Why The Call To Ethics
If They're Man-Made?
I think I am writing to the correct person. In your intro you asked atheists to walk the talk. Why? I don't understand where the morals of humans come from? Why is there such a call to have ethics if they are a man made concept? What is to convince me to live a better life if there isn't something else out there to give me a conscience or a fear of afterlife (or better yet, a hope of afterlife).
If you have time to respond,
From: "Positive Atheism" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "Danielle Greenwell"
Date: Wednesday, April 12, 2000 3:08 AM
For a person to walk the talk is to do what one says and to say what one does, so that keeping secrets in unnecessary. If I say that it is wrong to steal, then I don't steal.
If I don't like being stolen from, then my first order of business is to refrain from stealing from others. For me to steal is for me to say (in a sense) that it's okay for others to steal from me.
This does not require a super-human revelation to understand. Even a dog knows that it is wrong for another dog to try to steal its bone. Are you suggesting that humans are so vastly inferior to dogs that we cannot understand these things without help?
When people tell their children that they should not steal because they might roast in hell after they die, they are acting immorally, not morally. Fear of punishment or prospect for reward are lousy motives for proper behavior. Although societies require a similar motive to back up their laws, this is not morality in any sense. Societies do this out of expediency, not out of morality, and are trying to practice justice with populations, not to convince individuals.
Meanwhile, let's assume that we did need supernatural help from a god: which one?
I could go on, but I would like to get some sleep tonight.
So, then, where does this leave us? At minimum, we must use our human thinking capacities either to choose between the various claims for the existence of the various gods -- or to reject all of those claims. In any case, we must use our human reason to come to a decision: it always and inevitably falls back to human reason.
If this is the case, if we must use our human reason to decide which supernatural law to follow (or which one -- if any -- is even true, or which are themselves the products of human reason -- rather, human unreasonableness), then why not simply use our human capabilities to determine for ourselves what we will do and what we will refrain from doing? Why not develop our own personal ethical systems and be responsible for our behavior and our decisions? Why not get together as societies and hammer out agreements as to what is allowed and what is forbidden?
How could it be easier or better or more secure (less risky) for us to decide which god-claims (if any) are true? Is it not better simply to teach ourselves which behavior is right and being responsible for our actions? or better still, teaching ourselves methods for coming up with the best choices?
Finally, the only valid reason to follow an alleged supernatural scheme would be that we could prove that it was supernatural. Nobody claiming the existence of a supernatural revelation can prove that it is supernatural. Every one of them asks us to "rely on faith."
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