Greetings! Below is a conversation I had after I interviewed an Atheist for my Christian Philosophy course. I wished to follow-up with the individual regarding their stance of right and wrong. The conversation is telling, and it is from my personal experience that it reflects the pattern of thinking amongst various Atheists in whom I’ve dialogued with. Note the moral relativity, and the necessary presupposition that God does not exist.
[02:19] leonardooh: Is torturing babies for fun fundamentally evil?
[02:20] Atheist: I hate to say it but ‘evil’ is subjective. To me, torturing -any- living creature is against what I consider to be ‘good morals’
[02:20] leonardooh: A followup to this line of question: So is torturing babies for fun wrong every time?
[02:21] Atheist: torturing anything for fun is wrong.
[02:21] Atheist: its sadistic.
[02:21] leonardooh: Is that not an objective statement?
[02:22] Atheist: I don’t limit to babies. Is what I’m saying… torturing ‘anything’ is sadistic.
[02:22] Atheist: intentionally causing harm to another living creature on your own free will is wrong.
[02:22] Atheist: for no good reason that is
[02:23] leonardooh: Saying torturing anything is sadistic, and intentionally causing harm to another living creature is wrong, are two objective statements. As you mentioned earlier, morals are subjective and societal in nature. However, you mentioned earlier an objective moral value. Any thoughts on this?
[02:24] Atheist: those are my own personal feelings.
[02:25] Atheist: My opinions and feelings on those are a conglomeration of the morals I constructed from aforementioned statements.
[02:26] Atheist: Also. Its like 1:30 am where I’m at. Do I sound entirely purely cogniscient? hehe
[02:26] Atheist: <ii had to throw that in>
[02:26] leonardooh: Hah, no worries ;]
[02:27] leonardooh: May I continue down this line of questioning, or proceed to the second followship (I understand its getting late)
[02:27] Atheist: go whever you need I’m cool
[02:27] Atheist: Ask me anything you want
[02:30] leonardooh: So torturing babies for fun is only evil based on an individuals feelings or opinions?
[02:30] Atheist: Technically. Yes. You make your own decisions on what is right or wrong.
[02:31] Atheist: I mean think of it this way.
[02:32] Atheist: If your society and religion believed that every morning in order to please the gods you had to beat a puppy to death with a hammer… would you do it? or would something inside of you feel it was wrong.
[02:33] leonardooh: Yet feelings are rather subjective. A predator may feel and have the opinion raping a child is good for him. However, raping little children for fun is clearly wrong. If it was simply up to feeling and the individual, we cannot objective state: “raping kids for fun” is wrong.
[02:34] Atheist: Well this is where there are common rules a society lives by. Where as ‘right and wrong’ are individual to live and function in society .. you have rules for that society.
[02:34] Atheist: I don’t agree with mormans breeding 13 yr old girls for wives…
[02:34] Atheist: but thats me.
[02:35] leonardooh: Nazi Germany established rules murdering millions of Jews. Their social laws determined such behavior, yet as objectively wrong as it is to torture kids for fun, we would both say it is objectively wrong to stick an entire ethnicity in ovens, correct?
[02:36] leonardooh: In other words, we would say that their societal rules are objectively wrong, and evil. Otherwise, we cannot say concentration camps were wrong/bad, as their society determined otherwise.
[02:37] Atheist: <one sec phone>
[02:37] leonardooh: Thanks. Also, anytime you can move to the final question. I don’t want to rudely keep you.
[02:37] Atheist: <back>
[02:38] Atheist: heh. my friends are calling..its 1:37 so we’re fine.
[02:38] Atheist: As for the nazis…
[02:39] Atheist: So their society was pretty much torn. and when it ‘spilled’ into other societies, it was unaccepted. we’re all aware that many people acted against their own morals their own PERSONAL morals to do what society deemed right
[02:39] Atheist: It still comes back to the individual is responsible for concepts of right and wrong
[02:40] Atheist: Nazi’s weren’t so different from the Mayan.
[02:40] Atheist: They tortured and killed people
[02:40] Atheist: for religion for society.
[02:41] leonardooh: Yet if a majority of persons decided in their own personal opinion/morals that jews were simply animals, and they were doing a public good, would you merely combat them by saying your personal moral says otherwise?
[02:41] leonardooh: Also, there is another objective statement: “Torturing and killing people for religion for society” is wrong.
[02:41] Atheist: its the same argument as people saying black people were less than human in a way. To me. My own personal morals object from what society considers the ‘norm’ in those instances.
[02:41] Atheist: And yes, sometimes what I consider right and wrong differs from the rest of society
[02:42] leonardooh: But that doesn’t help us with whether or not slavery, rascism, torturing babies for fun, and nazi’s murdering of jews is wrong. All we can conclude is it’s up to the person to decide whether it’s wrong.
[02:42] Atheist: Society creates the ‘rules’ the individual creates the ‘morals’
[02:42] Atheist: I agree. individual decides what is right and wrong.
[02:43] leonardooh: So we cannot say, absolutely, torturing babies for fun is wrong. We can only say, torturing babies for fun is wrong only if the individual believes it is wrong?
[02:44] Atheist: I would say ‘i personally don’t believe torturing anything for fun’ is right. But thats my opinion. My moral standard.
[02:44] Atheist: the ‘rules’ for society may also agree with me. But there are several civilizations where they dont.
[02:45] leonardooh: So how can we punish someone such as a rapist when his opinion and belief is different then yours. Would you not be imposing your belief on him?
[02:47] Atheist: Life isn’t fair. Is it? If everyone believed something different and outcast you for how you think and feel then welcome to reality. We have our own believes. our own concepts of right and wrong. And when we live in ‘society’ we have to live by society’s rules. Now a man sodomozing or raping someone isn’t just impacting themselves, they’re impacting another person within a societial constraint.
[02:47] Atheist: And yes the plain fact is..when it comes down to society, and imposing your beliefs of rules on someone else sure we do it
[02:47] Atheist: pot is illegal. thats a societal rule. how many people smoke pot. not 0. how many people are arrested for smoking pot. not 0.
[02:49] leonardooh: “We have our own believes. our own concepts of right and wrong. And when we live in ‘society’ we have to live by society’s rules.” So if you’re a Jew in Nazi germany you just have to live with being extinguished? Same could be said with worldwide slavery (yet we naturally would say 1. Raping kids is wrong, 2. Nazi Germany is wrong, 3. Slavery is wrong).
[02:49] Atheist: Well if you were a jew in Germany. I’d suggest you move.
[02:49] leonardooh: Fundamentally then, we cannot say then raping kids, Nazi Germany, and Slavery is wrong. We can only say we personal believe it to be wrong?
[02:49] leonardooh: That’s the last followup btw.
[02:50] Atheist: people often ‘escape’ persicution for being of different beliefs or for whatever reason they’re being exiled or singled out.
[02:50] Atheist: Really. yes. There is no ‘this is wrong period’ there is only ‘I believe this to be wrong’
[02:51] Atheist: what it boils down to…
[02:51] Atheist: as far as me.. being an atheist…
[02:51] Atheist: at the end of the day. I choose. I know. Its my opinion. my feeling. my belief.
[02:51] Atheist: Nothing and no one dictates good or evil to me.
[02:52] leonardooh: So if you decided to go fly a plane into a building, and choose/had the opinion/had the feeling to do so, to you that would be good?
[02:53] Atheist: I personally would never believe that. its against my system.
[02:53] Atheist: But you realize ..there were mass murderers who believed that.
[02:53] Atheist: and it was their opinion that they were doing a good thing by kililng.
[02:54] leonardooh: Correct, and we punish them for doing so. Would seem unfair and imposing upon their beliefs to do so, if the only major factor here is ‘morality according to the person’.
[02:55] leonardooh: Well we beat this dead horse.
[02:58] leonardooh: We’d need too much time to flesh that last one out. I’m a Students of Ethics, which is why I centered on that last question. I find it fascinating that atheists and agnostics usually conclude with arguing there is no right or wrong, simply perspective, yet it is universal to perceive torturing babies for fun as insanely evil. Perhaps we can flesh this out in the future one day.
FOLLOWUP DISCUSSION 2:
[03:02] leonardooh: Would you say that the only way to know what is true is with science?
[03:03] Atheist: No.
[03:03] Atheist: Science is a great ‘tool’ but is not ‘finite’.
[03:03] leonardooh: So how would you know God does not exist?
[03:04] Atheist: There is a lot of science which is beyond our current scope of understanding. Beyond potentially any scope of our techonology or understanding to discern.
[03:04] Atheist: I believe in science. But I also believe we have to get to a point where you go… There is an answer to a question and perhaps I don’t know what it is.
[03:04] Atheist: Because god was created by man
[03:05] Atheist: God makes sense to me. Humans couldn’t explain the world around them. They created god as an explination to comfort those who needed to feel there were answers to questions they couldn’t devise with facts and logic.
[03:05] leonardooh: Can you prove that God was created by man with science?
[03:06] Atheist: I can’t prove a lot of things with science. But thats just a capacity constraint of technology and skill.
[03:06] Atheist: I can prove to myself that god was created by man with a little thng I like to call ‘logic’
[03:06] Atheist: its not tangible. but its. palpable.
[03:07] leonardooh: Also, it would seem to beg the question. One could evenly state that God, making man in his image, would naturally include within man’s very nature a desire to be in communion with him, in the same way a child naturally desires it’s mother.
[03:07] leonardooh: Where does logic come from?
[03:07] Atheist: the brain.
[03:07] Atheist: there is actually a portion of the brain that controls logic
[03:09] leonardooh: On the subject of logic, does the above mentioned comment seem logical, namely that if an all-powerful personal God created humans with the intent of being in relationship with him, he would create them with an intrinsic desire to be with Him (like a baby has an intrinsic desire to be with their mother). Not whether or not you believe this, but does it sound like a logical thing for a Personal All-Powerful God to do?
[03:09] Atheist: Not really.
[03:10] leonardooh: How so?
[03:11] Atheist: This is probably my personality speaking more than a theological one. but. It seems like a really really annoying thing to have to have an entire 5.5 billion needy children suckling at your teet 24/7.
[03:11] Atheist: if you were omnipotient. You’d avoid that
[03:11] Atheist: wouldn’t you?
[03:11] Atheist: maybe make. like. 10. or maybe .0001% to have a relationship with
[03:12] leonardooh: Not if the very purpose of creating humans was to have them enjoy a relationship with you. Would only seem natural, and loving at that, that you would create them to be sensitive towards you.
[03:12] leonardooh: On the other hand, a baby with no intrinsic desire to be nurtured and cared for by her mother is what we would object to.
[03:12] Atheist: its a little sick ..to think of it like that
[03:12] Atheist: i made you… so you’d need me.
[03:13] leonardooh: Do we look at a baby who needs its mother and say its sick?
[03:13] Atheist: humans procreate for the species
[03:13] Atheist: if you have a baby … because you need someone to NEED you..or want you..or love you
[03:13] Atheist: i’d say yeah you’re sick
[03:14] Atheist: its not the baby thats jacked up, its the ‘mom’
[03:14] leonardooh: Humans create humans, and so a child desires its mother. God created humans, and so humans desire God. That seems entirely reasonable.
[03:14] leonardooh: Logical at that, as the premises match.
[03:14] leonardooh: It would seem more that you would feel it to be sick or disturbing, but it is clearly logical.
[03:15] Atheist: a child ‘needs’ its mother for a certain extent of time to survive
[03:15] Atheist: are you saying god ‘needs’ humans to survive?
[03:15] Atheist: or that humans ‘need’ god to survive?
[03:15] leonardooh: Does a mother need its child to survive?
[03:16] Atheist: I suppose it depends on the mother’s mental state. but biologically speaking ..of course not. heh. But a child needs its mother for a certain extent of time…
[03:16] leonardooh: The better way I would phrase your question is, do humans need God to fulfill their created purpose, according to the logical scenario laid above: Following the premises, yes. It would actually explain why a loving God would include within his creation such a radar.
[03:18] leonardooh: But again, I think it is fair to say this entire premise is clearly logical, but that you simply favor the idea that man created God and thus explains the desire, rather then that God created man with such a desire.
[03:19] Atheist: I think logically speaking.. people want to feel ‘secure’. I think god is created by man because someone at some point came to a question they couldn’t answer. .. and instead of saying ‘i don’t know’ they said. ‘god’
[03:19] Atheist: people want to feel like there is ‘justice’ and ‘purpose’ .
[03:20] Atheist: that there is some mighty ‘equalizer’ or reward for whatever
[03:20] Atheist: something ‘divine’ to explain everything or to punish the bad and reward the good.
[03:20] Atheist: i can understand why humans want that feeling of security
[03:20] Atheist: but its just not necissary.
[03:21] leonardooh: Or, justice and purpose can actually exist, as well as good and evil (which would make greater sense to the reality that torturing babies for fun is wrong. You know it is, yet you cannot absolutely state such, whereas a system of a Creator would allow one to say so absolutely, and confirm something you would presume).
[03:22] leonardooh: You offered a field of opinions. It does not seem more logical then to simply state humans have such sensitivities because, in fact, such a God exists, as well as such Good and Evil.
[03:22] leonardooh: Rather, we presume good and evil exists. That’s why we punish evil. Otherwise, no laws could be enforced. There would be no wrong or right behavior.
[03:23] Atheist: so. Answer me this.
[03:23] leonardooh: Yet only the insane would look to a child being raped and shrug his shoulders.
[03:23] leonardooh: Sure.
[03:23] Atheist: If god exists and he created all things…
[03:23] Atheist: when was the last time you saw a lion go to church?
[03:23] Atheist: or not eat meat on friday?
[03:24] leonardooh: Well first I’d have to clarify your question with a question: What connection is there between a God creating everything and a lion not eating meat and going to church?
[03:24] Atheist: more plainly to spaek
[03:25] Atheist: why is it the things that are considered ‘evil’ are only done by humans instead of all creatures.
[03:25] Atheist: why is it the act of religion and religious practices aren’t observed by all living beigns
[03:25] leonardooh: Good question. I believe I have an answer.
[03:28] leonardooh: PART 1: Rationally speaking: Humans contain second order rational. In other words, we ask why questions. We contain free will and reason. We also contain the oddity of awareness. We can sit and think of a cup of coffee outside of any external sensory perception. We can simply think of coffee and POOF, it is in our minds. We are the only being on earth that can ask such higher order questions. Animals cannot. Rather, they simply respond to deep rooted instinctual systems (fight, flight, etc). They respond to external stimulus. You will not find a lion with the ability to ask second ordered why questions. Humans are entirely unique compared to the animal kingdom.
[03:28] leonardooh: (typing the second part)
[03:28] Atheist: Don’t you think its a little narcissitic to think we’re the only sentient beigns?
[03:32] leonardooh: PART 2: On terms of why animals don’t practice religion, it actually argues in favor of Humans being entirely unique. I will turn to Genesis, which confirms this uniqueness. In chapter one, during the creation of animals, the third person imperative is used by God when discussing how he creates animals. It says “Let the earth produce living creatures.” In addition, notice the second portion of that verse. “according to their kinds.” It continues with this distant command ‘Let the’ and that animals are created according to their own kinds. Yet notice this massive difference. When it comes to humans, it says “LET US make man in OUR image, according to OUR likeness… So God created man in his own image. He created him in the image of God.” (Gn 1:26-27). Interesting. Here it says that God creates with the personal “Let Us” versus the third person impersonal used for the animals “Let the earth produce”. In addition, the animals are created “according to their kinds” where humans are created in God’s own likeness (His image). If God is Personal, Free Willed, and Rational, it would make sense that humans, made in his image, would be as well.
[03:33] leonardooh: This would actually make sense of why animals do not go to church, versus why humans would desire God. He created us, in the passage, in his very image. The personal nature of the text is quite noticeable, and answers your question.
[03:34] leonardooh: As for the narcissistic comment, you can only reply that one begs the question regarding sentient lifeform. We have yet to find such lifeform, so we cannot possibly answer the question. What we do notice is we are, in fact, the only such beings on earth. Oddly enough this fits the depiction in Genesis.
[03:34] leonardooh: I also quote the book of Genesis simply because it answers the question of why a lion doesn’t need to go to church.
[03:35] Atheist: If you knew how many times those passages got convoluted and retranslated you wouldn’t take it so literally. But to each their own.
[03:35] Atheist: to me God is and always will be a fabrication of man
[03:35] Atheist: an answer to that which he could not answer on his own
[03:35] Atheist: and … the more men who thought about how they couldn’t answer it, the larger and more diverse ‘bibles’ became
[03:36] leonardooh: I’m not taking it literally. I’m simply showing what the verses say, and how they answer your question. It’s simply the text speaking with its usage of “Let there be” versus “Let Us” and “according to their kinds” versus “according to our image”.
[03:36] leonardooh: But it would sound like you are simply stating something you believe.
[03:36] leonardooh: You believe man designed God. It’s an issue of faith on your part, equal to the individual who would say God created man.
[03:37] leonardooh: In addition, I believe a personal God would provide certain logical conclusions. Such as the creation of the universe. Nothing produces nothing absolutely. How then would our material universe come to be, given it is clearly not infinite as shown by science.
[03:38] Atheist: Its true. its one of those… you know what you believe and thats what you believe. same as morals and ethics. they are a personal matter.
[03:38] leonardooh: Then you cannot say you know God does not exist abolutely, simply that you believe man created God.
[03:39] leonardooh: But the obvious problem there is you’re presuming faith in something, making then a religion out of Atheism.
[03:39] leonardooh: *atheism
[03:39] leonardooh: I would also disagree with moral and ethics being a personal matter. I believe murdering, stealing, etc to be objectively wrong. But that’s a conversation for another day.
[03:40] Atheist: What is religion other than a system of beliefs?
[03:40] leonardooh: So atheism is a religion?
[03:40] Atheist: Atheisim is a belief in nothing
[03:40] Atheist: its an absence of religion
[03:41] leonardooh: No, if it contains beliefs, then it is in fact a religious system.
[03:41] leonardooh: Buddhism is an absolute rejection of everything as illusion (maya), yet you would be hardpressed to say it is not a religion.
[03:42] leonardooh: It would appear you would make you atheism a religion, as you necessitate beliefs (such as a belief that man created God).
[03:42] Atheist: my ‘belief’ in nothing is my system of beliefs
[03:42] Atheist: the lack of beliefs is ‘atheisim’
[03:43] leonardooh: A belief none-the-less. It’s interesting. You must have faith in your atheism to be an atheist. The question then isn’t what is logical. The question is what you perceive to be logical first and foremost according to your atheism (as seen above)