Category: Atheism

On humanism: the ethical and scientific inadequacies of a secular religion

Secular humanism is on the rise, and boasts some high-profile and outspoken celebrities amongst its ranks, like Stephen Fry, Ricky Gervais, Sue Cook, and even our own national treasure, Tim McGarry.

In Northern Ireland, humanists, although relatively small in numbers, are a vocal lot, who can often be found working behind the scenes of various movements, from abortion-choice and LGBTQI+ advocacy to campaigns for euthanasia, and the removal of prayer in public institutions. Bizarrely, for all their talk of social justice and empathy, they don’t do much actual charity work, preferring instead to leave that to others.

While it’s true, from a Christian viewpoint, that not everything about humanism is bad – indeed, some of their causes are admirable – it does present a sizeable threat to Christianity. For that reason, Christians ought to know what it’s about and how to effectively counter its claims and recognise its inadequacies. Here goes.

What exactly is humanism?

The term humanism can mean many things. Just as there are many different types of religion, there are many types of humanism, covering a wide range of beliefs with some overlapping elements. From these elements, a core set of humanistic beliefs has emerged, sometimes referred to as ‘secular humanism’.

Over the years, humanists have gathered together to officially declare these beliefs in the form of manifestos. There have been three (and a bit) humanist manifestos so far: Humanist Manifesto I (1933), Humanist Manifesto II (1973), and Humanist Manifesto III (2003). (There was also a spinoff manifesto called Secular Humanist Declaration (1980), but this was mainly considered to be a prologue to the third manifesto).

It is apparent, then, given its multiple revisions, that humanism sees itself as something that evolves with culture; what is wrong today may not necessarily be wrong in thirty years and vice versa, so we shouldn’t rule out more manifestos (or maybe a manifesto manifesto to help us keep track of the manifestos). For now, though, the core tenants of secular humanism can be summarised as such:

  • Non-theism: most secular humanists deny the existence of God, but virtually all deny the need for a God.
  • Naturalism: this an essential belief for secular humanism that follows from the denial of theism. If there is no supernatural – no God – then everything is explainable by natural laws alone.
  • Evolutionism: for the secular humanist, evolution is a sufficient way of explaining origins. That is, in the absence of a Creator God, all living things and the entire universe are the product of chance plus time plus matter.
  • Ethical relativism: most secular humanists don’t do moral absolutes. There are no God-given, unchangeable moral laws, therefore ethical standards must be determined by man. Such standards are subject to change over time as societies evolve, and are relative to different cultures.
  • Human self-sufficiency: this is a central tenant. All humanists believe that man is capable of solving his own problems without divine help. To quote Sue Cook: “I have long felt in sympathy with the Humanist movement. I put an extra ‘ o’ in God and put my faith in the overall Good in humanity.”

Humanism: religion in disguise

Humanists are quick to tell everyone that their beliefs are informed solely by science, reason, and rationality – and are often at pains to dismiss religion entirely. But, whether today’s humanists know it or not, the history of humanism is steeped in religion.

Humanist Manifesto I clearly emphasises the importance of religion and, before that, two founding fathers of humanism, Henri Saint-Simon and Auguste Comte, dreamed of a religion for all humanity, a universal civilisation based on science. In fact, Comte even set up a humanist sect and declared himself a high priest.

Julian Huxley, another eminent humanist, was, despite being an ardent atheist, a big fan of religion. One day while reading an essay by Lord Morely, he read the words: “The next great task of science will be to create a religion for humanity.” Challenged by these words to create a scientific religion, he coined the name ‘evolutionary humanism’. The rest is history.

So while it’s true that humanism entails no God, it certainly entails religion. Religion is simply a belief system, often with a figurehead, that attempts to answer the following big questions: 1) origins, 2) meaning, 3) morality, and 4) destiny. Humanism ticks all these boxes. Their figurehead is Charles Darwin; they believe our origins lie in the evolutionary process; they believe morality is subjective and culturally determined; they believe that nothing happens after death. This is religion 101.

But worse than that – it’s faith! Why? Because what Darwin taught us, if true, allows no room for secular hope.

Sure, scientific progress has helped us to live longer and healthier, but it has done precisely nothing for our ethics. Humans today are as destructive and as greedy as ever, only now, thanks to scientific and technological progress, we can kill, destroy, rape, and pillage on much larger scales. The post-enlightenment world, littered with the ruins of many a secular utopia, is proof of this.

Of course, on atheistic naturalism, such destructive behaviour is merely the evolutionary path of one particular beast – the human being – so to believe that things can or should be any different, as humanists do, takes a considerable amount of faith.

So the first thing we need to know about humanism is that it’s not science – it’s a secular religion. It is a post-Christian faith that preaches humans can be saved if only they accept science and progress as their lord and saviour.

The scientific inadequacy of secular humanism

Despite what you might read on some Internet forums, Christians and humanists aren’t that far apart when it comes to science. Both groups agree that the universe is governed by laws, such as thermodynamics and gravity, and that knowledge of these laws is helpful in understanding how the universe operates.

The conflict, then, is not about operation but origination. And this is where secular humanism starts to unravel. As previously discussed, secular humanists have a naturalistic view of origins – the idea that the universe is uncaused – but this is deeply unscientific.

The two most fundamental principles of science are observation and repetition, but since the origins of the universe were not observed and have not been repeated, we must then look at the present as a key to the past. And we know from studying the present that every event has an adequate cause. Now, if every event has a cause, it follows that the whole universe has a cause. This has led scientists to the conclusion that it all started with a Big Bang – something that is entirely consistent with the Christian narrative.

This is not a happy conclusion for secular humanists, as astrophysicist Robert Jastrow writes:

For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.

Belief in a Creator God is fully consistent with what science says about how the universe works. Conversely, the secular humanist position, despite claiming the scientific high ground, is worse than magic. Something can’t come from nothing. Life can’t come from non-life.

By avoiding this conclusion, humanists are saying that reason only applies to certain events in the universe, but not all events. This is flat-out irrational. Yet they still believe.

Ethical absurdity: absolutely no absolutes, absolutely

Many humanists believe that morality is relative and that values are subject to change. Ethics are situational, they say. Humanist Manifesto II states, “We affirm that moral values derive their source from human experience, needing no theological or ideological sanctions.” Since there is no ultimate Law Giver, there can be no ultimate Law – “Humanism asserts that the nature of the universe depicted by modern science makes unacceptable any supernatural or cosmic guarantees of human values”.

In other words, secular humanism denies all absolutes – absolutely. For the discerning reader, of course, this is a house built with Wotsits and Flumps. Firstly, is the claim “everything is relative” relative or non-relative? If it’s non-relative, then it’s absolute. If it’s absolute, then the claim is self-defeating. Conversely, if the claim is relative, then it could be wrong – so it can be dismissed.

So this begs the question: do secular humanists believe that humanism is true? They certainly act and write like they do. You’ll notice that humanism always gets revised, never rejected. Their faith is unshakable. So they obviously believe humanism to be the One True Path. The irony here, of course, is that this absolutistic approach is at complete odds with their denial of absolutes. You don’t often hear humanists say, “there are no absolute moral values, except the values of secular humanism.” That would be dogma – a trait they abhor in others.

And yet, that is exactly how they behave. Not only are humanists inconsistent in principle by denying moral absolutes, they are inconsistent in practice. Humanists continually violate their own rules when they say things like: “love is love,” and “no women should be denied an abortion”, or “we demand separation of church and state!” Really? Says who? Sue Cook?

No. It is obvious, then, that from both the writings and actions of humanists that they do believe in some moral absolutes. Just not the ones that they disagree with.

Even humanists need God

One of the biggest pieces of evidence for God can be found in the very people who rail against Him. The confessions of many secular humanists and other non-theists demonstrate this. The atheist and existential humanist Jean-Paul Satre confessed, “I needed God. I reached out for religion, I long for it, it was the remedy.” And the French atheist Albert Camus admitted, “nothing can discourage the appetite for divinity in the heart of man.”

Most tellingly, the historian and atheist Will Durant said this in a newspaper interview:

You and I are living in a shadow … because we are operating on the Christian ethical code which was given us, unfused with the Christian faith … but what will happen to our children …? We are not giving them an ethics warmed up with a religious faith. They are living on a shadow of a shadow.

So why do self-professed rationalists place their faith in a system that exists in the shadow of a shadow with no solid philosophical grounding? The answer is, quite simply, “anything but God, thank you very much.” To quote the famous atheist, Friedrich Nietzsche, “If one were to prove this God of the Christians to us, we should be even less able to believe in him.” I think that says it all.

There are many other areas where secular humanism falls short, such as its many internal consistencies (Existential vs. Scientific Humanism, Egocentric vs. Social Humanism, etc.) and its often-bitter infighting (some humanists are in favour of abortion, others are pro-life. Some are capitalists, others communists. Some are charitable, others are egoists). But when we examine their core beliefs – the beliefs canonised in the three manifestos and a declaration – they reveal many contradictions and absurdities. They claim to be scientific, but they violate basic laws of science. They claim to be rational, but they cannot account for the existence of rationality. They claim that nothing exists outside of nature, but they stand outside of nature to tell us what’s right and wrong. Secular humanists do not hold to a consistent position, so there’s simply no rational justification for being one.

atheism matrix christianity

Life in the Matrix: three insurmountable problems of atheism

I’m not afraid to admit that there are difficulties with theism. There are things that are hard to understand, and there are things that are unpalatable. These problems, however, are nothing – nothing! – compared to the insurmountable problems with atheism.

In fact, out of all the options out there, atheism is by far the least persuasive explanation of the way things are. Here are three reasons why:

1. The existence of evil

If there’s one thing that everyone can agree on, it’s that evil happens in the world. Whether that’s terror attacks, the unfair distribution of wealth, cancer or whatever; most agree that evil is an objective feature of reality. And this, say some atheists, is a good enough reason for rejecting the idea of God (as emoted by Stephen Fry in that interview on RTÉ). To a certain degree, I can understand this view. The world is demonstrably full of evil and it can be difficult to reconcile this fact of reality with a loving God.

For the atheist who is an atheist because of evil, however, this doesn’t get them off the hook. Getting rid of God does not get rid of evil because now the atheist has to solve the problem using the limited resources of naturalism. And they’re not going to get very far with naturalism even making sense of evil, never mind solving it, because, as celebrity atheist Richard Dawkins puts it, “The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference”.

In other words, excrement happens.

The existence of evil, therefore, is actually an argument for God. When an atheist says ‘evil,’ they assume there is such a thing as ‘good’. When they assume there’s such a thing as good, they assume there’s such a thing as an objective moral law by which to judge between good and evil. But if they assume an objective moral law exists, then they must posit some sort of lawgiver – which is the very thing they say doesn’t exist!

2. You can’t get living stuff from dead stuff

For atheism to be true, it must meet the minimum requirement of life coming from non-life (abiogenesis). If life can’t be shown to come from non-life, then we can’t even get started. But how did life come from non-life? As yet, nobody has come up with any answers. There are competing theories, of course, but they’re merely starting places offered up by materialists, many of which (all?) have been quickly shot down by other materialists.

And as time goes on and the more we learn about the complexities of chemistry and biochemistry – and even the complexities of the simplest of living cells – we realise that the problem of getting life from non-life is not going to be solved by any naturalistic explanation.

Of course, atheists (at least the ones I’ve engaged with) usually answer this problem with: “Life came from non-life because we’re here. Therefore, it happened.” But this is circular reasoning, the atheist equivalent to, “The bible is true because the bible says it’s true”. It is based on naturalist presuppositions that won’t be disturbed by evidence. It is philosophy, not fact.

3. The existence of consciousness

One of my favourite films from my yoof is The Matrix, a sci-fi action thriller set in a dystopian future where reality turns out to be a computer simulation run by sentient machines – the Matrix. It’s a bit like how the DVLNI works, only with sunglasses and cool music. Early on in the film, the hero, Neo, meets a character called Morpheus, who offers him a choice between taking a red pill, which will show Neo the harsh truth about reality and a blue pill, which will keep him blissfully ignorant.

This is not unlike atheism. Instead of being enslaved and subdued by sentient machines, the logical conclusion of atheism is that humans are enslaved and subdued by an evolutionary need to survive. Our brains are hardwired for survival, nothing more, nothing less. “DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music,” says Dawkins. On atheism, then, humans are nothing more than fleshy automatons.

The Atheist philosopher and science historian, William Provine, succinctly  states:

Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear — and these are basically Darwin’s views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either.

Another atheist philosopher, Daniel Dennett, agrees: “Consciousness is an illusion of the brain, for the brain, by the brain.” (Thought: since consciousness is an illusion of the brain, and Dennett used his brain to make that statement, why should our brains believe his brain?)

If these atheists are correct, then things like justice and love are nothing but simple chemical reactions bouncing about in our meat computers. Breathtaking scenery is nothing more than light waves, and music is just bouncing molecules. None of these things is actually real. They are useful fictions that help aid human survival.

But there is an even bigger problem. If consciousness is just an illusion of the brain, then who or what makes our decisions? If consciousness is a mere effect of chemical reactions in the brain, then the conscious act of deciding is not our own, but rather our head meat responding to stimuli beyond our control. There is no such thing as ‘choice’  (sorry all you ‘pro-choice’ atheists out there, that’s a meaningless term on your view), rationality, freethought or consciousness. We are merely slaves, born into evolutionary bondage.

Most atheists, though, take the blue pill. That is, to quote Morpheus, they “wake up in their beds and believe whatever they want to believe”. These are the atheists who believe things like justice and love to be real things, worth fighting for. These are the self-styled ‘freethinkers’ (ha! If only they knew!), who meet up in Premier Inns to discuss which religious aspects of their particular corner of the Matrix they dislike the most.

Then, the higher up the atheism ladder you go, atheists like Dennett and Provine (and others like Sam Harris and Jerry Coyne), take the red pill. These atheists are aware of the true nature and consequences of atheism and are happy to tell us how deep the rabbit hole of atheism goes. They know there is no ultimate meaning, for anything or anyone. In fact, some of them even argue that we could actually be living in a Matrix!  Anything but God, I suppose.

So when an atheist rejects God, it’s important to ask the question, “Ok, so God doesn’t exist, now what? What is true, and how would you support it?” Because when you study the alternatives, giving up Christianity is not merely rejecting the hymns you were made to learn in Sunday school or railing against the DUP for tying up the swings on Sunday that one time.  It’s giving up on a complete system of thought that underpins the kind of Western culture everyone wants to live in, from justice to compassion to a binding corpus of human rights based on a coherent understanding of what it means to be human – none of which an atheist can ever hope to account for, regardless of which pill they choose.

 

Human rights and the problem of atheism

Visit any atheist website or Facebook group and you’ll quickly discover that atheists pride themselves on being the white knights of equality and the moral guardians of human rights. Yet their own worldview — evolutionary materialism, the understanding that humans are an unintended byproduct of time plus chance plus matter — gives absolutely no basis for such lofty ideas as equality and human rights.

This was demonstrated perfectly during the recent debate between Christian philosopher William Lane Craig and the chair of Atheist Ireland, Michael Nugent, who, during the Q&A, casually asserted that human life is no more valuable than animal life.

For most people, this is a deeply disturbing idea. But Nugent, to his credit, was only being logically consistent. If there is no God, then he is completely correct; human life is literally no more valuable than animal life (or any other form of life, for that matter).

Here’s the logic:

  1. There is no God; all life is the product of time plus chance plus matter.
  2. As such, humans exist on an unbroken continuum with animals. They are Darwinian primates, nothing more, nothing less.
  3. Therefore, human life is no more valuable than any other form of animal life.

Nugent is not alone. Peter Singer, a committed atheist and one of the world’s leading ethicists, put it this way during this TV interview:

“Why do you think a member of the species Homo sapien, just because they’re a member of that species, has a right to life that, for example, a non-human animal – let’s say the gorilla who was shot in Cincinnati Zoo last week – does not have? Even though the gorilla has far more self-awareness, far more ability to form relationships with others, than a member of the species Homo sapien with severe brain damage.”

So where does this idea of human equality from?

Nancy Pearcey writes that Alexis de Tocqueville, a 19th-century political thinker, believed the idea of human equality came from Christianity:

“The most profound geniuses of Rome and Greece never came up with the idea of equal rights. Jesus Christ had to come to earth to make it understood that all members of the human species are naturally alike and equal.”

For a more contemporary example, atheist philosopher John Gray, states:

“Darwin has shown us that we are animals,” and therefore “the idea of free will does not come from science. Instead, its origins are in religion — not just any religion, but the Christian faith against which humanists rail so obsessively.”

How do atheists account for human rights and human value if they reject Christianity?

Not coherently. Without the understanding that every human is, by nature, intrinsically valuable, atheists have to contrive another set of criteria that human beings must meet in order to be considered worthy of rights.  We see this most prevalently today with secular arguments for abortion, where an unborn human must be, amongst other things, “viable” and “sentient” before she can be considered worthy of life. Merely being human is not enough.

Indeed, being born isn’t necessarily enough, either. Singer goes as far to recommend a 28-day quibble-free return on newborns, “My colleague Helga Kuhse and I suggest that a period of 28 days after birth might be allowed before an infant is accepted as having the same right to life as others.” Again, he’s being perfectly consistent because, when you think about it; newborns also fail to meet the standard of viability and sentience that are set for the unborn.

peter singer belfast bigot

Infanticide apologist Peter Singer. Good job he’s not a leading ethicist who advises governments or anything. Oh, wait.

For atheists, then, human value is determined subjectively by those in power, depending on what their particular culture believes during whatever time period they happen to live in. For intellectually honest and logically consistent atheists like Singer, this means that the value of a human life can sometimes be even less than that of an animal’s — which is why some atheists can be, without any sense of irony, both pro-choice and vegan. Save the whales, kill the babies, if you will.

Scary biscuits, isn’t it? Perhaps not if you agree with those in power, or you just so happen to satisfy the requirements necessary to be granted rights. But if the powerful are the ones who give humans their value, they can also take it away. As we see with what is happening to gay men in Chechnya, there is nothing to stop those in power from reimagining the line between human value and animal value to something the atheist doesn’t like. One society says the unborn have no rights, another says gays have no rights. Which one is wrong? Says who?

Atheism and human rights are completely incompatible

Of course, this doesn’t prove atheism wrong (we can appeal to other arguments for that), nor does it mean that atheists cannot be capable of great moral deeds, but it does beg the question: which view is better equipped to answer our deep intuitions that we should care for the weak, the oppressed, and the disabled? The view of Michael Nugent, who belives that humans are no more valuable than rats? Or the view of Helen Rosevere, a Christian missionary whose belief that all human beings are created equally compelled her, under pain of rape and civil war, to practice medicine and establish hospitals in the Congo?

Thankfully, though, atheists are an inconsistent bunch. Even if they are willing to openly express the view that human beings are nothing more than moist robots that have no more value than a fruit bat, none of them actually live like they believe it (and being a vegan doesn’t count because Plant Lives Matter too, dude). To be a good atheist is to be a bad atheist.

So, no, most atheists live as if the Christian idea of human rights is true. That is, human beings are all created equal and endowed with unalienable rights and intrinsic value. If their beliefs are to have any moral force, atheists must steal from Christianity. They are moral piggybackers.

As Christians, we need to call them up on this. We need to help them recognise, as honest atheists like John Gray already do, that the idea of equality and intrinsic human value belongs to Christianity. If atheists want these things, they must abandon their atheism. They can’t have it both ways.

Is religion the main cause of war?

If you’ve ever visited an atheist website or read any of the best-selling pop atheist books of the last decade or so, you’ll have come across the assertion that “religion is the main cause of war”. In fact, this hymn is sung so often, and with such gusto, that people now accept it as fact. But does it stand up to scrutiny?

If you press an atheist on why they believe this, they’ll usually say the Crusades, the Inquisition, and 9/11. It’s true that religion was a motivator in those events, but are they enough to support the claim that religion is the main cause of war?

Poisoning the well

The first point to address is that the statement “religion is the main cause of war” lacks the distinctions needed to be a meaningful point. It’s like blaming every musician for Mumford and Sons. It poisons the well. Sure, some musicians make awful hipster music, but that’s not true for all musicians. The reasoning doesn’t follow. The irony being, of course, that those who use this argument are the ones who claim to have reason on their side.

Furthermore, saying “religion is the main cause of war” – even if true – is not adequate to disprove any one religious claim. Scientology could be the cause of every single war in history, but that does not make its claims false; ideas need to be challenged on their own merits. Such statements tell you nothing about the truths and falsehoods of a particular religious claim, like Jesus being the messiah or the existence of God. Alas, this doesn’t stop people from being persuaded by them.

The second – and most important – point is that it’s simply not true. Not even close. It’s a quantifiable and demonstrable fact that religion is not the main cause of war. Anyone who claims otherwise does not know history. The Crusades were a holy war – a Christian response to Muslim persecution in the Middle East – as were the Inquisition and 9/11. However, the numbers killed in these examples are infinitesimally small compared to the death and destruction achieved by secular warfare. That’s not to condone those religious conflicts, but remember the charge here: religion is the main cause of war.

What are the facts?

Anyone interested in actual facts should get acquainted with the three-volume peer-reviewed book “Encyclopedia of Wars”. It’s a seminal work that documents over five thousand years of warfare, totalling 1763 wars. Of these, only 123 are deemed to have a religious cause, which is about 7% (3% if you subtract Islam). A second scholarly source, the “Encyclopedia of War (not to be confused with the Encyclopedia of Wars), confirms this by putting the total at 6%. Thirdly, this report from 2014 found that “Corruption, economic inequality and political instability have a greater impact on countries’ likelihood of conflict than religious differences.”

World War One and Two, for example, both responsible for a staggering amount of deaths, had no religious animus. (Atheists often claim that Hitler was a Catholic, but he was scathing of Christianity in his private writings. Christianity to Hitler was one of the great “scourges” of history. And even if he was a Catholic, it doesn’t matter because his motivations were non-religious.)

Then there’s the invasion of South Korea by North Korea. Was that religious? Nope. What about Vietnam? Nope. There have since been wars in the Middle East, but you’d be hard-pressed to say they were caused solely by religion. If religion was to disappear overnight, the land and oil claims wouldn’t just go away. So certainly from the first World War up until Vietnam – the timeframe that saw the vast majority of deaths (millions upon millions), none of the wars were religious in nature or cause.

The unholy trinity

But it gets worse for atheists.

Three of the worst mass murderers from recent history, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, between them responsible for 100million plus deaths, did not adhere to any religion. They were communists, materialists, and avowed atheists. To put that into perspective, the 3,000 people killed during the entirety of the Inquisition is about the same number killed by Stalin on an average Tuesday afternoon. Again, I’m not exonerating the Inquisition; I’m just putting the facts on the table.

That doesn’t mean every atheist will murder millions, but it does mean that ideas have consequences. If you’re a materialist who runs the biggest government around, there is none greater than you. If there is no cosmic bench to stand before and give an account, you can do whatever you want. To be clear, atheism doesn’t dictate this behaviour, but it certainly allows it.

Without a doubt, religion can cause war, but it’s far from the main cause. In fact, a cursory look through human history shows that the countries that tried to drive out religion with state-sponsored atheism were the ones that produced, by far, the most death and misery. The next time you hear a sceptic say “religion is the main cause of war,” tell them they’re not being sceptical enough.

angry atheist

Angry from County Atheism writes…

I received this comment from a guy – perhaps going by a fake name and email address – who took umbrage with my article ‘Can atheists be good without God?’ Which is grand. But since his objections were more of a rant-cum-screed than a comment, I will answer it this way. Underneath his vitriol and emotion, he actually raises some important questions so this may be of interest to anyone wrestling with the God question:

“You ridiculous, semi-literate, bog-trotting, moron.You think that one can only be ‘good’ because of an imaginary ‘man in the sky’? You absolute t*t! You believe in a so-called ‘God’, because your deficient ‘mammy and daddy’ told you to. NO OTHER REASON! They also told you about Santa, and the f*cking fairies. I’m not even going to waste my time with the ‘Big Bang Theory’, the fact that ‘Creationism’ MUST have ‘created’ parasitical wasps, the AIDS virus, and cancer. In addition, your imaginary ‘God’ ‘created’ the world, (not the universe surely?) around the time of The Agricultural Revolution.

Then there’s the Magdalene Laundries, paedophile priests, and of course, Nazi empathy. “GOOD”????? What separates human beings from animals, is intellect, NOT GOD FFS! And DON’T ‘DEBATE’ WITH THE LATE, GREAT HITCHENS VIA THIS MEDIUM, YOU SPINELESS TWAT! What I find laughable, is that you’re ‘grounding’ your morality in fairy tails, NOT facts! That’s after you’ve unnecessarily, and somewhat pompously ‘explained’ ‘ontology’. Of course ‘man’ is a byproduct! Our ‘Sun’ WILL eventually swallow the Earth, no doubt whatsoever! Did God ‘design’ that too?

Dawkins is correct. It’s as obvious as ‘night and day’! Unfortunately it’s not as romantic as wrapping it up in fairy tails, which is basically your argument.

I‘ve had enough of this nonsense! IF YOU ARE GOOD BECAUSE OF A FAIRY TAIL ‘GOD’, THEN YOU’RE NOT GOOD OF YOUR OWN VOLITION, HENCE YOU’RE NOT GOOD AT ALL! If it’s a ‘man in the sky’ that stops you murdering and raping etc, then you’re a f*cking psychopath! It wasn’t badly written, (although it’s VERY easy to tell that this was rewritten many times, and in the planning stage for weeks -lmfao!), but the substance is non-existent!”

I don’t know about anyone else, but people write things every day on the Internet that I disagree with. Not once, however, has it ever occurred to me to hurl abuse at them. We all have our hobbies, I suppose. Maybe this guy should take up disco dancing or something; this level of anger can’t be good for him.

Anyway, let’s look at some of his arguments:

– You ridiculous, semi-literate, bog-trotting, moron! You think that one can only be ‘good’ because of an imaginary ‘man in the sky’? You absolute t*t! You believe in a so-called ‘God’, because your deficient ‘mammy and daddy’ told you to. NO OTHER REASON!

When somebody starts off by calling you names, you can guarantee it’s because they’re not confident in their arguments. Remember that bully in school? The one that cut his tie really short and typed rude words into calculators? He never had anything substantive to say, so he called you names. That’s what we see here.

Firstly, my “mammy and daddy” had nothing to do with my belief in God. They’re both non-believers. Secondly, even if they had, that would not disprove the existence of God. C.S Lewis called this the ‘fallacy of Bulverism‘, whereby a person merely assumes a person’s belief is wrong, then tries to explain why they believe it: “You only believe in God because your parents are Christian!” Well, this argument cuts both ways: “You’re only an atheist because your parents are humanists!” See how silly this type of argument is? It’s a genetic fallacy, not to mention dodgy amateur psychology.

– I’m not even going to waste my time with the ‘Big Bang Theory’, the fact that ‘Creationism’ MUST have ‘created’ parasitical wasps, the AIDS virus, and cancer.

I think he means here that the Big Bang somehow disproves God. This is false. If the universe has a single point of origin – as a big bang would imply – then what started it? How can something come from nothing? It can’t. A Big Bang needs a Big Banger.

In fact, the Big Bang theory – developed by Catholic priest Georges Lemaître – lends itself well to Christian theology, with several bible verses (Colossians 1:15-17, 1 Peter 1:20, Proverbs 8:22-31) proclaiming that the universe began in a single creation event. Evidence for a big bang is exactly what you would expect to find if God exists.

He does, however, raise a valid point regarding the existence of AIDS, cancer, and nasty insects. In other words, the existence of things he thinks are “evil”.

The first step to addressing evil is to ask: what exactly is “evil”? If God created everything, and evil is a thing, then God – as this guy implies – must have created evil. This is a fair assumption. If the premise is true (God created everything), then the conclusion would also be true (God created a thing called “evil”).

The problem here, though, is that evil is not a thing, in the same way that “cold” or “dark” are not things. Cold and dark are merely the absence of heat and light. Likewise, “evil” is the absence of “good”. When God created the universe, he created everything good, after which something happened that reduced the good in the world. That loss of good is called “evil”.

Of course, as Richard Dawkins proclaims, the universe is without “good” and “evil,” so an atheist doesn’t get to call anything “evil” – except when referring to personal dislikes.  To acknowledge “evil” is to acknowledge “good,” which is to acknowledge something transcendent.

– Then there’s the Magdalene Laundries, paedophile priests, and of course, Nazi empathy. “GOOD”?????

Nowhere in my article did I claim that Christians don’t do bad things. They do. Christians are sinners. The difference with Christians, however, is that they have an objective moral standard by which their behaviour can be judged. Any Christian who does something terrible does so in direct violation of Christ’s teachings. This is a wonderful thing.

But no such standard exists for atheists. In fact, the Nazis (since he brought them up) were just speeding up the evolutionary process in search of the perfect race. Is that wrong? Says who? The universe doesn’t care. In fact, the universe might even approve. (By the way, read up on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Corrie ten Boom if you want to know how Christians responded to Nazism).

– What separates human beings from animals, is intellect, NOT GOD FFS! 

This is in response to my claim that, on atheism, human life is no more valuable than any other living creature (a mosquito was the example I used in the article). This is a logically sound position given that all humans, according to Richard Dawkins, are nothing but flesh-machines that propagate DNA. As such, on atheism, the human brain is hardwired for survival; it does not care for intellect (or truth or reason).

Therefore, elevating intellect to the status of a value-giving property is completely arbitrary. Well, I happen to think mosquitos are more valuable than humans because mosquitos can hover above the ground. Shove your intellect. Hovering is where it’s at.

Also, if human value is determined by intellect, does a person with an IQ of 140 have more value than a person with an IQ of 80? Are pigs more valuable than newborn humans? Atheist philosopher Peter Singer thinks so. Determining value on a sliding scale according to intellect is a dangerous idea. Only in the bearing of a Creator’s image can human beings have intrinsic value. If there’s no Creator, and therefore no ultimate purpose, then humans don’t have intrinsic value.

– And DON’T ‘DEBATE’ WITH THE LATE, GREAT HITCHENS VIA THIS MEDIUM, YOU SPINELESS TWAT!

CAPS LOCK! He’s serious now. Never blaspheme against a high-priest of atheism or you will suffer the wrath of CAPS LOCK. Of course, the discerning reader will have noticed that I wasn’t debating Hitchens; I was merely responding to his challenge. If you want to see somebody debate Hitchens – and beat him soundly – check out this debate with William Lane Craig or this one with John Lennox.

– What I find laughable, is that you’re ‘grounding’ your morality in fairy tails (sic), NOT facts!

No. My morality is grounded in the fact that a moral law exists. Murdering babies for fun will always be wrong, even if society one day thinks it’s OK. This is a universal moral law. Everyone knows this. But a moral law can only exist if a moral lawgiver exists. This is not a fairy tale, this is a reasonable philosophical position. It could be wrong, but it’s reasonable.

– I’ve had enough of this nonsense! IF YOU ARE GOOD BECAUSE OF A FAIRY TAIL (sic) ‘GOD’, THEN YOU’RE NOT GOOD OF YOUR OWN VOLITION, HENCE YOU’RE NOT GOOD AT ALL!

Notice the repeated use of the word “good”, even though he later agrees (with Dawkins) that “good” and “evil” don’t exist. On one hand, he acknowledges the existence of “good,” then, on the other hand, dismisses it altogether. This is how quickly atheism becomes absurd.

But, yet again, as I explained in the initial article, this is a common misunderstanding of a basic theistic position. I have lost count of the number of times that atheists have got this confused. The issue is not about the motivations behind Christian behaviour; it’s about whether or not “good” and “evil” are objective features of reality (and they are; that’s why people react to them). If so, how? A moral lawgiver – God – is the most reasonable answer.

– It wasn’t badly written, (although it’s VERY easy to tell that this was rewritten many times, and in the planning stage for weeks -lmfao!), but the substance is non-existent!

Cheers! I’ll take the compliments wherever I can find them. Hopefully, this response provides you with more substance – LMFAO.

good person atheist billboard

Can atheists be good without God?

The journalist and atheism populariser Christopher Hitchens once stated that atheists are as good as Christians, going so far as to challenge believers to name one good deed they can do that an atheist can’t. Indeed, the atheists I know say similar things, and some atheist organisations in America even put up billboards to make sure everyone knows it. 

And they’re not wrong; it is perfectly possible to be good without God. It is demonstrably true that there are many virtuous and loving and kind atheists in the world. No thoughtful theist would say otherwise.

But that’s not the argument. There’s a much deeper issue at play here – the grounding issue. And this is where Hitchens and the billboards fail in their understanding of a rather basic theist argument.

Dylan2

Nobody is saying you can’t be. How much did this thing cost?

The theist is primarily concerned with the ontology of morality – that is, the nature and existence of morality – not whether theists are nicer than atheists (because they’re not). In other words, theists want to know how atheists can ground morality given that the universe has no particular thing guiding the designation of what behaviour is good and what is bad.

On atheism, humans are nothing more than the accidental byproduct of time plus chance plus matter, skin-sacks of recently-evolved atoms fizzing around a tiny speck of cosmic debris called Earth. Some humans fizz violently, some fizz peacefully – all of them destined to be cooked alive at some point by global warming/climate change or something. So, within this framework, it’s hard to think how anything can be objectively good. Why is human flourishing more of a good than mosquito flourishing? With atheism, it can’t be.

Atheism, then, when taken to its logical conclusion, has a crisis of value. In other words, human beings are just animals – no more or less valuable than any other living thing – and animals have no moral obligations. We don’t arrest cats when the mutilated corpse of a mouse turns up on our doorstep. Cats kill mice, they don’t murder them. There is no moral dimension to animal behaviour.

In response, an atheist might say that certain actions such as murdering babies for fun and incest may not be biologically and socially advantageous, and so over the course of human evolution have become ‘not good’. Fair enough. But that tells us nothing about the actual wrongness of these acts, it only tells us that cultural opinions change over time – and could change again (if incest apologists like this guy have their way).

So when atheists use the word ‘good’ to describe themselves, they beg the question: what do you mean by ‘good’? If the term ‘good’ is a manmade social convention to aid survival, then the categories that make up good are also manmade. But here’s the thing: different people have different ideas about what is good and what is bad. In some cultures they love each other, in other cultures, they eat each other. Which do you prefer?

So, yes, an atheist can mimic all the behaviours of what their particular time and culture calls ‘good’ – and they can do it rather well. But if atheism is true and there’s no God to ground morals to begin with, then – just like like the rest of the animal kingdom – human beings have no objective moral duties. Judging an action based on ‘good’ or ‘evil’ would be like expressing a preference for what type of Danish pastry is the more superior (maple and pecan plait, obviously).

Therefore, on atheism, the word ‘good’ has no meaning. Or, as the captain of Team Atheism Richard Dawkins eloquently put it: “There is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”

Can Secular Humanism save Northern Ireland (and the world)?

The words of John Lennon’s Imagine are often rolled out in times of religious violence. The Paris attacks, for example. Putting aside the fact that Lennon was a wife-beating philanderer who mocked disabled people, it’s easy to understand why – religion has caused much pain and suffering. As the song (more or less) goes: imagine there’s no religion, no heaven, no hell – just everyone living in peace.

It’s hard to imagine a time of no religion, given how humans have been religious one way or another since the beginning, and it’s even harder to imagine everyone living in peace because, well: politics, oil, greed, corruption, power, money, sex, self-aggrandisement, land, race, alien invasions, and –  sometimes – religion.

That hasn’t stopped humanists like Stephen Fry from imagining, though. They imagine Humanism to be the gold standard of worldviews, the gateway to rationality, tolerance and everlasting peace. Can I get an amen?

So what exactly is Humanism? Well, the name says it all. Humanism is the philosophy that all human beings, in and of themselves, have value (what’s known as ‘intrinsic’ value), deserving of respect and equality – but secular (from the Latin meaning ‘this world’), so God is not needed. We see this in all their writings and manifestos (I don’t know why, but for a movement that rejects dogma and authority, they love their manifestos).

Humanism – could do with a better logo.

Humanism – like the Hyundai badge only with a big dot.

Humanism (at least of the secular variety) is also, at its core, the positive face of atheism. Whereas atheism says: “No. I am not for anything. I am a mere lack of belief”, Humanism says: “Yes. Come join us. We’re for something. We’re for humans. We’re for a secular utopia with no religion (worth speaking of), no heaven, no hell – just everyone living in happy Humanist harmony”.

Fair play to them. God The cold, dark universe loves a trier.

To a certain extent, though, I agree with them; if us humans don’t get the human-beings-have-intrinsic-value thing right, nothing else matters.

But, can Humanism even account for – let alone achieve – intrinsic human value, given its atheistic framework? Well, to paraphrase C.S Lewis, an atheist telling someone else how things ought to be, is a bit like a puddle of milk telling another puddle of milk that it ought to have been spilt differently. Where are they getting the ought from? Both puddles of milk are nothing but smelly, sour accidents. There is no ought.

So here’s the deal-breaking flaw of Humanism: when you dig deeper into its atheistic philosophy and examine their evidence for what human purpose actually is, it cuts off the very branch it sits on. Humanists say over and over in their manifestos that human beings have objective purpose and value, yet you read the writings of Richard Dawkins, who neatly sums up the purpose of humanity as being, “Machines for propagating DNA”.

Wait a minute! What? I’m pretty sure the kipper I just ate for brunch was also a DNA machine. Does a DNA machine really have intrinsic value?

Think of it like this: have you ever looked in the mirror, clean-shaven and smelling of freshly-applied Brut and said: “Hey! You are one smooth DNA propagating machine”? No, me neither. Plus, I’m a Cool Water man. How about looking into the face of a newborn and saying, “Ahh, wee DNA propagator”. Unless you’re a Terminator, nobody talks like that.

Must. Destroy. DNA. Propagators.

“Must. Destroy. DNA. Propagators.”

So, on the one hand, Humanism wants to affirm intrinsic human value, but on the other hand, it jettisons the only viable source for intrinsic human value – God – and in doing so pulls the rug out from beneath itself, lands awkwardly on its ankle and limps off teary-eyed hoping no-one noticed.

For those who did notice, however, why should human beings have more value than cats just because human meat computers happen to be more advanced than cat meat computers? Says who? Unless there’s an ontic referent, Humanism is just a form speciesism; that is to say, Humanism is the arbitrary privileging of one species over millions of other species. And speciesism is bigoted, man.

humanism meat computer

A meat computer.

The best Humanism can strive for is extrinsic value, not intrinsic value. The difference is crucial. Extrinsic value is the value we humans put on things, and this is precisely what we see coming from Humanism. They’ll say: “Sure, the unborn are human beings, but they’re not persons so we can take their lives and call it a choice”. (Idea: maybe Humanism should rebrand itself as ‘Personism’ since being a person is what really matters). And, of course, a hundred-odd years ago, humanist heroes of the Enlightenment like Immanuel Kant placed similar extrinsic value on black people:

The Negroes of Africa have by nature no feeling that rises above the trifling. Mr. Hume challenges anyone to cite a single example in which a Negro has shown talents, and asserts that among the hundreds of thousands of blacks who are transported elsewhere from their countries, although many of them have even been set free, still not a single one was ever found who presented anything great in art or science or any other praiseworthy quality.

Notice how Kant assumes black people are not fully human. This is what happens when you take Humanism to its logical conclusion. This is what happens when humans get to ascribe value. We saw it then with black people, we see it today with the unborn.

Intrinsic value, on the other hand, is the idea that every member of the human species is valuable, regardless of his or her individual characteristics and abilities (including those with Down’s syndrome, Mr Dawkins) because every human being shares the same valuable human nature. This is a universal quality, not something handed down by an organisation, government, or judge. 

So, no, Humanism cannot save Northern Ireland, or anywhere else for that matter. If man is the measure of all things, as Humanism preaches, we’re in trouble. Deep trouble. History has proven this fact countless times. Objective, intrinsic human value – true human value – has to be fixed, immutable, and given. It has to be grounded in the character and nature of God.