Friday, July 15, 2011

My years as an atheist taught me how they think: "Let's fool ourselves and pretend that life has objective meaning, value, and morality."

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

The notion of morality being subjective doesn't bother me. Either way, religion cannot resolve that problem of an objective morality. You can claim that God wants you to do this and that, but this doesn't really change the reality of the is-ought problem. That is still only God's personal preference, and there is no objective reason to hold it to be any more valid than any other. You can say that ignoring God's will brings eternal damnation, and following it will bring eternal salvation, but then you are implicitly following an ethical egoist normative philosophy within a Christian theological framework. There is still no objective reason for why you should choose to act in your own self-interest.

B.B.

Jason said...

Your years as an atheist were apparently completely wasted. How does an individual with a philosophical or religious bent get to be your age without an existential crisis? Your belief in god is now revealed as merely the last bulwark between your ego and the howling apathy of the universe. I suppose it's your right to be a narcissist, but stop projecting it on other atheists. Most of us have gotten way, way past that. If you never were able to, it certainly explains why you went back to the comfort of a faith that tells you that you really are the center of attention.

Ron Guhname said...

It doesn't bother you that, on the subjectivist view of morality, what Casey Anthony did is not objectively wrong? Really?

Ron Guhname said...

Jason: It'd not hard to push your buttons, is it? How DID you get to be so advanced?

Mike Kenny said...

god as stalin:

http://michaelkenny.blogspot.com/2010/12/i-comment-on-bruce-charltons-recent.html

haughty intuition in religion:

http://michaelkenny.blogspot.com/2011/07/humble-intuition-classical-liberalism.html

religion as old-timey version of PC:

http://michaelkenny.blogspot.com/2011/06/religion-is-old-timey-version-of-pc.html

Anonymous said...

It doesn't bother you that, on the subjectivist view of morality, what Casey Anthony did is not objectively wrong? Really?

Not really. If you subjectively feel something is wrong and someone else subjectively doesn't feel like that, why would that cause you to have a moral crisis?

Men have a preference for women - if you knew that women did not have such a preference, would you have a crisis because women were not objectively attractive and attempt to reshape your preference, or would you accept that you held that view subjectively for evolved reasons and not attempt to deconstruct it? The fact that there are other minds which do not hold a subjective value, and in fact, in some cases could not hold another subjective value, for reasons of evolution, does not seem to be sufficient reason to throw all your values out.

That is still only God's personal preference, and there is no objective reason to hold it to be any more valid than any other.

Plus this. If god holds a particular moral stance, then that's just another mind holding that stance. It's a really BIG and amazing mind, but...

Fernandinande said...

"Let's fool ourselves and pretend that life has objective meaning, value, and morality."

I'll leave that activity to the religious nuts.

It doesn't bother you that, on the subjectivist view of morality, what Casey Anthony did is not objectively wrong? Really?

"Lying to investigators"? Is that immoral when it's a sure bet that they lied to her?

The word "objective", as in "not influenced by personal feelings", doesn't belong in the same sentence as the words "moral", "right", "wrong", etc. (except this sentence!) because those are personal feelings.

Jason said...

Heh. You really do have a problem with assuming the world follows your standards, don't you? I suppose it's only natural for a narcissist. I wonder if you will ever understand how easy it is to simply dismiss your expectations. Be it egotism, dispassion, or anything else. You are trivial. As are we all. But it amuses me to watch you kick against the pricks.

Ron Guhname said...

Sam Harris' recent book The Moral Landscape is an example of an atheist desperately trying to salvage objective morality.

Jason is an example of the inconsistent atheist. He claims to be a subjectivist but then states that humans are unimportant. On a subjectivist view, you can say, "According to my self-chosen values, humans are unimportant" but speaking as if it is a fact is not valid.

As a subjectivist, I could validly choose the view that, for me, the universe is trash except for humans who are priceless. Or, by my values, everything in the universe is precious. All the views fail to agree with each other, but hey, that's subjectivism.

Atheists can claim to be subjectivists, nihilists, or whatever, but they do not live in ways consistent with their views. You can catch them pretty easily acting as if values, morality, and meaning are objective.

Bill said...

Anonymous said . . .

That is still only God's personal preference ...

Are you in junior high school? Go read a book.

TGGP said...

I am an atheist and don't believe in any of those things.

Underachiever said...

"Atheists can claim to be subjectivists, nihilists, or whatever, but they do not live in ways consistent with their views. You can catch them pretty easily acting as if values, morality, and meaning are objective."

No one lives completely consistently with their beliefs unless those beliefs are something extremely simple (e.g. I believe in doing whatever I do). For instance, I don't constantly poke fun at Christians for not kidnapping babies from non-Christian parents, baptizing them, and then killing them even though under their beliefs this would ensure that the children went to heaven.

Morality is extremely important to me, so I will act as though it is important. If atheists acting with morals confuses you (or you think that they are being hypocritical), just pretend that morality is a premise that the atheists holds (which is close to accurate from an evolutionary standpoint).

"Sam Harris' recent book The Moral Landscape is an example of an atheist desperately trying to salvage objective morality. "

No, it is an attempt at getting the people who best understand natural phenomenon (i.e. scientists) to research a very important natural phenomenon. As long as we make the assumption that human well-being (e.g. health, happiness, contentment, etc.) are important values, we can make progress on determining what systems are best able to make use of our evolved morality to contribute to human happiness.

Bill said...

For instance, I don't constantly poke fun at Christians for not kidnapping babies from non-Christian parents, baptizing them, and then killing them even though under their beliefs this would ensure that the children went to heaven.

Is visiting this blog now a junior high school forensics project? You were doing much better back when you weren't "poking fun." You know, as the maxim based on Proverbs 17:28 says "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt."

The amazing thing about public atheists (Dawkins and Harris being prominent examples) is this bizarre combination of excruciatingly ignorant self-parody with ironclad self-assurance.

This blog deserves a much better caliber of comments.

Jason said...

Subjectivity means that "importance" is a matter of frame of reference. A thing can be important at one level, (an individual frame of reference) and unimportant at another level (a collective frame of reference, or even a different individual's frame of reference).

It is a fairly common error to assume that what applies at one level must also apply at other levels. "This feels important to me, therefore it must be important to everyone else." It's a logical fallacy, a psychological problem - projection - and even a full-blown disorder - narcissism. I think of it more as a disability. In many cases, it's the result of a lack of intelligence. Trying to grasp the fact that different phenomena occur in different contexts is extremely difficult for people of average IQ. They can't process more than one model of the world - their own direct experience.

Then there are those who can't do it not because of a lack of ability, but because their ego simply won't allow it. To consider another perspective or context would require them to give up their own for just a moment, and that is unacceptable. A small death.

Anonymous said...

The word "objective", as in "not influenced by personal feelings", doesn't belong in the same sentence as the words "moral", "right", "wrong", etc. (except this sentence!) because those are personal feelings.

Your belief that "moral", "right" and "wrong" are personal feelings is a personal feeling of yours.

Atheists are radical leftists in the sense that they believe that everything is ultimately a matter of "personal feelings".

At the end of the day, they are the least rational people in the world. Their entire beief system precludes the very possiblity of truth: there is nothing but peoples subjective interpretation of sense phenonema.

Anonymous said...

Trying to grasp the fact that different phenomena occur in different contexts is extremely difficult for people of average IQ.

I've noticed that you dismiss religion as egoism run amok, and at the same time imagine yourself to be a superior intellectual specimen.

Those of us with greater than average IQ look at you and smile indulgently.

Jason said...

Anonymous,

Thanks for providing a perfect example of an inability to grasp even such a simple concept as a continuum (A > B > C). Much less a map of two orthogonal concepts (A vs. B).

Anonymous said...

Thanks for providing a perfect example of an inability to grasp even such a simple concept as a continuum (A > B > C)

You're kinda dumb. Which would be less irritating if you were not (a) convinced of your brilliance and (b) convinced that it mattered.

Jason said...

Oh, I fully realize that comparing my mental capacities to yours is damning myself with faint praise. Fortunately it doesn't matter in the least, except to the extent I take some amusement from it. Which I do. In a world where even Netflix prices are going up by 60% at a time, I'll take cheap entertainment where I can.

mengbomin said...

Joining late here. Haven't read Sam Harris's book (it is on my reading list), but I've seen him talk at length about the subject of his book and while I am an atheist, I do not share his outlook. In fact, I don't recall a time when I thought that life had objective meaning, value, and morality.

I'd argue, as some have earlier in this thread, that 1) it wouldn't matter if it did 2) a divine presence wouldn't change the fact that objective meaning, value, and morality don't exist.

1.
Meaning and value are pretty clearly subjective attributes...they are mind-dependent phenomena. So is morality, but it's a bit more complicated because it requires agreement of a group. Morality is important in group cohesion and for best effect, the same rules should hold across the group and should be understood across the group. Obviously, many people believe that their group's moral code is universal, but I think that this is an illusory, if adaptive belief.

2.
A divine presence only transfers subjectivity to a being, observer, actor, etc. who presumably is granted authority over a group. In the case of universalist religions like Christianity, that would be all of humanity, though most of humanity would probably beg to differ on that point.

Anyway, I have no problem admitting that religion serves as a useful fiction that helps coordinate a society. The problem for me is that it seems to be, in all likelihood, a fiction, so I don't believe it.

Anonymous said...

Kill all the subjectivists.

They don't care, you're just as right as they are.