Completely Off the Cuff Audio Blog #2: Why I Find Certain Theologians Annoying

I have created my second audio blog. This one is why I find certain theologians very annoying tell me what you think!.

Here’s the debate between William Lane Craig and Sean Carol I was talking about in my audio blog.


Objective Morality without God?

A typical argument for God from theists is that claim that without God there is no objective morality. The only morality, in this view, is Darwinian in nature, and some atheists actually agree. Most atheists, who I’ve heard, do not think there really is objective morality. Many people balk when they hear this. Of course, everyone wants to hear that pedophilia and murder are unequivocally wrong, and those deeds are actually wrong. The problem is using terms like “objective morality” in the first place.

I would argue that morality is more complicated than just either being objective or relative. Furthermore, I think the term “objective morality” is a little like the word “evil.” We want to call Hitler evil. We don’t want to think of him just as a bad person who did horrible things, but the term “evil” tends to evoke supernatural or other thinking that is not in the arena of reasonable thinking. Thus, I want to talk just about morality in general instead of arguing against objective morality. It’s just not a useful topic for what I’m trying to say, and I suspect discussing it is a less useful conversation than people tend to think.

What are morals? Morals, I suspect, had it’s origins in biology, but like I said before it’s more complicated than that. People are smart, and as such, inventive. Some amount of morality is certainly hardwired into us, but people are smart enough to out smart their biology. It’s too simple to say morality is objective, or morality is just an evolutionary byproduct. People can and have invented or changed what it means to be moral, as well. Slavery went on for a long time, but now it is seen, almost universally, as the terrible thing that it is.

The problem with morality now is that it still appears to be in it’s infancy. Many people disagree about morality. Many people use religion to decide what is moral. Others pick a moral philosophy, and still, others don’t even think about morality. We all have a long way to go, and I doubt we’ll ever reach perfection. However, my point is that morality is complicated. It’s more complicated than just biology. It’s as complicated as trying to figure what works best for humans individually and as a whole, which is no small task. Still, the shock people feel with atheists saying that there is no objective morality is not useful. The theist is simply shocking their audiences’ emotions, and atheists need to talk more clearly about morality.

Why I Disagree with Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism is, basically, the philosophical notion that our morality should consist of maximizing pleasure and minimizing suffering. At first glance, this sounds like a good idea. It certainly doesn’t sound nefarious. After all, who wouldn’t want “the most good for the most people.” However when taking utilitarian notions to their logical ends, leads me to say that I disagree with this philosophy.

For example, we can all agree with that the Holocaust was immoral, and of course, it wasn’t just immoral because it resulted in the death of millions. There were cruel and painful experiments forced on the victims. Now, take into consideration utilitarianism. If these cruel and unusual experiments could result in a large gain in pleasure, in the future, they are allowable. After all, the victims were going to die anyways, or so the argument could go. I cannot agree with this kind of logic.

Secondly, I don’t find utilitarianism practical. Utilitarians, usually, see the need to treat everyone equally, which sounds great, but it is problematic. Can anyone ever, really, value a stranger the same as they value their own mother? I doubt it.

As an atheist, I have to think critically about moral philosophy. I cannot just trust a book as infallible, and while I know utilitarianism is popular, I have to disagree with it. This is not to say I agree with Kant either. Instead, I find myself delving into other moral philosophies to try and find something I can salvage. I, also, find that the practicality of any moral philosophy is usually understated. What good is it to have a moral philosophy that is logically consistent but can’t be implemented?

For now, I will state where my thinking is. I am for differentiated caring, which I am stealing from Confucius. It is not that it is okay to not care about all people, but everyone, can’t value everyone equally, in my opinion. Thus, we should continue to value those close to us the most, but we shouldn’t stop caring for others with our spare emotional and materiel resources. I believe there are plenty of these spare resources around, and most of us are just selfish.

As always, let me know what you think!



What’s the Meaning of Life? And Other Questions

A lot of atheists maintain that we create our own meaning. Famous people such as Neil Degrass Tyson and Richard Dawkins have said as much, but for someone prone to existential crisis I’m not sure that helps.

When people ask what the meaning of life is, they are usually asking an objective value based question. Phrased better: what is the meaning of life, ultimately? But, there are no good answers to these types of questions. Look at some other value based questions. Why is there something rather than nothing? Why do people have to die? Why does everything change? Why do people and animals suffer? There just simply aren’t answers to these questions.

At this point, a theist usually balks. These, to them, are important questions requiring an answer, and the theist is likely to point to their particular religion for the answers. However, not every question or every sentence is logical. At this point, perhaps my math background helps. Take a look at this sentence: this statement is false. If it’s true, then the statement is false. This is a logical contradiction. If it’s false, then the statement is still false. If it is true, it false, and if it’s false, it is false. (Here is an article in case you are confused.) The statement cannot be true or false.

We are humans. We are used to human agents doing thins for reasons, but the universe and life events don’t work that way. If there is no human-like being running the show, it is very unlikely that objective value based questions have answers.There just aren’t. Now, I’m sorry, if this bothers people, but that’s the way the world is as far as I can tell.

Even I, would like to have answers. There is something deeply satisfying about having answers, but there aren’t always answers. I know how it can feel to lose a loved one at a young age, and it is hard not ask why. My advice? Just don’t ask these types of questions. Things like death and suffering are just natural parts of life, and it’s time we just accept that.

Doing the Most Good for the Most People

Many people think morality should be based on doing the greatest good for the greatest amount of people. Of course, this sounds good and obvious at first glance. However, I do not think that this rule, by itself, can work.

Although “doing the most good” works in a variety of situations, it fails in many others. For example, doing medical experiments, even painful ones, on those who were imprisoned during the Holocaust could have been legitimized under this guideline. The people in these camps were going to die anyways, and the experiments could lead to the advancement of health for others. Given these types of situations, I cannot say that utilitarianism alone makes for good source of morality.

Now, some would argue that, while these situations are awful, these types events are simply counter-intuitive, and then, they would stick to their guns. I, however, cannot, at this time, do this. I think there, at the very least, needs to be some additional rules. Perhaps, we also need to do the least harm and respect rights.

For example, let’s say there are a bunch of people in the hospital who need organs and a healthy person sitting the waiting room. It is not okay to kill the healthy person in order to save the others. The healthy person has a right to life, and killing the person would not be doing the least harm. Yes, some of these people waiting for organs might die in the process, but there is a viable alternative to murder. They can simply wait on the organ donation list, and once again, the healthy person has rights. Meanwhile under strict utilitarianism,  it would be okay to kill the healthy person.

I’m not completely devoted to system I’ve explained; however, I’m attempting to carve out what is good in utilitarianism and get rid of what, at first glance, sounds horrible. Please fill free to critique me, and give me your opinions.

Who Created God?

Many atheists think positing God as the cause of the universe is a bad idea. This is due to the inevitable question: Who created God? In many atheists’ minds, using God as the cause of the universe just adds more problems.I am a devout skeptic. Still, I think this a bad line of reasoning. I do not think one has to research every theological argument from early Christendom onwards, but I think understanding basic concepts of the western monotheistic deity is somewhat necessary. This is especially true if one is arguing with any believer who has some level of sophistication about their religious beliefs.

The deity is considered eternal and self-existing. In other words, God does not have a beginning, and thus, he doesn’t need a creator. (The main arguments for God’s existence take for granted these ideas.) Now, some may say this is a cop out, but at the same time, this is part of the definition of God, if we are talking about western monotheism. If an atheist chooses to ask the question, then the theists may turn the argument around. They might say, for example, that the atheist is caricaturing their God.

Now, I’m not posting in order to tell people how to argue. That’s really none of my business. Still, I hear this question posed over and over again by atheists to theists, and this includes some outspoken famous atheists. I would, however, like my fellow atheists to be aware of the problems involved in asking this question. It makes debates on YouTube more interesting to watch when the previous ideas are taken into account by the deity. (Okay, I guess I’m selfish. Sue me.)

morals and Atheism

Atheists, obviously, do not derive their morals from scripture, and many of us are proud of that. Many see certain laws in scriptures as harmful and immoral. Lately, I’ve taken an interest in metaethics and moral psychology. I will start to post more on these subjects when I have more readings under my belt. I did take a biomedical ethics philosophy course, but I still feel the need to dig deeper. Below is my initial position:

Morality only exists in a world with somewhat complex creatures.  Morality is a product of evolution in social animals. Humans are capable of superior morals. Look at how some of us can do complex differential equations in our head! Certainly, we could be able solve complex moral and social issues.

I’m not saying morals are subjective. I think, objectively, there are both good and bad behaviors. Still, I AM saying, if there was only one complex being alive, then many moral rules wouldn’t matter.

I am skeptical of utilitarianism. I don’t think the main thing that matters is the amount of pleasure, nor do I think the end always justifies the means. I think part of utilitarianism could be right, but I think it needs some additions and subtractions.