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Response to Religionists who are Badmouthing Nonbelievers

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>>Ethics and morality evolved long before there was religion<<

and how many simply reflect the moral expectations of the society in which they were raised?

In our culture, even the most passionate atheist cannot help having been influenced by the Judeo-Christian worldview that shaped Western civilization.

>>Is that the same christian religion that gave rise to anti-semitism and culminated in the worst genocide in human history??<<

"We know that you can be good without God," Speckhardt tells CNN. He can be confident of that only because he lives in a society so steeped in Judeo-Christian values that he takes those values for granted. But a society bereft of that religious heritage is a society not even Speckhardt would want to live in.

For in a world without God, there is no obvious difference between good and evil. There is no way to prove that even murder is wrong if there is no Creator who decrees "Thou shalt not murder." It certainly cannot be proved wrong by reason alone.

>>It certainly can be. Murder is downright bad for us and for our well-being. Is that so hard to understand?<<

One might reason instead -- as Lenin and Stalin and Mao reasoned -- that there is nothing wrong with murdering human beings by the millions if doing so advances the Marxist cause.

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>>I'm sure that Stalin and Mao would have told you they were killing fascists who were trying to exterminate them. Sort of the same reason you guys give for killing and starving Palestinians.<<

Or one might reason from observing nature that the way of the world is for the strong to devour the weak -- and that natural selection favors the survival of the fittest by any means necessary, including the killing of the less fit.

To us today, believers and nonbelievers alike, it may seem obvious that human life is precious and that the weakest among us deserve special protection. But would we think so absent a moral tradition stretching back to Sinai? It seemed obvious in classical antiquity that sickly babies should be killed. "We drown even children who at birth are weakly and abnormal," wrote the Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger 2,000 years ago, stressing that "it is not anger but reason" that justifies the murder of handicapped babies.

>>and when did Seneca and the murderous Romans become paragons of morality??<<

The God who created us, created us to be good.

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No, reason alone is not enough to keep human beings humane. Only if there is a God who forbids murder is murder definitively evil. Otherwise its wrongfulness is no more than a matter of opinion. Mao and Seneca

>>and Netanyahu<<

approved of murder; we disapprove. Who are we to say they were wrong?

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professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at a new york medical school also an active atheist

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A genuinely enjoyable essay. The small misprint i... by Philip Krumm on Sunday, Nov 21, 2010 at 12:17:47 PM
I fully understand why atheists are outraged by th... by Arthur Avalon on Sunday, Nov 21, 2010 at 12:33:32 PM
I have always been amazed that religious adherents... by John Moffett on Sunday, Nov 21, 2010 at 1:04:11 PM
Men established religious doctrine, dogma, and can... by Sarah Ruth on Sunday, Nov 21, 2010 at 5:14:15 PM
Why argue, discuss -- or even think about God and ... by Robert Spies on Sunday, Nov 21, 2010 at 8:32:58 PM
When I was young, I got left with my Mothers cousi... by Mel Smith on Sunday, Nov 21, 2010 at 11:41:22 PM
My Only Problem With Being an Athiest... is that ... by Faith Carr on Monday, Nov 22, 2010 at 7:15:51 AM
The idea that nature is "naturally" cruel is quite... by Dick Hudson on Monday, Nov 22, 2010 at 11:44:24 AM