Of course we are. Then how could it be possible for Atheism plus social justice issues to possibly divide atheists? If atheism is simply restricted to a non-belief in God/s like some apparently orthodox atheists are insisting, then where does morality originate? God? Of course not! Morality has to be intrinsic, and undiluted by wanting an external favor or reward in return. There can be no eternal paradise in reward for keeping the covenant-giver’s commandments.
So the popular CS Lewis argument that morality is extrinsically bestowed upon us by a morally supreme god works to cheapen morality, as humans are not choosing to be moral. God effectively thrusts morality upon humans making them good in his sight. However, most atheists don’t believe in supernatural sources for behavior. Therefore there must be a natural and rational explanation for moral behavior. Especially since many atheists exhibit it without divine intervention from a god.
The concept of secular morality is not new or even controversial among atheists. Here is a quote from Richard Dawkins, a staunch defender of atheism contrasting absolute morality with secular morality. It is actually puzzling given his opposition to harassment policies at atheist conventions. (Bold emphasis mine)
Can we not design our society in such a way to have the sort of morality that we want to live in? If you actually look at the moralities that are accepted among modern people, among 21st century people: we don’t believe in slavery anymore, we believe in the equality of women, we believe in being gentle, we believe in being kind to animals. These are all things, which are entirely recent. They have very little basis in Biblical or Quranic scripture. They are things that have developed over historical time through a consensus of reasoning, sober discussion, argument, legal theory, political and moral philosophy. They do not come from religion.
In fact, Jen Mc Creight envisioned designing a community of atheists, who were concerned about many of the same things when she proposed Atheism+.
Atheists plus we care about social justice,
Atheists plus we support women’s rights,
Atheists plus we protest racism,
Atheists plus we fight homophobia and transphobia,
Atheists plus we use critical thinking and skepticism
In fairness to Dawkins, McCreight envisions Atheist+ as being a new wave of atheism in contrast to “New Atheists” like him and Hitchens.
Now it’s time for a third wave – a wave that isn’t just a bunch of “middle-class, white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied men” patting themselves on the back for debunking homeopathy for the 983258th time or thinking up yet another great zinger to use against Young Earth Creationists. It’s time for a wave that cares about how religion affects everyone and that applies skepticism to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, politics, poverty, and crime
On the other hand, despite his former stumping for the equality of women in the context of secular morality, he has hardly ingratiated himself with Atheist/Feminist activists by dismissing harassment at conferences on more than one occasion. He re-tweeted a remark recently from a woman who wonders if the sexist abuse that some are receiving is in response to the assumption that other atheists are misogynists.
Apparently, Dawkins thought this comment was worth re-tweeting though. I wonder what Dawkins means by secular morality including equality of women and whether he thinks that sexist abuse from fellow atheists is part of the society he envisioned when he posed this question:
“Can we not design our society in such a way to have the sort of morality that we want to live in?”
How do we get to that secular society with the sort of morality we want to live in? Are we willing to cede morality to the domain of theists? According to Dawkins the way to a more moral society is, ” a consensus of reasoning, sober discussion, argument, legal theory, political and moral philosophy.” If the current unnecessary controversies about adopting social justice causes are any indicator –we’re off course. It doesn’t really matter what we call it -Atheism+, secular morality, secular humanism, or progressive atheism. What matters is we will need as many moral atheists as possible to get there.