Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Case for Atheism (1)

Atheism is the lack of belief in God. Historically, this religion has always been despised, criticised and demonised in almost every single civilisation. A position frequently associated with the likes of Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Zedong and Hitler, today this belief is common amongst hedonistic youths with no greater purpose in life except to seize the momentary enjoyment. They don't believe in God either out of pure rebellion, or because they try to look cool by subscribing to some so-called New Age philosophy. Those people fear no God, and they fear no one. They are the morally corrupt.

I am an atheist. (Gasp) Or to be precise, I am an agnostic inclined towards the atheist position. (Scratch head)

Today I am writing a case for atheism. I am not prosetylising this religion, neither am I shoving you the belief of why atheism is "the truth". Heck, I am not even 100% sure that there is no God. Nevertheless, today I attempt to make a case for atheism, a case for its "believers", and most importantly, a case for why atheism is a totally reasonable and acceptable worldview, one to which no connotation of immorality should be attached.

To begin my little spiel, I invite you to read this letter published in today's The Age:

To Jenny Ejlak, Parkville (Letters, 19/10). Many millions of people were killed in Russia, China and Cambodia for opposing the religion of the ruling elite. That religion was, of course, the religion of atheism. Read Stalin, Mao Zedong and Pol Pot, whose atheist faith influenced their politics.

That's not to mention Hitler, who implemented the evolutionary doctrine of eugenics. Many presume atheism or agnosticism to be neutral positions, which they are not.

Religion is always involved in politics because you can't separate people from their world view, which is decided by their position of faith. Most of the healthiest democracies today are in countries that have a Judeo Christian heritage and support rather than suppress that faith.

At the first glance, one might be tempted to cheer for the eloquence and power with which this letter devastates the atheist belief. After all, haven't we all witnessed the outrageous evil by these leaders in the history? How could atheists even begin to defend themselves, when these murderers' atrocity is indefensible by any yardstick of morality? Does morality still mean anything when there is no superior being to fear? Where did morality come from in the first place?

These are the questions atheists have to answer before they engage in any further conversation. I invite you to stay with me as I elaborate on it in the future.

[to be continued...]


Lee Young, 李阳 said...

Hi there, I would like to say something and answer the questions..

Strictly speaking, atheism is nothing to do with religion and is definitely not a religion as religion must have a belief in some form of deity. Atheism is exactly the opposite. It's just a disbelief.

And the letter, what the heck man, Hitler is not an atheist, he's a christian. It's quite shocking that Robert Prentice dosn't know that.

Regarding Stalin and Mao, I'm very sure that their evil deeds have nothing to do with their atheism. They were evil men indeed, but it's not atheism that made them evil. This is what those Christians deny. As a matter of fact, there are also a lot of Christians who did immoral stuffs. A good example is the priests, haha!

Morality can be explained in scientific terms. Scientists have even found possible link between brain neuron cells and morality. Also, in an evolutionary perspective, it's possible to explain the root of morality. (Richard Dawkins briefly outlined it in the TV series "Genius of Charles Darwin".

If Christians say that atheists have no moral because they don't believe in God, then I wonder IF one day someone successfully proven that God does not exist will THEY continue to be nice. ;)

WP said...

Atheism is just a belief like any other. Remember, we all started out as atheists (with no belief in any god).
(I'm not an atheist, by the way)

jasmine said...

lee young, Hitler was connected with the Roman Catholic faith but if you do a quick internet search, you'll see the debate is still going on as to whether he was a Christian or not.

I think all of us agree that both atheists and Christians have commited heinous acts. The Salem Witch Trials and Crusades etc. were black marks in the church's history.
Most people, however, fail to separate the belief from its followers and their acts.

My question is this: when you say someone has morals, what do you mean? Does it mean he cannot have commited a single wrongdoing ever? How good is good and how bad is bad? I believe when it comes down to wrongdoings, there is no difference between aetheists and Christians and believers of any other religion for that matter.

Since all human beings have done wrong, I believe, the yardstick of morality can only come from someone who is holy--God.

Lee Young, 李阳 said...

Hi Jasmine:

Well there's a debate out there, the history tells us that he actually used religion as a central motivation for his evil plans.

"As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice"- Adolf Hitler

But I'm also quite sure that his evil plan is not directly caused by his religion. And yes, there's totally no difference between theists and atheists in moral- we're just the same.

Btw, morality can't be finite. It depends on situation, there's not a law for morality. It differs from society to society, people to people, time to time. There's not an absolute for moral.

Victor said...
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Victor said...

Yay, another post on this topic :D

The graph on religious makeup of the U.S. suggests that religions are on a trend for convergence in future. Maybe Atheism and Christianity may find some common ground and fuse together?

*It took me a while to learn html tags. Hehe

ShouFarn said...
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ShouFarn said...

Man, we need more quotable quotes around here. You know who you are ;)

In regards to WP:

Atheism is belief, but its a negative proclamation to a positive assertion. To atheists like myself, it is more of a "huh, this is so far fetched/weird/silly/unsustainable. Not gonna believe it till it proves correct" reaction than an active belief.

Atheism is one single opinion on a metaphysical topic. It is a belief, but i wager it is exactly the same belief that you share with me in regards to Odin.

In that note, i hope you enjoy not collecting stamps. Not collecting stamps is just a hobby like any other hobby.

Anonymous said...

Null hypothesis vs. alternative hypothesis, heh.


kyh said...

I'm not non-religious, but those saying atheism contributes to the decadence of society are nuts. We've had enuff of so-called religious peoples committing acts thousand times more heinous than a good atheist citizen.

And I'm still confused between the words agnosticism and atheism. What r their differences?

Eric Fu said...

Morality is religion-independent. To think that (some) people's good deeds derive from their fear of a supreme being is downright heartbreaking.

Unfortunately such people exist. =(

ShouFarn said...

My view is that such people actually do not do get their sense of morality from religion.

They just like to think it does ;)

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it's quite meaningless to talk about 'morality' when people can't even agree on what it actually constitutes.

So what's morality?

It is hard to discuss something you can't define.

Anonymous said...

re: Shou Farn - and atheists certainly aren't exempt from external influences either ;)

Anonymous said...

^ bluez (for the last two posts)

ShouFarn said...

I said "sense of morality", not morality. That, or your reply wasn't about me.

I'm not arguing that we get our sense of fairness from completely internal instincts. I just think that its not supernatural.

which also means that it will fail at the two extremes but works decently well in the middle.

Raymond said...

Interesting post Chang Yang.. I look forward to the 2nd part :)

Just one thought though.. It is difficult to prove or disprove the existence of a God.. and you mentioned it yourself that you are not 100% sure that there is no God.. But, just what if there is a God? Would it change how you live your life knowing that "someone" created you with a purpose?

Oh, and the whole thing about if Hitler was a Christian.. I don't think it really matters.. I am a firm believer that if you want to look at a religion and understand it, you look to the founder/central person of the religion (e.g. Christianity=Jesus, Muslim=Muhammad)..after all we are mere humans who tends to mess things up no matter how perfect or beautiful it is :)

changyang1230 said...

Wow I am overwhelmed by your responses! I intend to address many of these issues in the next installment (unfortunately I can't tell you when), so pardon me for not answering them at the moment.

Meanwhile, some people lambasted Robert Prentice in The Age some days ago. You can read the letters here.

Victor said...

Knock knock, where is part two....