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24 May 2008 @ 01:09 pm
does anyone have an opinion?  
I have been given the opportunity to write a rebuttal to the article, 'Can an Atheist be ethical?' here at: http://www.carm.org/atheism/atheistandethics.htm

This came about when I wrote this email to the organisation hosting the article:

Is it possible at all to respond to articles such as:

I ask this out of genuine concern. I am a Secular Humanist (and thus an
Atheist)and I find it very distressing to see questions like this asked;

"What is to prevent an atheist from murdering and stealing? After all,
they have no fear of God and no absolute moral code."

And responded to like this, 'It does not serve the best interests of an
atheist to murder and steal since it would not take long before he was
imprisoned and/or killed for his actions. Basically, society will only put
up with so much if it is to function smoothly. So, if an atheist wants to
get along and have a nice life, murdering and stealing won't accomplish
it. It makes sense for him to be honest, work hard, pay his bills, and get
along with others. Basically, he has to adopt a set of ethics common to
society in order to do that. Belief in God is not a requirement for
ethical behavior or an enjoyable life.'

Atheists do not have an inner urge muttering, 'steal... murder... go on...
no one's watching...' Nor would they do either of those options if the
laws of the state suddenly evaporated. With no 'God watching' an Atheist
must decide what is moral based upon the human condition. We are rational,
thinking beings and have been long before Christianity set foot on the
Earth. Thus, we are not governed by a book, or by the law (though, like
any other citizen we obey the law), we are governed by our conscience.
That conscience does not exist because we want to avoid conflict and have
a 'nice life'. It exists because it always has. Many creatures can tell
the difference between right and wrong, no social networking of any kind
would function without such a code. Is that code, 'God breathed?' No. It
is a result of life's evolution.

Conversely, this, 'After all, they have no fear of God,' suggests that a
religious person would kill if God wasn't looking. I know that's not true,
but it's the same argument you're using against the Atheist and it's bogus
- which I think the author is well aware.

That being said, there are situations possible in which I might kill or
even steal despite it being against the laws of the state. I might kill to
save my child's life, or that of my country. I might steal to feed a
thousand people. Would you?

The descriptions of Atheists in this article make them seem like cardboard
people, devoid of the basic emotions that drive human behaviour. I don't
kill, because I believe in Humanity. I try not to pollute the Earth
because it's a fragile life raft in a beautiful universe. And I don't
steal, because it's wrong. I won't even pick a penny off the ground that
is not mine because somebody else might be looking for it.

Please, please, please ask an Atheist before making sweeping derogatory
statements about them. I appeal to this website because so many of the
others do not provide any means of contradicting the hurtful propaganda.
If you are serious about providing information on the different, 'systems
of belief' (and I use that term very loosely), then at least let someone
who shares those, 'beliefs' (again, not happy with that word) to write the
article. If not that, let there be a response section.

The best of Regards,

and the website kindly offered me the ability to respond.

If anyone would like to contribute an opinion to the article I am writing, you can either reply to this message or email me at elly@zenucom.com - you will be referenced in the article. You do not have to be an atheist to respond, I'm interested to know what religious people have to say on the matter so you are welcome to respond. :D

This is being done in the spirit of good intentions in a hope to better understand each other.

Please do not attack anyone in your responses or take too much offense to the original article. It easy to be misled about something you do not completely understand, and I am not going to hold that against the author of the article. I am writing a rebuttal in the interest of expressing a better, fairer response to the question, "Can an Atheist be ethical?"
pancake_susipancake_susi on May 24th, 2008 09:45 am (UTC)
I couldn't agree more: I have to admit, I was quite shocked when I read the article, especially the part you quoted, suggesting that we atheists would kill if we didn't have to go to prison for that.

Just like you, I'm a good person. We are capable of love and deciding what is right or wrong. It may be harder for us to make those decision since we cannot rely on a God for answers, we have to find them on our own with our own mind.
ellymelly: aliean lab ratellymelly on May 24th, 2008 11:44 am (UTC)
Exactly. :D It saddens me to see that *this* is the opinion of Atheism.
justine {heroes and thieves at my door}the_justiner on May 24th, 2008 11:29 am (UTC)
Oh wow, I haven't even read your post and I am already feeling your 'depression'.

Although religion plays a major role in one's ethics and values, morality is not defined by religion. Morality can be a choice made by each individual, perhaps in your case for what benefits yourself and others.

What the heck? *goes to read this article*
ellymelly: MINEellymelly on May 24th, 2008 11:50 am (UTC)

Would you by any chance mind detailing where you think ethics come from? And perhaps, where societies before Christianity obtained their morals? So far I've only had atheists and spiritual people reply to my post in other communities. I'm specifically looking for a Christian opinion so that I can better tune my discussion. It has always been my hope to spread understanding of each other and to combat the mis-information that leads to warped world views.

I know that you are lovely and intelligent and don't share the views of the idiot who wrote the article. Any help you offered would be very much appreciated (and I would of course credit you in the discussion).
mothwentbadmothwentbad on May 25th, 2008 01:30 am (UTC)
If I'm not mistaken, then I think secular humanists don't necessarily have to be atheists. Just like a secular government doesn't have to enforce atheism by law.

I'll try to get around to reading the whole thing, but I'm sort of multitasking right now. Good luck, though.
sidhe1sidhe1 on May 25th, 2008 06:21 am (UTC)
That's awesome you get to write a response to that article. I can't think of a better person to do so!

I would posit that the person who wrote the article doesn't actually know any atheists, or if (s)he does, hasn't made an effort to understand them or their beliefs.

I would also like to point out that the atheists *I* personally know (myself included) tend to be more "moral" than many religious people I know. They aren't moral simply because it's convenient, and to suggest so is insulting in the extreme. Atheists are moral because there's only one life and they want to live it as well as possible, and they have to account for their actions to their own consciences and to those whom they love. I personally find that a much more daunting aspect than being accountable to a mythical figure who probably does not even exist. I know this paragraph is a pretty broad generalization itself, but I speak from my own experiences. I know that not all religious people are less moral than atheists, or that atheists are more moral than religious people.

That said, I have to ask: Does the author think that atheists have the market cornered on crime? How might the author explain the huge number of prisoners who proclaim to be devout members of a religion? What of people, priests for example, who use their position of religious authority to take advantage of their parishioners in a multitude of ways? My own father, for example, is a preacher's son and claims to be a devout Christian. And yet he has cheated on each of his wives, contracted a deadly disease because of it, was emotionally and verbally abusive, is a raging alcoholic, and is a generally nasty person. Does his proclaimed religious devotion automatically make him more moral to this author than my mother, an atheist who is one of the most moral people anyone could ever know? I simply cannot buy into that.

I am not saying that all atheists are moral, or that all religious people are immoral. I think some people are moral and some are not, and religion, in my experience, seems to play little real part in that. Some people use religion as a crutch, others have genuine faith and lead exemplary lives because of it. Some are atheists and are not moral, others are very moral because they think they have one shot at life and want to do the best they can. In many, if not most, arguments such as the one made by the author of the article, it seems that they are insecure in their own religious faith (or are perhaps insecure in the very existence of the god in which they so loudly proclaim to believe?) and feel threatened somehow by those who have no need for religion in their lives.

I'm sure you would say this all in a much more articulate way. But like you, I am essentially atheist and it burns me to read articles written about atheists by a person who doesn't seem to have made any attempt to understand what the majority of atheists think.