where and when they were born — then that is a fucking tragedy. It is injustice on a gruesomely epic scale. And we have a powerful moral obligation to fix it. If we have any morality at all — and the evidence strongly suggests that we do, that human beings have some common moral principles wired into our brains through millions of years of evolution as a social species — then seeing terrible harm done to others through no fault of their own should make us cringe, and should demand our immediate and passionate attention.

Now, I’m going to be very clear about this: We don’t all have to agree about how exactly social justice should be reached, or what our priorities and goals should be in reaching it, or even what the concept means. We don’t have to march in political lockstep. One of the best things about atheism/ freethought/ etc. is that we value lively dissent, and that we don’t have any dogma we’re all expected to agree on.

So I’m not arguing for any dogma, or for any specific political stance. Not here, anyway. I’ve certainly argued elsewhere for specific political stances — fervently, and many times over — but I don’t think any of them are automatically demanded by not believing in God. I’m not arguing — here, anyway — for the repeal of corporate personhood or an end to the drug war, same-sex marriage or an end to racist policing practices, globally enforced child labor laws or greater equity in funding for education, restored regulation of the financial industry or an end to government support of corrupt dictatorships. I’m not saying that, when it comes to social justice, atheists need to do any one particular thing.

I’m saying that we need to do something.

A clarification, since some people misunderstood my point when I linked to the piece the first time around. I am not saying that atheists who don’t care about social justice are not true atheists. I’m saying that atheists who don’t care about social justice should care about social justice. Logically, and morally.

Comments

  1. KG says

    countries with the highest rates of atheism tend very strongly to be countries with the highest scores on the “happiness index”…

    Now, there’s no reason to think that atheism creates these high levels of social functioning.

    I’d admit it’s hard to produce firm evidence for such a causal link; I haven’t yet read Zuckerman’s book (it’s on my to-read list!), so maybe he produces good evidence that the causality runs exclusively or mainly the other way; but intuitively, I’d expect it to run both ways. For the high atheism -> happiness direction, first, in a country with high levels of religiosity, misogyny and homophobia are also likely to be at higher levels (we know these are not uncommon among atheists, but the major religions provide “justifications” for them), and education is likely to be interfered with to bolster religious belief. Second, at least some religious leaders recognise that their hold on their followers is stronger the more insecure their lives are, and are thus motivated to oppose decent social security programmes; if their primary motivation is to maintain and increase religiosity, the religious right are behaving quite rationally in doing so.

  2. Zengaze says

    I disagree with you Greta.

    Atheism doesn’t demand social justice, atheism demands nothing other than a rejection of theism. You may argue that atheists should care about their fellow beings, but that has nothing to do with atheism, that’s a socio political view. I could quite consistently not give a shit about whether you live, die, suffer horribly or languish in poverty, that would just make me a selfish dick, but I’d still be an atheist.

    You may argue that morally we have a duty to each other, but that isn’t atheism, that’s humanism. You may argue that in order for atheism to spread and be more accepted we should support an agenda that diminishes the hold of religion. But that isn’t atheism, that’s social activism. And a rejection of god claims does not require activism.

    You may argue that atheists should care about a plethora of issues, great, I’m into political activism too, and quite likely share many of the same political views as you. But that just makes you a political activist who happens to be atheist, just like me, it has nothing to do with god claims.

    I could be an atheist who loves living within a theocracy as it enables me to sell tons of Jesus t shirts to the sheep, so your conclusion that I should give a shit is false. I love Jesus sheep, make more of them. But I’m still an atheist, and in that scenario I’d be more interested In preventing the message of the anti theists spreading. Not good for business.

  3. says

    I also disagree here. The moral conclusions drawn do not follow from atheism itself, but from atheism plus certain moral commitments which should be stated openly and open to scrutiny and debate. I agree that the non-existence of the afterlife can act as a serious spur to moral action – but only if we already have a set of moral principles to which we adhere in the first place. No moral position truly follows from atheism alone – that’s why I think it is so important to promote the discussion of naturalistic ethics beyond the question of God. And since this article has done that – fantastic!

  4. karmakin says

    Avoiding humanism entirely, I see this as a form of rationalism, or at least something similar, if it’s not dictionary correct. The idea is that there are more correct answers to various things than other. Rationalism, of course, goes hand in hand with atheism, or at least it tends to.

    The rational thing to do is to create a stable society with as much chance for personal success and happiness as we possibly can. The question is on how to get there. Well, it’s obvious that for example, supply-side economics is NOT a good answer for these questions, which is why you’ll see it derided by most atheists/rationalists. Or the idea that eliminating government won’t create a power vacuum that the already rich and powerful will move into, for example.

    Or on the positive side, that we need social welfare programs in order to maintain social and political stability, that poverty is by and large a direct result of choices that we have made as a society, and as such we are responsible for it, and so on.

    In short, generally speaking I think there are more correct answers than others, and most atheists, being rationalists as well, will gravitate to those answers.

  5. says

    But the problem is determining what we view as “correct”, morally speaking. The difficult of this whole approach is that it treats moral commitments as essentially unproblematic, when in fact I think they are deeply problematic. For instance, to make the statement that “The rational thing to do is to create a stable society with as much chance for personal success and happiness as we possibly can” is to sacrifice any idea of moral duty to other people. I wouldn’t want to live in such a society, and we should hash-out our moral disagreements. Atheism doesn’t demand we take any particular view.

  6. says

    … and most atheists, being rationalists as well, will gravitate to those answers.

    I have to disagree with this. The idea that most atheists are rationalists is one that, I think, comes mainly from the USA, where many atheists are ex-theists and have, indeed, come to atheism through a rationally thought-out process. They’re ‘first-generation’ atheists who made a conscious, rational break from religion.

    I’m British. My grandparents were very faint believers. My parents didn’t believe, and hardly thought it through at all. Religion had played hardly any part in their childhoods, and played less part in their adulthoods. Much of my generation came to atheism through that route: atheist by not even having been influenced by religion at all, apart from prayers at school assembly and maybe a few Bible stories presented very much as fable.

    We have many atheists, but most aren’t Atheists, if you see what I mean.

  7. kompani says

    I am in agreement with Zengaze. Atheism is a lack of theism. Whilst it would be very positive to link it to a moral code that would make it into something other than Atheism. I am an Atheist who also has, bolted on, high moral and social principles.

  8. Bruce Gorton says

    I would tend to agree – because of one simple thing.

    There is no God – therefore anything positive that we want out of our society has to come from somewhere else. We cannot pray for a better society, if want it we have to work for it.

    Now what social justice means exactly may vary from atheist to atheist. We see this in the accommodation fight and in various fights over various other issues – but because we are the only ones around who can make it happen, the sort of society we want has to come from us.

  9. Brett says

    I think it’s important to keep in mind that she made it very clear that she’s not saying caring about social justice (in some way) is necessary to being defined as an atheist, it’s just that not believing in the supernatural is all the information a person needs to come to that conclusion. If you knew a hungry tiger was behind a door, of course it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t open the door by definition, but for almost any person it’s all the information they need to decide not to open it.

  10. says

    I think it’s important to keep in mind that she made it very clear that she’s not saying caring about social justice (in some way) is necessary to being defined as an atheist, it’s just that not believing in the supernatural is all the information a person needs to come to that conclusion.

    Understood. The problem is that it isn’t true that the rejection of the supernatural is “all you need” to come to the conclusion that one should take quite a particular stance on issues of social organization, distribution of resources etc. A lot more moral argumentation is required before you can logically get from A to B.

  11. heddle says

    Your original statement: “Being an atheist demands that we work for social justice.”

    Your clarification: “I’m saying that atheists who don’t care about social justice should care about social justice.”

    But that’s not a clarification. That is running from your original statement. Demands is not synonymous with should. Besides, your clarification statement has no teeth. Clearly most (all?) religions include teaching that might cause one to say, justifiably: if you are an adherent of religion X, if you really believe what it teaches, then you should care about social justice. You are simply adding atheism to the list–but who would argue with the statement “everyone should care about social justice.” No teeth.

    If religious believers were right, and this mortal life really were just a trivial eyeblink in the eternity of our real spiritual afterlives, then making this life happy and meaningful wouldn’t be so important.

    How unbelievably naive.

  12. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    There is no God – therefore anything positive that we want out of our society has to come from somewhere else. We cannot pray for a better society, if want it we have to work for it.

    Exactly. Doesn’t seem all that controversial to me.

    Now what social justice means exactly may vary from atheist to atheist.

    I’m not sure about this though. On the one hand – you’re correct in that certain issues are more important to Atheist B than to Atheist A – therefore Atheist B likely doesn’t consider that particular issue intrinsic to their view of social justice.

    That said, on the other hand, is there more than one honest definition of social justice? I.e., if Atheist B is a homophobe, can they rightly be said to be interested in social justice?

    Perhaps this is part of the pushback – that atheists are just as susceptible to the biases and bigotries of the culture they are raised in, therefore there are bigotted atheists just like there are bigotted theists. Doesn’t mean they aren’t atheists; they just happen to be douchecanoes as well.

  13. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    “But…but…but…but I don’t WANT to work for social justice. It’s HARD!”

    *sigh*

  14. says

    But that’s not a clarification. That is running from your original statement. Demands is not synonymous with should.

    Actually, it does. “Demand” is a strong-form of “should”. It’s an obligation in language. And that’s exactly what she’s arguing, and incidentally it’s something I agree with.

    You’ve taken the philosophical position that there is no divine agent, and there is no capacity for any supposed divine agent to work. This is a complex and multifaceted position to take, since it pre-supposes several positions at once through a very innocuous presumption that there is no god. This position demands additional information be taken into account. In this case, social justice.

    Now, I can (I think, correctly) assume that if you are an atheist, you prefer to live in a data-oriented, fact-based world. A world in which empirical, provable evidence and well-argued science determines the properties of government and society.

    Luckily, we already know a whole lot about what is objectively good and bad for society, from it’s bad to kill each other to it’s good for us all to be more economically and socially equal. These are scientific facts now. We have extremely good evidence to support them.

    So, just like when I encounter an atheist who rants and raves about how climate change isn’t real or the Bilderberg Group is taking over the world, I think that atheists who are not involved and active in social justice movements are being intellectually disingenuous as well as immoral and unethical. That’s because living in a rational, data-based, data-oriented, scientific world with the resultant worldview points to (demands) involvement in social justice. It is a logical and rational conclusion from the philosophical information you’ve already provided.

    A worldview is not simply believing or not believing. When people look at religions, they all come with huge lists of what’s important and what isn’t, what matters and what doesn’t, what is moral and what is immoral. So does atheism, just like any worldview. Where most religions find their morals through theology, though, atheism uses philosophy and science. The science is in – we have a certain amount of biological moral underpinnings and it’s better for us, as a species and as a society, to be more equal. To be more just. To be more transparent. To be more open. To be more educated.

    So if you are an atheist, if you follow a data-oriented existence, if you trust the process of science to give you direction on questions of true and false, then you must accept science and philosophical discussion on what is right and wrong. We know many of the answers to those questions, though certainly not all of them.

    So, conclusively, by declaring yourself an atheist it demands you work for justice. If you aren’t then you’re spitting in the face of the philosophical position you’ve taken.

  15. says

    Hrm, my citation tags got screwed up.

    Anyway, to the FTB admins as well – the connection to wordpress is all kinds of broken. I couldn’t sign in as my WordPress identity. :\

  16. says

    If religious believers were right, and this mortal life really were just a trivial eyeblink in the eternity of our real spiritual afterlives, then making this life happy and meaningful wouldn’t be so important.

    How unbelievably naive.

    How is it naïve? People have been tortured and burnt alive on that very premise; that saving their immortal soul is more important than the earthly suffering caused in the attempt.

  17. jrel says

    A friend of mine once asked me ‘If you don’t believe in God, what is to stop you from going around killing everyone?’

    My response (which should be nothing new to the experienced atheist) was of course..

    If your belief in God, or rather, your fear of hell, is the only thing that is stopping you from going around killing people then what kind of person are you really? Are you a raging psychopathic killer constantly suppressing the urge to kill by reminding yourself that hell hurts? That god is watching? Seriously?

    I don’t go around killing people precisely because of what Greta is talking about here. This life is precious. This. Life. Is. Precious. More so that some people can apparently grasp. Not just my life, but all life. It’s fucking amazing, and it’s fucking precious, and if there is any sentient being out there that has any chance of doing anything to stop ‘evil’, it isn’t god, it isn’t prayer, it’s you and me.

  18. Nihilismus says

    There are no a priori good morals. There are no objective “oughts”. Those people in this thread supporting the idea that atheism demands social justice are actually starting first with the proposition that the continued existence of human society is objectively good. But atheism does not itself lead to that conclusion. If we are honest with ourselves and acknowledge that perpetuating human existence and maximizing happiness amongst the greatest number of people are subjectively good goals, then we can start reasoning what things are objectively good at achieving those goals.

    Knowing that this is my only life does not automatically mean I should care about the lives of those people who are still around after I am dead. I could just as logically conclude that I should maximize my own happiness while I can, even if that conflicts with the happiness of others. And since their unhappiness will end when they die, they are left in exactly the same position as they would be if I had tried to increase their happiness.

  19. Zengaze says

    Those arguing that atheism demands anything are having to do a lot of mental gymnastics off of the starting blocks of a bag of presuppositions.

    To suggest that “should” is equivalent to “demand” is to redifine should to fit your argument. If atheism demands anything it Implys that that demand is inherent in its definition. That by defining oneself as atheist you also accept the demand. Whereas to say that atheism should [insert proposition] is to argue or prompt for an addition to atheism.

    If Greta is arguing that atheism should include social justice, that is very very different, from announcing that atheism demands it.

  20. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    The fetishistic obsession over the word “demand” is starting to really creep me out.

    Would you be happier if Greta said “Atheism strongly implies that people should value and actively work for social justice?”

    Or is there a similar fetishistic obsession over the word “implies?”

  21. says

    Zengaze

    I’d contend it depends on how you define ‘atheist’.

    If we stick to the dictionary definition, then no stance on social issues is demanded—it’s just a disbelief in gods.

    If we mean by it someone who has some sort of opinion about the institution of religion, rather then merely one on the existence of gods, then they’ve already taken some sort of personal stance on social issues. The only choice remaining is to either shrug and say ‘not my problem’ or to get involved and try to help fix those issues. The morally honest choice being, I’d say, the latter. (None of which means, of course, that the need have the same view as me or any other atheist, of any particular issue.)

    Anecdotal, but I speak as one who, for most of his life, was a dictionary-definition atheist—I didn’t believe in gods, but gave it no more thought than that. Once something forced me to give it some thought, I then couldn’t sit back and do/say nothing about the issues; at least not if I wanted to look in a mirror again.

  22. says

    Would you be happier if Greta said “Atheism strongly implies that people should value and actively work for social justice?”

    I think if Greta had sprinkled caveats throughout the article, nitpickers would still nitpick. After all, the wording of the piece is easier to attack than the spirit.

    <self-nitpick>(Nitpicking being, of course, a metaphor. No actual picking of actual nits is implied.)</self-nitpick>

  23. Zengaze says

    @24

    Definitions tend to be somewhat significant, especially when conveying ideas. But hey I’m sure you’re perfectly okay with xtians saying eternal punishment can be defined as an extension of love.

    Greta made an assertion: “Atheism demands social justice” the why in the title indicates Greta is going to explain why that positive claim is true. The claim is false. Atheism as defined does not demand (nor strongly imply the need for) social justice. When people make false claims it is usually the words they used to explain their claim that we use to understand what they mean, and then convey to them why we think their claim is false. Or perhaps you use telepathy.

    @25
    But by atheist we don’t mean someone who has Formed a view on religious institution. An atheist may take a negative view on religious institutions, but then they are an anti theist in addition to atheist. An atheist may also take the position that religious institutions are positive or that they have no view whatsoever on religious institutions, so being atheist does not default the individual to have taken a position on social issues.

    Any personal ideologies are not atheism, atheism may be one facet of an ideological construct, but it is possible to construct mutually contradictory ideologies that include atheism.

    atheism does not logically require any interest in social justice.

  24. Zengaze says

    @26

    Ahhh the spirit of the article. I guess you didn’t get the spirit of the bible, you shouldn’t have nitpicked those pesky words, in doing so you missed the true message.

  25. says

    But hey I’m sure you’re perfectly okay with xtians saying eternal punishment can be defined as an extension of love.

    Um, no. And I’m not sure why you feel it’s pertinent, either. The definition of eternal punishment as love is a self-contradictory definition, and therefore nonsensical.

    The spirit of the piece (as I read it) is that atheists aught to, in Greta’s opinion (and mine) be concerned with social issues. That the issues directly concerning atheists necessarily lead to wider considerations.

    Quite why you feel the need to fixate on one word, “demand,” is beyond me. By all means, call it into question, but to make it the focus of your whole discussion is to miss, or evade, the point somewhat.

  26. says

    Sorry, double posting:

    I didn’t say “religious institutions,” which would mean, roughly, “churches,” I said “the institution of religion,” which is the general body of dogma and outlook which usually accompanies belief in gods.

  27. DSimon says

    I disagreed with Greta’s argument when I read the title, but now that I’ve gone through the whole article I agree. Greta lists ways that atheism influences decisions about making the world a better place for yourself and for others; it’s a practical matter, not an philosophical one.

    The critical point is that we’re talking about atheist humans, not philosopher robots with no personal motivations or aliens with alien value systems. Humans, with very few exceptions, value their own well-being and also (to at least some degree) the well-being of their fellows.

    A more precise title for the article might be “Why (Common Human Values + Atheism) Demands Social Justice”.

  28. Zengaze says

    @29

    Well it’s great that words have specific definitions then isn’t it. Sigh.

    You can claim a piece has any spirit you want it to have. I reject the logical argument put forward, it’s really that simple. The case for the claim did not pass. Atheism does not demand social justice. You can bluster about social justice all day long, but you are talking from a position that is not atheism. It may be humanism, it may be leftism it could be a lot of isms but it isn’t atheism.

    The fixation, as you put it, on the word demand, is because it is the claim! Bloody hell……. That is not a miss or evasion of the point, greta’s whole argument was constructed to support that assertion. If I say “god is great” then the operative word that I have to justify is “great” someone rebutting my argument by demonstrating that the god I assert is not great, is not missing the point, it is the fucking point.

  29. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    But by atheist we don’t mean someone who has Formed a view on religious institution.

    *swallows, backs slowly away from the random capitalization*

  30. says

    Zengaze

    Would you argue with a contention that if one is opposed to religion-based sexism, one should also be opposed to non-religion-based sexism?

    If your answer is ‘yes,’ congratulations; you just agreed with the spirit of the OP.

  31. Zengaze says

    @30

    I know you Said religious institution, rather than religious institutions, I used the phrase in my reply. It makes no difference, the institution of religion or religious institutions, being atheist doesn’t necesstate an opinion, negative, positive or indifferent on it/them.

    As I have pointed out, I could be atheist and think the institution of religion is fantastic, not for reasons of social justice, or any other reasons other than it fills my pockets with lots of cash. The argument is a logical fail.

  32. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Would you argue with a contention that if one is opposed to religion-based sexism, one should also be opposed to non-religion-based sexism?

    I think you have it backwards.

    I also think the answer IS yes, sadly.

    Now, would anyone argue with a contention that if one is opposed to religion-based perverse obstinacy and unreasonable literalism, one should also be opposed to non-religion-based perverse obstinacy and unreasonable literalism?

  33. says

    Zengaze

    I have a name. It’d be nice if you’d use it.

    No

    So you’re only interested in social issues that affect yourself directly? Very informative. Thank you.

  34. Zengaze says

    @38 Daz

    Apologies for not using your name.

    Of course I recognised that for what it was, nice drop of the word sexist, in an attempt to shutdown. Objection. It is of course a totally different debate.

  35. says

    Zengaze

    If you saw it as an attempt to make you appear sexist, you’re wrong. I merely wanted an example of a problem that, if one is opposed to to the religious expression of it, one ought to be opposed to the more general expression of it.

    If I think red cars are inherently bad, I should be opposed to any red cars being produced, despite the fact that my disbelief in Henry Ford’s existence as the originator of the Ford company might make me more aware of red Fords—and even if it was the existence of red Fords that made me think about the problem of red cars in the first place.

  36. Zengaze says

    @ 41 daz

    As I have said it is a different debate. Very basically, sexism within religion and sexism within society are different, my opposition to either or both is not contingent upon atheism, or atheism+. My belief that people Should be opposed to sexism does not emerge from my atheism, nor does my atheism demand it, that is why it is straw.

    With regards to the straw trap as a move to dismiss, i actually said I would not argue with that contention, but I knew you wouldn’t pick up on that as your dismissal was already primed. Traps have a tendency to backfire unless properly laid. The contention although straw, fails to recognise, that it is possible to oppose religious based sexism, and be sexist, but again that is another debate.

    @red cars wtf? I prefer pink with yellow dots.

  37. says

    Zengaze

    All I’m asking is this: If there’s something you’ve become opposed to after being made aware (or more aware) of it via the atheism/religion debate, should you or should not be also opposed to non-religion-based examples of the problem, now that the religious aspect has heightened your awareness?

    It was not a sexism-trap. The red car analogy was meant as a completely neutral and obviously ridiculous example, so that you wouldn’t think I was setting a trap.

  38. Zengaze says

    @43 daz.

    No. Because non religious examples for it may have non woo reasons, and those reasons must but dealt with on their own merit. I could quite consistently oppose an action based on bad reasoning and support the same action based on good reasoning.

    Example: let’s kill all those people in that village because I had a dream last night and Thor told me to.

    Example 2: let’s kill all those people in that village because they all have brief case nukes and ae about to leave.

  39. says

    Zengaze

    In your first example there’s no rational reason, in the second there is. Try:

    Example: let’s kill all those people in that village because I had a dream last night and Thor told me to kill villagers.

    Example 2: let’s kill all those people in that village because we don’t like villagers.

  40. jrel says

    @ 22 Nihilismus

    There are no a priori good morals. There are no objective “oughts”.

    I disagree emphatically with this sentiment.

    When people think of something that is objective, they may think of something like mathematics. 1+2=3 no matter what god(s) you believe in or what your parents are indoctrinating you with. It is a ‘truth’ that is invincible to cultural relativism, and everything else social.

    But you must realize that mathematics are based on what are called axioms. Axioms, basically, are assumptions. You might think of them as ‘self evident truths’ if you will. More accurately, an axiom is a premise or starting point for reasoning. All mathematics that we use in the world are standing on the shoulders of these axioms. The axioms are not ‘proven’ or objectively true. All other conclusions in math are proven to be true only in that they follow from the axioms. So even in math, there is no real concept of true objectivity. There is always room for subjectivity.

    I would argue that morality is very much the same. All we need to do is agree on some basic core principles that are applicable regardless of culture and belief. Basic human rights is a potential starting point perhaps. Once we have some ‘self evident truths’ some axioms, it is possible to build a system of morals that can feel (and be argued) just as objective as math.

    The irony here is that people like me often get more support from the theists on this than the atheists. The theists also support this notion of axiomatic morality, except that they believe the axioms come from the bible. And they wonder how you can have a system of morality without the bible to feed you these axioms (e.g. the ten commandments which we all know are terrible axioms).

    But they are right. Logically, we cannot, we should not, just accept that morality is relative. If we assume some basic human rights (or ‘life rights’ I prefer) we can have objective justification why chile abuse is wrong no matter what religion you follow. That slavery is ‘wrong’. And on and on.

    This is not just a philosophical meandering. This is very critical to moving forward as a species, and it doesn’t help when atheists go around touting nonsense about ‘cultural and moral relativism’.

    All we need are some axioms, some starting points for reasoning related to morality, and we can make it as objective as anything else.

    After all, 1+2=3 only if you accept the mathematical axioms which imply it to be true. It isn’t as simple as being ‘just so’.

  41. Zengaze says

    @45

    Lol okay daz, I’m done. I’ll try to make the example more illuminating for you. I oppose circumcision in all religious and traditional circumstances….. I support circumcision if it is a medical necessity. It is possible to oppose something that is perpetuated for religious reasons, and support it when applied for non religious reasons.

    I advise you to look at the parameters of your own question, part of the problem with your question is that you are presupposing that everything that is to be seen as a problem within religion must be seen as a problem outside of it. Logical fail. Drop the word problem………

    Your question: “All I’m asking is this: If there’s something you’ve become opposed to after being made aware (or more aware) of it via the atheism/religion debate, should you or should not be also opposed to non-religion-based examples of the problem, now that the religious aspect has heightened your awareness?”

    Done.

  42. says

    Oh good grief.

    The topic is social/political problems. By citing special cases where something isn’t a problem, you are completely avoiding the issue.

    I give up.

  43. Greta Christina says

    A reminder to everyone in this conversation: Please read my comment policy. No personal insults; no namecalling; no deliberate attempts to provoke fights; no consistently being unpleasant, nasty, snide, sarcastic, nitpicky, assuming the worst possible intentions, or otherwise just generally being an asshole. Please express disagreements with ideas while remaining civil towards the people expressing them. This is not Pharyngula: I like Pharyngula, but I strive to maintain a different tone in the conversations on my blog. Please respect that.

    And a note to regular commenters: It seems like I’m having to issue this reminder a lot lately. Can you please try to stick with it? If a troll comes in and is a jerk, can you please take the high road, and not respond in kind? If they persist in being a jerk, I’ll get rid of them. I promise. I’m trying to make this a place on the Internet where people can disagree without it being toxic. I’d really appreciate your co-operation. Thanks.

  44. says

    @46 – jrel

    To continue this line of thinking, there are studies that show certain objective moral truths about the human condition. We have certain hard-wired moral truths that can be erased with conditioning but are, nonetheless, present in children of the following generation (at least as far as I know – epigenetics might be able to push evil down the generations over a long enough timeline).

    As well, I think that once you have accepted atheism you’re faced with the necessity of maximizing your personal benefits from this life. Mathematically, as has been shown by several different sociological and economic studies in recent years, the best way to maximize your own happiness is to maximize the happiness of others. The best way to make your own life better is to knock down inequality and make everyone more equal. This leads to everything from a stronger economy to a stronger sex life for everyone in a society.

    As well, Atheism being a worldview of the same caliber as any religion in general (in that it informs certain preconceptions about the universe as a whole) leads to the necessity to answer questions of morality and ethics. I’m sure I don’t have to argue about objective ethics (given that it has a default presumption of justice and equality). As far as morality is concerned, again, we have reason to believe that there is an objective moral system we’re all born with. Likewise, it is better for everyone to care about those around us (and better for your children, or your other relatives, to leave the world better than you left it).

    For that reason we have a moral imperative toward social justice. Atheism demands it in much the same way that a wedding demands some form of catering – it’s not a requirement of the word, it’s a requirement of the circumstances.

  45. jrel says

    @46 – Danny

    Yes, I agree with this notion that we have a moral imperative toward social justice. As part of this realization, I think it is important for us to speak out against moral relativism, and make a serious attempt at an objective system by which morals can be measured against and laws/actions can be taken. Some people shy at this idea, or even are angered by its utterance. Who are we to say what is wrong and right they grumble.

    Asking where morals come from is not a rhetorical question. It is a most important one that demands an answer. The way I see it there are really 3 sources for morality:

    1. God/religion (faith & universalism)
    2. Tradition/culture (subjectivity & relativism)
    3. Reasoning (objectivity & universalism)

    As atheists, I would argue that #1 looks identical to #2 at the surface. After all, religion is nothing more than the traditionally held beliefs of people. However, the people who believe in #1 often consider it to be ‘universal’. They believe that their morality applies equally to everyone. The believers of #2 have a more ‘to each his own’ approach. This is usually how the relativism vs universalism argument is framed. Where the universalists are basing their arguments on religion and the relativists are fighting back against that which is silly.

    But don’t discount #3. Defining morality based on reasoning. It is universal and objective, but not religious. Shocking to some yes, I know.

    People may argue that #1 and #2 come from reasoning as well. But this does not work in a true logical sense. A formal system for reasoning requires premises (axioms) and the effectiveness of the implications of them. Doing things ‘because they have always been done this way’ is not a good reason. Neither is doing things ‘because god said so’. These are based on premises that can be objectively measured as ‘bad’ based on the contradictions and paradoxes that arise from them. A ‘good’ set of morals comes from premises (axioms) that lead to a world view that remains consistent when critically probed. Religion and tradition fail miserably that this type of test.

    Going back to my math analogy, does 1+2=3 because my teacher says so (tradition)? Because god says so (faith)? Or because the axioms of math imply it (objectivity)? It’s pretty obvious. The effectiveness of mathematical axioms can be measured as ‘good’ when they are used to accurately predict fluid dynamics used to fly air planes at super sonic speeds, as well as nearly uncountable other examples.

    Axioms aren’t perfect though. And rejection or addition of premises is not uncommon in math (think non-euclidean geometry) and sometimes lead to great breakthroughs in understanding. I’d expect any moral system based on axioms would be the same. It would not be completely static. It would need to change over time as people change. But don’t confuse this with subjectivity. It would be no more subjective than mathematics.

    When we argue that atheism demands social justice, whether you argue it for reasons that are “more high-minded and noble and altruistic” or for reasons that are “pragmatic and Machiavellian”, either way you making an attempt at going down path #3. Trying to put premises to morality and frame the problem as an objective one. That things are right and wrong for reasons, not whims. I’m all for this approach and hope to see a more serious and formalized attempt at it sometime in my lifetime.

    I’m saying all of this because all too often I see atheists gag on the notion of objective morals and then go around touting moral relativism. I believe that atheism hand in hand with critical thinking, inevitably leads us to an objective model for morals.

  46. Jesse M. says

    In this blog entry, it was claimed that atheism means one and only one thing, but then two incompatible definitions were given: “the lack of belief in any god” is not equal to, and does not entail, “the conclusion that there are no gods”. If that equivalence or entailment was valid, then there would be no room for agnosticism, but since there is, it cannot be valid. Since the first definition is the most common among those who call themselves atheists, that is the one that I will be using here.

    Before addressing the core argument, I want to make a small point about language. I know this may seem pedantic, but it comes from the same spirit as Greta’s post about the word ‘literally’, so it might be appreciated by the people here. The word ‘lack’ means more than just being without something. It means being without something that one should not be without. For example, we can reasonably say that student report cards lack As but cannot reasonably say they lack Fs. When atheism is defined as “lack of belief in any god”, it implies that such belief is a desirable thing to have, which is not a common view among atheists. The word ‘lack’ is important and has no ready replacement, so please stop misusing it.

    Now I will address the core of the argument. To justify the claim that atheism demands social justice in the secular humanist sense of the term, one needs to show that (atheism -> secular humanism). As others noted, the blog entry seems to be talking about people who have already taken a position on issues related to social justice. Hence, the presented argument took the form ((atheism + secular humanism) -> secular humanism), which reduces to the tautology (secular humanism -> secular humanism), which does nothing to justify the original claim.

    This is the argument that Zengaze made, and it is correct as far as it goes. However, Daz made an important point in response. The literal interpretation of the text may not be logically sound but the spirit of the text could be. This is where my agreement with Zengaze comes to an end. I think “the spirit of the text” is just a roundabout way of refering to the intentions and motivations that the author had in employing language or formalistic reasoning (perhaps in a mistaken way). This is not arbitrary or mystical. On this matter, I agree with Daz.

    To make my meaning clearer, consider the following thought experiment. Imagine the same kind of argument being made by other people too. Imagine reading “Why Deism Demands Social Justice” and “Why Pantheism Demands Social Justice”. Imagine reading comments on them from people like Zengaze who argue against the logical validity of the surface meaning of the text. Imagine reading comments on them from people like Daz who argue for the logical validity of the underlying meaning.

    I think that all the Zengazes and Dazes would be correct. The Zengaze argument that ((“whatever” + secular humanism) -> secular humanism) is tautological and proves nothing about “whatever” is correct. The Daz argument that ((secular humanism + absence of overriding religious values) -> secular humanism) is not tautological and is correct.

    In conclusion, the mode of thinking that lie behind arguments like these are correct, but the arguments themselves are incorrect because the underlying mode of thinking is not something entailed by atheism, deism, or pantheism.

  47. Nihilismus says

    @46 jrel

    “I disagree emphatically with this sentiment [that there are no a priori good morals nor objective “oughts”]. . . .

    . . . [Mathematical] axioms are not ‘proven’ or objectively true. All other conclusions in math are proven to be true only in that they follow from the axioms. So even in math, there is no real concept of true objectivity. There is always room for subjectivity.

    I would argue that morality is very much the same. All we need to do is agree on some basic core principles that are applicable regardless of culture and belief.”

    I think you are actually agreeing rather than disagreeing with my sentiment. I said that if we honestly acknowledge starting with a subjective goal (or moral axiom to be followed), then we can reason objectively good means to achieve that goal (or that are objectively necessary to be consistent with the starting moral axiom).

    Of course, the statement that “all we need to do is agree on some basic core principles” implies the possibility that someone might not agree. My quibble with the article is that it seems to say that atheists who don’t work toward social justice are being objectively irrational, but the article does not stress that it is actually starting with a subjective (though perhaps majority-approved) axiom — that maximal happiness among maximal humans and their decendents is something we “ought to” desire. But that axiom is essentially social justice itself.

    “Once we have some ‘self evident truths’ some axioms, it is possible to build a system of morals that can feel (and be argued) just as objective as math.”

    I assume the quotes around ‘self evident truths’ are there because such truths cannot actually be ‘self evident’ or objective. But once we do start with them, then I agree that subsequent morals can be objectively argued for.

    “The irony here is that people like me often get more support from the theists on this than the atheists. . . .

    But they are right. Logically, we cannot, we should not, just accept that morality is relative. If we assume some basic human rights . . . we can have objective justification why [child abuse and slavery are wrong].”

    In my experience, most atheists actually take Greta’s position — that this one life we have makes it more important that we work toward solving the world’s problems during the short time we are alive. And I think that’s because such atheists don’t want to have theists tell them that they can’t objectively argue that things like child abuse and slavery are wrong.

    You say we “should not” accept that morality is relative, but that itself is a subjective moral statement. Yes, if we “assume some basic human rights”, then we can objective justify condemnation of child abuse and slavery. But this does not mean that the theists are right. Morality starts off relative. Once we assume some starting axioms, then it stops being relative and starts being objective. This was my point.

    “This is very critical to moving forward as a species . . . .”

    I am not sure if “moving forward” means simply propogating or also maximizing happiness. Either way, there are some moral axioms that are objectively critical to those goals. We just first have to desire those goals.

    “All we need are some axioms, some starting points for reasoning related to morality, and we can make it as objective as anything else.”

    And this is why I said there were no a priori good morals. We have to create some starting points first. So you see, I think we are pretty much in agreement.

    @50 Danny

    “We have certain hard-wired moral truths that can be erased with conditioning but are, nonetheless, present in children of the following generation . . . .”

    Then atheism doesn’t demand social justice, genetics does.

    “As well, I think that once you have accepted atheism you’re faced with the necessity of maximizing your personal benefits from this life. Mathematically, as has been shown by several different sociological and economic studies in recent years, the best way to maximize your own happiness is to maximize the happiness of others. The best way to make your own life better is to knock down inequality and make everyone more equal.”

    Then atheism doesn’t demand social justice, self-interest and statistics do. Though maximizing the happiness of others may be the best way to maximize your own happiness, there will be those people who fall outside the curve. Some will be maximally happier by not exerting effort helping others. If we all operated this way, we would probably all be unhappy. If the goal is to make the most people happy, then social justice is demanded. But in a social system composed mostly of social-justice-oriented people, a “free-loader” who doesn’t have the goal of “making the most people happy” could still choose to focus solely on their own happiness. That person’s atheism would not demand social justice, since they are capable of achieving maximal happiness without working toward it.

  48. says

    Jesse M

    I think “the spirit of the text” is just a roundabout way of refering to the intentions and motivations that the author had in employing language or formalistic reasoning (perhaps in a mistaken way)

    Yes, that’s what I meant. ‘Spirit’ in the sense implied by “the spirit, rather than the letter, of the law.”

  49. patrick jlandis says

    I think my last comment was removed, but I’ll try again. This argument is really reaching. Perhaps atheism inspires many to pursue social justice, but it could just as easily be used to justify selfishness. There are better arguments for seeking social justice and “atheism demands it” isn’t very persuasive.

    You could just as easily create an Ayn Randian dystopia populated with atheists as a Humanist utopia. Think about the Soviet Union as a solid example of where Atheism and social justice couldn’t have been less correlated.

    Atheism opens up the possibility of a secular moraliy, including the desire for social justice, but I don’t believe it requires it in anyway.

  50. says

    @53 – Nihilismus

    Mathematics, economics, rationality, etc demand social justice. On that we can agree. Now, as to why atheism demands it as well, we have to look at philosophy and what Greta said about vacuums.

    Specifically, atheism does not exist within a vacuum. When one chooses atheism, adopts it, what have you, then there are entire reams of philosophy that accompany it (as it is a philosophical position). If there is no god, no moral-giving agent, then morals and ethics must be found elsewhere. Atheism through science finds those morals in genetics, in rationality, in philosophy. These fields insist on social justice by the nature of the information found within them. Therefor, by taking up atheism and by seeking morals, and finding them in the places that atheists find them in, then you are accepting the necessity of social justice.

    Those who do not agree with this are like theists acting in bad faith – they accept some tenants but not others. It’s tantamount to being an atheist and a flat earther. It’s an illogical and unreasonable position not to mention unethical and immoral.

    Atheism does not stand on its own. It is defined as the absence of a belief in god, but that statement caries with it several philosophical statements that go unspoken – the absence of respect for the authority and morals of religion, a rejection of the presumptions of religions and theological culture, the rejection of religious structures and beliefs. It is not just not believing in god, just like Christianity is not just accepting Christ as one’s savior and Islam is not just saying that there is only Allah and Mohammed is his prophet. Every single one of these declarations carries with it additional arguments that go unspoken, come with additional cultures that go unheeded, when you boil it down to just a single statement.

    In short, I find your argument silly and intellectually dishonest since it relies on ignoring the implications of any philosophical position by retreating to definitions. It’s poor form, at the very least.

  51. Nihilismus says

    @57 – Danny

    If there is no god, no moral-giving agent, then morals and ethics must be found elsewhere.

    Agreed.

    Atheism through science finds those morals in genetics, in rationality, in philosophy. These fields insist on social justice by the nature of the information found within them. Therefor, by taking up atheism and by seeking morals, and finding them in the places that atheists find them in, then you are accepting the necessity of social justice. (Emphasis Added)

    Atheist can find morals through those other fields, if they choose to do so. Actually, what they would be finding are the objectively efficient ways to reach their starting moral propositions — which science won’t provide itself. These fields insist on social justice in as much as we first establish that propagation of the species and happiness amongst the most people are “good” things. And atheism doesn’t insist on even using those fields to find any morals, let alone the ones you have implicitly assumed are the right ones.

    Those who do not agree with this are like theists acting in bad faith – they accept some tenants but not others. It’s tantamount to being an atheist and a flat earther. It’s an illogical and unreasonable position not to mention unethical and immoral.

    So now I’m acting in bad faith? First we would need to establish what acting in “good” and “bad” faith means, which would be a moral argument itself. And if I disagreed with your definition of bad faith, would you then accuse me of acting in bad faith? Second, even if you could establish that atheism demands using other fields, which demand accepting other tenants, you still have no real basis for assuming that I am acting in bad faith. It could be (and apparently is) that I simply don’t yet find your argument convincing. It’s like a theist assuming that atheists are just angry at god and want to sin, rather than accepting that atheists just don’t find the theist’s arguments convincing.

    Apparently to you, it’s illogical and unreasonable for an atheist not to accept certain additional tenants. But social justice is one such tenant. What you and Greta were trying to do was to show why atheism demands acceptance of that tenant. I’m merely pointing out that other tenants have to be accepted first before that one, and it seems you agree. I’m also pointing out that atheism doesn’t require acceptance of those starting tenants, but you disagree. Indeed, you actually say that not accepting those tenants is unethical and immoral, but that is begging the question.

    Your flat earther example is not analogous. A flat earther says the earth is flat, even when presented with evidence otherwise. The earth’s shape is a physical fact that can be tested, and the flat earther is not rejecting it for moral reasons, but out of ignorance of the physical facts.

    Here, I am not arguing whether — given a starting moral proposition — certain actions are objectively “good”. They can be tested and logically deduced. If I rejected such actions, then yes, I’d be illogical and irrational. However, we first have to pick a starting moral proposition — it is not a physical fact of the universe that can be tested.

    I find your argument silly and intellectually dishonest since it relies on ignoring the implications of any philosophical position by retreating to definitions. It’s poor form, at the very least.

    Perhaps you find it “silly and intellectually dishonest” because you misunderstand my position. I am not “retreating to definitions”. You indeed accept the definition of atheism. But you also argue that atheism on its own implies other certain things, without sufficiently demonstrating why. It’s not that I’m saying, “Atheism technically means only this, so you’re wrong.” I’m saying, “Atheism could require accepting other things, but you have to show why.” Essentially that means showing how it is logically inconsistent for a person to meet the technical definition of atheism and yet still not accept the other things — that is, either such a person is not really an atheist, or not really telling the truth when they say they reject the other things.

  52. says

    @58 – Nihilismus

    I thought I cogently explained why, but here it is again.

    Atheism ignores any divine agent when evaluating any aspect of the world. Therefor, to look to objective and subjective rights and wrongs it looks to other fields that apply value and reason to fact to find truth.

    The two fields I need are genetics (in the way of biologically programmed moral beliefs) and philosophy (in the rigorous arguments about ethical and nonethical stances and moral and immoral stances). Taken together, there is an objective moral structure found without god. It’s something that evolution has given as the survival of our species relies on an inherent focus on the betterment of our species.

    Further, there is no rational benefit to structuring a moral system without the betterment of the species at its core. Even if you want to argue against a human-centrist world it’s still better for every other species if we work toward the betterment of our own species and a movement away from destructive technology – by making our own air cleaner, our own water drinkable, our own land more livable, cleaning up our own messes we inherently improve the world for every other organism. If you want to argue against humanity by saying we serve some greater purpose that sacrifices us or something else to its completion that necessarily robs us of Agency and, therefor, is unethical (and, I’d argue, immoral). If you want to set our hedonistic personal fulfillment at the center of a moral code then you will be inherently less successful than working on the betterment of everyone since, economically, the more equal everyone is, the happier, more fulfilled, and more successful everyone is.

    There are no good contrary arguments that I have been made aware of by any philosopher that changes the core moral value away from the betterment of our species as a whole and that also happens to be our in-born moral code. Genetics and philosophy have started to agree on this – we’re a tribal species, and when the tribe is everyone, that means we have a moral obligation to better everyone’s lot if we can.

    So yes, I think you are acting in bad faith and you’re being disingenuous by ignoring the philosophical ramifications of atheism outside the vacuum. No matter where your personal goals are, they arrive at social justice. No moral or ethical goal you have that is, in itself, a moral and ethical position can ignore social justice. In every single metric researched and studied so far, the more equal everyone is, the better everyone is in general.

    It’s only by involving an external agent that you arrive at a moral system that ignores social justice and it does so by making universal moral statements that goes against observed reality. So yes, an atheist that refuses to support social justice is like a flat-earther or a climate change denier – despite established science showing otherwise, they continue to work against and ignore social justice.

    Atheism, given the moral values we are aware of and given the structures of ethics built in secular philosophy, requires social justice. It is immoral to argue otherwise unless you can establish a core moral value that can supersede our in-born moral core that is well supported both scientifically and philosophically.

    In short, Nature pushes us toward equality, both our own philosophical nature and the operating truths of the universe as a whole. To ignore that, to work against that, to stand to the side is immoral and unethical to the species and ignorant to the arc of history and reality.

  53. vcatalysis says

    I think another reason atheists demand social justice is another level of selfishness. The way I see it, the best way to ensure a good life for myself is to ensure a good life for others. (The best ways of achieving that are debatable, as well as what is included in the term “good”. I’d rather not spell out the details because the general idea is sufficient for a mere comment.) I was not born in the dire circumstances Greta mentions, but life changes quickly. The best way to ensure that I’m not doomed to misery and suffering when circumstances change for me, is to make a world where no one is ever doomed to suffer due to bad circumstances. Obviously, these are good arguments for social/economic justice, civil rights, etc even if I currently don’t suffer for lack of these things, because someday I might need more of these things. I fear I am not being very articulate (which is why I read blogs like FT), but I hope I got the idea across.

  54. Chris Cole says

    I’ve been reading the blog for a while but have never commented but I’ll offer my perspective.

    I really can’t find anything about the awareness of my atheism or atheism in general that would motivate me to demand social justice. I can’t remember a time in which I argued for a social justice cause that derived from my lack belief in the existence of gods. Honestly the people I know that say they believe in a god, that are also demanding social justice, aren’t arguing from their position on god, (not that there aren’t those people), but from their connection to their humanity.

    I don’t think atheists demand social justice anymore than the average, but i also think the vast majority of atheists aren’t vocal about their atheism or don’t care enough to carry the label or don’t even know they are atheists.

    When I’m arguing for some social justice I’m really not thinking too deeply about it, I wish I could say I thought about some evolutionary advantage for humanity or something like that, but I don’t I just *feel* like something wrong is happening and I want to help change that. I don’t care for seeing people being treated unfairly, or being mistreated, that has nothing to do with my atheism though.

  55. John Moriarty says

    For a brief period I was nihilistic when I first realized I was an Atheist. Quite quickly I noticed the discomfort of my position, and then adopted certain moral axioms that seemed to fit my nature or disposition, regardless which it is.

    I conclude contra, Greta, whose writing I most always agree with, that my humanism stems from my humanity. I or anyone could be religious or irreligious and still have a form of humanism.

  56. P3CO says

    Sorry Greta, but NO.
    Atheism do not demands social justice.

    The only relation between atheism and *secular* social justice I can see is it’s common origin in rationalism. So maybe starting from a rationalist positions you can end supporting both atheism and social justice.
    But you have social justice motivated by religious mandates (good actions for the wrong reasons)and of course atheist social injustices because it is not only the gods who can mandate or motivate social abuses. Many can do it without any supernatural help.

    About the clarification that atheists should *care* about social justice, of course! Everybody should. Theist also should. But that is a political subject with no relation with atheism.

    BTW. This is why the new A+ is so confusing.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] I’ve initially resisted her conclusions. That’s why I didn’t respond when “Why Atheism Demands Social Justice” appeared in Free Inquiry – I wanted to let my thoughts mature a little before making a fool [...]

  2. [...] And if you’re an atheist as well, I think you have a moral obligation to help fix the world. To Package Elsewhere:TwitterTumblrMoreFacebookStumbleUponRedditEmailDiggLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Posted by Luarien Filed in Uncategorized Tagged: atheism, social justice Leave a Comment » [...]

  3. [...] Why? Read the article to get a quick 411 on the issue. The tl;dr version is as follows: a number of prominent atheists designed a movement “for people to discuss how religion affects everyone and to apply skepticism and critical thinking to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, GLBT issues, politics, poverty, and crime.” (source) What exactly does this mean? In the words of the blogger Greta Christina, it’s quite simple:  I am not saying that atheists who don’t care about social justice are not true atheists. I’m saying that atheists who don’t care about social justiceshould care about social justice. Logically, and morally. (source) [...]

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