An Atheist’s Creed

Before launching into the weightier topics which this blog will cover, I thought it would be helpful to first establish who I am, what I believe and where I am coming from. This, then, is an atheist’s creed – not in the sense of a dogmatically imposed set of standards, but rather a set of general principles, refined from experience and reflection, that guide how I try to live my life. You are welcome to share them if you like.

These truths I hold to be self-evident:

We are human beings, intelligent and self-aware, possessing both reason and emotion, with the potential for immense good as well as terrible evil. Which of these two comes to be depends on our choices.

Every human being possesses inherent worth, and every human life is equally valuable. Our conscious existence is a thing worthwhile for its own sake, requiring no further justification.

By the exercise of our free will, we can select our own purpose and imbue our lives with meaning. Each person has the right and the responsibility to steer their own course through life.

Through the use of reason and conscience, we can perceive morality, defined as the principles of behavior which produce the greatest happiness and the least suffering both now and in the future. Morality is not dependent on personal opinion or societal prejudice, but is objective and universal and is accessible to every intelligent being. We should, to the best of our ability, obey these principles and be good to each other.

Human beings possess fundamental rights and freedoms upon which no one may infringe. Among these are freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, freedom of association, the right to privacy, the right to an education, the right to live in peace and safety, and the right to seek happiness.

There is a world that exists independently of us, which is not altered by will alone, but which we can learn about and come to understand and control.

Only through reason and the scientific method can we hope to learn how the world works. No other method of gaining knowledge is reliable and all claims to knowledge not gained through this method should be considered suspect.

The free human intelligence is a thing of awesome power, and has the right to travel and explore wherever it desires to go. No reason can ever justify the censorship or suppression of ideas.

The only ethical form of government is democracy. Every society has both the right and the obligation to revolt against and overthrow any other system.

The purpose of government is to establish justice, insure peace, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to all its citizens. Any government that does not speak for all its citizens equally or that ignores the needs of its most needy members deserves to be removed from power at once.

Wealth and power can only be a means to an end and never an end in themselves.

Throughout history, human beings have created a vast number of religious belief systems, all of which describe a supernatural world beyond our own. There is no good evidence in favor of any of these belief systems and no reason to consider any of them to be true. Supernaturalism and superstition have never done anything more than harm us, turn us against each other and hold us back. The effort and resources we pour into religion should instead be used for the benefit of all our fellow human beings.

And finally, I affirm that despite all our flaws and follies, despite all the darkness and madness in our past, and despite the forces of ignorance and hatred that beset us as never before, there is and will always be hope. We human beings have undreamed-of potential which we are only just beginning to touch on, and as long as people of courage and principle are willing to stand and defend what is right, we can create for ourselves and our descendants a future of bright light and clear air, a better world where we have at last achieved the good it was always in our power to bring about.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Archi Medez

    Adam,

    I assume that this takes into account guidance from expert knowledge and from the work of ethicists and law-makers. Rule by majority opinion can lead to unethical results, as you know. There are also examples of people actually voting democratically in favour of tyranny, e.g, recent elections in the Islamic states of Iraq and Palestine.

    It may be useful to add some kind of statement regarding what you mean by democracy. A democracy is only as morally good and as smart as the people running it. You obviously know all of that, but the quote seemed a little bit too strong or possibly open to misinterpretation.

    -Archi

  • Archi Medez

    My apologies Adam; I was commenting on a quote that didn’t make it into my previous post. The quote was about your statement on democracy.

    “The only ethical form of government is democracy. Every society has both the right and the obligation to revolt against and overthrow any other system.”

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    You’re correct, of course, that I believe people should carefully weigh the advice of experts and follow the principles of morality when making decisions – not just in voting for their leaders, but in everything. The truth is that I don’t intend my creed to be a comprehensive statement of everything I believe – indeed, it started out that way until I realized it was developing into something far too long to be a blog post, at which point I was forced to cut it down to the essentials. (I’m considering posting an expanded version on Ebon Musings in the future.) I would also point out my supervening statement, several points earlier, that humans have certain fundamental rights upon which no one may infringe. Elected officials are included in that category, naturally.

    I realize that recent elections which gave legitimacy to extremist groups may seem to cast some doubt on this aspect of my creed. However, I maintain that democracy – as distinguished from mob rule – is, on the whole, better than any other system we can realistically hope to achieve. At least in a democracy, more moderate and rational voices get their say as well, and have a good chance of forcing extremists to make some concessions. On the other hand, when a dictator rules over a society, such as Saddam Hussein did to Iraq, he is often compelled to placate the wishes of the most extreme groups to retain power, and this usually means silencing the moderate groups (who, by definition, pose him less of a direct threat) and making the chance for positive change even smaller.

  • http://dominicself.co.uk Dominic Self

    Ouch. WordPress ate my comment first time round. Oh well, here we go again…

    Firstly – very interesting statement of belief and one I largely believe in. I’ll post my few quibbles because hey, one word ‘Agreed’ comments all the time will get boring :)

    Like Archi, I’m not sure about the democracy statement. For a start I think the word is thrown around these days as a byword for freedom, liberty or happiness when it clearly doesn’t necessarily mean any of these things. And I suspect that a citizen of a referendum based democracy may look at the American or British system and claim that’s not even ‘real democracy’ at all!

    After all – if a government was really supposed to represent all its citizens equally here in the UK we should have reintroduced hanging by now, given every homeowner the right to shoot intruders with AK-47s and torn up every speeding fine ever issued. I get a sense that democracy sometimes means you put in power people who can make decisions that the majority won’t always agree with, and that’s a good thing.

    Essentially, I’m not a fan of absoluteness or fundamentalism. Democracy seems to be the most promising form of government at the moment, but if I believed a socialist utopia as described in the past was possible, I think I’d opt for that. Similarly for censorship, do we have a right to libel, slander, publish child pornography or incite racial hatred? And can the right of privacy be trumped by other concerns sometimes? (I believe so – but don’t you dare take that as an endorsement of a certain wiretapping programme!)

    The same goes for morality in general. Nothing is ‘good’ or ‘evil’ intrinsically, they are only human constructs (although very valuable ones!) which we can ascribe to actions when taking into account all the circumstances.

  • BWM

    I think what you are all alluding to is a “republic”. Democracy, as the founders of the US often stated, is tyranny waiting to happen. You can’t really have a system called “rule by people” and then tell the majority they can’t do this or that. Hence, it’s republic “rule by law”. That is the form of government that puts a solid wall around the power of government. Just thought I’d toss that out there. Overall, good guidelines, Adam. I hope this site grows well.

    Eh, though, this security code business might not be the best idea; I’m putting it in quite clearly but it seems to have a difficult time with that.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    The captcha was a bit draconian, I agree – I’ve tweaked it a bit to make it more forgiving. As an alternative, you can always register, via the link at the bottom of any post, and then you can bypass it altogether.

    Just to clarify, when I discussed democracy, I had in mind a system where every competent adult had an equal vote in choosing their leaders. Whether that means directly deciding what government should do, or choosing representatives to do that on one’s behalf, is another debate which I didn’t want to plunge into in this post, although a republic probably is the only workable option for a large population.

    It scarcely needs saying that democracy is not perfect – a democratic state can make grievous mistakes, permit evils to go uncorrected, and put people in power who shouldn’t be in power. (See Bush, George W.) The best thing about democracy is that people get the government they deserve; and the worst thing about democracy is also that people get the government they deserve. But as I’ve said, a democratic state has more potential to be self-correcting than any other system of government – except perhaps a socialist utopia populated by perfect human beings, but we are manifestly imperfect.

    As far as whether morality is absolute, let me get to a series of posts explaining my view on the matter more clearly, and who knows, I might even convince you. :)

  • BlackWizardMagus

    Ah, didn’t know I could register; very handy. Meh, sorry I nitpick, I just have a personal crusade to correct people who use the term “democracy” to describe the US when we are not a democracy.

  • Unbeliever

    I agree whole heartedly with virtually this entire creed. Once thing, though, concerns me.

    You state: “Human beings possess fundamental rights and freedoms upon which no one may infringe. Among these are freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, freedom of association, the right to privacy, the right to an education, the right to live in peace and safety, and the right to seek happiness.”

    This is one item in this list that is very unlike the others. If you want to exercise any of these rights, it costs me nothing. I have to take no action to facilitate your rights. Except a right to an education.

    Providing your education costs me money. If I am a teacher, it costs me my time. Why do you have the right to take from me to get an education? As a moral individual, I may agree to provide this assistance, but you should never posess a right that requires me to give up one of my own, in this case my right to property.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Hello Unbeliever,

    I am not, of course, suggesting that you personally have any obligation to provide anyone else with an education. I view that as a responsibility of society as a whole, not of any particular individual.

    However, more generally, I don’t accept the idea that something cannot be a right if it confers an obligation on others. I also mentioned the right to live in peace and safety: would you reject that idea because it requires people to build me a house or provide me with medical care? Society is, by its nature, a group of people coming together to provide for one another. If one rejects the idea that people can ever be obligated to do things for each other, then what’s the point of society at all? I don’t consider this unfair because, just as you (speaking generally) have the societal obligation to provide for others, so too do they provide for you. By giving up a small portion of your freedom, you attain benefits that you could never have acquired for yourself.

  • Unbeliever

    I would reject any proposal to build you a house or provide medical care if I had no choice but to contribute. This is anathema to the American ideal of freedom and personal responsibility.

    You’ve created a right to take from others. I pay taxes to support the police. Yet I benefit directly from having a police force. I pay taxes to build roads. Yet I can use those very roads. I do not benefit from your education. I do not benefit from your having access to health care. I agree that people often need help with these things. But when you declare them to be right, you are saying that I have an obligation to help provide them. That the government can use force to compel me to do so. That is socialism.

    BTW, thanks for replying to my comment. I think you have one of the very best web sites I have ever had the pleasure to come across.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    You’re most welcome, Unbeliever. I do my best to be responsive. A few thoughts…

    I pay taxes to support the police. Yet I benefit directly from having a police force. I pay taxes to build roads. Yet I can use those very roads. I do not benefit from your education. I do not benefit from your having access to health care.

    Are you certain about that?

    I’m assuming you value science in general. After all, it provides a great number of inventions and discoveries that benefit you personally and directly. I certainly value it highly for that reason. Therefore, it is in our interest to live in a society where science is valued and supported by the public – as opposed to, say, a society where science is stifled by fundamentalist religious groups who try to suppress any discovery that runs counter to their beliefs. I would much rather live in the former type of society than the latter. Well, how can we ever create such a society unless we commit to educating and informing the public? If we do not take up the responsibility to educate people, we create fertile soil for creationism and all other kinds of ignorance and pseudoscience to take root.

    Or consider health care. Let’s set aside, for the moment, the possibility that you personally may become destitute at some point in your life, or otherwise unable to pay for needed medical care, and would benefit from the existence of a social safety net. Let’s say for the sake of argument that by hard work and intelligent economic decisions, you have guaranteed your own access to quality medical care for life. The question is, what’s going to happen to people who don’t have that access? Since those people aren’t under regular medical supervision, any new epidemic or infectious disease that appears will be likely to flourish among them. By the time it spreads out of the have-nots and begins to infect the rest of society, it may have become far more virulent and dangerous, putting you and many other people at personal risk, whereas if the epidemic had been detected in time, it might have been possible to stop it.

    Neither of these things are wildly hypothetical scenarios. In fact, we see both of them happening in various places around the world right now. In America, due to a lack of public support for or understanding of science, creationists and other religious groups are now powerful enough to oppose the teaching of evolution, measures to mitigate global warming, stem-cell research, even basic medical advances (the HPV vaccine or the morning-after pill). And in Asia, the new strain of bird flu now appearing principally among the poor and disadvantaged may eventually become a deadly global pandemic.

    For these reasons, I venture to suggest that it does benefit you, and indeed all of us, to guarantee universal access to basic goods like education and health care. The benefits may not be as direct or as obvious as funding police departments or public transportation, but they are there, nonetheless. I think labels like “socialism” are too simplistic: we all live on the same world, and our lives are all connected. It is not always, but very often, the case that what benefits one person benefits us all.

  • Unbeliever

    I agree that I may recieve some indirect benefit from your education or universal health care. As a caring person, I am even willing to contribute to both. My concern is only with the method, not the result. In America, being free means being free to be a jerk. It means that you can choose not to help your fellow man. This may be unethical, but in today’s America, it has been criminalized through our tax code. We are all required, under penalty of incarceration, to provide this assistance. Whether it is a good time for us or not. The things you want I also want. They are good and noble goals. But they should be achieved through voluntary donations, not at the point of a gun.

    The government stinks at almost anything it does. Look at the Katrina disaster as a perfect example. It is far better to teach personal responsibility and then let private charities fill in where that fails. I only ask that we keep government out of it. I recommend this story about Davy Crockett and government charity: Not Yours To Give

  • Alex

    Keep in mind also that ensuring the education of all citizens provides an enormous boost to the productivity of the country’s economy, as well as the available technology, and hence a higher standard of living. Having a strong economy, and keeping up with or surpassing the rest of the world technologically, also greatly improves a society’s ability to provide for the common defense. Furthermore, it is my general impression (I don’t have sources on hand) that, although education is not a panacea for hatred, bigotry, and intolerance, these attitudes–at least in the overt form that tends to result in violence and discrimination–are, to an extent, inversely proportional to the education level of its citizens. So, ensuring that everyone has a good education is both a practical and a moral imperative for society as a whole. (Yes, this is a brief synopsis; blame the clocks).

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    An excellent point, Alex. Well said.

    The things you want I also want. They are good and noble goals. But they should be achieved through voluntary donations, not at the point of a gun.

    I’m glad to see you agree with me, Unbeliever, and in return I’ll say that I too wish compulsory taxation was unnecessary to achieve the goals we as a society value. Regrettably, people are not angels, and if we were to make taxation voluntary right now, there would be a massive tragedy of the commons problem. There are many immoral people who would be only too happy to reap the benefits of a society built by tax revenue without contributing anything in turn, and even the people who would otherwise contribute willingly would probably choose to withdraw as a result (after all, why should they be the suckers and pay for the selfish people? That strikes me as unimpeachable moral reasoning).

    If there were an effective way to exclude from society people who refused to contribute toward its upkeep, I would advocate making taxation voluntary. But I just don’t think such a solution is feasible.

  • Philip Thomas

    “Two things are inevitable: Death and Taxes. Even Christians think this about Taxes (Render Unto Ceasar). Anyway, the traditional rights based model is sometimes said to lack a framework of duties: I’m not sure that’s true, but it certainly is the duty of citizens of a modern democratic state to pay such taxes as are fair and reasonable: meaning by fair and reasonable that they do not prevent you having the minimum acceptable standard of living (which varies with time and place). No Taxation without representation, but we should also be wary of granting representatin to those without taxation.

    In return the state has a duty to spend its taxes on the common good: which is defined by the community as a whole, not merely by wealthy libertarians. The common good definitely includes mass education and healthcare, and I suppose it includes a police force and a military…the list goes on.

    Not to say that the level and scope of tax and public spending shouldn’t vary widely across modern states: obviously different consideration will lead to different results, as in the USA and my own UK.

  • Void

    a democratic state can make grievous mistakes, permit evils to go uncorrected, and put people in power who shouldn’t be in power. (See Bush, George W.)

    I disagree, public opinion has been against many of the acts brought about by the bush administration but they were unable to act,as public involvement in governence is limited to elections. You cannot claim a democratic state won’t correct evils when its power to do so is severely hampered. Take for example the Iraq war, public opinion is continuing to get worse about the iraq war, if the public was able to decide matters of foreign policy, instead of a former arms manafacturer, foreign policy would have taken a different course as the majority believed that we should withdraw from iraq as early as 5/11 04 (search for CBS News Poll)

    As for putting people in power who shouldn’t be, the majority of senior officials in the executive branch are unelected and the circumnstances in which bush came to power were highly dubious, as the majority did not elect him and 179,855 were prohibited from voting.

  • jake3988

    I hold true to Dawkins quote about by dismissing the next life so we can take more appreciation for this life. Or John Lennon and having everyone ‘living for today’.

    Also, I think I like your assertions with holding ALL people on the same platform.

    The christian god (and many other gods) want everyone of every other religion dead (As well as atheists). They would rather save a fetus than save a grown human. They would rather have people die of cervical cancer than have kids having underage sex. They would rather a woman die at childbirth than have an abortion. Its this logic that is truely vile.

  • Philip Thomas

    I dom’t know about “the christian god”, but as a christian I do not want anyone of another religion dead, or any atheists for that matter. I would rather save a grown human than a foetus, but I would rather save a foetus than kill it. I do not want deaths from cervical cancer, but I don’t want paedophilia either, and I don’t see the connection… I would rather the foetus die than the mother, but I would rather a 1% chance of the mother’s death than a 100% chance of the foetuses.

    And perhaps you could refrain from being gratuitously insulting.

  • Alex Weaver

    I believe he meant kids having sex with each other.

  • Philip Thomas

    Well I’m not much more keen on 15 year olds having sex with 10 year olds than I am on 30 year olds having sex with 10 year olds…

  • Alex Weaver

    Right, but 15 year olds having sex with 16 or 14 year olds. One of the arguments used by the wingnuts against the HPV vaccine is that it will encourage young girls to go out and have premarital sex.

  • Philip Thomas

    Now that is a stupid argument.

    As for where the age of consent should lie, obviously there is a minimum age below which children shouldn’t have sex, and should even be legally forbidden to do so. I haven’t studied the matter enough to say what would be a sensible limit. However, once there is a limit by law established, even if you think the law should be changed, people stil shouldn’t break it.

  • Alex Weaver

    I don’t think it’s at all obvious that there is a minimum age below which children shouldn’t be allowed to have sex, especially if we define “sex” in nebulous terms. What kind of sex with who? My position varies rather dramatically depending on whether the issue is of curious touching or oral sex or intercourse, with peers, with younger siblings, with adults, etc. I would contend that somewhere between 14-16 should be the cutoff for having sex WITH ADULTS, but as long as children are of moderately comparable ages and they aren’t behaving in a way that would also be considered abusive between two legal adults, and as long as they’re educated about sex in an age-appropriate and honest fashion, sexual behavior and exploration, while I wouldn’t argue it should be encouraged, does not seem like something which it would be a good use of social or familial resources to aggressively prevent.

  • Sarah

    Regarding the response about the christian god wanting all other followers of other faiths dead. What it all boils down to is numbers. The leaders of christianity, islam, judaism, buddhism…every religion out there rely on people to keep the religion alive. With no followers, the religion is dead. Naturally, they want as many people converted, born into, or otherwise indoctrinated into the religion so it can continue. It is in the best interests of the religion that they come out with the most followers and the other religions have less or none.

  • Anna

    I would use ‘ethics’ where you use morality, as a word choice decision. Ethics is right action, morality is a set of beleifs. Ethical behavior is choices that are right and good, moral behavior is simply that which fits into one’s set of beleifs or ‘moral code’.

  • Gordon Hide

    “and every human life is equally valuable.”

    Yes, A lot of people say this. Thankfully, the actions of almost everybody belie their statements.

  • Christian

    I’ll pray for God to come into your life.

  • Alex Weaver

    I’ll pray for God to come into your life.

    Would this be a bad time for a “reaching for the kleenex” joke? (There’s really not much else you can say to a person who willfully and ignorantly dismisses a post like the above with a promise to forward the poster’s contact information to a sales representative of a competitor selling an inferior, vaporware product.)

    Incidentally, doesn’t Matthew 6:5 say, in effect, not to advertise your praying?

  • Willa Walton

    My mother told all of us, every day, that the most important thing you have to do is get an education. I believe that with every fiber of my being. So, if education is the most important thing we do, then it should be guaranteed to everyone. Education is important in so many different ways and we all do benefit when everyone is educated. First of all, an educated public is necessary for providing an educated workforce which helps to guarantee a stable economy. It enables people to make good decisions about their lives which enables them to be able to carry on the activities of daily living in an intelligent way. The better educated we are as a whole, the better decisions we can make towards participating in activities such as voting wisely, recognizing what is important about the world we live in and to be able to participate equally in all the activities that make for a satisfying and productive life.

  • http://www.radioleft.com Geoff Staples

    Please look at this. I took a lot of your words to create this “declaration”. I am happy to give you credit – except for one thing: I am dealing with a bunch of right wing fundamentalists who will simply have a hey day attacking the post because it came in part from an atheist website. I want to have a real discussion with those who are interested, not get distracted by attacks on atheism, secular humanism, and all of that crap.

    So, I hope you will not be offended by my not crediting you.

    Please note that this is no longer an “atheist’s creed”. I specifically state that our rights are by mutual agreement embedded in governmental documents. This is a specific repudiation of the claim that we get our rights from God, not from our consitution. And, I specifically state that feedom of thought and expression guarantee freedom of religion.

    http://blog.radioleft.com/blog/_archives/2007/1/1/2615065.html

  • Shawn Smith

    Geoff, we “get” our rights not from the Constitution, not from Congress, not from the government, but by virtue of our being human. Remember: the government does not “give” people rights, it is simply (supposed to be) prevented from trampling on rights that we, as free people, assert for ourselves. All humans have the right to engage in any actions that do not infringe on those same rights for anyone else.

    That idea, more than anything else, is the prime idea behind the U.S. Constitution, and what the founders aligned with Madison and Jefferson and against Adams and Hamilton considered most important.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Hello Geoff,

    Actually, I do object to this. Even if you had credited it to “Anonymous”, that would be one thing, but you seem to have largely copied my essay, with some changes of wording, and listed your own name as the author. I don’t think that’s fair to me. I don’t object to my work being republished elsewhere, and I don’t even expect payment for it if it’s used in a not-for-profit context, but I want to be credited for the things I write. In any case, do you think this will trick anyone? Your right-wing commenters could Google some of your phrases and find my original easily enough.

    I understand your desire not to get distracted by personal attacks on me, but I don’t think that justifies passing yourself off as the author. As you’ll know if you read this site with any regularity, one of my major missions in writing for it is to banish the stigma associated with atheism and skepticism and help nonbelievers take their rightful place in the public discourse. The only way we will ever overcome prejudices such as you describe is to confront them directly and refute them by example, not by remaining hidden and silent lest we be thought too radical for mainstream consumption. I am proud of being an atheist, and I will not hide it. Still less will I allow others to hide it for me. I believe my ideas stand on their own merits and deserve to be discussed on their own merits, and if your commenters will not do that, then they do not deserve the civility of a reply from you or from anyone.

    I insist that you either credit me as the original author of the piece now posted on your site or remove it completely.

  • Jayme A

    I just started reading some blogs posted on this site and I really admire the way the statements made are constructed with intelligence and depth. I consider myself to be more of an ‘agnostic’ just because I really don’t know what is out there and if there is a God I would hope that God would not just favor a certain group of people, the idea is ludicrous. I have been told that being an agnostic is being too indecisive, but whatever.
    I just wanted to comment on a few of the above posts. I am posting the following web address about new data concerning premarital sex. It is pretty interesting.
    http://www.cnn.com/2006/HEALTH/12/19/premarital.sex.ap/index.html
    I think the biggest problem with organized religion is hypocrisy. Religious people will knowingly do something they know to be ‘forbidden’ but then they will claim that they are ‘only human’ and will be forgiven. I just don’t understand how so many people can willingly commit themselves to a faith and then ignore their own doctrines! It doesn’t make any sense to me. There are so many issues I have concerning organized religion, and I am just relieved that there are other intelligent folks out there who are not just ‘God-less liberal quacks.’ I really enjoy the thorougness of this site and thank you for the time and effort put into it.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Thank you, Jayme, and welcome! I’m glad you like my site, and I hope you choose to come back and leave some comments in the future, if medical school allows you that luxury, of course.

    I don’t think being an agnostic means being indecisive. (In this I stand firmly against Madalyn Murray O’Hair, who infamously slandered agnostics by saying that they “prefer to keep one foot in the god camp”). I respect people who say that they don’t have enough information to make a decision, or even that the question is unanswerable. These are both legitimate and valid positions. My only caveat is that I would hope everyone who feels they don’t have enough evidence to decide yet is engaged in an effort to seek out additional evidence.

  • http://sadielouwho.blogspot.com Sadie

    Hello. I found this creed to be very well written. I found myself responding to several of your points and I am a Christian.
    Of course there are points where we will part ways but I put a lot of responsibility on mankind for the evil in this world and it seems, by reading this creed, that you do as well.
    One question I feel compelled to ask: If evolution is indeed the answer–why is mankind getting steadily worse, as far as morality goes, (or, if you’re a postmodernist–why are we staying the same?) instead of improving?
    I like this blog a great deal. I think your purpose to put emphasis on the positive aspects of atheism is far more superior to your peers that are just focusing on the negative/opposite side of atheism.
    I’ll keep coming back. One more thing: Can I cross post this creed on my “Christian” blog?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Hello Sadie,

    One question I feel compelled to ask: If evolution is indeed the answer–why is mankind getting steadily worse, as far as morality goes, (or, if you’re a postmodernist–why are we staying the same?) instead of improving?

    If I may say so, there are several misconceptions in this sentence. Permit me to address them individually:

    First of all: Evolution is not about “progress” in any absolute sense. In particular, it is not about progress in a cultural or moral sense. Evolution entails living things becoming better adapted to survive in their particular environment, and the meaning of “better adapted” depends on the conditions of that environment. Depending on the circumstances, evolution can favor aggressive, violent behavior, or it can favor compassionate, cooperative behavior, or (most commonly) a mix of the two. It will not always favor one over the other, and as a species’ environment changes, the balance of behaviors which are selected for can change as well.

    Second: Human moral behavior is not dictated by evolution. Although evolution has instilled powerful instincts that affect the way we behave in certain circumstances, human beings have an entirely new level of mental and cultural complexity that is the primary influence over how we behave toward each other. Evolution can only work by changing a species’ genes, a process which necessarily takes many generations, but human culture can and does change on a much faster timescale, within the lifetime of a single person.

    Third: I do not agree that human moral sentiment is worsening or even staying the same. On the contrary, insofar as a trend is discernible, I think it is one of improvement. Past eras practiced and approved of many things which we now recognize to be thoroughly immoral: for example, human slavery, racism, imperialism as official state policy, the denial of suffrage to women, the establishment of totalitarian governments, physical abuse as a method of disciplining children, forced polygamy and concubinage, deliberate environmental destruction in the name of profit, deliberate animal cruelty for the sake of entertainment, the censorship and suppression of science on religious grounds, and many more. All these once-common practices have now been rightfully rejected the world over, and states and groups that still practice them are widely regarded as pariahs. These are large and hopeful steps, even if much work still remains to be done. What leads you to believe that our moral situation is worsening?

    I’ll keep coming back. One more thing: Can I cross post this creed on my “Christian” blog?

    By all means. (Let me know when you’ve posted it – I’ll come visit and would be glad to answer any questions your visitors might have.) All I ask is that you provide a link back to this page.

  • http://sadielouwho.blogspot.com Sadie

    Yes, perhaps I have an untrained understanding of evolution. I guess I always thought that as a species evolves, it gets better–makes improvement.
    You asked what leads me to believe our morality is worsening? I suppose “worsening” is a little strong–perhaps, staying the same (but different) sounds better. Politics are still corrupt. People lie to each other to get ahead in life. Rape, murder, theft are still on the incline instead of the decline. Sexual predators are more free to do their evils *now* more than ever before because of the anonymous nature of the internet. You said slavery is considered immoral but it doesn’t stop. There are countless women and children bought and sold as sex slaves in Asian countries. In Darfur, we have geneocide. The people of Darfur aren’t just killed–they’re raped and brutalized. What is anyone really doing about it? I sent $25.00 last month but what is that going to change?
    I don’t mean to be a defeatest but don’t things, by nature, get worse with time–instead of better?
    Look at our bodies–our possessions–our planet. The longer time drags on, the worse the state of decay. Why should humanity be any different?
    Of course I will provide a link and a head’s up if and when I post your creed. I really think it will grab people’s attention and provide a good discussion. I’ve got a pretty mixed bag of people on my blog.
    ~S

  • James Bradbury

    Sadie,

    Sorry to jump into this suddenly, but I’ve argued about this recently so it’s fresh in my mind.

    I think things (by which I mean happiness of human beings on average) are overall getting better. However, I don’t think the improvement could be represented by a straight line in all places and across any short span of time. Any decent opposition politician could find a particular place and a particular span of time in which standards have slipped back in some way.

    As you point out, these days we are made acutely aware of atrocities across the globe thanks to daily media. If similar or worse atrocities were happening across the globe 1000 years ago would we have heard about it? Would anyone have thought to send money to relieve their suffering? Would there have been a global outcry and international pressure on the perpetrators?

    Try comparing moral or living standards against those of many centries ago rather than within our (relatively brief) lifetimes and you get a smoother and more positive change. Granted it is difficult for us to judge conditions in previous times because we weren’t there.

    However, if someone was to report that (my fictional example) “Violent crime in NYC has increased by 50% in the last ten years”, it would hardly be representative of the whole of humanity.

  • http://sadielouwho.blogspot.com Sadie

    Try comparing moral or living standards against those of many centries ago rather than within our (relatively brief) lifetimes and you get a smoother and more positive change. Granted it is difficult for us to judge conditions in previous times because we weren’t there.

    Hi James,
    That’s a pretty fair request. Let me see if we can narrow down the moral field a little. Let’s just talk about the internet–the World Wide Web–for a moment.
    While the internet lends itself to *great* things–I mean, I’m able to discuss theology with lots of atheists in my jammies!–there is a serious amount of evil that comes with it. It’s like mankind takes something that can be totally used for good and we *ALWAYS* find ways to make it evil.
    I’m sure I don’t have to provide evidence for it’s evil uses so you get my point right?
    Way back before internet–porn was less of an addiction because it was harder to come by. I mean, a person would have to walk into a store and buy it. Now it’s an anonymous click away in the security of your own home. You don’t even have to pay!

  • Polly

    @Sadie:

    But the evil was there all along; even before the Net, and even before that convenience store.
    That technology provides the tool to express evil doesn’t mean that the world is getting worse or even much different in terms of morality – although I think our priciples are getting better. We’ve stopped treating those outside our immediate clan as sub-human.
    Those 3rd world nations that are so backward are also mostly run by theocrats. But, even the secular evil governments of the world simply haven’t caught up to us, yet. They are more representative of what the entire world looked like not too long ago.

    Would you count a drug ineffective in stopping a plague on account of some refusing to take it? Or, because it can’t be tranported and administered fast enough to distant victims?

    What if, in 100 years, the entire world looks like the “Western World.” I believe (or hope)technologies that can transmit information that outflank the efforts of totalitarian governments to keep their populations in the dark, will see to it that the world at large gets an education. I think we’ll see a lot of irrational obedience disappear and a lot more accountability on the part of governments to their informed citizens. Citizens who have been enlightened by exposure to BETTER points of view. On the heels of a responsible government, will almost certainly follow technological development that can alleviate hunger and disease to the levels of the most developed nations.

    Was there such a thing as inalienable rights being enforced by a large international organization in the past? Were there rules for war? Civillization is just waking up. After millenia of bloodshed, the human race is finally, just now coming into its own if it can resist the dark forces that want to pull it back down. Such forces are: ultra-nationalism, racism, chauvinism, slavery, forcible submission to religious dogma, superstition, imperialism and the list goes on.

    You see a world that’s mostly the same. I see a world where mistreatment of our fellow humans is finally being consciously rejected for the vile, evil(anagrams :)) thing that it is. In the past, these concepts, if understood and verbalized at all, certainly were not part of the big picture. Now they are.

    Just to augment Ebon’s comment: Evolution is not a moral agent. It just molds creatures that have a tendency to produce more surviving offspring in the long run. Too much social baggage has gotten attached to the theory.
    If conditions had been different millions of years ago, there’s no reason evolution wouldn’t have provided the world with a WARM-blooded, omnivorous dinosaur bigger and badder than T-Rex, that could survive ANYWHERE, laid hundreds of time-released, armor-plated eggs, and had a life expectancy of 10 years. And that could have been the pinnacle of evolutionary development. Or, some cellular goo. Evolution just doesn’t care.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    It’s like mankind takes something that can be totally used for good and we *ALWAYS* find ways to make it evil.

    Sadie, I think your assessment is being prejudiced by your Christian beliefs. It’s a common theme in Christianity that human nature is hopelessly, irredeemably evil and that the world is decaying inexorably toward oblivion absent God’s intervention, and your comment seems to reflect that view. Also – and I can’t help pointing this out – in response to my claim that great evils such as racism, slavery and female oppression have been greatly reduced or eliminated throughout much of the world, your entire counterclaim centers around the greater availability of sexual material. That, too, is a view that has deep roots in Christian belief.

    It’s not surprising that a Christian would believe the world is getting worse. Christians have to believe that, because the alternative implies that human beings may eventually reach a state where they can “save” themselves without help from God. But since total dependency on God (which, in practice, means total dependency on the religious authorities who claim to speak for God) is a fundamental aspect of Christian belief, any signs of moral progress must be dismissed. I think your conclusion is driving your findings of fact, not the other way around.

    I’d like to know what your response is to the specific examples I brought up. Do you not concede that racism has been widely discredited, both in the West and in formerly apartheid nations like South Africa? Do you not concede that democracy has largely replaced totalitarianism throughout the world? Do you not concede that women have made enormous social and political progress in a majority of nations, even if full equality has yet to be achieved? (It’s easy for someone who grew up in an era of female suffrage to overlook just how radical a change this was. Take a look at the Bible sometime and see what it says about the subservience and inferiority of women.)

    As James said, I don’t assert that conditions are improving everywhere and always. There are catastrophes, cruelties, and reversions to type – Darfur being one of them. But even that tragedy has attracted international attention and assistance that would have been unthinkable a few generations ago, even if the response has so far fallen grievously short of what is truly needed. Genocide was once not just condoned, but the expected course of action in warfare (again, see the Bible for examples of this). Now it is regarded with horror and condemnation the world over.

    Again, human moral progress is not a steady, straight line of improvement. It’s more a two-steps-forward, one-step-back kind of pattern. But I maintain that a trend of improvement is nevertheless discernible.

    Way back before internet–porn was less of an addiction because it was harder to come by. I mean, a person would have to walk into a store and buy it. Now it’s an anonymous click away in the security of your own home. You don’t even have to pay!

    I deny that pornography can cause “addiction”, except in extremely rare and pathological cases. As far as true evils, like pedophiles and sexual predators, the Internet has certainly created more opportunities for these people to contact each other and swap pictures – I wouldn’t argue with that claim. But has it actually created more sex predators than there previously were? That is much less certain.

    Human beings have been creating erotic material practically since the start of history, and there has always been huge and pervasive interest in such material. The Internet has not changed that, though it has certainly made pornography easier to come by. Personally, I’m of the opinion that the public shame and repression of sexuality was by far the greater evil, and in this too, there has been improvement. Greater openness and honesty about sexuality will be a benefit to us in the long run, and I believe that the current explosion of Internet pornography is just a symptom of that social change working itself out. When we stop treating sex as mysterious and forbidden – an attitude that Christianity has played no small part in shaping, I note – I think things will largely settle down.

  • Joe

    Thank you so much for your willingness to actually spell out your beliefs. I appreciate when someone goes beyond attacking other beliefs and actually takes the time to consider what they personally hold to. Your creed is very well written and thought out. However, it contains several flaws.
    First of all, you state:
    “Only through reason and the scientific method can we hope to learn how the world works. No other method of gaining knowledge is reliable and all claims to knowledge not gained through this method should be considered suspect.”

    Yet at the same time, your entire creed is argued not via the scientific method, but with words and ideas that cannot ever hoped to be proven by the scientific method (i.e. good & evil, meaning, morality, and inherent worth) The scientific method is a good tool, but a very limited one. Therefore, are we to follow your advice and hold your creed “suspect?”

    Secondly, concerning morality, you state:
    “Morality is not dependent on personal opinion or societal prejudice, but is objective and universal and is accessible to every intelligent being. We should, to the best of our ability, obey these principles and be good to each other.”

    Is this your personal opinion, or a mere societal prejudice? Morality can be a very different thing, culture to culture. In some places they love their neighbor. In others, they eat their neighbor. Do you have a preference? Who determines what is objective and universal? You? Me? The USA? The Nazis? Governments? Kings? A show of hands?

    Finally, you come down very hard on religion and non-atheistic beliefs. You state-
    “Supernaturalism and superstition have never done anything more than harm us, turn us against each other and hold us back.” Granted that much harm has been done in the past and continues today under the guise of “religion” by every variety of faith there is. But are we so ignorant to assume that by removing these “superstitions” we will fare any better? Nations that have attempted to remove God by force (see China or U.S.S.R.) have not become the utopias they were promised to be. Rather these nations gave their citizens more oppression and death than previously known in world history. The 20th century truly was the bloodiest in history- to fulfill the words of the great prophet, Friedrich Nietzsche. All of this was due not to the presence of religion, but rather the death of God.

    Your hopes that atheism can somehow usher us into some utopia are misguided at best.

    I suggest that you google “Creed of the Atheist” by Steve Turner. It is a much more accurate description of the ridiculous beliefs that our society holds to and their logical outcomes.

  • Polly

    All of this was due not to the presence of religion, but rather the death of God.

    The bloodiness of the 20th century was brough about by the rise of ultra-nationalism and Communism. So far, much of the blood spilled in the 21st is the result of militant Islam.

    Yet at the same time, your entire creed is argued not via the scientific method,

    The scientific method is for discovering information about the world/universe and how it operates. It is up to us, humans, to find meaning in it all. Nowhere does anyone assert that science is supposed to tell us what to value and why. “Knowledge” is not the same thing as “values.”

    Quoting the original article in expanded context:

    Through the use of reason and conscience, we can perceive morality, defined as the principles of behavior which produce the greatest happiness and the least suffering both now and in the future. Morality is not dependent on personal opinion or societal prejudice, but is objective and universal and is accessible to every intelligent being. We should, to the best of our ability, obey these principles and be good to each other.

    I’ll venture an audacious presumption: You probably agree, at least as a general principle, with minimizing suffering. (Even punishment of criminals can be seen as an attempt to minimize future suffering.) You seem to be assuming that relativism must play some part simply because not everyone will agree with what’s right and wrong. This is not the case. It can be demonstrated logically and empirically, that the simple principles of cooperative self-interest and minimizing violence lead to a better quality of life for all involved. Our (more or less) capitalist system is based on it as are many socialist states. Suffice it to say, that a coherent moral system can easily be devised based on reason apart from god-belief. This is the job of ethicists; a job for which a religious belief is not a mandatory prerequisite. Morality, then, becomes the answer to the question: “what benefits humans?” As opposed to: “How do I please god?”

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Yet at the same time, your entire creed is argued not via the scientific method, but with words and ideas that cannot ever hoped to be proven by the scientific method (i.e. good & evil, meaning, morality, and inherent worth)

    On the contrary: morality is a matter of empirically determinable fact. It is no more difficult to study scientifically than any other theory about a particular aspect of human behavior.

    Morality can be a very different thing, culture to culture…. Who determines what is objective and universal?

    Different cultures may believe morality consists of different actions, but that does not mean that they are equally in the right. Similarly, different cultures may hold different beliefs about the shape of the Earth, but that does not mean there is no independently ascertainable fact of the matter. For a more detailed view of my position on morality, see my essay “The Ineffable Carrot and the Infinite Stick“, plus supplemental material here at Daylight Atheism, “The Roots of Morality“.

    Granted that much harm has been done in the past and continues today under the guise of “religion” by every variety of faith there is. But are we so ignorant to assume that by removing these “superstitions” we will fare any better?

    As you yourself admit, enormous harm has been done by religion and faith. Therefore, I fail to see on what grounds you dispute my statement that less religion and less faith would improve humanity’s situation. It will not solve all our problems, but it will eliminate or mitigate a great number of them, particularly if that ebbing of faith is replaced by a principled, reasoned humanism such as I advocate in this essay.

    Nations that have attempted to remove God by force (see China or U.S.S.R.) have not become the utopias they were promised to be. Rather these nations gave their citizens more oppression and death than previously known in world history.

    Complaints about communist countries in an vain attempt to tar me and my beliefs are far from the mark. The driving ideology of communism was not atheism, but rather adherence to a particular set of political principles which were held dogmatically and taken as unquestionable. When religious leaders agreed with these principles and helped to promote them (as many did), the communist states were only too happy to work together with them. Conversely, when atheists disagreed with these principles and opposed them, the communist states did not hesitate to persecute them viciously. See my essay, “Red Crimes“.

    Both with communism and with religion, the fundamental flaw is the same: the idea that there exist a certain set of claims which cannot be challenged or doubted but must be accepted on faith. Irrational adherence to such an ideology always leads to great harm, regardless of the specific claims being held dogmatically. As my creed makes clear, this is the absolute opposite of everything I believe and stand for.

  • Don Venable

    Wealth and power are a means to an end, not an end itself. Okay, so what is the end purpose of our existence? Existence itself? Do we exist just to exist until we no longer do?

    If you cannot answer this, then your entire creed is worthless.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    If you cannot answer this, then your entire creed is worthless.

    Worthless? Incomplete maybe, if that were true, and if you were convinced that the question has a sensible answer — or if you were convinced that it would be worthless to live life without some answer to that question. As it happens, I can give you a sort of answer. Not the sort you were looking for, I’m sure, but perhaps it will help you understand why the sort of answer you were looking for isn’t necessary.

    Okay, so what is the end purpose of our existence?

    It makes sense to have many purposes, but I think we human beings can choose to some extent what sorts of purposes in life will fulfil us. Here are some that I like:

    -Pursuit of knowledge
    -Love for others
    -Enjoyment of beauty
    -Having children (some day) and teaching and nurturing them
    -
    These are not end purposes, I admit. They are middle purposes, ongoing purposes, things that weave us into the fabric of the world and society around us. But they are wonderful. And they are enough.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    The end purpose of your existence, Don, is anything you wish it to be, so long as it does not interfere with others’ equal right to make the same choice. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of life’s purpose, no one ultimate meaning which every life shares. Rather, it is every individual’s right to choose for themself what makes their life most fulfilling and meaningful, and then work toward achieving that goal.

  • Polly

    Wealth and power are a means to an end, not an end itself. Okay, so what is the end purpose of our existence? Existence itself? Do we exist just to exist until we no longer do?

    Does life need an ultimate purpose? What’s the purpose of being married and not having children? Is that a purposeless marriage because it doesn’t lead to anything?
    Does a creed even need to answer that question?
    I am perfectly happy to make my own purpose. In fact, everyone, theist or atheist, does so. Religionists choose an imaginary being to center their lives around. Atheists choose other beings and other things. It’s still your choice.

    What is man’s purpose in God’s universe? What is man’s purpose in a universe where one single, perfect being can answer all questions, solve all problems, and has perfect love within himself among the persons of himself and needs nothing from anyone. What possible significance can anything you do or say have? If it’s to be in a relationship with that being, then why can’t your relationship/s with other humans be the purpose of your existence?

    (Did you actually trouble yourself to disqualify “wealth and power” just to get it out of the way because you thought somebody would actually suggest it?)

  • Samuel

    These truths I hold to be self-evident:

    Powerful words, these, but I think we should refrain from using them. Especially when we are trying to be non-dogmatic. An athiest’s “creed” should state the truths one believes in on the basis of evidence. Otherwise you are giving the impression that they need no further justification than their statement, which I’m sure you don’t mean.

  • GARY SCARNATI

    Sir,

    As a life long Empiricist, I think I see a flaw in your Atheist’s Creed; it is the same mistake that Theist often make. How can you say that you possess Free Will? Free Will is a supernatural power for which there is no empirical evidence. Continuously injecting a First Cause into the natural causal stream of the universe so as to continuously form a new set of initial conditions in the universe has never been demostrated in the laboratory. Where do you find the First Cause? Show evidence for Free Will and you will win the Nobel Prize. You will also make us all into gods.

    Our lives have meaning without choice. We are choicelessly controled by the laws of our own nature because we are Nature. In order to beleive in a god, Theist must first believe that they are gods with the First Cause power of Free Will. While thinking he believes in a Godly Other, the Theist is really only beleiving in his own pumped-up egotistical self.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Hello Gary,

    Free will need not be a supernatural ability to exempt oneself from causality. If defined correctly, free will is entirely compatible with a naturalistic universe that obeys physical laws. See my series On Free Will.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    Hey, how’d I miss that one? Looks like I have some reading to do, excuse me…

  • drzeus99

    Just wanted to make a very brief comment on your creed.
    Bottom line: Very Good. Those sentiments reflect my own
    beliefs almost to a “T”. As a proud atheist and skeptic
    ( I personally think that anyone who considers themselves to
    be real skeptics should also consider themselves to be atheists,
    and because rational, critical thinking leads people to
    atheism, the reverse “should” be true), I’ve found myself
    expressing your same “creed” statements to others, especially
    those who are religious and/or theists (some theists aren’t necessaily
    religious, but they still believe the tyhe mythical sky daddy),
    when espousing my own personal beliefs. As a long time member of
    James Randi’s Educational Foundation (JREF), which was founded for
    the purposes of educating people in their use of critical thinking,
    I’ve often been lead to many great websites (this site included, courtesy
    of link in Randi’s weekly SWIFT column (at http://www.randi.org), and am greatful
    to discover other like minded individuals who take the time out to spread
    the message (in whatever manner / discussing one or more issues) that belief
    in supernatural woo is simply failing to use the wonderful assest of critical
    thinking that is inherent to all humans.

  • Samuel Skinner

    Any system of morality that can change if it is shown to be wrong is good with me. It is nice to see something nondogmatic (I believe these to be true, but if proven otherwise I will change my mind). I also find it funny that some people ask for an “ultimate” purpose. What on Earth gave people the idea that there is anything more than life?

  • Martin

    Only through reason and the scientific method can we hope to learn how the world works. No other method of gaining knowledge is reliable and all claims to knowledge not gained through this method should be considered suspect.

    Are you sure that it is self-evident that no other method exists?
    Don’t you really mean that we do not yet know of any other reliable method?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    I consider it to be self-evident that no other reliable method currently exists. All the alternatives that have so far been proposed are obviously deficient. And in fact, I think, the more we learn about how the world works by using the scientific method, the more apparent it becomes that no method not based in reason and experimentation could possibly work. If there’s an alternative method, its practitioners would be under a very heavy burden indeed to demonstrate its efficacy, and I for one doubt that such a thing will ever be invented.

  • http://clearevidence.blogspot.com Jason Hodge

    You say: “Only through reason and the scientific method can we hope to learn how the world works. No other method of gaining knowledge is reliable and all claims to knowledge not gained through this method should be considered suspect.”

    Wikipedia defines the steps of the scientific method as this:

    1. Define the question
    2. Gather information and resources (observe)
    3. Form hypothesis
    4. Perform experiment and collect data
    5. Analyze data
    6. Interpret data and draw conclusions that serve as a starting point for new hypothesis
    7. Publish results
    8. Retest (frequently done by other scientists)

    Ironically, no atheistic world view I’ve ever encountered purports to embrace any vie w of origins besides Darwinist Evolution. Yet, evolution defies the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th steps of the scientific method. Evolutionists would say the do excessive amounts of the 5th and 6th steps, but the data to be analyzed is supposed to be from the 2nd and 4th steps, which is impossible for events believed to have happened millions or billions of years before intelligent life is supposed to have arisen.

    So my question is this: if “Only through reason and the scientific method can we hope to learn how the world works.” and “all claims to knowledge not gained through this method should be considered suspect.”, then how come atheists so readily embrace evolution and even antagonize against anyone who shows even a tinge of doubt about it?

    Your world view is as much faith-based as any of the religions you revile.

    Additionally, you make an awful lot of absolute statements for someone who rejects absolutes! Even if you don’t reject absolutes, a large portion of your patrons would say they do. I can see this from their comments.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    Actually, we are still gathering information relevant to evolution. On the one hand, we’re gathering more fossil evidence. On the other hand, there’s some particularly exciting stuff in the genomes of various species. There are definitely new theories being proposed about the details of how evolution has been and is taking place, even if the basic picture seems fairly solid. It’s an active area of research. Ask any biologist.

    And if you want to see a test, well, take Kenneth Miller‘s wonderful example. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes. The great apes have 24. There’s no way a chromosome just went missing (the offspring wouldn’t survive with a mutation like that). Either one chromosome split into two in all the other great apes (highly unlikely), or — prediction — somewhere on the human genome we can find a chromosome that shows signs of having been created from two other chromosomes that fused together. Go read Miller’s testimony if you want to know the rest.

  • OMGF

    Mr. Hodge,
    Simply because you are ignorant of evolution doesn’t mean that your assertions are correct. (Note that being ignorant of something is not an insult since everyone is ignorant of some things.) Evolution does indeed follow the scientific method. Not only is Lynet’s example a great one, but there are many, many others, like tiktallik, morphological experiments, nylonase bacteria, Avida, etc. etc. etc. These all encompass the steps (all the steps) of the scientific method.

    Also, if we did not retest, then we would not have revised the theory as necessary to include such things as Punk Eek, lateral gene transfer, symbiosis, and many other things. You are simply wrong in your assessment, and it’s not hard to see why someone might take offense at your ignorance…not because you are ignorant, but because you got it from people who are either willfully ignorant or completely dishonest and without scruples. This is what drives people crazy, that others will consciously lie for Jesus in order to malign science and scientists to further the end of winning more disciples for Christ. It’s truly disgusting that others would stoop to that level. Don’t be taken in by their dishonesty. I can recommend many resources for you if you want to learn.

  • Alex Weaver

    You know, if I ran a blog, when I got comments that display that level of mindlessly regurgitated, and insufferably smarmy, willful ignorance, that consist of the mindless regurgitation of canards that have been refuted time and time again, I wouldn’t respond; I’d just edit the comment to make the text of the canards into links to articles that refute them.

  • http://clearevidence.blogspot.com Jason Hodge

    First, thanks for actually posting my entry; at least it shows a willingness to have the conversation.

    Secondly, Alex: an impressive use of insults when you don’t have anything to add to the conversation. Alex voices a tactic I find common in the evolutionary world: “don’t let the opposition speak, they don’t merit consideration”. This is the very definition of closed-mindedness; it also signals the weakness of your evidence and signals insecurity. I have no respect for this kind of censorship from people who claim to be the heroes of free-speech and open ideas. It is precisely the kind of censorship and idea-demagoguing that plagues university campuses across the U.S. If I’m so ignorant, then why do you fear my posting here? The moderator is well within his rights to censor my post. It’s his blog, which is why I thank him for his tolerance; but to call for my censorship seems hypocritical and cowardly.

    Third, to OMGF, I write about Tiktallik on my blog. When you read the headlines about Tiktalik (Rosea, I assume you’re talking about), you’d think they’d found fast-forward video tape of fish morphing into land-amphibians. In actuality, the only thing “exciting” about the discovery was the conjecture that they drew from it. You could hardly turn so little into so much! This is hardly a win for the scientific method! The back half of the animal was not even found, but that didn’t stop the scientists from drawing a fish-like tail on all the pictures painted for public consumption. The fish-back-end, was the most compelling evidence to support their assertions from a morphological approach. This is smoke-n-mirrors science. As far as the bacteria go, I believe in variation and some degree of natural selection. What I refute is that these mechanisms account for the origin of the species. Bacteria with generational length of about 10 minutes are fertile grounds for experimentation, I agree, but we are talking origins, here, not variation. You cannot point me at anything that shows 1) the rise of life from non-living matter, or 2) the rise of new complex types from previous, lesser types. Demonstrations of recombinant or artificially tampered DNA hardly recapitulates the assertions drawn from generational changes in nylon eating bacteria. Again, they offer no proof whatever, that these genes or capabilities didn’t pre-exist their discovery (they obviously did). Rather, newer theories suppose that a common mutation type could cause this behavior in bacteria all the time, but the lack of nylon to feed on might prevent the variation from becoming dominant. No proof for evolution here, only variation and natural selection. For that matter, It would be trying to disprove a nearly universal negative. I liken it to a magician who claims he’ll make the space shuttle disappear. So you show up and anxiously await the demonstration. He, standing in front of the real shuttle, pulls from his pocket an inch-long, white, wax replica. He places it on the red table and before your very eyes, it turns red. Hm. Not what I expected. The scale and substance of what they said they’d prove with bacteria are both unfulfilled.

    Fourthly, to Lynet, I admire your willingness to stick your neck out and predict what will be found. It tells where a person’s beliefs lie. I am also into making predictions, and don’t mind the inferences of bias it draws. I actually worked for a prominent genetic research facility in the western U.S. I’m not ignorant of the genetic evidence that is coming out lately. All I can say is that genetic research is being conducted primarily from the perspective of evolution as an axiom. Ironic since genetics is one of the few remaining frontiers that could conclusively prove that evolution is not the origin of the species. Genetic research is yielding many serious problems for those who thought that it would finally end the debate with “ignorant” creationists (like myself) :) In the contrary, much of the evidence, which is subject to interpretation, is actually posing problems for evolutionists. Things such as the formerly related lungfish and coelacanth, or the discovery of a common mother only a few thousand years ago in humans(generationally calculated). Personally, I predict the opposite from what you predict. I believe they will find all 23 human cromosomes to be unique constructs. Macro-pattern matches should be easy to detect. If two genes fused from one, I believe it would be obvious, given the tools and techniques available to those working in the fields of bioinformatics and genomics. I see why you need that sort of thing to be true. I’ll admit I was wrong if and when the time comes if you’ll agree to the same. Time will tell. :)

    Since I do maintain an anti-evolution blog, I get alot of people dropping by magnifying my ignorance of evolution. But the fact is, I’ve read extensively on evolution and have studied the many theories that surround it. I’ve read thousands of pages on the topic, and what I find is that when someone approaches the evidence from a non-presuppositional perspective, the evidence is not that convincing. There are great loads of circular reasoning. Evolution thrives mostly on intimidation and demagoguery. I am a regular reader of several scientific journals and logs and have been amazed at how often the evidence does not prove or sometimes even support what the headline suggests.

    Alex, whether you like it or not, the things in which you willingly place your faith have likewise been refuted. To refute something does not make it untrue; I hope you can see this. It only makes it disputed. I would argue that evolution has not been proved, nor is it provable when the period of observation is limited to a couple hundred years and the period of time that is being outlined is in the hundreds of millions of years. It’s like looking at one frame from a full-length motion picture and then proceeding to tell how the movie started, ended, all the important characters in between, all the plots and sub-plots from just that one frame! To trust such a dissertation is preposterous. Step back, man! This generation of scientists has chuckled at the ignorance of the last generation of scientists and mocked anyone who believes the Bible. The next generation will chuckle at this generation and laugh at the Bible. Ridicule doesn’t change the truth, my way or yours.

    Finally, one might be intimidated by comments as sharply drawn as Alex’s, but when you step back and look at it, those who believe in God outnumber those who don’t by something like 10 to 1. :) So I’ll just be one of those “ignorant” folks. Sorry for the length.

  • http://clearevidence.blogspot.com Jason Hodge

    Alex,

    I run an anti-evolution blog, but make it my habit to never “regurgitate” what others have written or even discovered. I doubt you care, but there it is.

    Jason :)

  • Mrnaglfar

    Jason Hodge,

    I agree that the opposition to evolution shouldn’t be censored, so instead allow me to point out some glaring mistakes in your argument.

    I believe in variation and some degree of natural selection. What I refute is that these mechanisms account for the origin of the species. Bacteria with generational length of about 10 minutes are fertile grounds for experimentation, I agree, but we are talking origins, here, not variation. You cannot point me at anything that shows 1) the rise of life from non-living matter, or 2) the rise of new complex types from previous, lesser types.

    If you believe in variation and natural selection you believe in evolution; that is what the evolutionary theory states. What you claim to refute, the origin of life (not species), is not part of the evolutionary theory. Evolution explains how life develops, not how life began. As for what shows the rise of new, complex types from previous types (presumably that would be species developing and dividing), there are the massive amounts of fossil records and retroviruses, for starters.

    Again, they offer no proof whatever, that these genes or capabilities didn’t pre-exist their discovery (they obviously did). Rather, newer theories suppose that a common mutation type could cause this behavior in bacteria all the time, but the lack of nylon to feed on might prevent the variation from becoming dominant. No proof for evolution here, only variation and natural selection.

    That’s really ironic, since as I mentioned before, all evolution is happens to be variation and natural selection. In essence, you have just said there is proof for evolution there. You make this real easy on me. which really makes me doubt this part.

    Since I do maintain an anti-evolution blog, I get alot of people dropping by magnifying my ignorance of evolution. But the fact is, I’ve read extensively on evolution and have studied the many theories that surround it.

    If you’ve read so deeply into evolutionary theories, how is it you don’t seem to understand what evolution actually means? If you’ve studied the theories around it, perhaps you’d like to tell me which ones in particular were posing such problems so I can go look over them for myself.

    This generation of scientists has chuckled at the ignorance of the last generation of scientists and mocked anyone who believes the Bible. The next generation will chuckle at this generation and laugh at the Bible. Ridicule doesn’t change the truth, my way or yours.

    Finally, one might be intimidated by comments as sharply drawn as Alex’s, but when you step back and look at it, those who believe in God outnumber those who don’t by something like 10 to 1. :) So I’ll just be one of those “ignorant” folks. Sorry for the length.

    Tell me, what scientific predictions should the bible give us about the world? A 6000 year time scale, a flat earth at the center of the galaxy, a flood that should have buried all life, leaving all fossils at roughly the same strata layer?
    How about the idea that life can’t just originate out of non-living material, so naturally we can begin with the assumption that an all powerful, conscious (which I believe means alive), creative, designing being just happened to pop out of nowhere, fully formed, and create everything? Explain life by saying an incredibly complex, intelligent, and powerful form of it just appeared? Pass me the kool-aid.

    And nice point that people who believe in god outnumber those who don’t, immediately following that point about how that doesn’t make it correct. Many people will claim believing in god, or that they doubt evolution without actually knowing anything about either.

    If you truly support intelligent design theory, explain to me the following 3 questions that should be the easiest to answer:
    1) How did the designer come into being?
    2) Why is it only assumed there was one designer and not 2, or 5, or thousands or more?
    3) How can one falisfy your theory?

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    It’s like looking at one frame from a full-length motion picture and then proceeding to tell how the movie started, ended, all the important characters in between, all the plots and sub-plots from just that one frame!

    One frame? Considering that we have lots of fossils (in general), we’re looking at lots of frames. I think this parable explains things pretty well. In short, you don’t need every single “frame” to get a good idea of what happened.

    I believe they will find all 23 human cromosomes to be unique constructs. [sic]

    As Lynet’s link points out, we already have evidence that one of our chromosomes is fused.

  • OMGF

    Mr. Hodge,

    Secondly, Alex…but to call for my censorship seems hypocritical and cowardly.

    Where did Alex call for your censorship? What he said was that he would leave your comment intact, but insert links to the material that refutes all the erroneous comments you made. Personally, I wouldn’t want to go through all that work to suss out all your erroneous statements, because it would take too long.

    Third, to OMGF, I write about Tiktallik on my blog. When you read the headlines about Tiktalik (Rosea, I assume you’re talking about), you’d think they’d found fast-forward video tape of fish morphing into land-amphibians. In actuality, the only thing “exciting” about the discovery was the conjecture that they drew from it. You could hardly turn so little into so much!

    Oh, is that so? Perhaps you think it’s of little consequence that Tiktallik was a prediction of evolution that was verified? Scientists predicted the exact rock strata, the location, and what they would find, and viola, it was there. This is a successful prediction that flatly shows that your original claim of evolution not following the scientific method is clearly wrong. Further, we are not dependent on the features that were not recovered to see the hybrid bone structures present on Tiktallik.

    …I believe in variation and some degree of natural selection. What I refute is that these mechanisms account for the origin of the species.

    It’s already been pointed out, but it bears repeating. Abiogenesis is a separate field of study from evolution. Evolutionary theory starts with the first self-replicating cell and explains the rise and diversity of life as we know it. If you really know as much about evolution as you claim, then you should know what evolutionary theory actually says, shouldn’t you?

    Demonstrations of recombinant or artificially tampered DNA hardly recapitulates the assertions drawn from generational changes in nylon eating bacteria. Again, they offer no proof whatever, that these genes or capabilities didn’t pre-exist their discovery (they obviously did).

    Where in the world do you think the genetic ability to ingest nylon came from if it didn’t arise via mutation? Remember, nylon is a synthetic material that wasn’t formed until the last century. Do you really mean to say that the ability to eat something that didn’t exist was always there just waiting to be expressed?

    For that matter, It would be trying to disprove a nearly universal negative.

    Except that it’s completely different? Evolution makes positive claims that are falsifiable. Tell you what, go and dig up a pre-Cambrian rabbit and you’ve falsified evolution. What are you waiting for?

    I’ll admit I was wrong if and when the time comes if you’ll agree to the same. Time will tell. :)

    Time to start admitting then. As the links provided to you already give you the evidence necessary. Will you really own up to it? The chromosome pair in question came about most certainly as a gene fusion event. The center of the chromosome exhibits the patterns of two ends that came together (end sequences in the DNA code) and the rest of the code closely matches the two chromosomes that are pesent in apes that we don’t have. This is a smoking gun and it is undeniable.

    I’ve read thousands of pages on the topic, and what I find is that when someone approaches the evidence from a non-presuppositional perspective, the evidence is not that convincing.

    Somehow I find this hard to be true, that you’ve studied this much evolution and done so with an open mind? Why is it that we only find religious objections to evolution anywhere if anyone with an open mind would reject evolution? Why do so many scientists accept evolution as the best theory of the diversity of life? Is there some sort of conspiracy going on to hoodwink the public or something? If you really think that something of this magnitude could go on and not be exposed, then you need to think hard about what you are actually proposing.

    Alex, whether you like it or not, the things in which you willingly place your faith have likewise been refuted.

    I’m sorry, but what is it that you think Alex has faith in, and what exactly do you think has been refuted. You’ve certainly given no evidence to refute evolution, just your own argument from incredulity.

    To refute something does not make it untrue; I hope you can see this. It only makes it disputed.

    Huh, that’s not what my dictionary says:

    re·fute /rɪˈfyut/ Pronunciation Key – Show Spelled Pronunciation[ri-fyoot] Pronunciation Key – Show IPA Pronunciation
    –verb (used with object), -fut·ed, -fut·ing. 1. to prove to be false or erroneous, as an opinion or charge.

    It’s like looking at one frame from a full-length motion picture and then proceeding to tell how the movie started, ended, all the important characters in between, all the plots and sub-plots from just that one frame! To trust such a dissertation is preposterous.

    Except you seem to have no grasp of how science and evolution work. Everything that has transpired has left evidence, and yes, we can cull that evidence from the world and piece together what happened. Your statement could very easily be used to say that forensic science doesn’t work, so we can’t hope to ever solve a crime, because we only have a snap shot of what happened afterward. Of course, this is ludicrous, even if one realizes that CSI is not exactly accurate.

    What’s ironic about this, however, is that you do the exact same thing in telling us all that god created this or that. You claim that we can’t take a snap shot and tell how the whole movie started, ended, etc. yet you claim that you can do that with your religion. Surely, even you can understand how hypocritical that is.

  • Alex Weaver

    Secondly, Alex: an impressive use of insults when you don’t have anything to add to the conversation. Alex voices a tactic I find common in the evolutionary world: “don’t let the opposition speak, they don’t merit consideration”. This is the very definition of closed-mindedness; it also signals the weakness of your evidence and signals insecurity. I have no respect for this kind of censorship from people who claim to be the heroes of free-speech and open ideas. It is precisely the kind of censorship and idea-demagoguing that plagues university campuses across the U.S. If I’m so ignorant, then why do you fear my posting here? The moderator is well within his rights to censor my post. It’s his blog, which is why I thank him for his tolerance; but to call for my censorship seems hypocritical and cowardly.

    I suppose if I suggest that your (frankly, dubious) claim to have come away from reading my comment with the honest belief that I advocated any kind of censorship indicates a serious reading comprehension problem, you’ll write that off as “an impressive use of insults when you don’t have anything to add to the conversation” as well?

    Alex, whether you like it or not, the things in which you willingly place your faith have likewise been refuted.

    Really? You can refute that there is a world external to my consciousness? That my senses, while imperfect, tell me something useful about it? The basic concept of cause and effect?

    I’d like to see that.

    To refute something does not make it untrue; I hope you can see this. It only makes it disputed.

    …. (the above, incidentally, is an example of the technique I was suggesting. The link is to the dictionary definition of the term “refute”).

    I would argue that evolution has not been proved, nor is it provable when the period of observation is limited to a couple hundred years and the period of time that is being outlined is in the hundreds of millions of years. It’s like looking at one frame from a full-length motion picture and then proceeding to tell how the movie started, ended, all the important characters in between, all the plots and sub-plots from just that one frame!

    Do you know anything at all about the techniques used to examine the evidence of evolution in various fields of biology?

    Anything whatsoever?

    Have you even made the tiniest effort to find out, prior to rejecting it?

    (Or are you actually under the impression that figuring out what happened in a given event and how requires that one actually be there to see it at the time? Consider, if that view were actually true, what the implications would be for, say, forensic science…)

    At any rate, all of your claims have been addressed and shown to be either false or irrelevant (usually, in the latter case, by means of building on false assumptions), most of them in various sections of this index. You might also find this helpful, since it’s more succinct, and if you’re actually interested in what the evidence in support of evolution is, you should read through this, possibly after starting with this.

    And if you can’t be bothered to make even that minimal effort to educate yourself, that’s your problem, not mine.

    To trust such a dissertation is preposterous.

    So what alternative are you proposing?

    Step back, man! This generation of scientists has chuckled at the ignorance of the last generation of scientists and mocked anyone who believes the Bible. The next generation will chuckle at this generation and laugh at the Bible.

    This is simply wrong. Scientists do not “ridicule the ignorance” of past generations of scientists, they correct the mistakes of, and build on the knowledge accumulated by, said past generation. This is how (and why) science works. I think you’re projecting, frankly.

    As for ridiculing the Bible, reasonable people do generally laugh at people who believe that the tribal myths of an ancient group of primitive desert nomads provide a better explanation of the origin of the universe than the entire accumulated body of scientific knowledge?

    Ridicule doesn’t change the truth, my way or yours.

    This is true. However, ridicule is an appropriate response to the apparent belief that repeating demonstrated falsehoods will make them true.

    Finally, one might be intimidated by comments as sharply drawn as Alex’s, but when you step back and look at it, those who believe in God outnumber those who don’t by something like 10 to 1. :) So I’ll just be one of those “ignorant” folks. Sorry for the length.

    You are aware that, worldwide, the majority of “people who believe in God” (and, certainly, the majority of Christians) also accept evolution, right?

  • Alex Weaver

    Where did Alex call for your censorship? What he said was that he would leave your comment intact, but insert links to the material that refutes all the erroneous comments you made. Personally, I wouldn’t want to go through all that work to suss out all your erroneous statements, because it would take too long.

    Even though they consist of reposting the same canards, leaving them uncontested can easily be construed by and for the credulous as an admission of defeat. At the same time, typing out an individual response to each is a waste of time and energy (I suspect this is half the reason that creationists do this, and that the other half is an amalgamation of two concepts), and disproportionate since the reposter has shown no originality themselves. My suggestion is meant to streamline responding and communicate, to both the reposter and to the bystanders who may not have the background knowledge to competently evaluate the reposter’s claims as written (who are the real targets of these canards), that “yes, yes, we’ve heard this before, we’ve dealt with it, it’s not worth our time to do it again, go read what we wrote on it last time.” Responding to this sort of intellectual dishonesty as though it represented a legitimate argument lends it too much credibility anyway.

  • Alex Weaver

    D’oh. This would have been a better link for “concepts” above.

    Incidentally,

    Your statement could very easily be used to say that forensic science doesn’t work, so we can’t hope to ever solve a crime, because we only have a snap shot of what happened afterward.

    I suppose I should read through the comments next time before responding. :)

  • OMGF

    Alex,
    You’re probably right about the amount of time it takes to type something out (although I do type fast) and I do so love it when I can point to the talkorigins.com list of Creationist arguments. I think you’d still have to include some note to let readers know what it is you had done, and also figure out some way of denoting what links the original comment might have included. I find your idea intriguing, and would ike to subscribe to your newsletter. ;)

  • St.Riker

    I am not an atheist, but I was wondering about other religions, or the lack thereof. I believe science is the Devil’s way of “stealing” souls and God’s way of proving faith. Then again, you have to realize that much of the Bible actually coincides with science. After all, the Bible never says that God DIDN’T create man(kind) through evolution. I think I’m an atheistic Christian, if such a thing exists.

  • Doy

    Democrazy? Look to the scandinavian countries, Canada and a few other sosial-democratic countries. Better than U.S. if you think about taking care of the countries citizens. Seen a movie named Sicko?

  • OMGF

    Then again, you have to realize that much of the Bible actually coincides with science. After all, the Bible never says that God DIDN’T create man(kind) through evolution.

    No, most of the Bible doesn’t coincide with science, unless you count all the topics that the Bible doesn’t talk about (like evolution) as somehow in accord with the Bible. For instance, the Bible doesn’t say anything about quantum mechanics, so I guess you would conclude the Bible “coincides” with it? That’s absurd.

    The Bible does, however, tell us that the Earth was created in 6 days and that man arrived on that sixth day, which does not accord with evolution.

  • http://www.xanga.com/andrea_thatonegirl TheNerd

    You sound like a secular Unitarian Universalist. Translation: You’re not an A*hole!

    I love this blog, and I think everyone who has an issue with Atheism should read it.

  • Bill

    My Friend,

    What do you mean by “freedom of conscience?” Do you mean that everyone is morally free to do anything that his conscience lets him do and to refrain from anything that his conscience forbids him to do?

    You’re right in saying that morality is objective, and I’m sure that you reject moral relativism. But if everybody is morally free to do anything that his conscience allows and to refrain from anything that it forbids, freedom of conscience may have some practical consequences of moral relativism. Morality is objective, but if everybody does everything that his conscience allows,we may live a society where many, or maybe even most, citizens live as though morality is subjective and relativistic.

    It seems to me that nobody has a moral right to obey his erronious conscience if he’s to blame for the misinformation it gives him. For example, imagine that I’m a surgeon who’s deliberately ignorant about a new procedure that would save a patient’s life. I can learn that procedure. I can do it, too. I’m just too lazy to even read about it.

    At first, my conscience orders me to learn the procedure because the procedure will save some patients of mine. But I rationalize my ignorance, deaden my conscience, and my patient dies when the procedure would have kept him alive. Am I morally free to obey my conscience in this case?

    By the way, I’m a traditionalist Catholic with a philosophy degree. So I’m familiar with many atheistic arguments against theism. If the problem of evil interests you, you might read Dr. Peter van Inwagen’s Gifford Lectures about the topic. You’ll find them in his Oxford University Press book called “The Problem of Evil.” Another find book is Brian Davies’s “The Reality of God and the Problem of Evil,” where Davies argues that since God isn’t a moral agent, he’s not to blame for the world’s evil.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    Do you mean that everyone is morally free to do anything that his conscience lets him do and to refrain from anything that his conscience forbids him to do?

    No. That’s why I said this:

    Through the use of reason and conscience, we can perceive morality, defined as the principles of behavior which produce the greatest happiness and the least suffering both now and in the future. Morality is not dependent on personal opinion or societal prejudice, but is objective and universal and is accessible to every intelligent being. We should, to the best of our ability, obey these principles and be good to each other.

  • http://anadder.com Michael

    The only ethical form of government is democracy. Every society has both the right and the obligation to revolt against and overthrow any other system.

    I see similar sentiment quite often. Would you agree that this is not self-evident but depends on empirical evidence for various forms of government and how effective they are? It seems just like the concept of “God” is a stopping point for further thought amongst us secularists “democracy” has a similar role.

    To paraphrase Dawkins:
    “You’re not allowed to question democracy”
    “Why not?”
    “…Because you’re not!!”

    Do you find it implausible that in 10,000 years if humanity survives this long there will be a different, better form of govt?

  • Drew

    This Atheist Creed is a fine and coherent read but I don’t necessarily agree with it. I understand that these are YOUR views as you clearly stated, so understand that I’m not trying to win you over here, just chewing ideas. I am an atheist but why do people so often assume this necessitates a belief in Enlightened/objectivist/humanist/feelgoodaboutyourself philosophies? For example:

    “Every human being possesses inherent worth, and every human life is equally valuable. Our conscious existence is a thing worthwhile for its own sake, requiring no further justification.”

    Says who? Could we perhaps cut through the humanism and affirm that perhaps humans are not equal. I’ll play the devil’s advocate. Perhaps some human beings are genuinely useless and drain from themselves, their family, and their society. Maybe human rights, democracy, and freedom of thought are NOT the great answer to the world’s problems. Perhaps we are mistaken in our belief in that our own systematic logic is universal and applicable to all.

    I’m not trying for satire or spitting juvenile postmodern nihilism here. I’m being completely serious and I am hardly the first to suggest this. I’m not trying to incite rage or start one-sided arguments but look at the world through a realistic perspective, free from moralistic pretenses. There seems to be this idea that a godless universe is also some Randian anthropocentric universe where man becomes the measure of all things. This is not to deny man’s place as one of the most advanced of living creatures but any thinker who deviates from this picture is charged as irrational or foolish. If we take many modern atheists like Sam Harris seriously then we need to realize that ‘tolerance’ and ‘debate’ will solve little. This will no doubt bring about the allegation that such views are as extreme and fanatical as those of the religious zealots we despise in the first place. But consider that if we want to build something genuinely great we need to stop catering to everyone’s wants and start weeding the garden. Why posture with moralistic pretenses and self-congratulating ethics? Why believe in vague ideas such as ‘progress’ and ‘freedom’ when we can actually make something great through force and will?

  • Barry

    “Only through reason and the scientific method can we hope to learn how the world works. No other method of gaining knowledge is reliable and all claims to knowledge not gained through this method should be considered suspect. ”

    At first sight this seems a reasonable element in the creed, but I think it is rather limiting to the human spirit. Having spent my working life in scientific research I think this overlooks the role of insight and inspiration. I think my comments also apply to the realms of music, the visual arts and to some extent, religion.

    In our research, we occasionally had to make guesses where we had to suppose that things worked in such-and-such a way, by analogy with other situations. We were very unhappy that we could not justify our assumptions but we had to leave such doubts aside and develop our theories on what we considered were very shaky grounds. Occasionally we published on such a basis. We felt that our guesses allowed us to explain the atomic (microsopic) world we were studying better than what had gone before. We always hoped that someone else would come up with a justification for our assumptions or even a solid refutation and a better explanation.

    We were participating in the scientific debate. If our theories predicted the ‘truth’ then they were acceptable for the time being, despite the fact that they might appeared to be based in pure fantasy.

    In the realms of music and the visual arts there is a vast realm of insight which cannot be limited by reason and the scientific method. Reason and the scientific method can allow us to gain a degree of understanding of our insight, but we must never allow it to restrict our vision. If we try to hold beliefs which are unreasonable and in opposition to scientifically demonstrable reality then we are in fantasy land, otherwise we should explore the bounds and limits of that reality.

    My religious insights are based in post Vatican II Roman Catholicism – late 1960s on. Catholics were just beginning to discover the bible, which they had been forbidden to read in case it confused them and there were murmurings that the church council had opened the door to atheism – which may well be true ( – thank the lord :-)). Those times were profoundly anti-supernatural and the religious beliefs of those I admired at that time (including clergy) led them to a situation which was not so different from the creed described here.

    If many of them ‘left the church’ or reduced their involvement, then I think this merely reflects the strength of the backlash.

    Alongside “reason” and “the scientific method” we must allow “insight” as a method of understanding our world. This insight stems from the genetics, upbringing, education, study and practical experience of the individual. These could include ‘religious influences’. The individual who experiences insight may not be able to communicate their understanding in terms which conform to “reason” or “the scientific method” but the results – their conclusions, actions or whatever will be judged in those terms. This is appropriate.

    Summary:
    Reason and scientific method provide the foundation of our belief. Insight allows us to extend this. If the results of our belief oppose reason or the results of the scientific method then we must admit that our insight is faulty.

    Reason and the scientific method offer us a measure by which we can judge the validity of our insight.

    I believe that my insight is the truth of my understanding. The fact that I cannot express it in words does not reduce the validity of my belief. I welcome the comments of others who try to understand my insight. If anyone can provide arguments to prove that my insight conflicts with reason or scientific understanding, then I will joyfully argue with them on that basis. Their input allows me to perfect my insight.

    PostScript:
    Apologies if I have transgressed any customs of the website

  • Alex Weaver

    I see similar sentiment quite often. Would you agree that this is not self-evident but depends on empirical evidence for various forms of government and how effective they are? It seems just like the concept of “God” is a stopping point for further thought amongst us secularists “democracy” has a similar role.

    Wrong; see below:

    To paraphrase Dawkins:
    “You’re not allowed to question democracy”
    “Why not?”
    “…Because you’re not!!”

    Let me answer your quote with another:

    “There is the greatest difference between presuming an opinion to be true, because, with every opportunity for contesting it, it has not been refuted, and assuming its truth for the purpose of not permitting its refutation. ” -John Stuart Mill

    At this point, would the facts we have about the world, would you take seriously anyone who suggested that we should organize an international seminar to debate the evidence for phlogiston, vs. that for thermodynamics? Yet, by your standards, aren’t we treating thermodynamics as a “stopping point?” Don’t confuse skepticism with mental masturbation.

    Do you find it implausible that in 10,000 years if humanity survives this long there will be a different, better form of govt?

    I find it implausible that a different, better form of government will be developed, assuming basic human psychology is not radically altered, which is not derived from the basic principles of democracy.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Barry,

    Having spent my working life in scientific research I think this overlooks the role of insight and inspiration.

    Insight and inspiration are the events of understanding what it is the evidence gained through scientific investigation are telling you about the world.

    In our research, we occasionally had to make guesses where we had to suppose that things worked in such-and-such a way, by analogy with other situations.

    And those guesses were based on actual data obtained through the scientific method and were held as guesses until they could be confirmed through the scientific method.

    Alongside “reason” and “the scientific method” we must allow “insight” as a method of understanding our world. This insight stems from the genetics, upbringing, education, study and practical experience of the individual. These could include ‘religious influences’.

    No, we don’t, because “insight” is really the application of already gained knowledge or else doesn’t actually give us any knowledge until we actually verify it through reason and the scientific method. And, no, religious influences have not given us any actual knowledge, as they are all rooted in made-up wishes and fairy tales.

    The individual who experiences insight may not be able to communicate their understanding in terms which conform to “reason” or “the scientific method” but the results – their conclusions, actions or whatever will be judged in those terms. This is appropriate.

    How is it appropriate? Please give an example where revelation or “insight” from religious sources actually led to actual knowledge about our world.

    I believe that my insight is the truth of my understanding…If anyone can provide arguments to prove that my insight conflicts with reason or scientific understanding, then I will joyfully argue with them on that basis.

    You believe or you have knowledge? And, yes, if your “insight” is based off of religious ideas, then it is inherently in conflict with reason in that it is necessarily begging the question to input a god where no evidence for such a god exists.

  • Alex Weaver

    And, no, religious influences have not given us any actual knowledge, as they are all rooted in made-up wishes and fairy tales.

    I think it’s more a matter of religious influences’ failure to give us useful knowledge or knowledge that is confirmed by other sources being the smoking gun that they’re rooted in made-up wishes and fairy tales.

  • Malcolm Stumpf

    The one thing i believe differently, is that people have the right to overthrow any government, including democracy, but certainly no obligation to.

  • Peter

    So you atheists claim that we humans evolved from a lower life form into the current Homo Sapiens. You claim that “Every human being possesses inherent worth, and every human life is equally valuable” Why is every human inherently worthy or equally valuable? What scientific proof do you have that humans are inherently worthy of anything? After your scientific arguments will you now merely persuade me with emotions? Are you now appealing to my feeling?
    “By the exercise of our free will, we can select our own purpose and imbue our lives with meaning. Each person has the right and the responsibility to steer their own course through life.” Yes basically since God does not exist we are our own gods. I am a god and so I decide for myself what is good, bad, right or wrong.
    “Through the use of reason and conscience, we can perceive morality, defined as the principles of behavior which produce the greatest happiness and the least suffering both now and in the future.”

    What exactly is “greatest happiness” who defines what happiness is let alone the “greatest happiness”? You again? Of course because since God does not exist I guess that puts you in the place of God. So you decide what you think is the greatest happiness. The only god the atheists worship is himself. Because he is he’s own god.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    After complaining at some length that he doesn’t know what atheists believe, Peter finds the kind of positive account he asked for, and evidently isn’t happy with that either. I’ll take the time to address his questions:

    You claim that “Every human being possesses inherent worth, and every human life is equally valuable” Why is every human inherently worthy or equally valuable?

    Because societies that respect this principle tend to be far happier, more peaceful and more productive, while societies which believe that some human beings are more intrinsically valuable than others tend to be theocracies or despotisms.

    What scientific proof do you have that humans are inherently worthy of anything? After your scientific arguments will you now merely persuade me with emotions? Are you now appealing to my feeling?

    Indeed I am. You have an overly simplistic and distorted view of atheism if you think an atheist must find scientific proof for everything he believes. When dealing with descriptive claims about what does or does not exist in the real world, such as claims about the existence of God, atheists generally ask for scientific evidence, as science has proven to be by far the most effective means of testing the truth of factual claims.

    But science does not deal with prescriptive claims about how we should or should not act, any more than it deals with claims of the artistic merit of a painting or the literary merit of a book. In those areas, we need different methods of inquiry to make our decisions. The human sense of conscience is one of those, though not the only one.

    Yes basically since God does not exist we are our own gods.

    Human beings are not gods, and I wouldn’t want to be one if I could be. To judge by traditional mythology, including the Bible, gods are petty, vengeful, jealous creatures. They embody what is worst in us, not what is best. That’s a poor ideal for us to aspire to, and I happen to think we can do better: we should strive to be the best human beings we can be, making the fullest use of our capability for reason and compassion.

    I am a god and so I decide for myself what is good, bad, right or wrong.

    You obviously didn’t read the very next paragraph of my post: “Morality is not dependent on personal opinion or societal prejudice, but is objective and universal and is accessible to every intelligent being.”

    What exactly is “greatest happiness” who defines what happiness is let alone the “greatest happiness”? You again?

    These are all valid questions, but you seem to be operating under the misunderstanding that religion has a better solution to this problem. If you define morality as following God’s commands, you are then faced with the problem of figuring out what God’s will actually is – and judging by the millions of sects, thousands of years of religious dissension, and countless lives lost in the battle between competing dogmas, human beings are no nearer an answer to this question than they ever were.

    Of course, reasonable people may disagree on which action produces the greatest happiness, but at least we have the advantage that happiness is a phenomenon of this world which can be observed and measured, unlike God’s will, which is utterly inscrutable. This means that disagreements can be settled through rational persuasion, rather than through force or violence. And the fact that reasonable people may disagree on how to bring about the greatest happiness most certainly does not mean that all opinions are equally valid.

    So you decide what you think is the greatest happiness.

    You can “decide for yourself” in the sense that you have the ability to make a decision and then act on it, yes. Any society which denied people even that freedom would be a truly awful place where no reasonable person would want to live. But if your beliefs are grossly out of step with those of people who live in the same society as you, then you cannot expect to escape censure and punishment; nor, in most cases, would you deserve to.

  • Mike

    Malcolm wrote: The one thing i believe differently, is that people have the right to overthrow any government, including democracy, but certainly no obligation to.

    Are you advocating a right to arbitrary extrajudicial use of force when you don’t get your way in an open society? That is a definition of terrorism. A democratic government is an agreement among the people, a contract, that should only be voided if the government violates the agreement. As long as we recognize those inalienable rights of individuals and provide equal protection under the law, I think it is unethical to advocate violence and overthrow a system. We fought too hard to establish this peaceful sociecty supervised by a publicly accountable method of law enforcement. You are breaking the contract if you use violence instead of the readily available and legitimate non-violent methods of social change- your vote, your speech, and your right to pursue justice in the courts.

    It’s imperfect, yes, but because it is democratic, it can be improved, and it is much better than what your alternative would offer- a fractured and tribal society of arbitrary governance by force and will.

  • Mike

    Drew:Could we perhaps cut through the humanism and affirm that perhaps humans are not equal?

    No. Cutting through the humanism is precisely what we want to avoid. Only by asserting our equality, can we protect ourselves from being placed on the wrong side the equation by others. Humanism insures that all are given the same opportunities, and that no one can arbitrarily deny someone’s access to life, liberty, etc. The whiners, the addicts, the leeches, the criminals – I agree we do not want to reward their behavior- which is why we have an impartial and democratically controlled justice system and an economic system that should handle them fairly and appropriately. It doesn’t always work, but it’s the best we got, and we have the powoer to improve on it.

    Drew: Why believe in vague ideas such as ‘progress’ and ‘freedom’ when we can actually make something great through force and will?

    Who are “we” what do we define as “great”? What happens if I disagree with your sentiments? Will my head be on a pike? Your philosophy is perfectly matched with those of past tyrants of all ideologies. Most tyrants believe they are making the world better, and share your disdain for “the little people.” This is true from Nero, to the Medieval Papacy, to Adolf Hitler, to Al Qaeda or Dick Cheney.

    We, as ethical atheists who support a democratic society, accommodate all perspectives by allowing them into the debate, but subject them and oursleves to rational scrutiny- this is the ‘freedom’ component. By doing so, we insure that no one is marginalized, repressed, and unfairly considered, removing entitlements to use violence or force to get their way. Only then can we have a peaceful society. If a group, like Christians, Atheists, Blacks, or white males, are denied equal access, certain inalienable rights, and protection under the law, than they would have a legitimate claim to revolt and resist the will of the majority of the people – which would be antithetical to achieving ‘progress’.

  • rguinn

    “Supernaturalism and superstition have never done anything more than harm us, turn us against each other and hold us back.”

    Most of what you have stated sounds fine, but this particular sentence is an unfounded sweeping generalization. Never done anything more than harm us? Really? Ever? You really can’t talk about scientific method and then go on to make such claims. I’m not even sure something like this would be provable.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Is that the single counter-example disproof requires in your back pocket? If so, lay it out.

    The history of man is filled with people dying because of belief in the salubrious effect of leeching, or the appeasement of volcano spirits, or resorting to prayer rather than medicine, and soon and so forth.

    Even if you could present five different examples of the benefits of superstitious thinking, I would argue that the examples of evil arising from superstition far outweigh the the good it has evoked.

    So: yes, his statement is somewhat sweeping. But in general, it holds true.

  • mike3

    “Even if you could present five different examples of the benefits of superstitious thinking, I would argue that the examples of evil arising from superstition far outweigh the the good it has evoked.”

    So do you think that if we got rid of this superstitious thinking we could have true world peace?

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Did I intimate such?

    eta: If it doesn’t eliminate world evil, would you argue against such an exercise?

  • pi_girl

    A few random comments:

    I had to lol on Comment #85, as I wholeheartedly agree with Mike, as well as on #86. I also agree with Peter on Comment #83.

    I am curious to know what you all think about the teachings of the Qur’an. Have any of you read the Bible or the Qur’an in entirety?

    I was reading this website – it might be interesting to you or might not, don’t know:
    http://www.themodernreligion.com/prophet/bible_muh.htm

    Looking forward to your replies!

  • omprem

    You claim that “no reason can ever justify the censorship of ideas” and yet you advance reasons for suppressing religion. Could you make up your mind?

    You are confusing Atheism with politics or are you just wrapping yourself up in the American flag in order to gain agreement for your other Atheist comments?

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    You claim that “no reason can ever justify the censorship of ideas” and yet you advance reasons for suppressing religion. Could you make up your mind?

    Please point out where Ebon has advocated the “suppressing” of religion. And, please bear in mind that bringing counter arguments to advocate against a position that you disagree with is not the same as suppression.

  • Maricka Herrer

    Although many of your statements are noble and moral, I have some questions on a few of them… for the sake of conciseness, I will ask of only two:
    You made the statement that human life has inherent worth … I’m not sure how this logically flows from an atheistic worldview. How could these have come to be? If there is purpose for our creation because everything just came into existence by chance through evolution, then how can human life have inherent worth as opposed to say, plant or animal life? What makes human life any different then, logically speaking, from any other life form on the planet?

    Furthermore, you state that reason and scientific method are the only two ways in which something can be proved, and both of these are definitely elements of discovery, but what about the historical method? Do you include it in the category of “reason,” or disregard it altogether?

  • GCT

    You made the statement that human life has inherent worth … I’m not sure how this logically flows from an atheistic worldview. How could these have come to be? If there is purpose for our creation because everything just came into existence by chance through evolution, then how can human life have inherent worth as opposed to say, plant or animal life? What makes human life any different then, logically speaking, from any other life form on the planet?

    It has inherent worth because we give it worth as rational, sentient beings. We don’t obtain worth because some god comes down from on high and says so.

    Furthermore, you state that reason and scientific method are the only two ways in which something can be proved, and both of these are definitely elements of discovery, but what about the historical method? Do you include it in the category of “reason,” or disregard it altogether?

    Whatever we know from history, we know from empirical results and experimentation, i.e. the scientific method.

  • Adam Lee

    Maricka, you should read my essay “Life of Wonder” for a more in-depth discussion of these questions.