First, let’s briefly recap: Recently, I asked “Are atheists immoral (they indulge in kicking cats),” commenting
It’s not so much that atheists are immoral, but that immoral people are often atheists.
Because materialist atheism eases their fear that Things Will Get Added Up in the End. The answers I heard did not provide a convincing explanation and I discussed why here. I also introduced the problem that atheism must necessarily have a very hard time maintaining itself against cat kickers. After all, no transcendent moral code is endorsed, and everyone is simply the product of their selfish genes and neurons.
To illustrate the point, I asked readers to imagine – and this is no idle imagining – the rise to social power of an ignorant and violent sect that vastly outnumbers the virtuous, animal-loving Atheists’ League. (The sect holds that cats are unclean and that kicking them is a virtue.) The problem for the atheist then becomes how to sustain himself in the face of persecution.
After all, the materialist atheist can have no conviction that he is right in any transcendent sense. His selfish genes cause him to oppose the sect’s cruelties. And the sect is now dominant in public affairs. Sustaining injuries or death from public and private persecution by the sect is pointless because he lives for this world only.
Many responses have poured in, and I will attempt to address a mere few of them here:
Meleager at 1 writes,
When the moral subjectivist is asked what the basis is for any such morality, it will eventually shake down to consensus (majority decides), which then brings up the question, if morality is a description of how people ought to behave, and the consensus is that atheism (or insert whatever the minority opinion is of the one you are debating) is immoral, then isn’t the atheist being immoral by their own definition of morality? Shouldn’t they try to conform to the consensus norm?
Hmmm. I’m not certain that all will agree that “majority decides.” Quite possibly, nothing would induce the original members of the Atheists’ League to agree with that. You see – bear with me – the sect discussed earlier is headed by the Supreme Holy Interpreter for the Terror. (The Terror is the sect’s deity.) Because the head’s title is a bit, well, voluminous, let us abbreviate it to [SHIT]head.
The embattled Atheists’ League can hardly endorse that the majority rules, because the majority are now sect members who have heard [SHIT]head’s recent revelation from The Terror that atheists are as unclean as the cats they protect. If the atheists were Christians, they might pray for a good witness in death, but they have no one to pray to and no meaningful witness. It doesn’t really matter whether or not they conform to the consensus; the human mind is an illusion, you see.
Elizabeth Liddle says at 2,
I’ve said it is perfectly possible to derive a system of ethics without reference to theism, and I’ve also said how (essentially, the Golden Rule ensures that individuals don’t prioritise their own interests above those of other). That’s objective ethics, by definition – a system of ethics that transcends subjective desires.
Actually, the Golden Rule transcends subjective desires only under certain circumstances. It must first be grounded. The best known statement of the Golden Rule is from Jesus: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” But there is a difficulty: Jesus was addressing observant Jews, who interpreted such a statement in the context of ethical monotheism. It cannot easily be generalized.
Consider, for example, the unfortunate case of the ethical atheist Lucy. Lucy was dismayed by the pitiable state of Female, the wife of a sect member. (All sect women are named Female.) She approached this particular Female, assuming that she would want support, perhaps to escape. And that others might too. Female went ballistic at being approached by one of the Most Unclean (the Atheist League). Lucy was never seen again, which served as a warning to anyone who attempted to undermine one of The Terror’s central revelations to [SHIT]head: Abuse strengthens the moral purity of women. In the absence of a shared context, the Atheist League was forced to suspend their Golden Rule activities.
StephenB at 5.1.3 provides some real help when he says,
What is a good person? A good person is one who habitually behaves in a way that is consistent with the purpose of his existence, which is to achieve union with God by choosing to love God and neighbor. What is a good act? A good act is one which moves a person in the direction of the purpose or destiny for which he was created. What is morality? Morality is the behavioral standard or vehicle by which we arrive at our destination. If we have no destination, then it is ridiculous to speak of morality at all. All this will become evident to you the moment that you try to define the meaning of the word “good.” Why not have a go at it?
Using these standards, we can definitely support Lucy and the Atheist League against [SHIT]head and The Terror. But we must accept that these standards are defined by an Authority outside this world, who has excommunicated The Terror for all eternity – and threatens [SHIT]head with the same fate.
An academic conference booked the town convention centre, with the goal of seeking to normalize pedophilia. The dwindling Atheist League thought, There! At last! We can make common cause with the sect on at least one subject – the rights of children.
Imagine their dismay when they learned that [SHIT]head had had a revelation some years ago from The Terror – sex purifies children. He himself was currently enjoying a five year old, and the sect was working busily through channels to legalize the practice. The government was eager to listen because resources currently directed at protecting children from pedophiles could now be directed to the increasingly popular cause of prosecuting the Atheist League for inciting contempt against the sect. – The League, you see, publicized the sect’s doctrinally approved practices among that shrinking portion of the population that had not yet fully submitted.
A crushing blow!: Several of the academics advocating normalization of pedophilia proclaimed themselves proud atheists. The Atheist League had no coherent basis for saying that these academics were less representative of atheism than the League was. So the League lost respect among its supporters and sympathizers at a key moment.
The end came – mercifully, no doubt – when a group of young atheists held a pub confab on the trajectory of events – and one fellow allowed it to be known that the best reverse trajectory would be a bullet through SHIT’s head, to forestall any further revelations from The Terror. The conversation was reported. None of the young atheists was ever seen again, though crushed bones were found. And a chapter in the intellectual history of that region closed.
Those who live through the beginnings of some of this do not think it fiction.