Monday, May 30, 2011

Ten Commandments of Atheism

If you look at the group of professional atheists, who I will generally refer to as the Dawkins-Hitchens crowd, they like to say that they're better than everyone else, because they're moral for no good reason, other than the fact that “it's what's right.” They aren't beholden to any sky daddy, they don't need no stinking afterlife, they're just plain good.

At the other extreme, atheists have been called ethical parasites. They can't come up with their own ethical code, so they leach off of the customs established by religious codification of morality and ethics. They can't come up with a standard of right and wrong, so, therefore, they mindlessly ape those around them and call themselves perfect.

… I'm not with either of them.

On the one hand, I have noticed that the most horrific things of the 20th century happened at the behest of atheist thought. No matter what he said in public, according to his nearest and dearest, Hitler worshiped nothing, and Stalin may have merely worshiped himself … at the end of the day, Communism killed a hundred million people. Some atheists, like Sam Harris, have tried to ignore communism, saying that it's really just another religion. Um, sure Sam, whatever you say...

Mr. Harris also says that he's a Bhuddist, which isn't a religion, but “a philosophy” … Dear sir, I would like to introduce you to a few million people in India who would like to disagree with you on that.

You have Richard Dawkins, the Joseph Goebbels of atheism … which isn't derogatory. His position at Oxford was the “Professor for Public Understanding of Science.” Maybe you prefer Minister of the Propagation of the Faith (The name for what Catholics used to call the Inquisition)? He thinks that you can have morality based off of scientific principles. He also thinks that you can use science to replace all of the poetry, art, music, and everything else religion has inspired.

While Fractals versus the Pieta doesn't seem like a fair fight, let's stick with morality for a moment.

I'm going to look at England for a moment. Not because Hitchens and Dawkins hail from there, but because they have a really fricking thorough census process. When they put down "religion," they have options from Catholic to Jedi Knight.

When you look at their prison statistics, 31.6% of the inmates have "no religion." 15.1% of Britons checked  none, Jedi Knight, agnostic, atheist, or heathen in the 2001 nation survey. However, Christians make up 71.8% of the total population, yet are only 39.1% of the prison population....

Hmm.... I'm a historian, not a math major. So someone else can do that math....

However, does this mean that atheists can't be good? Please, give me a break. I think that atheists can generate their own ethics the same way Aristotle did. And, preferably, they would come up with it in a better fashion, since his science sucked. Well, his physics sucked, his observations on people work fairly well.

The term atheists want is “natural law.” The Catholic Church also has this law in effect, uses it all the time. You can also use natural law to generate about half of the ten commandments … I wouldn't say they boil down to George Carlin's two commandments, but reasonably close. The important part is that, if you want to jettison faith, there's Aristotle, go adopt him. You have a nice, solid philosophy already there. Someone, pick it up!

But, no, they don't. Instead of saying “Let's stick modern science into Aristotle,” the Dawkins-Harris crowd says “Let's chuck out the last few thousand years and start all over.”

Right, because science totally works that way.

Some may notice that I don't count prominent Atheists like Daniel Dennett or Christopher Hitchens. Dennett is Christian-friendly, and comes with none of the arrogance of Harris or Dawkins.

Hitchens … I like Hitchens. He's the kind of snotty British character that is eternal. From what I can tell, he doesn't like anybody. Not even Mother Theresa … when the Church considered putting her on the road to being a Saint, the Devil's Advocate flew Hitchens in are one of the witnesses for the prosecution (long story; he had reasons. I don't agree with them, but I understood them). Hitchens' idea of an atheist morality is that he would like to screw everything that moved, without STDs … I can't fault a man that honest.

I would like someone like my friend Matt to try updating Aristotle, without Christianity. My old friend Colleen would be nice too. It's not hard, nor is it rocket science.

“We observe that in nature that those who screw around a lot tend to become infected with all manner of nasty viruses. This may be nature's way of telling us that it is a good idea to keep it zipped. Or, otherwise, to stay with one person for extended periods of time.” (This is a personal belief. I've met enough people that became intolerably neurotic after they became sexually active, I would abstain from sex until marriage, even if I were an atheist. So would Matt. Committed relationships, for the win).

But, I don't think anyone is going to try adopting natural law anytime soon. Under that rubric, what is “natural” is pretty much anything that sustains or supports life. A plastic heart valve to replace an artery is “natural,” in that it supports a natural function; the heart pumping blood.

If life is considered natural, death is unnatural, including everything that stops life from happening. If something stops a natural function, it is unnatural … This should be where the pro-abortion lobby comes gunning for me. But I've covered that already in my politics blog, so leave me alone.

A modern, atheist natural law would have to address the whole “when does life start” question. I could mention that some studies link abortion to an increase in depression and cancer rates, and say that it implies that abortion is a bad idea, given that the human body doesn't seem to appreciate it. But what do I know? (And, because I even considered mentioning abortion, I expect most people to ignore everything else I say and latch into this one small section with a death grip. Just watch.)

To any atheist who starts a discussion on where life begins, just be careful. Peter Singer and James D. Watson (of Watson and DNA) have both discussed holding off on giving birth certificates to newborns. One wants to wait ten days to run tests for genetic defects, and the other wants to wait a few days, if the parents want to have a retroactive abortion; both for eugenics reasons. Eugenics make me nervous.

If I were an Atheist, how would I run the universe?

While George Carlin's routine is funny, I think I wouldn't keep it as “the two commandments.”

(If I wrote them.)

1. Thou shalt not put yourself above other people, or put petty, shallow materialistic goods above your fellow men.

2. Thou shalt use four-letter words like an Eddie Murphy movie.

3. Thou shalt take off one day a week, and that day should have an hour of meditation and reflection. And prevent nervous breakdowns.

4. Thou shalt not be a jackass to thy mother and father.

5. Thou shalt not commit falsehoods to screw over thy neighbor

6. Murder is not okay, but we can manage with self-defense.

7. Stepping out on your committed relationship – bad idea. Don't do it.

8. They neighbor's stuff is thy neighbor's stuff, not yours. Don't touch it.

9. Thou shalt not obsess over thy neighbors stuff – it's not healthy.

10. Thou shalt not obsess over they neighbor's spouse – it's called stalking.

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Please, by all means, leave a message below. I welcome any and all comments. However, language that could not make it to network television will result in your comment being deleted. I don';t like saying it, but prior events have shown me that I need to. Thanks.