What Scares The Atheists?
I found an interesting post. The entirety of it is below. One of many inspired by Gray’s article. I won’t reply to his post directly or even this post (shown below in it’s entirety). I am an atheist, anti-theist, monist, materialist, nihilist and a few other labels that are not used too often. I accept them. I like them. They each begin to describe my thoughts and feelings on life. None is complete on its own. I speak only for myself and no other. No other person speaks for me in these matters, certainly not John Gray. I think that it is convenient for people to think a single label is all that another person is but it is not. We humans are far too complex (generally speaking) to be held up under a single banner or label. That works for all sorts; have you ever met a Christian bigot or racist?
The post below throws out few points, the main being that a thinking non-theist should have a struggle with the concept of morality without inheriting morality from a faith tradition. As it happens I have a problem with that thought. A big one. For a start, if morality only comes from a faith tradition, why are there so many of them? The three big monotheistic religions have one set of books each. If morality springs from them, then there should be only the three sets of morality yet we see tens of thousands of sects, each having their own moral values. We are left to believe that one book creates many moral codes, divinely inspired, without the input of humans yet it is exactly this unstable, mutable, malleable morality which I stand accused of using as my own.
In response I can only say that this thought insults me. It presumes that I am incapable of creating my own moral values. It further insults all humans in the very same way. Pity the human who lacks the ability to form their own moral values for even those who choose morals you do not like have chosen moral values. Even the young children choose moral values before they are able to follow any faith tradition.
I could ‘defend’ my position by criticizing the post below and that would be easy. I could defend my position by splitting hairs over whether other atheists are like me or not. I choose neither of these. My position does not require defending. It, like I, stands on its own. It does not need defending. It is, in its own right, a position that does not require defending for it does not care what you or anyone else thinks of it. It is not a shameful position without virtue and value. It is not a position of less than or alternative.
The very idea that I need to defend my position is ludicrous. Just the same, it is what is called for. We are each responsible to know our minds and speak freely of how we understand the world around us. This I can do.
I am not afraid. I know I will, from time to time, fail to live up to my own chosen goals. A goal that is easy to achieve is no goal at all. I will stumble, perhaps fall, get up again and carry on – wiser, more experienced, more determined and controlled. My morality is to myself. Should I find that I like you or something about you I can choose to help you in your time of need. You in turn might choose to help me and together we are stronger than either of us alone. In this bond is my second morality. Outside of these moral obligations there are none except that which I choose to extend beyond this basic circumstance. It is my choice, not a tradition or rule book. My choices are not yours and yours are not mine. By definition we cannot have the same moral values. They might well be very similar but they are not the same.
I was taught moral lessons by my parents and by society. My parents taught me to respect women. On my own I learned that I respect people. They taught me to respect my elders. On my own I learned that even they must earn respect. Society taught me to respect country and kin that are forced on me. On my own I learned to respect only that which benefits me and motivates me. Society gives me a vote to argue against what I do not accept. I accept society only in so much as it benefits me. I stand alone. I was born alone, I will die alone, and I walk alone. I am not afraid. There are those that will choose only safe harbors and warm fires. They may fear standing alone. I do not. They may require society and other peoples morals. I do not. I am not blind to the harsh, cold, brutal reality of life on this planet.
My morality comes from the law of reciprocity, not from a book or a tradition. I was born with the capability for it, learned it as a child before I could understand what faith was. My morality is the same as that of other animals. I am insulted that a believer would think it acceptable to deny it, accuse me of copying their poorly reasoned rules and laws. My morality stands head and shoulders above that of the believer. It is MY morality not that of someone else, not that of a book, not from someone that desires to tell me how to behave and act. My morality is far better than any from a book or tradition. I can defend it, explain it, live it true.
I am not afraid or scared. I know who and what I am. I know my failures and have found peace with them. I have no reason to think there is more than this life, this day, this moment. When I live this moment well, over and over again, the rest takes care of itself. I will worry about the next world when it comes to be that I am in it. I am not afraid, least of all do I fear what a next life might be like. If I have a duty of any kind it would be to live this life (moment by moment) as best I can within my moral values. Anything else is to live someone else’s life. I can only live mine. I will gladly hold my moral values up against the inspection by others. It is better than that of believers. It can be lived up to.
“What Scares the Atheists”
John Gray writes a lengthy and worthwhile piece on the New Atheism’s difficulty with the growing spread of religion. He calls them “missionary atheists” and points out that they want to proselytize converts every bit as much as missionary Christians.
Gray, himself an atheist, also outlines the role of the Judeo-Christian tradition in the Western civilization concept of liberality. He rightly notes that atheism doesn’t exactly have a clean slate when it comes offenses against liberal values–its 19th and 20th century taste for eugenics and colonialism being the conceit he uses.
This is a difficulty for atheism: No one who is serious about these sorts of conversations thinks that atheists can’t be moral or that atheism can’t have a moral code; however, many a decent brainiac do struggle with the concept of atheism possessing and exercising a morality without having inherited it from a faith tradition.
Of course, Gray doesn’t think that an inherent morality exists at all, but that’s an entirely different topic for another day.