Morality Is Relative But Not Subjective

Guest post by Samantha Eliza Benten The Law of Non-Contradiction, as stated by Aristotle: "One cannot say of something that it is and that it is not in the same respect and at the same time." Often, this is expressed in the formula: A ? ¬A, where "¬A" signifies "not A" or "not having quality A". (To prevent a common error, understand that it does NOT mean "the subset of everything except A." For example, to say that "an animal that is a cat cannot be, at the same time, a dog" is NOT an … [Read more...]

A Response to Peter Hitchens, Part III

Peter Hitchens has written two further comments on my previous post, in one of which he states that he'll be bowing out of the debate from this point on. So be it; there are, of course, many respects in which we disagree, but I appreciate the time and effort he's put into this conversation. That being said, I still intend to have the last word. The fact that men professing to be Christian believers try to rewrite or reinterpret the laws of God does not get rid of the idea that, to be true moral … [Read more...]

A Response to Peter Hitchens, Part II

After our last go-round, Peter Hitchens has posted a further reply. I encourage you to read it in full before reading my response, which follows below: Once again, Peter Hitchens has utterly failed to address the point that even religious moral codes, allegedly based on the will of a perfect and changeless deity, have changed dramatically over time - in virtually all cases for the better. We no longer own slaves, as the Bible permits us to do; we no longer stone disobedient children or require … [Read more...]

A Response to Peter Hitchens

My previous post quoted Peter Hitchens, the conservative Christian brother of the late Christopher Hitchens, to criticize some of his views on divine command morality. To my surprise, it drew two comments that were signed Peter Hitchens. I have no way to be sure they were actually written by him, but the e-mail and IP addresses are plausible, and it's not an extraordinary claim, so I'll accept provisionally that the author is who he says he is. That being the case, I'd like to extend Mr. … [Read more...]

There Is No Non-Human Moral Authority

While reading some remembrances of Christopher Hitchens, I came across a column which quoted this statement from his brother Peter, who was a believer: Like Einstein, he viewed ethics as "an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it," a position that sparked conflict with his journalist brother, Peter, who has argued that, "For a moral code to be effective, it must be attributed to, and vested in, a nonhuman source. It must be beyond the power of humanity to change it to … [Read more...]

Donate Organs, Save Lives

The other day I came across this article from Bloomberg News, from which I learned something that surprised me: a large black market exists for human organs, in spite of international laws banning the practice. This isn't organ trafficking in the "waking up in a bathtub full of ice missing a kidney" sense. More commonly, the organs are obtained by organized crime syndicates targeting the desperately poor, promising thousands of dollars in quick cash. Naturally, this requires the cooperation of … [Read more...]

How Can Atheists Console Religious Believers?

I got this e-mail from a reader, which I was asked to pass along in the hope of getting some advice:I was raised in an Evangelical household and most of my friends and family from the early part of my life are Christians of some variety or another. They know I'm an atheist and it's not really a source of contention.Two close friends of the family have a young child with serious health issues. They use Facebook to get out updates on the child's health and medical treatment. Most of … [Read more...]

The Delusion of a Just World

You've probably heard religious apologists assert that if God didn't exist, the world would be an unjust place where some people were never rewarded or punished as their behavior deserved. (They usually hold back from explicitly stating the conclusion, "Therefore, God must exist, because it would make us very sad if he didn't," probably out of subconscious recognition that this would make the fallacy too obvious.) As prominent a religious figure as Pope Benedict has endorsed this … [Read more...]

We Don’t Need Religion to Have Morality

This essay was originally published on AlterNet.The most common stereotype about atheists, the most common reason why religious people fear and distrust us, is the belief that people who don't believe in God have no reason to behave morally. In the view of the planet's major religions, the way we know what's right and what's wrong is that God tells us so, and the reason we follow the rules is because we fear divine retribution if we break them. This worldview is simple and emotionally … [Read more...]

New on AlterNet: Morality Doesn’t Need Religion

My latest article has been posted on AlterNet, We Don't Need Religion to Have Morality. In it, I argue that morality is real, objective, and not dependent on theistic belief, and I explore the basis for this view and imagine what effect it could have on society if it were more widely adopted. To those who've read my essay on morality at Ebon Musings, this will be familiar ground, but I touch on a couple of new points as well. Read the excerpt below, then click through and see the rest!The … [Read more...]


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