The Truth As a Woman


“Supposing truth is a woman–what then? Are there not grounds for the suspicion that all philosophers, insofar as they were dogmatists, have been very inexpert about women?” Nietzsche

What makes forming any type of workable ethical system up hard is that there are a lot of moving parts. For examples, ethics is very tied up with morality, and what is morality tied up with? Truth. What is the truth tied up? The definition of truth. As you can imagine, there are many subcategories I could list, as well as general categories not mentioned.

Nevertheless, here at the bottom rung of truth, there is still an intensive amount of work to be done. For one, there is the issue basic definition. Although, most people go about their lives, as if this isn’t the issue. If a person hasn’t seemed to run into any problems, they don’t see why this can lead this to a meltdown. They are one of the lucky ones! Then there is the question of how we can obtain truth. Then, there of what to do with the truth, once we have found it. Is it better to hide certain devesting truths? Once again, I could go on. And on. And on. Well, you get the point.

It is as if, throughout the ages, people have prized the truth as a pure virginal woman. If she was not protected, she could be harmed, murdered, or worse have her “purity” tainted. People were executed for her. People fought wars over her. Families disowned each other over her.

The truth, however, is not in need of protection. If for example, Big Brother style, every book, every website, every media, and every outlet of every kind was changed from past to present to future to say that Abraham Lincoln was a slave owner, and over time people learned “the new history” and the rest of us died off would that change anything? What if no one ever, even up to human extinction ever figured out that Abraham Lincoln did not own slaves? Does that change anything? Well, the actual truth doesn’t change. The only difference is human ignorance. Martyrs aren’t dying for the truth. Their dying for the spread of the knowledge of what they believe to be true. Their beliefs may or may not be truth. No one can taint what is true.

Now this, is of course, works for certain definitions of truth. Most us, I’m assuming, use the word truth in “objective” way. In other ways, something it something corresponds. Now the problem, is that definition is not always good, and some for example, prefer pragmatic definitions, but that is a post for another day.

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Why, as an Atheist, have I been Talking so much about Buddhism?


Here is my unscripted off the cuff remarks on my interest in Buddhism

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!

 

 

Do Atheists get their Morals from Christianity?


I’m not one of those atheists who completely ignore theology or apologetics, but now, unless I uncover a book containing an argument that is unique, I feel like I’ve put in my time. I’ve read theology, apologetics, and watched many video lectures by the more prominent theologians. I’ve even taken a 300 level philosophy of religion course. (I am aware this doesn’t make me a theologian.) Not to mention, I’ve read the Bible several times.

Recently, a commenter recommended a book. I looked at the book on amazon, and the book’s premise was that even atheists use Christian morals. I have heard this argument before. The premise is usually a variant on the idea that people, here anyways, grow up in a largely Christian society, and this is where atheists get their morals. Thus, an atheist’s moral values originate from Christianity.

While no one can doubt that Christianity has had a large effect on many societies, I think the idea that all atheists nowadays are following and should follow Christian morality is wrong. The fact of the matter is that people know, without the Bible, that murder is wrong. Yes, the Bible points out certain things are wrong that most of agree on, but other pre-Christian ethics have done the same thing. The Code of Hammurabi predates Mosaic law with eerie similarities in some places. (Here’s a wikipedia article on it.) The Code of Hammurabi has laws on slander, theft, and more. Still, I do not claim to follow The Code of Hammurabi or the Bible. Just because some of the prohibitions are good doesn’t mean the entirety of the text should be kept, and just because we can all agree on some things, like do not kill, doesn’t mean we got that rule out of the Bible. I do not think most of us would ever be that barbaric with or without the Bible.

Now, I think most atheists keep their morality simply by contemplation. However, their is a wealth of content on morality from philosophy. Moral philosophy has been going on since the ancient Greeks, and I for one try to look at these systems of beliefs. (Although, my work is not done.) I suggest others consult moral philosophy as well. I have posted before that I think any good moral system should look at sources such as psychology, moral philosophy, sociology, and neuroscience. We can turn morality into a system that works for everybody. I think we should try our best to do this.

Struggling with Vegetarianism


As an atheist, I do not see myself as “special” due to a soul. Instead, I see myself as a human animal, who like other humans, happens to have the most complex brain, when compared to other animals, so I, also, care about the suffering of animals. Animals are different than humans, cognitively speaking, but other animals do feel pain. Now, I don’t consider mere physical pleasure and suffering to be the only thing that matters, but I do think the pain and pleasure of other animals matter. Thus, I decided to become a vegetarian, but I am struggling quite a bit.

For meals at home, it is easy to not eat meet, usually, but I, occasionally, eat at restaurants. It is very hard to find vegetarian options at restaurants where I live. I suppose I could order a salad, but they are usually higher in calories than even cheese burgers. Plus, their more expensive. Then again, I could eat fish, which would at least cause less suffering, but once again it is more expensive.

Sometimes, I eat at other peoples’ homes, which is even harder. I do not feel comfortable telling people they have to serve a vegetarian option. I don’t really know what to do there. Then again, they already bought the meat, and the animal is already dead. Ugh, I don’t know a good solution.

Perhaps, my fellow vegetarian bloggers can help me. Anyone have any advice?

Morals and Atheism


Here’s the thing about morals: you don’t lose them all of sudden after losing faith in a deity. However, certain “morals” that seem to only be around due to various scriptures, might not stay. For example, homosexuality may no longer seem like a big deal. Nevertheless, people do not go around killing, raping, and looting  after they come to the conclusion there is no God.

Why is this? Human beings are social animals. We need each other. We depend on each other. Morals help glue us together, and prima facie, it seems terrible to hurt one another. Now, it is not good to run into the naturalistic fallacy or to derive an ought from an is, but I think having a basic understanding of how people operate is important when considering any moral code.

Still, I think it is obvious that people operate better when we treat each other with dignity, respect, and kindness. I think society works better when immoral people aren’t throwing wrenches into the machine that is society. Humans are complex people capable of both love and hatred, and most know we cannot act on the more sinister parts of our nature. For those that don’t know this, we have laws.

So let’s examine some of these religiously based “morals.” Let’s take the homosexuality example, for starters. One could  argue appropriately against homosexuality, if it had something inherent in it that harmed the participants or society at large, but homosexuality does not seem to have anything inherently bad in it. For example, if studies could prove that it is necessary to have one man and one woman to raise a child, because having two parents of the same sex was bad for a child, then yes, it could be argued that homosexual couples shouldn’t raise children. This would still not make homosexuality inherently bad. Of course, I would be waiting for the evidence, and with the many children without homes, I think, for them, any parents would be better than none.

So, no morality does not go away due to atheism, but morality is, of course, no longer based on scripture. Morality, when starting out, is generally based on the good parts of our nature. (Some of us get a little more sophisticated and research moral philosophy, but this post has purposely steered away from that.) Furthermore, some scriptural morals are actually not based on the good part of our nature.