Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ethics Without God

Atheist, Kai Nielson wrote an article with the above title.[1] Recently, I watched a video by Atheist, Sam Harris titled, "Science can answer moral questions." I would like to make a few comments on Harris and what I took from the video.

First, Harris belongs to a group who refer to themselves as the "New Atheists." The new atheists are slightly different in that they have a passion for ridding the world of all religions. They see no distinction between Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, or any other religious group. Their perception is that religion causes harm to the human race, and therefore, it needs to be extinguished. Some of the prominent players of the new atheists include, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins.

The video of Harris lasts about 20 minutes and he makes a passionate plea for a new way to do Ethics. First, It should be stated that Harris obviously does not believe in God or in any type of Supernaturalism. Because of this belief, he believes that moral values are the product of the brain, which he so states in the video. Secondly, Harris seems to be promoting the philosophical view of utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is a philosophical belief that "all action should be directed toward achieving the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people."[2] In order to make his point In the video, Harris compares Muslim women who wear burkas, verses women who are scantily clad. In his judgement there must be something better in between. He also implies that corporal punishment is wrong, but homosexuality is OK.

This brings me the the third point which I see as the overall goal of Harris and some of the new atheists. At one point, Harris remarks that, "we need a universal concept of morality." I believe what Harris wants is a governing body that determines what is morally acceptable and what is not. If this is the case, then it goes beyond cultural relativism (where cultures decide what is moral) and heads right to a universal relativistic world. Relativism posits that, "truth and moral values are not absolute but are relative to the persons or groups holding them."[3] In this case, those in power decide what is right and what is wrong. A universal relativistic world would make all the ethical decisions, since God does not exist and needs to be terminated on the new atheists view point.

What Harris and others are really advocating is nothing short of complete intolerance of any religious group. They have decided that all religions are bad without even inspecting the validity of each on its own merits. They (new atheists) are not interested in truth, but are more than willing to have others bow to the god of scientism. Scientism is the view that science, and only science, can give us meaningful knowledge of how things really are. In the end, ethics without God, becomes a form of self-worship that can only be spread by way of oppression.

* To see the video click here
[1] Nielson, Kai, Ethics Without Religion, from Louis Pojman's Ethical Theory, p. 619-624
[2] Utilitarianism
[3] Relativism

No comments: