United Coalition of Reason Will Pay Insurance Money so That Atheist Ads Can Go Up in Arkansas

In case you missed it last week, a judge ruled that the Central Arkansas Transit Authority (CATA) and its advertising agent, On the Move Advertising, had to put up atheist bus ads that it had previously rejected:

One of the weird parts of the ruling, as I had mentioned before, was that the United Coalition of Reason would be forced to put up $15,000 toward “damage” costs if they wanted their ads to go up. Basically, I took that to mean if the atheist bus ads were damaged, the money was a down payment toward replacement ads. (Originally, CATA and On the Move Advertising wanted $36,000 but the judge lowered the amount.) Turns out I wasn’t exactly right about that.

Now that the official ruling is available (PDF), we have some further clarification on that.

Here’s what the judge wrote:

Because a defendant who has been wrongfully enjoined has no recourse for damages in the absence of a bond, Rule 65(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a court may issue a preliminary injunction only if the movant gives security in an amount that the court finds proper to pay the costs and damages sustained by any party found to have been wrongfully enjoined or restrained… The Court must consider the necessity of a bond in any case where a preliminary injunction is granted.

In light of the express language of Rule 65(c), the purpose of the bond requirement, and evidence presented at the preliminary injunction hearing that the display of [United CoR's] ad in other localities led to vandalism and the destruction of property, the Court finds that a security in the amount of $15,000 is appropriate.

In other words:

If the buses get damaged and the defendants can prove it was because they ran the atheist ads, they’re entitled to some or all of the $15,000.

If they can’t prove it — or if no vandalism occurs at all — United CoR gets the money back.

***Edit***: I should have noted above that the only way United CoR won’t get the money back is if CATA/On The Move Advertising proves that 1) vandalism occurred 2) because of the atheists’ advertisements and 3) they took the case to a full trial and won (reversing the hearing judge’s decision). In other words, it seems like a long shot that United CoR will not get its money back.

I still think this is backwards. Instead of giving a green light to Christian vandals to damage the ads, the law is giving them the green light to damage the buses — all on the atheists’ dime.

I hope that doesn’t happen.

United CoR is taking the chance that it won’t. They’ve decided to go forward with paying the $15,000 in order to get their ads up on buses.

It won’t be long before we see the ads show up in Little Rock. And if all goes well, United CoR will get its “damage” money back at the end of the run.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Peter Mahoney

    In most other cities so far, atheist billboards and bus signs DO get vandalized with pro-God messages (thus presumably by believers who break the law because they can’t stand the thought of the differing viewpoints having the ability to compete on their merits, they instead seem to feel that their own religious fairy tales are on such shaky ground that they must CENSOR the opposing viewpoint from being openly, civilly viewed and considered).

    Does the bus company have a similar demand for security deposits for other ads, or just putting this burden on the atheists?

  • plum grenville

    I haven’t read the judgment yet, but it sounds to me like the bond is only required in order to get a temporary injunction ordering the bus company to alow the ads before the case is ultimately decided by the court. In other words, the bus company would only get the bond money if a) they suffered damage, and b) it was attributable to the ads, and c) they prevail in court.

    That’s still a burden for the atheist group, but not as much of a burden.

    • Rieux

      Right. Hemant missed (c). And (c) ain’t gonna happen, not in the Eighth Circuit.

      The basic point of this bond is to hedge against the possibility that the court was wrong to decide the case in UCR’s favor. As long as UCR preserves its court victory, it will be able to keep the money—whether buses get damaged or not.

      Hemant’s a good atheist writer and presumably a good math teacher, but his lawyering skills need some work.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

        Very true. I updated the post to reflect what I missed.

        • Rieux

          Thanks, Hemant. No disrespect intended; I should have said “very good atheist writer.”

  • cabalavatar

    I’m guessing that this judge heard what happened in Kelowna, BC, and he’s worried that the same may occur in Arkansas. Worse, I imagine that he’s more considered for the buses in general in such a christian heartland area.
    Still, I agree with you, Hemant, that this logic appears backwards. Then again, from my studies of jurisprudence, a lot of legal logic is backwards but ends up actually making sense -legally- if not precisely logically otherwise. E.g., putting out “Wet Floor” signs makes whomever did so (and the company in charge) MORE liable for a law-suit and all the more culpable because those signs indicate that whoever put them there recognised (with foresight) the danger. Strange logic, indeed, as we may be led to believe that such signs would serve to alleviate culpability due to the warning, but legally that’s not always the case.

  • Bill Burgess

    Just to clarify, the defendants cannot get the money UnitedCoR posted pursuant to Rule 65 unless the court first concludes that it wrongly issued the injunction (i.e. that its interpretation of the First Amendment was wrong).  A deposit is required every time a federal court issues a preliminary injunction.  The court did not rule that the defendant is allowed to require “controversial” advertisers to post a deposit if other advertisers don’t have to.

  • Fred Edwords

    Well, there’s one additional point that plays into this. CATA and On The Move Advertising would have to do more than just show that their buses were damaged because of our ad. They would also have to take this case to a full trial and win a victory in that forum that actually reverses the hearing judge’s decision! Absent such an unlikely reversal, they aren’t entitled to a nickel of our money, even if they do suffer damage–which they won’t.  That’s the rest of the story. And that’s why I had no trouble personally consenting to put up the $15,000 bond. We’re getting it all back, vandalism or no.

    • Rieux

      Your legal analysis is impeccable, Fred, but:

      even if they do suffer damage–which they won’t.

      Really? (1) Atheist ads have been the targets of vandalism in the past; (2) this is Arkansas; and (3) it’s all too easy for someone who only hears or understands part of the story (such as, say, Hemant) to think that the decision on the bond means that any damage to the signs will come straight out of those disgusting atheists’ pockets.

      So damage seems like a real possibility to me. This is the whole reason it’s so important to prevent a “heckler’s veto” from taking effect as a legally acceptable reason to limit speech.

      • Fred Edwords

        Let me respond to your numbered items. (1) We always publicize any vandalism we experience, so it has gotten a lot of media play, even though the actual number of incidents is small compared to the many campaigns we’ve run. (2) We ran bus ads in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with no trouble and, in Little Rock, the local freethought activists there have run a billboard, a courthouse winter holiday display, and an Adopt-a-Highway sign without incident. (3) Bus ads are under public scrutiny all the time, by both bus drivers and the public, and so they are more difficult to secretly vandalize. But we do understand this last concern about the idea being put in folks’ heads and will be extra vigilant. 

        • Rieux

          Okay. I’m all for vigilance, and I think UCoR’s effort—in both the streets and the courts—is fantastic. I just wouldn’t be so sanguine about the risk of damage to the ads.

    • Anonymous

       This is actually a pretty important point. The $15,000 bond is not being used to insure the buses against bigoted vandalism, but instead to insure that if United CoR was found to be responsible for such damages, they would have that money ready to pay. This is a standard formality for these injunctions, but since United CoR has not actually done anything that would make them responsible for any damage to the buses, there’s very little chance of CATA and On The Move being awarded any of it.

  • Brian Westley

    Thanks Bill & Fred (and Hemant) for clarifying that $15,000 bond; now it all makes sense and I’m fine with it, too.

    The only odd part left is: why is the advertising company on the hook for vandalism to buses if their ads are targeted (as stated in news reports)?  Since city buses presumably will have to act as an open forum and not refuse ads based on content, shouldn’t the city be taking the risk?  The ad company won’t be able to refuse, but will be the ones to pay — which is why they tried to avoid running the ads.  Sounds like the ad company agreed to a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose proposition…

  • Jay Sweet

    . They would also have to take this case to a full trial and win a victory in that forum that actually reverses the hearing judge’s decision! Absent such an unlikely reversal, they aren’t entitled to a nickel of our money, even if they do suffer damage–which they won’t

    Woo hoo, I must be getting better at reading legalese, because I thought that was obvious from the excerpt from the PDF.

    It also sounds like this is a statutory requirement, i.e. the judge is required to provide that in case he’s wrong, the defendants don’t get screwed anyway. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stephan-Goodwin/676660806 Stephan Goodwin

    This explanation helped…at first I thought this was a complete screw over of the CoR, but now it is clear this is just covering the court’s butt if they are determined to have ruled incorrectly.

    Question is: how long until they get their money back?

    • Rieux

      Until the litigation is completed—including, probably, any appeals. Or (I suppose) the bus-ad campaign finishes without damages, if that happens first.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Legal eagles, am I interpreting these issues incorrectly?

    I’m concerned that this will set a precedent where advertising companies or their hosts, such as bus companies can require what amounts to security deposits just because of the content of the ads, and they can impose these deposits differentially, to some clients but not to others. 

    This could be prohibitive to small atheist groups who can raise enough money for some ads but not enough for the bond. Also, the figures of $36,000 and the reduced $15,000 seem arbitrary to me, as if pulled out of a hat. Could such bond requirements be widely different in different places, some so high that they prohibit a group from advertising?

    Also this seems to imply that the client who wants to advertise is somehow culpable for provoking vandalism against their ad or the carrier, such as a bus. That smells really bad to me, like blaming a rape victim for dressing provocatively.

    • Rieux

      No, that’s not quite right—and the ruling isn’t quite so bad a risk for future atheist groups.

      The bond in question is being required by the court, not the transit authority. UCoR has won a preliminary injunction forcing the transit authority to put up the ads. The nature of preliminary injunctions, though, is that the court doesn’t (because it can’t) spend all that much time examining the law to make sure it’s making the right decision. As a result, the legal-theory notion is that preliminary injunctions are more likely than other decisions to be overturned later, either (1) by the same court when it’s had a chance to review the entire case on a more patient schedule or (2) by an appeals court.

      Well, if we presume that the Arkansas federal district court was wrong to issue the preliminary injunction in favor of UCoR, what could happen? The transit authority’s buses could get damaged, and the lack of a damage deposit would mean that the transit authority would then have been economically harmed by the judge’s mistake.

      So this is a court-imposed hedge on the possibility that the court got this preliminary issue wrong. UCoR is going to get its money back unless BOTH (1) the transit authority suffers damages due to people’s responses to the UCoR ad AND (2) the federal courts decide that the transit authority did have the legal rights (a) to require the damage deposit and (b) to deduct the vandalism damages from that deposit.

      (1) may or may not be likely (UCoR’s Fred Edwords, upthread, argues that it’s very unlikely), but this attorney thinks (2) is extremely unlikely. For more or less the reasons you express (it “seems to imply that the client who wants to advertise is somehow culpable for provoking vandalism against their ad or the carrier”), the transit authority’s demand is an outrageous and blatantly illegal prior restraint on free speech. It looks like a slam-dunk case for UCoR to me.

      So in order to impose these kinds of bond costs on a similar advertiser in the future, other bus companies or similar public entities would have to demand a damage deposit from an atheist advertiser, refuse to back down in the face of the inevitable “accept our ad or we’ll sue” attorney letter, and then pay all kinds of money in legal fees (including, very possibly, the atheist group’s attorneys’ fees) to try to defend a sure-loser case.

      Obviously there are wannabe-theocrats in the world who are obstinate enough to do that, but I suspect the prospect of serious financial losses would/will scare off most of them.

      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        Thank you, Rieux, that was very clear and helpful.

  • Alexis

    I think the christian vandals should post the deposit, and get it back if they refrain from vandalizing the busses during the ads’ run?

    • Just sayin’

      Wow. . . isn’t that kind of like Jews having to put up a damage deposit for a neo-nazi group wanting to post pro-nazi advertisement complete with swastika?

  • Junk_junk69

    As a resident of central Arkansas, I’m stepping out on the shortest, strongest of limbs, and predicting that Central AR COR will not be receiving the full $15k by the end of all this. Hopefully, I’m wrong.

    • Rieux

      I’ll take that bet. Read some of the other comments on this thread about the bond. The Coalition only loses (even some of) the money if they lose the court case. Don’t worry.

  • Tyler1120

    The Court ordered bond is a technicality required in virtually every TRO or preliminary injunction decision.  There is nothing special or newsworthy about it.  

    The real issue to me is the absurdity of the actual advertisement.   “Are you good without God?”  What kind of squishy, subjective, and illogical question is that?  Is that honestly supposed to convince more people to come into the atheist camp?  The fact that “millions are” is equally vague.  Who decides?  Good compared to what?  If anything, this would only point to “millions” of subjective individual definitions of “good.”  Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the advertised point of view.

    If any atheist could actually explain how an objectively moral “good” exists through a naturalistic worldview, there might actually be some validity to the ad.  But alas, this has been tried and failed time and again for centuries.  I submit that a far more coherent message would be “Are you able to live in a world without any objective moral foundation?  Millions try to.”  

    • Fred Edwords

      For the record, none of our bus ads and billboards are aimed at converting believers into nonbelievers. They are only aimed at getting existing nontheists organized into groups so we can begin to exercise a social and political clout equal to our significant and growing numbers in the general population. Thus the billboard question, “Are you good without God?” is simple shorthand for, “Are you one of those people, like us, who lives a decent life without reference to some theological construct?” This isn’t a philosophical statement, it’s a promotional appeal.  

      • Tyler1120

        I understand where you’re going, but shouldn’t a promotional appeal at least have some coherent logic behind it?  Not holding the ad itself out as a “philosophical statement” is kind of irrelevant…..because this particular ad is making a (rather bold) philosophical claim at its very core. Namely, that “goodness” can exist without any objective moral framework.  How do you defend that?  Even if you aren’t trying to turn believers into non-believers, why would an existing non-theist want to join an organized group through such a promotion?  

        Taking it even further, why would atheists even WANT to exercise “social and political clout?”   What would be the point?  To better their own self-interests somehow? …or to better society as a whole?  I don’t see the connection.  

        I’m not trying to attack your motives at all…I’m just genuinely curious about why anyone would adopt an “activist” atheist position.  It seems to me that the only truly consistent atheist worldview would raise a big Nietzsche-style middle finger to the whole concept of “social structures” or societal meta-ethics.  In other words, why care?  If there is no moral framework, there is no reason to strive for social clout or any concept of “peace and harmony.”  The idea of “good without god” would stay limited only to the eye of the beholder. 

        Am I wrong?

        • Fred Edwords

          Yep, you’re wrong. Even if our only motivation was raw self-preservation, that would be motive enough to form groups to support one another and oppose the prejudice against us. But, of course, your larger, underlying claim is that no ethical values are even possible in the absence of some magical skyhook or imaginary father figure upon which to hang “objective moral truth.” But that’s really another topic for another time–well outside the scope of this discussion of a lawsuit. So I’ll just direct you here: http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/2011-07-31-atheism-morality-evolution-religion_n.htm .

        • Rieux

          Am I wrong?

          Yes, very obviously.

          I understand where you’re going, but shouldn’t a promotional appeal at least have some coherent logic behind it?

          Sure—but your own silly illogic doesn’t present a problem with the UCoR ad.

          [T]his particular ad is making a (rather bold) philosophical claim at its
          very core. Namely, that “goodness” can exist without any objective moral
          framework.

          Bullshit. The ad makes no such claim. You’re simply making several baseless presumptions—chief among them (1) that an “objective moral framework” can’t exist without “God” and (2) that the cogency of a non-”objective moral framework” account of “goodness” is any more dubious than the existence of such an objective “framework” is itself.

          You have obviously taken a particular contentious position in debates about moral realism and its relationship to theism. Your superciliousness notwithstanding, that position of yours is not actually self-evident, nor does UCoR have a responsibility to rebut it, especially when the audience they intend to speak to is not burdened with your personal idiosyncracies on this point.

          Even if you aren’t trying to turn believers into non-believers, why
          would an existing non-theist want to join an organized group through
          such a promotion?

          For the same reasons that a member of any despised and marginalized minority wants to connect with her fellow members of that minority. For the same reasons that anyone unhappy about widespread injustice want to connect with others who share that unhappiness and wish to do something to fight it. And for the same reasons (many of them having little to do with moral theory) that human beings seek community more generally.

          Is this really so hard for you to understand?

          It seems to me that the only truly consistent atheist worldview would
          raise a big Nietzsche-style middle finger to the whole concept of
          “social structures” or societal meta-ethics.

          That bespeaks a severe failure to understand how atheists live in the real world. Real-life atheists have little in common with your absurd and inexplicable stereotype. There is nothing inherently religious about social structures or societal meta-ethics; what in the world are you talking about?

          If there is no moral framework, there is no reason to strive for social clout or any concept of “peace and harmony.”

          Your pretense that UCoR, or indeed any atheist relevant to this discussion, has actually claimed or implied that “there is no moral framework”—in light of the fact that intersubjective moral frameworks are nonetheless real, and godless moral frameworks need not be any less objective than god-based ones are—is blinkered nonsense.

          Atheist organizations are based on real atheists and the way we see and act in the world, not on your personal fallacies about ethics.

          • Tyler1120

            I think you have proven my point.  If you have “no responsibility to rebut it”…then why put up the ad in the first place?  Your group is making an affirmative representation that goodness can exist without an objective moral framework.  Plain and simple.  You can call it “blinkered nonsense,” you can call it “bullshit”…but if you actually HAVE such a logically valid basis for objective morality through naturalism, I would love to hear it.  You would accomplish a true first in the history of atheistic thought.  

            When you say that my Nietzcshe comment bespeaks a failure to understand how athiests live “in the real world,” I couldn’t agree with you more!  The comment was not a “stereotype,” nor was it an insult.  Rather, it was meant to demonstrate the contradiction in belief vs. actual action of most atheists.  Do I believe that most athiests are good and moral people with genuine desires to benefit humanity?  Yes!  But do I believe this conscious morality is at odds with the fundamental nature of their worldview?  Yes again.  To me, it seems much more logically coherent to follow the thinking of a Russell or a Nietzchse, recognize the futility of life, and just enjoy the (extremely short) ride while it lasts.   While I think that is the more intellectually honest view, I am by no means trying to lump atheists into that category. 

            Ultimately, sorting through all the ad-hominem in your post, the one thing that sticks out is your (genuine) appeal and desire to speak out against “widespread injustice.”  Just one question question for you — Injustice according to whom?   Nature?  And if so, why?

            • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JQUGLZDT5Q3XGRBUUHSWI4EM2I Bernie

              I think you have proven my point.

              You think wrong.

              If you have “no responsibility to rebut it”…then why put up the ad in the first place?

              Goodness, the self-centeredness is strong with this one.

              That ad has nothing to do with your odd little circularities. Your fixation on issues surrounding “objective moral framework”s is totally unrelated to the ad.

              The ad says “Are you good without God? Millions are.” It says nothing about “objective moral framework”s. Your pretense that there is some connection there is nothing more than that—your pretense. The CoR has no responsibility for it.

              Your group is making an affirmative representation that goodness can exist without an objective moral framework.

              No, it is not, as I’ve now explained repeatedly. You have not shown—more to the point, it is not self-evident—that “an objective moral framework” cannot exist without “God.” Ergo “Millions are good without God” does not actually imply “Millions are good without an objective moral framework,” and you are refuted.

              …but if you actually HAVE such a logically valid basis for objective morality through naturalism, I would love to hear it.

              You are the one making the positive claim here—the notion that godlessness necessarily implies the lack of an objective moral framework.

              Given that you have not even explained what this “objective moral framework” thing even is, much less how the existence of god(s) makes it any more plausible (or “logically valid”), you are in no position to demand that atheists produce anything.

              You would accomplish a true first in the history of atheistic thought.

              Ignorant nonsense. Michael Martin and Sam Harris, among many other atheists, have produced explicit defenses of moral realism. There’s nothing “true first” about any of it.

              When you say that my Nietzcshe comment bespeaks a failure to understand how athiests live “in the real world,” I couldn’t agree with you more!

              Then you can take your disingenuous rhetorical questions about why an atheist would want to do X or Y elsewhere. Atheists have perfectly ordinary and easy-to-understand reasons for doing everything that is at issue here. The only problem you’ve presented is in the absurd fallacies that riddle your notions about society and ethics.

              But do I believe this conscious morality is at odds with the fundamental nature of their worldview?  Yes again.

              Yes, it’s obvious that you think that. Meanwhile, it’s equally clear that you harbor some simply absurd ideas about the “fundamental nature” of atheism, among other things.

              Ultimately, sorting through all the ad-hominem in your post….

              What a surprise—you don’t know what the ad hominem fallacy is. Here’s a hint: the fact that I’ve slighted you for your mindless sneering is not an example of the ad hominem fallacy. It’s just calling a spade a spade.

              …the one thing that sticks out is your (genuine) appeal and desire to speak out against “widespread injustice.”  Just one question question for you — Injustice according to whom?

              Who have you got? If you want to call into question the very concept of injustice, you explain what grounds you consider legitimate to declare a particular state of affairs “injustice.”

              Nature?

              No, of course not—that’s an utterly idiotic (not to mention specifically fallacious) answer.

              And if so, why?

              That you thought that would be my answer is an indication of your surprising level of cluelessness on this entire topic. It’s hard to believe that you’re as ignorant of the entire universe of nontheistic ethical philosophy—which happens to be thousands of years old—as you pretend to be.

            • Rieux

              I think you have proven my point.

              You think wrong.

              If you have “no responsibility to rebut it”…then why put up the ad in the first place?

              Goodness, the self-centeredness is strong with this one.

              That ad has nothing to do with your odd little circularities. Your fixation on issues surrounding “objective moral framework”s is totally unrelated to the ad.

              The ad says “Are you good without God? Millions are.” It says nothing about “objective moral framework”s. Your pretense that there is some connection there is nothing more than that—your pretense. The CoR has no responsibility for it.

              Your group is making an affirmative representation that goodness can exist without an objective moral framework.

              No, it is not, as I’ve now explained repeatedly. You have not shown—more to the point, it is not self-evident—that “an objective moral framework” cannot exist without “God.” Ergo “Millions are good without God” does not actually imply “Millions are good without an objective moral framework,” and you are refuted.

              …but if you actually HAVE such a logically valid basis for objective morality through naturalism, I would love to hear it.

              You are the one making the positive claim here—the notion that godlessness necessarily implies the lack of an objective moral framework.

              Given that you have not even explained what this “objective moral framework” thing even is, much less how the existence of god(s) makes it any more plausible (or “logically valid”), you are in no position to demand that atheists produce anything.

              You would accomplish a true first in the history of atheistic thought.

              Ignorant nonsense. Michael Martin and Sam Harris, among many other atheists, have produced explicit defenses of moral realism. There’s nothing “true first” about any of it.

              When you say that my Nietzcshe comment bespeaks a failure to understand how athiests live “in the real world,” I couldn’t agree with you more!

              Then you can take your disingenuous rhetorical questions about why an atheist would want to do X or Y elsewhere. Atheists have perfectly ordinary and easy-to-understand reasons for doing everything that is at issue here. The only problem you’ve presented is in the absurd fallacies that riddle your notions about society and ethics.

              But do I believe this conscious morality is at odds with the fundamental nature of their worldview?  Yes again.

              Yes, it’s obvious that you think that. Meanwhile, it’s equally clear that you harbor some simply absurd ideas about the “fundamental nature” of atheism, among other things.

              Ultimately, sorting through all the ad-hominem in your post….

              What a surprise—you don’t know what the ad hominem fallacy is. Here’s a hint: the fact that I’ve slighted you for your mindless sneering is not an example of the ad hominem fallacy. It’s just calling a spade a spade.

              …the one thing that sticks out is your (genuine) appeal and desire to speak out against “widespread injustice.”  Just one question question for you — Injustice according to whom?

              Who have you got? If you want to call into question the very concept of injustice, you explain what grounds you consider legitimate to declare a particular state of affairs “injustice.”

              Nature?

              No, of course not—that’s an utterly idiotic (not to mention specifically fallacious) answer.

              And if so, why?

              That you thought that would be my answer is an indication of your surprising level of cluelessness on this entire topic. It’s hard to believe that you’re as ignorant of the entire universe of nontheistic ethical philosophy—which happens to be thousands of years old—as you pretend to be.

    • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

      Tyler1120,

      It seems that a God-based morality is based on one of two possibilities:

      1.  That there is an objective moral foundation that comes first and God has no choice but to be perfectly moral so therefore, if you follow God, you are following an objective moral foundation.

      2.  That God gives and defines morality.  Its up to God.  God comes first.  Whatever God says goes.  God could therefore make up arbitrary rules and they would operationally be relabeled from a religious person’s perspective as an “objective moral foundation”.  But in reality, the rules would be relative to whatever God said since God Himself is not beholden to any real objective moral foundation that comes before Him.

      Some atheists take a position that there IS an objective moral foundation that comes BEFORE any notion of God and therefore one can follow the objective moral foundation while not believing in god.    This is #1 above were God is simply deemed not necessary for the existence of the objective moral framework and God can therefore be taken out of the picture due to Occam’s razor.

      Other atheists believe that morality is a social construct based on utilitarian principles about “what works” to balance various concepts like happiness, fairness, social cohesion, and individual freedom.  Individuals and society thus jointly define morality.  This is related to #2 above except that human are the ones defining morality as what is good for us (and life in general) as opposed to simply following whatever God said which might be arbitrary and capricious (or minimally good for only God).  This stance also means that humanity takes the responsibility for creating and improving our moral principles. We recognize that there might yet be better ways to live our lives and we are willing to improve upon the moral principles we hold.  God, for this stance, is not a trustworthy giver of morality since He doesn’t have any skin in the game so the “Good book” is ignored except for those parts that coincide with the morality that humanity has come up with.


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