It’s been a while between articles posts, let’s get straight into it:
Philosophy Bites – Links to the First 176 Episodes -Edmonds and Warburton.
LCA 2013: distributed democracy, speaking stacks, links -Sky Croeser.
Anti-Muslim hysteria in Australia -Russell Glasser.
We get email: Believers and their security blankets -Martin Wagner.
Good luck in Somalia- Ophelia Benson.
Egyptian atheist facing blasphemy sentence - Jacob Fortin.
Repairs under way -Ophelia Benson.
A fabulous “Manly Meal”-Ophelia Benson.
WL Craig on Morality and Meaning (Series Index) -John Danaher.
My Favourite Posts of 2012 -John Danaher.
Sexual Objectification: An Atheist Perspective -Richard Carrier.
Prototypical Sexist Atheist on Exhibit- Richard Carrier.
Atheism+ : The Name for What’s Happening-Richard Carrier.
Waldron on pornography -Russell Blackford.
Gay Bishop Comes Up With the Worst Argument to Support Same-Sex Marriage- Greta Christina.
My Letter to the Boy Scouts- Greta Christina.
Same-Sex Marriage Opponents Increasingly Desperate and Stupid – Greta Christina.
Catholic Priest blames women for bringing violence on themselves – Jacob Fortin.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews harass sexually abused girl – Jacob Fortin.
Bill O’Reilly calls David Silverman a Fascist – Jacob Fortin.
Top 10 anti-Christian acts of 2012 -J.T Eberhard.
Most insulting fundraiser ever. – J.T Eberhard.
Don’t Say Gay legislator: being gay is like shooting heroin. -J.T Eberhard.
How often god’s moral decrees bear no resemblance to justice. -J.T Eberhard.
Craig’s Argument for God from Intentionality – Philosotroll.
Witch Hunts in Papua New Guinea – Leo Igwe.
Randal Rauser on William Lane Craig’s defense of the Canaanite genocide -Chris Hallquist.
More Powerpoint Slides from a Christian Pastor’s Anti-Gay Sermon – Hermant Mehta.
Who Still Thinks the Church Has Any Moral Credibility? -Hermant Mehta.
Shells and switches -Deacon Duncan.
God and the PlayStation 3 -Deacon Duncan.
The Gypsy Curse -Deacon Duncan.
Read any apologetics piece and you’re likely to get several claims: atheists adhere to a strict scientism, atheism is nihilistic, atheism leads to relativism, atheists can be moral, but have no basis for that morality (See Zacharias, The Real Face of Atheism, Craig, On Guard, Moreland, The God Question etc for examples).
Haught doesn’t let the team down in his critique of the New Athiests (here after “NA”). It takes Haught all of one page into his book to charge the NA (when he says NA he primarily means Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris, he considers his book to be a refutation of all other NA, by extension, p. IX) with scientism (he gives a much more comprehensive definition on p. XIII- XIV):
The belief system that Dennett and the other new atheists subscribe to is known as “scientific naturalism” ["scientism"]. Its central dogma is that only nature, including humans and our creations, is real: that God does not exist; and that science alone can give us complete and reliable knowledge of reality. (Haught, God and the New Atheism, p. X, 2008)
Of course, a real scholar would provide lengthy references for us to look up the dogmatic language used by the NA. But, of course, not a single source, or note is provided. Much is the way this entire book goes. Which is ironic given how much Haught goes on about what a high theologian he is, and how far above the NA his writing is. One wonders (for a referenced source of what the NA actually have to say on this issue, please see here).
Haught continues on his scientism strawman argument for about 20 pages until we come to what he perceives are the fundamental issues and consequences of atheism:
Go all the way and think the business of atheism through to the bitter end; before you get too comfortable with the godless world you long for, you will be required by the logic of any consistent skepticism to pass through the disorienting wilderness of nihilism. Do you have the courage for that? (Haught, God and the New Atheism, p. 22, 2008)
But it doesn’t end for Haught there, he continues stating that in the absence of a God you are the creator of the values you live by (relativism), but this is obviously a burden, according to Haught, that one would surely want to escape. That escape is the Nietzschean “Madman’s sensation of straying through”infinite nothingness.” (p. 22) It does, according to Haught, require an “unprecedented courage” to wipe away the transcendent world of a God, in the end Haught asks if we are willing to risk madness, and if not, you are not really an atheist. (p. 22)
As always, this type of rhetoric is clear projection: the world would seem this bleak to Haught, it seems his God is a crutch that gets him through the night. And though I’m reluctant to label him with so shallow a belief, it seems obvious that’s how he feels, when we see a world without God, through his eyes. If he was so well read, he would see many positive, atheist books extolling the virtues of a naturalized philosophy (see Carrier’s Sense and Goodness Without God, Murray’s The Atheist’s Primer, Kai Nielsen’s Atheism and Philosophy, John Shook’s The God Debates, not to mention the NA literature itself etc for examples)? Instead Haught wishes to focus on the writings of 3 existentialist, nihilistic philosophers (Sartre, Nietzsche and Camus) as the basis for how atheism should really be?
This is obviously nonsensical – leaving aside that atheism isn’t a movement, a worldview, a belief system, a religion, a dogma etc, no matter how hard Haught works, or wishes it to be so – you can be an atheist and a nihilist, you can be an atheist and a humanist, you can be an atheist and a moral relativist, you can be an atheist and believe in objective morals, or even, absolute morals. There is no contradiction in these, and atheism; these are all intellectual additions to a foundational atheism, worldviews which (can) include atheism.
In Haught’s discussion of morality I feel like he wants to give some kind of divine command theory as his justification for morals, but he never really delves deep enough into the issue to make any grand declarations of such, even though he eludes to it:
[On the NA] But where logical rigor would require that they also acknowledge that there is no timeless heaven to determine (emphasis mine) what is good and what is not… (Haught, God and the New Atheism, p. 24-5, 2008)
And again, on the next page he states that if there is no eternal grounding for values, then all we are left with is “arbitrary, conventional, historically limited, human concoctions”. (p. 26) Moreover he charges the NA with holding this supposed moral relativism as “absolutely binding” (p. 26). He states the NA demonstrate an absoluteness in their values of intolerance toward faith, and that to make moral proclamations you must assume that there exists a “mode of being, a realm of rightness that does not owe itself completely to human intervention, Darwinian selection, or social construction.” (p. 26) To Haught, if absolute morals exist, God exists, similarly the reverse is also true, if God does not exist, absolute morals do not and “one should not issue moral judgements as if they do.” (p. 26)
This is all very nice rhetoric, but I hope it is obvious to the reader, that Haught has offered no justification to substantiate his series of claims – no references, no formal argument of any kind, logical or evidential. His book reads like a sermon. But do we need to listen to a word of it? He does not cite where the NA make such proclamations (he quotes them without citation), and assuming they made such proclamations, Haught is merely assuming that without God, there can be no talk of morals. Why must this be so? Can reason, and evidence not suggest to us what normative moral choices we must make? And would this not be exactly what we would expect to see in a naturalized philosophy? A discussion of morals that deals with the world, as it is? What better way to make moral exhortations, than by looking at the evidence, and dealing rationally with the consequences, through philosophy, and evidence. How poor and low must we be, to rely on Bronze Age tomes to pronounce how to act, and what to think? Haught’s version of morals amounts to divine command – what God says goes – too bad for homosexuals, women, atheists etc, I guess.
Haught does not agree that reason is enough to get us to a place of moral prescription, as it is based on our reasoning, which is fallible (p. 73):
… as Harris conjectures, we can fall back on reason alone to explain what our obligations are and why we should heed them. Yet, even apart from the historical naiveté of such a proposal, this rationale simply leads us back to a more fundamental question: why should we trust our reasoning abilities either? If the human mind evolved by Darwinian selection in the same way as every other trait we possess, we still have to be able to justify our trust in its cognitional capacity – its ability to put us in touch with truth – in some way other than biology alone. (Haught, God and the New Atheism, p. 73-4, 2008)
Haught continues stating that a naturalistic worldview cannot justify the above presupposition. (p. 74) But this view seems to assume that each individual is disconnected from a recorded history, from other minds, from scientific evidence, from logical argument, from societal changes and pressures. Haught may be right, that if I were a lone person, stranded on an island I might have no way to confirm my moral choices (what moral choices I could make in that situation of course). But has Haught represented, accurately, the situation we find ourselves in? I would think not. We have all of those avenues mentioned above, to self correct the misgivings and short comings we have in our cognitive faculties.
There is also another assumption present in Haught’s view – that we (a) must be, or (b) can be absolutely right about all moral choices all the time. But, again, why think this is so? We are fallible creatures, our historical context, in both religious and secular settings, demonstrates that we have had ebbs and flows of moral development, which seems to suggest we are still heading toward a better moral perspective.
I don’t think Haught has made his case for the same old tired apologetics used against atheism. No source is given to demonstrate the NA’s views on scientism, only Haught’s (constant) assertion that they subscribe to that view. I hope I’ve demonstrated (via the link provided) that not only is this a baseless assertion, it is demonstrably false. If I have succeeded in demonstrating that point, we see much of Haught’s book is a strawman attempt, I leave it for you to decide what you make of such an author who relies on such tactics.
Similarly Haught never shows us why a nihilistic view of atheism would be bad, even we agree it might be, but the fact that he’s citing philosophers who are such, suggests that such a view can be rationally justified. What Haught relies on is an emotional response – we view nihilism as negative, as relative, as amoral, so we would not want to be like that – hence atheism is bad.
Similarly with his charge of relativism and atheism having no basis for morals. It should be obvious to any reader of this blog by now, what atheism is: a lack of belief in a god or gods. Under this definition atheism has no responsibility to find a moral system, that is the job of a naturalized philosophy, or a materialistic philosophy, or a feminist philosophy etc. Adding to that, I think it can be demonstrated, at least as superficially as I have done in this post, that a naturalized philosophy provides a more coherent moral basis, one that is suited to the world, than the one based on the dictator in the sky.
Haught, J.F., (2008). God and the New Atheism. Louisville, Kentucky. Westminster John Knox Press. Pp. IX, X, XIII, XIV, 22, 24-5, 73-4, 75.
- Dogmatic New Atheism. (zaknafein81.wordpress.com)
- Blackford on l’affaire Haught et Coyne (whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com)
- Faith and Evidence in John Haught’s “God and the New Atheism” (choiceindying.com)
- Cognitive Dissonance and Christian Definitions (thinkingenigma.wordpress.com)
- Haught is to Haughty Near Allied (choiceindying.com)
- Scandal in Academia! John Haught refuses to have his debate with Jerry Coyne Posted! Shame on you Dr. Haught! (choiceindying.com)
- Julian Baggini on Mystification (choiceindying.com)
- John Haught releases the video (freethoughtblogs.com)
- Haught vs Coyne: “Science and Religion: Are They Compatible?” (sandwalk.blogspot.com)
- Articles (zaknafein81.wordpress.com)
In discussing my atheism with regular people, in particular, regular Christians – regular meaning in this instance either (a) not apologists, or (b) not radical fundamentalists – I’ve found, and this is probably going to sound self-evident, that respect goes a long way to making people who might ordinarily a priori reject you as a person, come to understand, and hopefully accept you as an atheist.
There are Christians in my life, and on the internet, who know how vocal I am about my atheism, who read my blog, and with whom I have interesting, and more importantly, respectful conversations. That is the bond that ties our conversations to a calm and reasoned anchor: respect. Without going into too much detail I have another group of Christians in my personal life who are, well, less than open to accepting me as a fellow human being – I’ve received hate mail, threats, condescension, disapproval and basically all loss of human decency.
Why? Because I don’t believe in their God.
I understand I’m not engaging with what the Bible might say about atheists (Psalms), or what it says about atheists fraternizing with Christians (Paul), which may redefine this issue somewhat. Under Christianity’s morals it may be perfectly humane to attack a person simply for being different. After all, these Christians may view me, an atheist, as worse than a murderer, more foul than, or at least equal to, any evil here on earth.
Replace ‘atheist’ with ‘black’, or ‘woman’ and you see the problem with that mentality.
The point is: however strong these Christians feel about their beliefs, at the end of the day, they are ideological principles, there is however one thing the Christian and I do have in common, that we know, obviously and evidently – we are both of us, humans. We both deserve respect, ethical treatment and the right to live our lives free of molestation.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s perfectly fine for apologists to critique atheism, naturalism, materialism, to poke holes in them, and to find contradictions etc – it’s how we all become better versions of those. I respect what they do, value it. It’s even fine to have heated, public discussions, as long as both parties continue to respect each other as people. But ad hominem, personal attacks, disrespecting or devaluing a person and threats simply because someone holds different views, is not an enlightened way to be, and is not worthy of the brains we posses – Christian, or atheist alike.
Bringing it back to atheists: in day-to-day life, I don’t think religion is something we necessarily want to condescend on – which isn’t to say parody, satire etc don’t have their place, I would say they do. But when you’re dealing with regular people in regular settings, is the best tactic to belittle and condescend? Or are understanding, respect, tolerance, and most importantly a code of basic human decency, recognizing we’re all part of the same world, and deserve the same ethical treatment, the way to go? Do we really want to be like the aforementioned fundies, persecuting and being intolerant of people, who simply by the fact of their beliefs, are different from us?
We may debate the meaning of religious belief, or the harm it can produce etc, but most importantly, we are all humans, tied together in the realm of cause and effect, meaning: what you do to me, affects me, and visa versa. Getting along in this world is primary and paramount. With that in mind, shouldn’t religious disagreements come secondary to measures of decency?
- “Militant Atheism” – I don’t think that means what you think it means. (monicks.net)
- Loftier Musings On John Shook’s Views On Atheism. (zaknafein81.wordpress.com)
- ABC gets it wrong again: Atheism and Humanism, forms of civil religion? (zaknafein81.wordpress.com)
- Articles (zaknafein81.wordpress.com)
- Ask PZ Myers: How Is It That You Can Claim To Be A Freethinker? (greylining.com)
- The Stupid! It Burns! (making up quotes edition) (barefootbum.blogspot.com)
- Loftier musings on (my) atheism/atheists.. (zaknafein81.wordpress.com)
- Pray for an Atheist Facebook Initiative Stirs Religious Emotions Between Christians and Atheists (prweb.com)
- More on Christianity, Atheism, and Ethics (compassioninpolitics.wordpress.com)
- An Atheist Derides Modern Atheism (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
For part 1 see here.
Disclaimer- for those small number of actual philosophers who read this, you should know this and it’s sister, are introductory blogs to those who have no experience with logic, critical thinking and fallacies – hence it’s obvious parochial nature.
Now we turn to Venuto’s eight reasons we are susceptible to weight-loss myths.
Reason #1 – Social Proof, Conformity, and appeal to masses.
In this section Venuto discusses a logical fallacy known as the argumentum ad populum otherwise known as the appeal to popularity. Ventuo states that:
Usually you assume a behaviour is appropriate if a lot of other people are doing it. This is known as social proof. Psychologists tell us this phenomenon also applies to beliefs. We believe what we do because it’s what most other people believe. (Venuto, The Bodyfat Solution, p. 25, 2009)
Now we may remember from our last blog that this relates to epistemology as our beliefs are a subset of what we know – moreover it might be appropriate to label knowledge as ‘justified true belief‘ – as in what has been substantianted. The reason we call this a logical fallacy is that truth does not rely upon the popularity of the proposition, it relies upon it’s substantiation. It is one of the most common fallacies as philosopher Keith Parsons states in his book Rational Episodes:
Humans are social creatures, we are strongly motivated to want to belong and not to be left out ostracized… In short, nobody likes to be the wierdo. There is, then, enormous pressure to act like other people act and think the way other people think. Manipulators well understand this aspect of human nature and use it against us. They gives us arguments that, either subtly or not so subtly, try to get us to accept or reject some belief, opinion, or idea because, well, you don’t want to be a weirdo, do you? (Parsons, Rational Episodes, p. 223, 2010)
Parsons continues suggesting that the popularity of any doctrine is simply irrelevant to the question of whether it is true or not, or even whether there are good reasons to accept it – as stated above. We accept a doctrine as true because it is reasonable, rational, well-grounded and depends on the arguments and evidence that can be offered to support it. Anyone who tries to convince you of anything via an argument from popularity is not doing so on the basis of rationality, but are merely trying to trick you. (p. 223)
Reason #2 – Appeal to authority and loyalty to gurus
The next logical fallacy we are discussing is another popular one, it is known as the ad verecundium or as Parsons’ calls it “the illicit appeal to authority“. (Parsons, Rational Episodes, p. 223, 2010) Venuto, p. 27, explains that it seems only natural to rely upon the information disseminated by “experts”, whose opinions are based on credentials, reputation and experience. We see this all the time, particularly among personal trainers – they latch on to a philosophy that a strength coach they like promotes and then uncritically push that same philosophy – I know, because I’ve done it too. The problem is, experts don’t count, facts do.
The problem as Parsons, 2010, p. 224 says with trusting an authority is when the “authority” isn’t one – merely someone pretending to be one – or someone presented to you as one, by someone who wants you to believe in him or her and buy what he or she is endorsing. The example Parsons uses is of Michael Jordan selling you a brand name product or some other celebrity doing the same – what makes Jordan an expert? Of course he isn’t one – hence his word is useless.
Parsons also points out that it is not simply advertising that attempts to sell us of false information:
Much more serious is the fact that there are many organizations that present themselves as bodies of experts who are serving the public interest by offering objective, impartial, scientific information that bears on important issues. (Parsons, Rational Episodes, p. 224, 2010)
The example he uses is of the “National Canter for Global Climate Research” which purports to promote rational science on the state of the global warming research – instead it promotes motivated reasoning, confirmation bias, faulty research etc. The important point – is how do we know this institute is bunk? We investigate – we research. When looking for experts we want good books written by popular authors – when we listen to an expert like Lawrence M. Krauss in matters of physics, his word isn’t the end of the discussion, we can take his information to other experts in the field of physics to confirm or disconfirm his ideas. As Venuto states:
All information must be analyzed critically and never accepted blindly. If the advice comes from people you respect and admire, then listen, but still verify. (Venuto, The Bodyfat Solution, p. 26-7, 2009)
Reason #3 – Anecdotal evidence and testimonials
We see this type of tactic used to promote supplements, and amazing fat loss claims all the time, but as Venuto, p.27, states anecdotes don’t prove anything in the factual sense – which amount to little more than heresay.
Philosopher and ex-physicist Victor J. Stenger – in his book The New Atheism - supports Venuto’s contention when he states that when deciphering testimonial claims we need to base our acceptance of them proportionate to the nature of the claim presented:
If an airline pilot flying over Yellowstone National Park reports seeing a forest fire, we have no reason to doubt her. But if she reports seeing a flying saucer whose pilot waved a green tentacle at her, I would demand more evidence. (Stenger, The New Atheism, p. 60, 2009)
Reason #4 – The news said so
This one falls to the same errors as the argument from authority.
Reason #5 – Confusing correlation with causation
We have actually discussed the fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc here (see “myth #7″).
Reason #6 – Confirmation bias
This is a common one, it is part of our fundamental reasoning that our unconscious mind deletes and distorts information based on past prejudices and preferences, says Venuto. Another way of looking at confirmation bias is how John Allen Paulos describes it in his book Irreligion:
… a so-called psychological tendency to seek confirmation rather than disconfirmation of any hypothesis we’ve adopted, however tentatively. People notice more readily and search more diligently for whatever might confirm their beliefs, and they don’t notice as readily and certainly don’t look as hard for what disconfirms them. (Paulos, Irreligion, p. 108, 2008)
Venuto says we do this because it’s comforting, it feels good to be right, and embarrassing to be wrong . The problem being of course, that if we continue to only stay within our comfort zone, accepting truths taught to us, and accepted uncritically it can lead to “close-mindedness, poor decisions, discrimination and justification for odd behaviours.” (Venuto, The Bodyfat Solution, p. 30, 2009)
Humans are by nature, habitual creatures, Venuto states that this power of habit can hold us back from changing things up, as trainers for example. When we find systems that work – for me it’s HIIT and MRT and for others it’s distance cardio and high carb diets – we tend to stay with them. The problem with this, a particularly in the world of training is what’s known as “the law of diminishing returns” – the longer we stick to a single protocol – the less reward we receive from doing it.
The lesson is: if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got. If you want different results, do something different. Or as the humorous Demotivators calendar says: “Tradition… Just because you’ve always done it that way doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly stupid.” (Venuto, The Bodyfat Solution, p. 32, 2009)
Reason #8 – Wishful thinking
This one is important – Venuto states that:
It is tempting to form our beliefs according to what we wish were true rather than on evidence or logic. It’s more reassuring to believe that excess fat is not your fault and that a slow metabolism is to blame. (Venuto, The Bodyfat Solution, p. 32, 2009)
Rather than basing what we believe to be true on what feels good, we should base it on evidence, as Venuto states above. This comes back to what Martin was explaining in the previous blog – about believing for epistemic – or justified reasons, versus believing for beneficial reasons. I’ll add only to simply state – when investigating any claim what makes us feel good or what we wish to true has little bearing on reality – and if we are to operate in this world with both eyes open, we should base our perceptions on the evidence, not on how we would like the world to be.
This ends my very basic look at some epistemological pitfalls we all fall into, myself included – being aware of these traps, simply helps you to be aware of your environment – of the tricks brought to bear against you – but it doesn’t immunize you. That you must do on your own – investigate every claim you can, don’t accept anything based on dogma, tradition, authority (including my own – challenge me, it’s healthy to do so), search out the truth of claims yourself – this of course doesn’t mean push yourself to some relativistic wasteland where you are the only one with any kind of truth – but, rather, make sure you don’t accept uncritically, and form for bad reasons the things you think are reliable.
Parson K. (2010). Rational Episodes. Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books. Pp. 223, 224.
Paulos J. A. (2008). Irreligion. New York, New York. Douglas & McIntyre Inc. P. 108.
Stenger V. J. (2009). The New Atheism. Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books. P. 60.
Venuto T. (2009). The Bodyfat Solution. London, England. ThePenguin Group. Pp. 25, 26, 27, 30, 32.
- Epistemology -Philosophy and Exercise Pt. 1 (zaknafein81.wordpress.com)
- Epistemology -Philosophy and Exercise Pt. 1 (killsessionmusings.wordpress.com)
- List Of Metabolism Raisers- Pt.2. (killsessionmusings.wordpress.com)
- List Of Metabolism Raisers- Pt.1. (killsessionmusings.wordpress.com)
- Discourse on Descartes discourse. (zaknafein81.wordpress.com)
- Loftier musings on (my) atheism/atheists.. (zaknafein81.wordpress.com)
- Tom Venuto Reviews (rowjielogy.com)
- Penelope Cruz: ‘Venuto Al Mondo’ in Rome! (justjared.buzznet.com)
- Logical Fallacies 101: Argumentum Ad Populum (thinkthatthrough.wordpress.com)
- Two Articles on Formal Epistemology (choiceandinference.com)
Hot off his recent debate with Russell Blackford and others, Stephens isn’t smarting at all from his loss but has come out swinging over at the ABC website’s religion an ethics blog (in which he runs), in a piece entitled “The unbearable lightness of atheism“.
And a swing is exactly what it looks like.
Posting, as he notes, his thrust from the IQ2 debate, one is left to wonder just why he would post his losing argument to begin with, and why I am wasting the virtual ink to respond to it, when Blackford and co. did a far better job than I could.
I enjoy blogging, simple as that.
It is always amusing to note the language used by theists when discussing “The Gnu Atheism”, you’ll notice it generally takes the tone they claim said atheists do, ironic it is, and more than a little sad.
Stephens immediately goes for what I imagine most theists consider to be atheism’s job and weak point: morality. Of course anyone who’d spent 5 seconds researching atheism would realise atheism doesn’t have to explain anything, but hey, let us not let the facts get in the way of a good yarn.
It’s the same old yarn really, society in decline, morals run rampant, relativism, post-modernism. The problem is, as with most of the ABC’s opinion pieces, is there is very little room to elaborate and explain ideas, what we end up with is a mixed bag of assertions, which then yield to greater assertions:
It seems that we have reached a point in our national life where we are utterly incapable of reaching any kind of minimal moral consensus on fundamental questions.
What are the threats that we face in common? Where are those sources of corruption, perversion, addiction and even servitude that we ought to protect ourselves and others from? What virtues ought we to have and instil in others in order to make a robust civil society? What are our obligations to others – those living (including those who come to us from without our borders), dying and not yet born? What constitutes a good life? What ends do politics and the economy serve?
Such questions were once the subject of ferocious political and public debate; and, for better or worse, the Left and the Right believed there were answers, and that they had them. (Stephens, The unbearable lightness of atheism, 2011)
Hmm, that’s bleak, but I wonder, as Stephens does, who is to blame? Atheism?
There are few things today more fashionable, more suited to our modern conceit, than atheism. In fact, far from being radical or heroically contrarian, the current version of atheism strikes me as the ultimate conformism.
This is especially apparent in the case of the slipshod, grotesquely sensationalist “New Atheism” – invariably renounced by principled, literate atheists like James Wood, Thomas Nagel, John Gray, Philip Pullman and the late Bernard Williams – which poses no serious challenge to our most serious social ills and so has no other alternative but to blame our social ills in toto on religion.
Now, I don’t want to be misunderstood. I am not claiming that atheism is necessarily the cause of our modern predicament, much less that it is the root of all evil. To make such a claim would be to accord this variety of atheistic chic with too much importance, too much weight. (Stephens, The unbearable lightness of atheism, 2011)
I have to wonder, if the worst thing Stephens can say is that atheism is no longer “heroically contrarian” then we could, as atheists, say that “The Gnu Atheists” and the secular foundations (secular student alliance, ACLU, Freedom from religion foundation etc) have done their job, insofar as they have given atheists a voice and protected the rights of unbelievers – we no longer need to be heroic or contrarian. To which I say, thankyou!
I find it nevernedingly ironic that he claims “The Gnu Atheism”: ” poses no serious challenge to our most serious social ills and so has no other alternative but to blame our social ills in toto on religion.” when one could make the argument, and I am – that is the very thing Stephens is doing in his article.
It’s relieving that Stephens wishes to elaborate that atheism isn’t the cause of the worlds problems, but it does beg the question – why would he spend his first 12 paragraphs talking about a decline in society, then without preamble jump to atheism, simply to say that it’s not the cause of the moral decline? What, he just wants to rant about it anyway? If there is no hidden agenda here, then Stephens is simply really bad at coordinating a narrative.
But don’t think I’m strawmanning Stephens, he continues:
In a way, I think where atheism fits in our cultural moment it is more incidental than that. Our real problem today is the impoverishment of the modern mind, our inability to think properly about such elevated things as the Good, Beauty, Truth, Law, Love, Life, Death, Humanity, the End or Purpose of things, even Sex itself, without such ideas being debased by an incurious and all-pervasive nihilism. (Stephens, The unbearable lightness of atheism, 2011)
So it is, it’s not atheism that’s the problem, but nihilism (then we still ask – why is he discussing atheism at all?). Of course anyone who has read any apologetics would know this is what many apologists charge atheism with, claiming something to the effect of: this is where atheism leads us. Even if this isn’t Stephens’ point, one has to wonder about his perception of the world. Are things so bleak to Stephens? Or are these simply the problems that accompany a theistic worldview, phrases like “the End or Purpose of things, even Sex itself” seem to be problems for the religiously minded individual, would these problems plague a persons worldview who bases such on the evidence?
Perhaps – we could always make the world better, but to assert that the modern mind is unable to properly think on these subjects seems asinine - and not to mention self refuting since if this was true Stephen’s own dialogue here would be unacceptable – particularly when it’s done with the backdrop of atheism flowing in the background. If one is to tie together the narrative Stephens seems to have so much trouble doing – one may assume, after all, it is the atheists fault – for the supposed inability of the modern mind to think properly on ideals which are largely well solved in the secular life? This is circular.
And here we confront a desperate contradiction at the heart of so much atheistic hyperbole (accurately identified by Bernard Williams and others). The New Atheists rely heavily on the thesis that religion is the enemy of progress and human flourishing, and that once the last vestiges of religion are done away with, humanity will be far better off. But they also claim that all religion is “man-made,” and self-evidently so. This begs the question: if religion is indeed this all-pervasive source of corruption and prejudice and moral retardation, where do they believe that religion itself comes from, if not the human imagination? (Stephens, The unbearable lightness of atheism, 2011)
Stephens is, of course, building to his point, which will come to in a moment – for now we see a category error – to say that “The Gnu Atheists” are calling religion the problem and that religion comes from man, and therefore what does this mean – misses a few steps in reasoning. Let us leave aside the fact that no quotations are given, and focus on the argument – Stephens seems to assume that “The Gnu Atheists” think it is “man” who is the problem, but rather it is religion as an epistemological tool man uses that is the problem. “Man” (sorry for the masculine pronoun ladies) may have his faults, but that means religion is all the more dangerous – what “The Gnu Atheists” are saying, if we are to accept, rather generously, Stephens quoting of them – is that we need a more robust epistemological tool – one that draws conclusions from the evidence, not the other way around, one that allows investigation into it’s ideals (re: no dogma), one that takes the world as it is presented to us – things of this nature. Religion comes from the failure of “man” to understand and explain the intricacies of his world, from tradition and habit. But as we see, this is in decline.
Now we come to his point:
And so, it would seem that we are left with an unavoidable choice: either these atheists are really misotheists, God-haters, who rage against the very idea of God, the Good, Truth and Law, and so desperately try to will God out of existence; or their oft-professed faith in the inherent human capacity for progress is without justification; or the history of religion reflects the extraordinary human capacity to pursue the Good, as well as its equally pronounced tendency for Evil, idolatry and nihilism. (Stephens, The unbearable lightness of atheism, 2011)
The atheists, or rather “The Gnu Atheists” it seems after all – are a not the cause, but rather a symptom of our faulty society, their rejection of what Stephens calls “the Good, Truth and Law”, and their “desperate” push to “will” God out is but part of our world of sin (you just know he wants to say it)? It is painfully sad to watch Stephens flounder around attempting listlessly to assign some kind of blame to a world he sees is out of control – of course it has to be those damn dirty atheists – after all, no all-powerful, all-knowing being could possibly be responsible for any of the supposed lack of “Good”, “Truth” and “Law” in the world – no, no , that would be ridiculous.
As far as “The Gnu Atheist’s” supposed faith in the inherent human capacity for progress which is apparently without justification (which again, asserted without evidence), we can simply say that all us over here in the sunny atheist camp are loving life, we’re living in a society with the least amount of violence and crime, some might say we are living in the best this world has ever been. Homosexuals, women and minorities are slowly coming to get their rights – despite what Stephens’ religion might have to say about it, sure the world has plenty to work on, no-one’s claiming perfection, and we’re by no means done. Stephens continues:
It is apparent, is it not, that the current batch of chic atheists are but a symptom of a more general cultural decline, the steady impoverishment of what Hilaire Belloc perfectly described as “the Modern Mind,” which ceaselessly explains away its own moral deficiencies by projecting them onto God and banishing him into the wilderness.
It is just as apparent why such an atheism – with its cartoon versions of history, its theological illiteracy, it fetishisation of science, its hostility to the humanities and aesthetics, its flattened-out brand of morality as mere “well-being,” its cheap gags and mode of incessant piss-taking cynicism – should appeal so powerfully to a culture that has grown accustomed to the vulgarities and trivia enshrined in the modern media. (Stephens, The unbearable lightness of atheism, 2011)
It is here, that all I have been saying comes to fruition, I mean, come on ladies and gentlemen I implore you – do atheists really have to take this baseless, crap, asserted without evidence? I don’t even have the energy to address this ad hominem nonsense except to quote Stephens from earlier, when discussing the “The Gnu Atheism”:
“which poses no serious challenge to our most serious social ills and so has no other alternative but to blame our social ills in toto on religion.” (Stephens, The unbearable lightness of atheism, 2011)
It’s ironic to see how high and mighty the pious are when judging those damn dirty atheists and how much people like Stephens fail to see their own hypocrisy. The above could easily be said of the meandering drivel Stephens has posted here, so in the end, he seems to be no better than the atheists he means to place the entire burden of modern civilization on.
Stephens S. (2011). The unbearable lightness of atheism. Retrieved October 5th, 2011, from http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2011/09/13/3316962.htm
- ABC gets it wrong again: Atheism and Humanism, forms of civil religion? (zaknafein81.wordpress.com)
- Loftier musings on (my) atheism/atheists.. (zaknafein81.wordpress.com)
- Believe in mad rubbish because it’s good for you (freethoughtblogs.com)
- Progressive Atheism (atheistrev.com)
- Die, Atheism, Die. (girlcartridge.wordpress.com)
- IQ2 Debate online: “Atheists are wrong” (whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com)
- What’s Atheism? (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
- Death and atheism (whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com)
- The opposite of worship is not atheism… it’s the worship of the wrong thing. (andrewejenkins.wordpress.com)
- Atheism has a sexism problem (freethoughtblogs.com)
Recently I had an awkward slip of the tongue at work that has prompted me to post some of my thoughts regarding swearing and the connotations thereof.
Allow me to relay the initial exchange:
I was at work and another PT was training his (homosexual) client behind me. As I walked past, the PT mentioned to me, in a manner that included me in the conversation, that his client wanted to move to Melbourne, knowing my dislike for some of the pretentious troglodytes I witnessed in Melbourne (a complete generalisation of course, full of the short comings of such dispersion), I, in an off the cuff manner, said Melbourne was full of “cocksmokers“.
Now, the issue, for me at least, is: what is the problem here? To my mind I’d used the word “cock” when it is generally considered in polite discussion, not to do so. I don’t particularly agree with this (though I’m open to having my mind changed), as I don’t think words have any more power than we give them, that we can choose to be offended, or not. I do, however, observe traditions that make social interaction amenable, and concede I may be in the minority on this position, and generally do not intentionally go around offending people.
What hadn’t occurred to me of course (and was mentioned to me later by the PT), and maybe this is clear to you the reader; is that a homosexual might be offended by the term “cocksmoker“, and not the masculine noun or offensive language, which is what I had assumed would be the case (as I was unaware that people associate the term with homosexuals).
This prompted me to ask the question: “is the term cocksmoker offensive to gay men (people)?” I reasoned it wasn’t, that if we wanted to pragmatically look at it, that term would apply largely and more appropriately to women (which doesn’t make it better per se, but it removes the automatic assumption that it’s a strict homosexual slur). I (am now) aware, the term can have sexual orientation preference, as well as being a term of derision and a term used to describe the application of fellatio (here we see many definitions with less than half being of homosexual reference).
This PT’s reasoning is also based on the fairly large assumption that I, used this word in its homophobic sense, which I don’t think can be simply given. Did I mean to say that the people who live in Melbourne literally engage in homosexual fellatio regardless of sex, age, ethnicity and preference? Of course not, I meant it as a term of derision at Melbourne, using harsh (and admittedly inappropriate) text to convey the strength of my feelings for the place.
Of course to that someone might ask “what is wrong with fellatio and the people who give it?” Even though I don’t mean it literally (and based on the above definitions, I was using it in the 3(2) sense), the term does or did have a literal meaning and that is what I’m (at least passively) referring to when I use it, I then, perpetuate a meme that has a basis in gender, or sexual specific ridicule.
It seems there are 2 issues here:
(a) Do we use the strict definition of language all the time (does it matter in this instance? Is the very ambiguity of the word reason enough not to use it?)?
There has been some debate here lately about the use of feminine nouns and I’m torn on this issue, I personally like to swear, I like to accentuate my language, I understand it’s a sign of being uneducated, that it offends, but sometimes that’s the point (someone once said “you don’t have the right not to be offended“). But it largely depends on context and intentionality.
(b) Does intentionality matter?
If I intend to use a disparaging remark that has many meanings (as many do in our language) is it implicitly offensive (think not just of swear words here)? Or does my intention, whether it be homophobic, sexist, racist or merely expressive even matter? Where is the line in free speech, are we merely making social commentary here (and Benson above)? Or do we police people’s language?
In my mind, I wasn’t using language to define a person, I think there’s a difference there. Above Benson differentiates between racial terms like “nigger” and sexist terms like “bitch“, but are those terms strictly off-limits in all cases? And if they aren’t, what does that mean for their usage? How about when using them ironically? When certain cultural classes use them (think African-Americans and homosexuals using the afore terms, if some use them, why can’t others? Is there an arbitrary distinction here)? Again does it depend on context? If it doesn’t, are we living in a world gone PC mad?
I am aware that to use words, with masculine description (or feminine) or derogatory slurs (which could have and were interpreted as bigoted) have meanings that different people automatically assume as offensive. Despite my rules on language I understand the need to respect that not everyone has these views (and that my views aren’t well-formed). That using a term like “cocksmoker“, seems to have an intrinsic application to the denigration of women, homosexuals as well as being offensive to the ear, it matters little what I meant when I said it.
The end result is, when are rude words allowed, when are they offensive? Are they offensive at all times across all boundaries? Perhaps the delineation could be in regards to insult? But that leaves aside issues of people simply being offended by racist, sexist or bigoted terms. We also have to ask, do you have a right not to be offended? These are issues of free speech, and they can possibly be regulated by the law, but that feels relativistic to me, what is wrong should be wrong, regardless whether it is lawful or not (otherwise how would any laws change?).
I leave it for you to decide.
- Swearing – Is it Ever Necessary in Fiction? (bardicblogger.wordpress.com)
- Salty Language is Always Unbecoming (dressedtoat.wordpress.com)
- To swear or not to swear, that is the question (lovestats.wordpress.com)
- Go Ahead and Swear: The New Pain Management (fitsugar.com)
- Why are people offended by swear words – but not euphemisms? (neuropsy.co)
- A hot topic these days, is it OK for Christians to cuss? (pastormikesays.wordpress.com)
- Bats Do Not Belong in Church (adventureswithlaura.wordpress.com)
- Saying swear words actually stresses your brain [Psychology] (io9.com)
- Flushing out potty language (nitpickersnook.wordpress.com)
It’s important to note at the outset, a positive acceptance reached from an investigation into the effects of pornography usage (hereafter “porn“) need not be a whole-hearted pro porn stance. Much like the acceptance of the use of abortion, you may be pro freedom of choice (to use your body how you see fit), but not pro abortion (as in we can accept its usage, that others get a benefit from it, without using it ourselves, or even approving of it). We can have a discussion about harm, about consequence, about demonstrable reality, and accept those conclusions, without being pro porn.
I’m going to focus on using a utilitarian ethic to discuss this issue, partly because I think it is an appropriate ethic and support for such has been seen in practice here: “In 2003, a divided Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas (Supreme Court, 2003) declared that morality, absent third-party harm, is an insufficient basis for criminal legislation that restricts private, consensual sexual conduct. ” (Diamond 2009) Even parties that attempt to ban porn usage appeal to its harm and not to a religious or ideological ethic, which all people do not use, which makes it impractical to adopt.
Definition of Pornography
The Google definition of pornography is as follows:
Noun: Printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity.” (Google 2011)
Porn, use, addiction and harm
There is a normative, “moral crusade” against the use of porn at the moment in the cultural zeitgeist, Voris 2009 has noted that there are certain (genrally conservative, re: Diamond 2009 below) cultural groups that are attempting to push their values and lifestyle choices on others, as well as attempting to define sexual pleasure as: “being “real, good, healthy, natural or sacred” where the use of pornographic images is excluded because it is “solitary” and “perverted”.” Anti-pornography laws have often been used for political reasons from one group at the expense of another as in these examples offered by Diamond 2009:
“The Washington Post of September 2005 reported that the conservative Bush administration’s Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was to make “one of the top priorities” an FBI anti-pornography effort. This was supposedly an attempt to please conservatives and follow the lead started in the Reagan administration with Attorney General Edwin Meese (Gellman, 2005). Canada too has used such powers. In targeting gay and lesbian book stores in response to conservative blocks it even seized copies of two of Andrea Dworkin’s books considering them pornographic because they purportedly eroticized pain and bondage (Bennett, 2006).” (Diamond 2009)
Popular feminist (Naomi Wolf here) and religious (here, here , here and here) authors have made simple, sweeping statements about porn usages inherent immorality, and/or destructive nature. Terms like “porn addict“, are used to describe the porn user but are these merely appeals to emotion by those with an a priori bias against porn use based on ideological or religious assumptions to sway the majority to their position? We have to ask, is porn driving men crazy as Wolf says, is it on the rise as McDowell says? Is porn use really such a significant problem that is going out of control? If the evidence doesn’t support their conclusions, it might be reasonable to conclude they are wrong .
We should view the evidence in light of internet usage, as this is where the majority of porn is disseminated.
This issue of porn addiction is crucial in determining if porn should be banned, as it is seemingly related to harm. As this is the thrust of most criticisms of porn usage, an analysis of the research regarding it is important in determining our response. Neuroscientists Hilton and Watts, 2011 had these remarks in regards to the very state of addiction studies: “… a Public Health profile of pornography might be useful. Any such profile by its nature will be somewhat primitive because of the current status of the knowledge of the addiction.” (Hilton and Watts, 2007)
It seems that instances correlating to porn and Internet addiction are in fact symptoms of previous mental illness manifestation, not the causal problem, as Mitchell and Wells, 2007 found in their study:
“Overall, clients who present in treatment with an Internet problem are more likely to have problems related to overuse of the Internet; use of adult pornography; use of child pornography; sexual exploitation perpetration; and gaming, gambling, or role-playing. Other Internet-related problems, such as isolative-avoidant use, sexual exploitation victimization, harassment perpetration, and online infidelity were equally likely to present in treatment as a primary problem or secondary to other mental health concerns.” (Mitchell and Wells 2007)
This presents the problem of correlation versus causation, in the above article, addiction was correlated with mental illness, further study needs to be done to establish a causation, which there is a paucity of data on (but the evidence seems to suggest it is not porn use that causes it). Another study by Weaver et al. 2011, demonstrated a correlation between “sexually explicit media use behavior (SEMB; i.e., pornography consumption).. associated with risky sexual health perceptions and behaviors, many that involve high risks of HIV/STD transmission.” but failed to find a causation, what was the mental status of the participants? These factors were not taken into account and represent a problem with self reporting. With a sample size of only 559 adults versus Mitchell and Wells’ 31,382 we see how the results of different sample sizes can seemingly influence outcomes in terms of statistical detail. (Weaver et al 2011)
We need to establish what is simply a desire to enjoy porn, with partner/s and by yourself as part of a healthy sexual expression, and what is the results of negative mental issues. The authors continue:
“Other Internet-related problems appear to be secondary to more conventional mental health issues seen in clinical settings, such as relationship problems (e.g., marital conflict and divorce) and mental health problems (e.g., depression). For these clients, the Internet problem may be an extension of an existing condition or concern, and as such may not necessarily be the primary focus of that client’s treatment. For example, risky or inappropriate behavior on the Internet may be an extension of a pre-existing risky lifestyle where the Internet is yet another outlet for risky sexual behavior. Using the Internet in an isolative manner may be a result of pre-existing social phobias or having trouble-making friends.” (Mitchell and Wells 2007)
It seems finding mechanisms to separate previous mental history, coupled with the inherent problems of addiction studies make any blanket moral statements about porn difficult. A review by Hilton and Watts, 2007 make a general argument that compulsive addictions are possible (while admitting it’s difficult to detect), they also discuss their review in relation to “sex compulsion” and drug abuse as they state:
“Growing evidence indicates that the VTA-NAc pathway and the other limbic regions …similarly mediate, at least in part, the acute positive emotional effects of natural rewards, such as food, sex and social interactions. These same regions have also been implicated in the so-called ‘natural addictions’ (that is, compulsive consumption for natural rewards) such as pathological overeating, pathological gambling, and sexual addictions. Preliminary findings suggest that shared pathways may be involved: (an example is) cross-sensitization that occurs between natural rewards and drugs of abuse.” (Hilton and Watts, 2007)
It seems based on this review, that some of us (according to above studies, those of us with prior mental illness) can become “addicted” to most things we enjoy. Coupled with the above information from Voris 2009 about previous mental illness and addiction, and Doring 2009 (below) regarding the low numbers of internet users actually afflicted with internet and porn addiction it seems at the very least difficult to establish a causation from porn usage, or supposed porn addiction.
Doring 2009 who discusses McDowell’s so-called sexual immorality in relation to Internet addiction (and porn use/addiction) found:
“In the United States, so-called Internet addiction afflicts approximately 8.5% of Internet users who go online for sexual pursuits (Cooper, Scherer, Boies, & Gordon, 1999), which is equivalent to approximately 2% of all Internet users (Albright, 2008), or less than 1% of the general population (Shaw & Black, 2008). These individuals most often engage in excessive use of online pornography, but also online chats, online games, etc.” (Doring 2009)
This data certainly contradicts the moral panic created by some academics and polemicists, even with such a small portion of the population suffering with so-called Internet and porn addiction, are these numbers something to worry about? Is the number increasing? Again, Doring, 2009 observed via systematic analysis of search engine data some interesting numbers in regards to the growth of porn usage over the past 14 years:
“In 1997, 17% of all search requests were related to sex and pornography. In 2001 the figure was 9%, and fell to 4% in 2004 (Spink, Partridge, & Jansen, 2006). Among the 500 most popular websites worldwide according to the traffic ranking of www.alexa.com, pornography platforms first show up at 49th (Youporn) and 50th place (Pornhub).” (Doring 2009)
Critics may ask about deviant behaviour caused by the use of porn, is it possible, having the availability to almost unlimited porn may nurture and develop unhealthy (even by liberal standards) sexual practices (such as child abuse/rape)? Doring, 2009 saw no correlation:
“It seems unlikely, though, that mere exposure to deviant pornography is able to create sexual disorders or crimes, the influence of biopsychosocial background factors needs to be considered instead. Deviant fantasies are already a natural part of human sexuality, and interest in deviant pornography is often not connected to sexual offensive or criminal behavior against people (e.g., [Frei et al., 2005] and [Popovic, 2007]).” (Doring 2009)
We see here, when the issue is reviewed by clinicians, instead of the social aggregate; a more liberal, evidenced based view of sexuality, not the standard vilification of such. Doring 2009, continues: “Determinants (e.g., sexual desires, curiosity, peer pressure) and emotional, cognitive and behavioral consequences (e.g., sexual arousal, but also shame, anger, disgust) of the wanted or unwanted exposure to different types of legal or illegal deviant online pornography (e.g., child, animal, violent, fetishist pornography) by clinicians, criminal and normal populations are not well understood“, thus far. Diamond 2009 confirms this data, concluding that instead of there being a causal relationship between pornography and sexual violence there is actually an inverse relationship between an increase in pornography and sex crimes. (Diamond 2009)
It seems, to be more a matter of what the user brings psychologically to their use of pornography as opposed to what is intrinsic to the porn itself. We can see from Doring, 2009, Diamond 2009 and other studies above, that the consumption of pornography, even violent pornography may increase the aggressiveness of a small sample set of already sexually aggressive men, but Doring and others have failed to find a correlation (let alone a causation) to the prevalence of porn and acts of sexual violence in society and have in fact found an inverse relationship. (Doring 2009)
Positive consequences of porn?
There are seeming neutral and positive positions to be gained from using and by allowing porn usage as Diamond 2009 states:
“… it has been seen to have positive effects in every country studied. And while it might have been accused of negatively affecting some individuals or families it has in no community or population been found to be generally harmful. And many have derived and continue to gain pleasure from it. No community has ever voted that adults should not have access to sexually explicit material. No evidence has documented that sexually explicit materials lead to any increase in sexual crimes or social disruption or detriment to women and there is indication that the availability of pornography is linked to a decrease in sex crimes ranging from rape to exhibitionism.
Sexually explicit materials certainly seem entertaining and pleasurable to a large segments of every society investigated. And while critics invoke charges of the dishonoring of women seen in SEM, others see it as empowering and liberating for them. It appears that without evidence of social harm from its availability, there is no reason to believe that pornography should not be legally available.” (Diamond 2009)
McElroy has also noted that pornography has in fact been positively related to women’s issues of sexual liberation, that instead of oppression (as seen by Atkins, 1994 here, and Witt 1997 here) McElroy argues pornography to women (and indeed to all involved) is a freedom of speech issue applied to the sexual realm. Pornography, according to McElroy gives women a window to look into their own sexual identity, to allow them to explore their tendencies (that due to social or political pressures they may feel the need to keep suppressed), without concern for STI or any of the dangers associated with the real world. McElroy says that the result of women’s liberation is that all women need to discover what is right, what they wish to censor, he concludes: “a womans body, a womans right, also carries certain responsibilities.” (McElroy pg 154 2002)
It seems from this investigation that porn usage is common and that number may actually be decreasing. It seems likely from this review that people with pre-existing psychological conditions are more likely to have issues with addiction, be that drug, internet, food or porn. Porn seems incidental to issues of negativity, not causal, most people simply enjoy pornography as part of a healthy sexual expression, there is reason to think that the number of porn users in the world, compared to the infinitesimally small number of people who suffer with a compulsion to using it, indicates that porn is not a causal problem and that preexisting mechanisms are the issue. There is also evidence that porn has a positive effect, in the sense of women’s issue, liberation and sexual exploration, done in the safety of their own homes. Women are encouraged to explore their sexuality, as opposed to hide it, which can lead to negative psychological consequences.
There are issues of STI spreading in the porn industry itself which haven’t been explored here, as well as the effects of porn usage on youth (this may be a social issue as opposed to a health or addiction issue). It seems safe to conclude from this review however that any considerations of banning the use of porn would be based rather than on the evidence, but on the conservative sexual ideals of the religious or ideological proponents to freedom of sex issues. There appears to be no harm caused by porn use and there even seem to be some benefits, with this I conclude, tentatively, that porn use is healthy, natural and not something we need to shy away from, it is part of our cultural zeitgeist, it’s here to stay, and that makes me at least, pretty happy!
As Hilton and Watts, 2007 conclude:
“Just as we consider food addiction as having a biologic basis, with no moral overlay or value-laden terminology, it is time we looked at pornography and other forms of sexual addiction with the same objective eye. Currently, social pressures relegate the management of pornography primarily to proceedings in civil or in criminal judicial venues.” (Hilton and Watts, 2007)
Diamond M. (2009). Pornography, public acceptance and sex related crime: A review.International Journal of Law and Psychiatry. Volume 32, Issue 5. Pages 304-314. Retrieved 25/07/2011. http://www.sciencedirect.com.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/science/article/pii/S0160252709000715
Doring N. (2009). The Internet’s impact on sexuality: A critical review of 15 years of research.Computers in Human Behavior. Volume 25, Issue 5. Pages 1089-1101 . Retrieved 24/07/2011.
Hilton D., Watts C. (2007). Pornography addiction: A neuroscience perspective. Surgical Neurology International. Vol. 2, Iss. 1; pg. 19. rETRIEVED 25/07/2011. http://proquest.umi.com.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/pqdweb?index=0&did=2315272841&SrchMode=1&sid=1&Fmt=3&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1311662671&clientId=22212
Mitchell K.J., Wells M. (2007). Problematic Internet experiences: Primary or secondary presenting problems in persons seeking mental health care? Social Science & Medicine. Volume 65, Issue 6. Pages 1136-1141. Retrieved 27/07/2011. http://www.sciencedirect.com.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/science/journal/02779536
McElroy W. (2002). Everything you know is wrong: the Disinformation guide to secrets and lies (Edited Russell Kick). Pg 154. Google books- Retrieved 29/07/2011. http://books.google.com.au/books?hl=en&lr=&id=CxNEWiPoU4MC&oi=fnd&pg=PA153&dq=porn+benefits&ots=7rqLLj8wNM&sig=3mTkDflQu7pAFRTbkPTpasTuVjU#v=onepage&q=porn%20benefits&f=false
Voris F. (2009). The invention of addiction to pornography. Sexologies. Volume 18, Issue 4. Pages 243-246. Retrieved 24/07/2011. http://www.sciencedirect.com.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/science/article/pii/S1158136009001376
Weaver J.B., Weaver S.S., Mays D., Hopkins G.L., Kannenburg W., McBride D. (2011). Mental- and Physical-Health Indicators and Sexually Explicit Media Use Behavior by Adults. The Journal of Sexual Medicine. Volume 8, Issue 3, pages 764–772. Retrieved 26/07/2011. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/doi/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2010.02030.x/full
- More on porn (zaknafein81.wordpress.com)
- What is the differences between pornography and child pornography (wiki.answers.com)
- South Florida ICE head arrested on child porn charges (cnn.com)
- Immigration official arrested on child porn charges (news.blogs.cnn.com)
- South Florida ICE head arrested on child porn charges – CNN (news.google.com)
- Pornography and Relationships (collegerelationships.wordpress.com)
- Discussing sex with kids, porn part of Steve Powell’s divorce (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- APNewsBreak: Porn was part of Steve Powell divorce (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Let’s define pornography addiction. (mormonmissionaryposition.wordpress.com)
I put up a post on FB a few weeks ago:
“Why aren’t objective moral values similar to logical absolutes or mathematics? Accessible to theists and non theists like, and more importantly, not dependent on God, for their basis.“
Now, if we can ignore the fact that some theists do argue that logical absolutes and mathematics come from God (TAG), and focus on morality for a moment, I’d like to put up a discussion I had with a client. It’s not Shakespeare as we’re both not philosophers and we both have a limited understanding of these subjects, but I thought it was an interesting conversation nonetheless.
“PS re: your comment on FB, I think Allan means “subjective” but in any case is morality ever really objective, with, or without God? I dunno, I have just exhausted my knowledge on the topic.”
“Dude, you shoulda chimed in I think Allan is discussing subjective morality, which is fine, I’m just saying, that was not my original post, I’m not commenting on the rightness of objective moral theory, just wondering why, if a person accepted objective moral theory, we would need to rationalise it with a God, as we don’t have to do with logic and numbers (which are objective and absolute).
To address your last question, do you believe numbers or logical absolutes are standards separate from human involvement (at least in their creation, not in their usage)? If you do, you can see how objective morality (such as “it’s always wrong to gratuitously torture a child“) can exist. If not I would ask why you don’t think numbers or logical absolutes exist objectively (after all 2+2=4 will always be so, regardless of humans involvement).
I would personally say it is possible that “gratuitously torturing a child” is always wrong, independent of culture, experience or perspective, which would make it objective (absolute), and not subjective. But I do admit a great amount of ignorance on this topic…”
“Before I get to the “God” question….Can there right or wrong in objectivity? For instance if it was objective then it wouldn’t be a matter of whether torture was right or wrong, but whether it “is” or it “isn’t” or whether it “can” or “cant be”. If it “isn’t” then it does not happen, it does not exist. But the fact that it does occur, that it can exist, to me means that it can never be truly objective. We can attempt to make it objective in the sense that pretty much everyone agrees that it “shouldn’t” happen, it shouldn’t exist because it is abhorrent, but that does not make it not exist.
Numbers are truly absolutes, truly objective. 2+2 will always equal 4. Regardless of whether you allocate the “human” definitions of “2” and “4” or whether you express it as **+**=****, etc. If you combine II and II together it will always result in IIII.
But with the moral element, yes the majority may all agree that torture is wrong. But there will always be some psychopath out there who just doesn’t get it. There are people who recognize that it is wrong but they do it anyway, there are also psychos who just don’t comprehend the difference or do they? I don’t know. Perhaps if they do, then what I’m about to say isn’t correct and you are right but: if they don’t recognize that it’s morally wrong then if the above mathematical equation represents the moral question, then 2+2 does not always equal 4 and therefore it cannot be deemed an absolute, or objective, even if 99.9% of the population come to the same conclusion.
But then what I’ve concluded here is not the same as the argument I was making in the first paragraph above so who the hell knows?! Im all over the place.
But in any case, if morality can be objective then I don’t think we do need to rationalize it with a God, I think historically we perhaps bring in the God element as a means to try and ensure conformity from the wider population, out of fear of a punishment from a greater being who was taught as having ultimate power over us (we may get to make choices to live “bad” lives but in the end we are taught we cannot escape judgement by “God”). In that vein, we get to justify the law. After all, humans being humans, if another human- who we might consider at best “an equal”, attempts to enforce a rule upon us that we don’t like our instant reaction is to challenge it by saying, you have no power over me, or right to enforce this upon me. Not knowing anything about objective morality Im assuming that your question arises from perhaps the fact that whenever objective morality is discussed, it is discussed in the context of God? If so, then perhaps you can look at it from the perspective that God is not a “being” that dictates to us about what we should or shouldn’t do, but a representation of a rule or law that provides the best outcome or benefit for the majority of the population. A rule or law that promotes the continuation and growth of the species. Survival of the fittest.
So perhaps objective morality doesn’t really require the notion of God as a “being” but for the majority, having the God element ensures the best level of conformity (statistically speaking), and therefore we are more justified in claiming these morals as being “objective”.”
“”Can there right or wrong in objectivity? For instance if it was objective then it wouldn’t be a matter of whether torture was right or wrong, but whether it “is” or it “isn’t” or whether it “can” or “cant be”. If it “isn’t” then it does not happen, it does not exist. But the fact that it does occur, that it can exist, to me means that it can never be truly objective. We can attempt to make it objective in the sense that pretty much everyone agrees that it “shouldn’t” happen, it shouldn’t exist because it is abhorrent, but that does not make it not exist.”
Firstly, thanks so much for the thoughtful response, I might post this on my religion blog
Sorry if there’s any confusion here, I’m trying to understand these concepts myself. Let me see if I can respond, sorry if I miss the point!
If there is objective moral ontology (existence), that would mean that there would be an objective standard to assess moral duties by, in the sense that, if I gratuitously tortured a child, it would be objectively wrong to do so, I could still torture the child (as I have free will), but by that standard it is inherently, perhaps intrinsically wrong, and no-one could say (accurately) there is a right circumstance that would permit it (hence it would not be a moral duty). It wouldn’t require everyone (or anyone) to agree with it, it would simply be so, like 2+2=4.
“Numbers are truly absolutes, truly objective. 2+2 will always equal 4. Regardless of whether you allocate the “human” definitions of “2” and “4” or whether you express it as **+**=****, etc. If you combine II and II together it will always result in IIII.
“But with the moral element, yes the majority may all agree that torture is wrong. But there will always be some psychopath out there who just doesn’t get it. There are people who recognize that it is wrong but they do it anyway, there are also psychos who just don’t comprehend the difference- or do they? I don’t know. Perhaps if they do, then what I’m about to say isn’t correct and you are right but: if they don’t recognize that it’s morally wrong then if the above mathematical equation represents the moral question, then 2+2 does not always equal 4 and therefore it cannot be deemed an absolute, or objective, even if 99.9% of the population come to the same conclusion.”
I agree with your number analogy and objective moral theorists would say the same of morality (some would say that there are moral absolutes). I wasn’t saying that objectivity meant, majority. On objective moral theory gratuitous torture of children is wrong irrespective of what you or I have to say about it, it doesn’t matter if we have laws that say we can’t do it, it doesn’t matter if some cultures are gratuitously torturing children because they think it’s right. It would simply be wrong across all standards, like you just demonstrated (rather elegantly I might add) with numbers. As a sidenote- The reason I use the gratuitous torture of children as an example is because this is a perfect example that under any theory of free will or morality the word gratuitous means there is no justification (as in “you’re torturing the child to save the lives of a city”, as would be the case under utilitarian free will theory) for the torture of children.
Your analogy with the serial killer fits with objective morality (as far as I understand it). A serial killer may kill, she may have a particular psychological issue that prevents her from seeing the error in her ways (and let’s say for the sake of argument, assume she tortures children, gratuitously). But that doesn’t affect absolute/objective moral ontology, it is wrong by the subsequent moral duties of such a moral philosophy (an example of a moral duty under such a philosophy would be “gratuitous torture= wrong= it’s wrong to do it“). It would not be considered a moral duty, or perhaps more specifically a moral imperative to gratuitously torture a child, so regardless of legal or otherwise consequences the act of gratuitous torture would be objectively wrong.
“But then what I’ve concluded here is not the same as the argument I was making in the first paragraph above so who the hell knows?! Im all over the place.“
Are you kidding? I’m struggling to keep up with you here!!!
“But in any case, if morality can be objective then I don’t think we do need to rationalize it with a God, I think historically we perhaps bring in the God element as a means to try and ensure conformity from the wider population, out of fear of a punishment from a greater being who was taught as having ultimate power over us (we may get to make choices to live “bad” lives but in the end we are taught we cannot escape judgement by “God”). In that vein, we get to justify the law. After all, humans being humans, if another human- who we might consider at best “an equal”, attempts to enforce a rule upon us that we don’t like our instant reaction is to challenge it by saying, you have no power over me, or right to enforce this upon me. Not knowing anything about objective morality I’m assuming that your question arises from perhaps the fact that whenever objective morality is discussed, it is discussed in the context of God? If so, then perhaps you can look at it from the perspective that God is not a “being” that dictates to us about what we should or shouldn’t do, but a representation of a rule or law that provides the best outcome or benefit for the majority of the population. A rule or law that promotes the continuation and growth of the species. Survival of the fittest.
So perhaps objective morality doesn’t really require the notion of God as a “being” but for the majority, having the God element ensures the best level of conformity (statistically speaking), and therefore we are more justified in claiming these morals as being “objective”.”
I would agree with your first point, and atheist/agnostic moral philosophers would agree too, it’s just that this is a huge theist argument, hence why they feel the need to have a response to it. I like your theory about God’s use in morality and it’s an interesting one, but many theist arguments constitute God as the basis for morality, that it stems from His nature (or His will, depending on which moral theory you read), and that objective morality is simply his standard, and that he does dictate that standard to us (through various means, actualized in different theories). As an atheist I don’t agree with this (theists would say I can’t), but to combat it, I have to have (a) an alternative theory to their objective morality (and the subsequent explanation of moral duties), (b) I have to reject objective moral values and duties or (c) I have to deconstruct their theory (that objective moral values and duties come from God). I’m not sure which I’d like to do, or which I can, but I’d love to beat em on their own turf ( showing them that there is an atheistic basis for objective moral ontology and duties).
Your last point implies almost the notion of God as a mythic element that keeps people in line? If my interpretation is accurate I might agree, I just don’t think the theists would agree, and they are, after all, the ones who keep the concept of God going. Or are you arguing that theists need the God concept to keep them in line? There might be reason to think that this is so, even if they don’t admit it, and it may just stem from having a purpose in their lives (to worship and praise God).
Far out, now my head hurts.
I gotta get back to my absolutes…its much less frustrating!“
Haha you kicked ass, like I said, I had trouble keeping up with you, I’m sure I missed the point more often than I got it, and I actually read up on this stuff!!! How sad am I “
““I had trouble keeping up with you”
That’s because my reasoning was inconsistent!
“I’m sure I missed the point more often than I got it”
I’m sure not! (Re: above)
I think it depends how you define “objective” and “absolute”. Perhaps I have been interchanging them when I shouldn’t, because “absolute” to me means there cant be an alternate result. 2+2 must equal 4 at all times, no interpretations, no exceptions. It just is. An alternate result cannot exist.
Perhaps with moral objectivity, your reasoning is more appropriate, that the rule exists (as opposed to a subjective enforcement) but simultaneously there can also still exist an outcome which is inherently in conflict with the rule/accepted result.
And I suppose you could also say that whether or not God is a being or an overarching rule/law which is exists to insure the continuance of the species, objective morals are the rules by which we ensure survival, long term. Thus objective “morality” does exist to start with (or perhaps alternatively we could call these “objective rules of survival”)
I’m in over my head now, but I don’t see how theists have any more proof that God is the basis for morality, than atheists do in arguing that He/It isn’t. For example, atheists may argue that “God” is just a means by which we justify imposing rules that are for the benefit of the species as a whole. I don’t think that to reject the theist theory you have to reject the moral code or values, you just need to find another basis for them (which I think you may have already stated but I can’t be bothered scrolling down to check). Surely survival of the species, constitutes that alternative. We will live by a set of rules which ensure our survival for as long as possible. That is, until such time that another, more dominant species comes into existence and wipes us out (but then theists are just going to argue that this is the work of God anyway before they are silenced by their extinction of course, and then really, who’s gonna care?).
This is echoed in the basic “survival of the fittest” which we see every day in nature. Animals have a natural hierarchy, do they have a moral code? Oooh, toughy. Maybe not, but then who knows for sure? We don’t speak their language. What we do know is that there is a hierarchy, a set of rules which is established that determines whether an animal survives or doesn’t. Their rule is basic- the strongest wins the fight and gets to live another day and if their lucky, procreate and continue the species.
Do humans need a moral code? Or can we simply convert the moral code by which we live to a set of rules which basically ensure the survival of our species and a dominance of the strongest of our species for the future? I don’t know, not having sat down to think about all of the various morals by which we live, but for the few that spring to mind immediately, then yes, I think we can easily interchange “morals” (i.e. rules of “right” or “wrong”) with “rules of long term survival”.
This is why philosophy is fun I suppose, it’s difficult for either side to get an upper hand on the argument, because no one actually knows for “certain”. Theists argue that they do know. Atheists are always trying to prove a negative, which is possibly more difficult because they are up against some compelling human elements. 1) Fear of the unknown. Fear of the “but what if God does exist and I live my life ignoring him and then have to spend an eternity in Hell as a result?”. 2) The need to justify/understand “why”. Why do bad things happen? The need to feel there is a greater good, that there is someone in control, someone or something with a plan that is for our ultimate benefit. The need to believe that if the cards we are dealt in life are duds, we can still have a crack at contentment in “heaven” or if we are not quite so lucky as others- a second stab at life here on earth. All in all, whether God exists or not, this “belief” provides relief for those who are less fortunate, and hopefully if they believe strongly enough, prevents them from committing suicide as a result of thoughts of futility, and thus, continue their life for as long as possible, and possibly even procreate and continue the species…yep there is definitely a theme here!
But the bottom line is that theists don’t actually have any more proof than atheists, at least, I haven’t seen any to date- not that I’ve ever asked for it.
I can see why you are often up all night studying this stuff…
BTW as to the question of whether I believe theists need a “God” element to keep them in line? Absolutely! Theists are still human after all, which means they are flawed. How many priests have abused children (and anyone else weaker than them) over the centuries, behind closed doors? Some of them used their connection with “God” as a justification, others condemn it and hope that a fear of God will prevent this from happening.
God has also been used as a means by which theists assert they were a law unto themselves, it was and remains to be, a source of power financially and politically.
I don’t know if I’m an atheist. I don’t know if I believe in God or not. I guess at the moment I’m leaning towards “not”. But there are still times when I want to believe there is a purpose, that hardships lead to growth and that we suffer those hardships for a “reason”.
But maybe that’s because I’m emotional, and a hopeless romantic, and I sometimes still believe in fairytales! “
“Not at all, I think you’re incredible literate on these topics for someone who doesn’t study it! These are tricky issues that have plagued thinkers before Aristotle!
“I think it depends how you define “objective” and “absolute”. Perhaps I have been interchanging them when I shouldn’t, because “absolute” to me means there can’t be an alternate result. 2+2 must equal 4 at all times, no interpretations, no exceptions. It just is. An alternate result cannot exist.
Perhaps with moral objectivity, your reasoning is more appropriate, that the rule exists (as opposed to a subjective enforcement) but simultaneously there can also still exist an outcome which is inherently in conflict with the rule/accepted result.“
I agree, and I think I dropped the ball a little on that, I was talking about objectivity then I start throwing around absolutism. I guess I meant there are absolute moral values (“happiness is preferable to pain“, simplistic as that is you get the point), and they are objective in the sense that they are so regardless of human interaction, perception and opinion. I think I threw you off a little there, sorry!
“I’m in over my head now, but I don’t see how theists have any more proof that God is the basis for morality, than atheists do in arguing that He/It isn’t. For example, atheists may argue that “God” is just a means by which we justify imposing rules that are for the benefit of the species as a whole. I don’t think that to reject the theist theory you have to reject the moral code or values, you just need to find another basis for them (which I think you may have already stated but I cant be bothered scrolling down to check). Surely survival of the species, constitutes that alternative. We will live by a set of rules which ensure our survival for as long as possible. That is, until such time that another, more dominant species comes into existence and wipes us out (but then theists are just going to argue that this is the work of God anyway- before they are silenced by their extinction of course, and then really, who’s gonna care?).“
A theist might argue that objective morals and duties have a grounding in God, whereas they don’t in atheism (I define atheism in the negative as “the lack of a belief in God“, not the positive ‘I believe there is no God“), they would say they’re not attempting to show Gods existence, only to demonstrate that under their definition of their God, objective morals make the most sense. An atheist might argue they have separate grounds for either morality or objective morality that don’t require a God, they might also attempt to demonstrate why morals can’t come from God or that the particular God in question (say the Christian God) (a) can’t exist due to an internal contradiction or (b) or is not moral. The “New atheists” (Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens) might argue that God is a device used to keep people in line, theists have rebuttals for that though (and they think it’s insulting). I would say that an objective, atheistic basis for morality might come from the same place logical or mathematical absolutes do, as in they exist necessarily, as a function of this universe or a result of it rather. Theists have the Transcendental argument to cover that though, which I don’t think succeeds.
Using “survival of the fittest“could leave the atheist open to what’s known as the “naturalistic fallacy“, plus that leaves the theist open to argue that if we’re going to base our morality on some kind of natural law, that we would have no basis for example to say that rape was wrong as it is natural, within the realm of procreation, to spread your seed and it occurs in nature all the time (does the lion ask to have sex with the lioness?).
“This is echoed in the basic “survival of the fittest” which we see every day in nature. Animals have a natural hierarchy, do they have a moral code? Oooh, toughy. Maybe not, but then who knows for sure? We don’t speak their language. What we do know is that there is a hierarchy, a set of rules which is established that determines whether an animal survives or doesn’t. Their rule is basic- the strongest wins the fight and gets to live another day and if their lucky, procreate and continue the species.
Do humans need a moral code? Or can we simply convert the moral code by which we live to a set of rules which basically ensure the survival of our species and a dominance of the strongest of our species for the future? I don’t know, not having sat down to think about all of the various morals by which we live, but for the few that spring to mind immediately, then yes, I think we can easily interchange “morals” (i.e. rules of “right” or “wrong”) with “rules of long term survival”.“
There seems to be plenty of evidence animals do have morality (they experience altruism, self-sacrifice etc), but we as humans don’t want a “survival of the fittest” mentality (re: Nazi’s), as that would not cater to the weak, the sick or the unfortunate (in my humble opinion), we would a morality based on evidence, reason, rationality etc. That way we can determine what works the best for everyone (see: secular humanism, naturalism etc), based on evidence.
“This is why philosophy is fun I suppose, it’s difficult for either side to get an upper hand on the argument, because no one actually knows for “certain”. Theists argue that they do know. Atheists are always trying to prove a negative, which is possibly more difficult because they are up against some compelling human elements. 1) Fear of the unknown. Fear of the “but what if God does exist and I live my life ignoring him and then have to spend an eternity in Hell as a result?”. 2) The need to justify/understand “why”. Why do bad things happen? The need to feel there is a greater good, that there is someone in control, someone or something with a plan that is for our ultimate benefit. The need to believe that if the cards we are dealt in life are duds, we can still have a crack at contentment in “heaven” or if we are not quite so lucky as others- a second stab at life here on earth. All in all, whether God exists or not, this “belief” provides relief for those who are less fortunate, and hopefully if they believe strongly enough, prevents them from committing suicide as a result of thoughts of futility, and thus, continue their life for as long as possible, and possibly even procreate and continue the species…yep there is definitely a theme here!“
I definitely agree, it’s why these debates can be so infuriating, and it’s why so many rely on science, as it gives us hard answers, backed by evidence, it’s hard to philosophize your way out of empirical evidence. I understand what you’re saying about people’s fears, but there are so much better philosophies out there that are based on reason, than theology based on authority, it’s just harder to gain access to them. This point here: “but what if God does exist and I live my life ignoring him and then have to spend an eternity in Hell as a result?”.” is what’s known as Pascal’s wager, there has been much written on it, but for our purposes I’ll simply say, this problem faces everyone, religious or not, because different religious doctrines say specific things about God, and what to believe about Him and more importantly what happens to you if you don’t agree with the specific doctrine of that religion. If you believe in Islam, and the Protestant God is the real one, you’re done. If you’re a Catholic, but the Mormon God is the real one, you’re done. There are thousands of religions and more Gods, the chances you’ve picked the right one is close to zero.
“But the bottom line is that theists don’t actually have any more proof than atheists, at least, I haven’t seen any to date- not that I’ve ever asked for it.
I can see why you are often up all night studying this stuff…“
It’s this exact line, this is the reason I’m an atheist. Theists are making a claim, that God exists, they have a burden of proof, I don’t think they’ve met that burden of proof, so I’m within my epistemic bounds to say I don’t believe in their claim (especially as it goes against everything we do know with any reliability), I don’t go so far as to say I know or believe a God doesn’t exist, only that I don’t accept the claim one does.
“I don’t know if I’m an atheist. I don’t know if I believe in God or not. I guess at the moment I’m leaning towards “not”. But there are still times when I want to believe there is a purpose, that hardships lead to growth and that we suffer those hardships for a “reason”.But maybe that’s because I’m emotional, and a hopeless romantic, and I sometimes still believe in fairytales! “
Hardships do lead to growth with or without God, there are reasons we suffer, they’re just not transcendental, they’re due to the failure of us as a species to create a perfect society, to create perfect technology to be perfect animals. the only thing it means to have no God is that everything you are, everything you’ve done, every effort you’ve achieved, every good thing about your life, is due to you, due to your hard work, and because you went after what you wanted, not because some intangible, sky daddy coddled you. I think it’s far more reasonable, adult and rewarding to base your life on reality, on dealing with reality on it’s terms, that’s how you thrive, that’s how you achieve greatness. *Steps off soapbox*”