Sunday, May 21, 2006

Are Atheists evil?

Rabbi Avi Shafran thinks so. In his essay The Indignity of Atheism, he explains that if he must make a choice between an atheist and somebody who believes in a higher authority, he would choose the believer. Really Rabbi? You would choose Osama Bin Laden over Salman Rushdie? Bin Laden would cut your heart out with a rusty spoon – all in the name of his higher authority. In fact, many people who believe in a higher authority commit horrific crimes, act with moral depravity, and murder in the name of their respective religions. History is replete with examples, just look at the history of the Catholic Church for example.
His thesis: "...the notion that there is no higher authority than nature is precisely what enables ... the vast majority of the killers, rapists and thieves who populate the nightly news."
Are these criminals surveyed after they commit their crimes? Do atheists commit crimes at a higher rate than the general population? The answer is no – we atheists are guided by our own sense of morality, and the laws by which our country function. Atheists like me are imprinted with American Christian morality because that is what we grew up with. Once I came to realize there was no God, I did not throw out my moral grounding. I built on it.

If I were stuck on a desert island, who would I want with me? Well, somebody who can cook would be nice, it not a cook, then Rupert from Survivor would be nice - he was so resourceful.

Davis Sweet wrote an intersting response to Rabbi Avi Shafran: Rabbi v. Reality

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2 comments:

rg said...

I'd like to see a real development from you on how you do develop your moral and ethical framework. Specifically how do you respond to his assertion that: "One who sees only random forces behind why we humans find ourselves here is ultimately bound only by his wants. With no imperative beyond the biological, a true atheist, pressed hard enough by circumstances toward unethical or immoral behavior, cannot feel compelled to resist. Why should he?"

I really am interested in how one can develop an imutable moral code from an atheistic perspective. I tried, I found that the only imutable foundation was as the Rabbi suggests, the biological imperative. In fact my transition to Deism was led largely by my instinct (whether learned or not) that there was an imutable, foundational, moral force in the universe. Fundamentally it boiled down to the fact that I know some things are always evil regardless of the potential mitigating circumstances. For this to be true, I personally could not find a mechanism outside of a universal moral force, which in our vernacular is called "God"

Atul said...

I am a true believer in God, but I respect an atheist's ability to develop his/her own morals and ethics. I think a person can have a sense of moral right and wrong just as the humans who wrote scriptures can decipher what God said. Anybody can develop a moran and ethical framework just by thinking things through. Good morals can result from nothing more than a personal imperative.

Conversely, a person who believes in God can know right and wrong and yet choose to do wrong, even within a well prescribed framework. Sexual abuse by Catholic priests is a prime example, (not to single them out).

What matters is not the theology and practice of religion, but the practice of daily life.