Atheists and morality

2010 Apr 6

I came across an interesting article about the ethics of atheists. (It is long!; about 10 pages.) Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens have apparently become known as the "New Atheists". note

These "new atheists" flashed into great popularity and then faded. As Justin Brierley's new book and podcast tells, "new atheism grew old and secular thinkers are considering Christianity again".

These four are extremely, vocally critical of religion. In their perspective, most people are religious (at least moderately). These hold tightly to religious beliefs not based out of reason. Militant religious individuals having the same general beliefs as these moderates are condoned by them. Because of this, radical militants are able to bring atrocities on the world. These guys' opinion then is that religion is responsible for the majority of conflict in our world.

The problem that these guys acknowledge for themselves is that religion is globally seen as the source of morality. Humans need an objective source of morality.

They suggest humans might be convinced to abandon religion if a non-religious moral basis can be found. However, the article goes to great lengths to show that they don't produce a valid objective and rationally-based source for morality. They make suggestions that all fail for various reasons. Their idea that intuition is a morality source is to me the most interesting of these. (However, it fails because it is non-rational.)

The very interesting part is what their intuition leads them all to see as good morals:

"Like Hitchens, Harris advocates altruism, the notion that being moral consists in living for the sake of others, or, more precisely, in self-sacrificially serving others."

Ironically, the intuition of these men is correct! I think they are attempting to be honest within their own philosophical context. This led them to their conclusion in the manner that Paul mentions in Romans 1. God's nature and essential values is seen even by men that do not believe in Him, and they recognize that certain value systems are better than others.

They do not, however, have the innate ability to live to these ideals - nobody does. Although they recognize God's value system of sacrificial love for the benefit of others is ideal, their own values will not measure up to that standard. God's value system can only be lived as we rely on Him to transform us to have His values.