Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Morals of Atheists

The indispensable PZ Myers demolishes the latest attempt to prove that only good white murkins who have been saved by the precious blood of baby jeebus are moral.

We are social animals. We are the children of a particular kind of animal that improved their chances of survival and reproduction by cooperation, working together as a family/tribe/nation. We have an operational, working definition of what is good and evil that is defined by our history: goodness is that which has promoted the survival of our community and ourselves. Anyone who has a reasonable grasp of Darwinian logic ought to be able to see that this is the kind of property that can emerge from forces entirely within a group's history, with no exogenous agent required.

I certainly do have grounds to be outraged at the use of torture. Those are fellow human beings who are experiencing pain: I empathize with them, I see them as fellow members of the greater community of humanity, and I can rationally see that a society that allows torture is one in which I and my family are less safe. I do not need a little god sitting on my shoulder, whispering in my ear, "Oh, PZ, you aren't supposed to enjoy that person's suffering".

My sense of horror and outrage points me to a common humanity, not some invisible magic man who wills it because he works in mysterious ways.

Read the whole thing, and don't skip the comments.

I will never understand the mindset that believes the most effective way to influence behavior is through a combination of threat (Hell) and bribe (Heaven.) What a low opinion of one's fellow humans is required to think they respond only to fear and greed.

Rational human beings need neither carrots nor sticks to do the correct, moral thing; doing so is its own reward.

1 comment:

Eric Schansberg said...

Doing good is its own reward. Agreed.

But are you saying that a world without sticks and carrots would work? Certainly not for children and not for many adults.