Archive for the ‘secular morality’ Category

All human beings are equal, but all cultures and religions are not

April 11, 2013

All human beings are equal, but all cultures and religions are not.

Aayan Hirsi Ali, Nomad, Simon & Schuster, 2010, p.212

But how does Aayan grant such a status to all peoples regardless of achievement, talents and wealth? And from what vantage point can she declare de haut en bas that some societies are morally superior to others? What grounds her secular faith?

An atheist’s self-contradiction

April 11, 2013

The Enlightenment honors life. It is not about honor after death or honor in the hereafter, as Islam is, but honor in individual life, now. It is about development of the individual will, not the submission of the will. Islam, by contrast, is incompatible with the principles of liberty that are at the heart of the Enlightenment’s legacy.

Aayan Hirsi Ali, Nomad, Simon & Schuster, 2010, p. 214

Yet Aayan supports abortion. Isn’t the abortion issue all about honouring the ‘individual life now’?

This is the problem when, like Aayan, you chart your own moral course apart from God. The end is not merely God’s displeasure, but inevitably self-contradiction.


There can be no source for …moral judgments except the scientist himself

October 11, 2009

The scientist can now play God in his role as wonder-worker, but can he – and should he – also play God as moral arbiter?…F. In traditional religion, morality was held to derive from God, but God was only credited with the authority to establish and enforce moral laws because He was also credited with supernatural powers of creation and destruction. Those powers have now been usurped by man, and he must take on the moral responsibility that goes with them.

Edmund Leach, “We Scientists Have the Right to Play God,” The Saturday Evening Post, November 16, 1968, p. 16

Morality is relative when morality is human.

September 11, 2009

Morality is relative because morality is human.

David Starkey, Soul of Britain, 2000, BBC1

But how does he know morality is (of) human (origin)? His conclusion, ‘morality is relative’, follows from the premise ‘morality is human’; but this is a major claim to knowledge – ironically, an omniscient claim.

Why should one tell the truth if it’s to one’s advantage to tell a lie?

Wittgenstein, aged 8 or 9 in Wittgenstein, Ray Monk, p.3

No reason if morality is human.

I feel murder is bad, but maybe you don’t

September 11, 2009

Take any action allow’d to be vicious: Willful murder, for instance.  Examine it in all lights, and see if you can find that matter of fact, or real existence, which you call vice . . . You can never find it, till you turn your reflexion into your own breast, and find a sentiment of disapprobation, which arises in you, toward this action.   Here it is a matter of fact; but ’tis the object of feeling, not reason.

David Hume

Since there is nothing but one person’s ‘disapprobation’ and another’s approval of an action, then there is not higher standard by which to judge. I like chocolate ice-cream, you like vanilla – there isn’t a ‘right’ flavour. I don’t like murdering children, some people do. (‘Ought’ is not derived from ‘is’.)

If all I can do, as Hume is saying, is look within, then the child killer may feel justified. Ultra relativism is the end product.

There are no moral phenomena, only a moral interpretation of phenomena.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 108

I have no answer

September 10, 2009

When I ask myself why I have always behaved honourably, ready to spare others and to be kind whenever possible, and why I did not give up doing so when I observed that in that way one harms oneself and becomes an anvil because other people are brutal and untrustworthy, then, it is true, I have no answer.

Sigmund Freud, writing to James Putnam, neurologist

To say, ‘I have no answer’ to the question, ‘Why should I be good?’ is hardly a small matter. It leaves the sort of vacuum that coercion or anarchy (or both) will fill – as we see.

The Fact Value Distinction

August 17, 2009

Middle-class parents want values to be taught to children in schools because life will be more pleasant if these values are adhered to. But they do not ask whether these values have any relation to the “facts” as taught in school. They do not ask whether it is possible to believe that concern for minorities, for the poor, for the disabled is important if the fact is that human life is the result of the success of the strong in eliminating the weak.  If it is a ‘fact’ that human life is the accidental result of the ruthless suppression of the weak by the strong, and it is not a fact that ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever,’ then ‘values’ have no factual basis.  They can only be the expression of what some people choose, and–inevitably–it will be the strong who prevail. The language of “values” is simply the will to power wrapped up in cotton wool. And we cannot use the language of right and wrong because it has no basis in the ‘facts’ as we understand them.

Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, 1989, p.17

Morality not derived from nature

August 17, 2009

…the original source of all things…has no more regard to good above ill than to heat above cold, or to drought above moisture, or to light above heavy.

David Hume, in the voice of Philo in Part IX of the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (this part is a refutation of Manichaeism)

Not even the basic prohibitions against cannibalism, incest, murder, and adultery—constitutive for all decent human communities—can be supported by or deduced from the natural world.

Leon Kass, Technology and the Humanist Dream:Babel Then and Now

Leon Kass is the Addie Clark Harding Professor in the Committee on Social Thought and the College at the University of Chicago and Brady Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Dr. Kass earned his B.S. and M.D. degrees at the University of Chicago, and his Ph.D. in biochemistry at Harvard. He has been engaged for more than 30 years with ethical and philosophical issues raised by biomedical advance. His books include: Toward a More Natural Science: Biology and Human Affairs (1984); The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfecting of Our Nature (1994); The Ethics of Human Cloning (1998), with James Q. Wilson; Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics (2002); and The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis (2003). In 2001, President George W. Bush appointed Dr. Kass Chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics.

The Consequences of Atheism

August 17, 2009

When we speak of forlornness, we mean only that God does not exist and that we have to face all the consequences of this. The existentialist is strongly opposed to a certain kind of secular ethics which would like to abolish God with the least possible expense. About 1880, some French teachers tried to set up a secular ethics which went something like this: God is a useless and costly hypothesis; we are discarding it; but, meanwhile, in order for there to be an ethics, a society, a civilization, it is essential that certain values be taken seriously and that they be considered as having an a priori existence. It must be obligatory, a priori, to be honest, not to lie, not to beat your wife, to have children, etc., etc. So we’re going to try a little device which will make it possible to show that values exist all the same, inscribed in a heaven of ideas, though otherwise God not exist.

The existentialist thinks it very distressing that God does not exist, because all possibility of finding values in a heaven of ideas disappears along with Him; there can no longer an a priori Good, since there is no infinite and perfect consciousness to think it. Nowhere is it written that the Good exists, that we must be honest, that we must not lie; because the fact is we are on a plane where there are only men….Neither within him or without does man find anything to cling to. He can’t start making excuses for himself.

Jean-Paul Sartre. Existentialism and Human Emotions. (New Jersey: Citadel Press, Inc.1985) pp. 21-22.

Evolution and atheism

August 17, 2009

In the evolutionary pattern of thought there is no longer either need or room for the supernatural. The earth was not created, it evolved. So did all the animals and plants that inhabit it, including our human selves, mind and soul as well as brain and body. So did religion…evolutionary man can no longer take refuge from his loneliness by creeping for shelter into the arms of a divinized father — a figure whom he has himself created — nor escape from the responsibility of making decisions by sheltering under the umbrella of Divine Authority, nor absolve himself from the hard task of meeting his present problems and planning his future by relying on the will of an omniscient but unfortunately inscrutable Providence.

Finally, the evolutionary vision is enabling us to discern, however incompletely, the lineaments of the new religion that we can be sure will arise to serve the needs of our coming era.

Julian Huxely At tthe celebration of the 100th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species, Chicago; 1959.