The Instigator
Tertullian
Pro (for)
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The Contender
ChristusExemplar
Con (against)
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Atheism is Morally Bankrupt

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/5/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 990 times Debate No: 41767
Debate Rounds (3)
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Tertullian

Pro

My Position is that Atheism is morally bankrupt. It is unable to lay a foundation for morality and in fact has positive inducements for evil. This will be strictly philosophical no use of historical examples or personal experience will be used, as interesting as such topics are they are not within the preview of this debate.

I will show that atheism is morally bankrupt and that its earliest practitioners openly admitted as such. My initial argument, in round one, will not rely on Christian or non-atheist sources, but will solely come from atheists themselves.

My opponent must prove 1) that atheism is able to philosophically justify objective morality and 2) provide defeater to falsify the claims made the atheists I will subsequently provide, which I will refer to as the founding Fathers of Atheism.

The basic argument is this:

If one is an atheist (A), then one objects to transcendent foundation of morality i.e., God (B).

If one objects to transcendent foundation of morality i.e., God (B), one lacks the ability to justify conventional morality. (C)

If one is an atheist (A), one lacks the ability to justify conventional morality. (C)

This argument is valid. It is based on the Hypothetical Syllogism. The question is it sound? All sound arguments are valid, but not all valid arguments are sound.

To prove this argument is sound, i.e., the premise are true, I will provide the beliefs and arguments of the early 18th and 19th century atheists.

Marquis de Sade

Philosophy of the Bedroom, "Yet another effort Frenchmen , if you would be Republicans."

"No, we want no more of a god who is at loggerheads with Nature, who is the father of confusion, who moves man at the moment man abandons himself to horrors; such as a god makes us quiver with indignation, and we consign him forever to the oblivion whence the infamous Robespierre wished to call him forth."

Rape: "The transgressions we are considering in this second class of man's duties toward
his fellows include actions.. prostitution, incest, rape and sodomy.

"It is certain, that rape, an act so very rare and so very difficult to prove,
wrongs one's neighbor less than theft, since the latter is destructive to property,
the former merely damaging to it. Beyond that, what objections have you to the
ravisher? What will you say, when he replies to you that, as a matter of fact, the
injury is trifling indeed, since he has done no more than place a little sooner the
object he has abused in the very state in which she would soon have been put by
marriage and love."

Theft: "Lay partiality aside, and answer me: is theft, whose effect is to distribute the wealth more evenly, to be branded as a wrong in our day, under our government which aims at equality? Plainly the answer is no: it further equality and, what is more, renders more difficult the conservation of property."

"Thus convinced, as you may be, of this barbarous inequality, do not proceed to worsen your injustice by punishing the man who has nothing for having dared to filch something from the man who has everything: your inequitable pledge gives him the greater right to it than ever."

Murder: "These truths once admitted, I ask whether it can ever be proposed that destruction is a crime? " No, surely not; for, to prove that, it would be necessary to demonstrate matter inert for an instant, for a moment of repose."

"Well, let her do the destroying, they tell you; one ought to let her do it, of course, but they are Nature"s impulses man follows when he indulges in homicide; it is Nature who advises him, and the man who destroys his fellow is to Nature what are the plague and famine, like them sent by her hand which employs every possible means more speedily to obtain of destruction this primary matter, itself absolutely essential to her works."

Frederick Nietzsche

The Birth of Tragedy & The Genealogy of Morals, Issue 677

"To speak of right and wrong per se makes no sense at all. No act of violence, rape,
exploitation, destruction, is intrinsically "unjust," since life itself is violent,
rapacious, exploitative, and destructive and cannot be conceived as otherwise."

The Gay Science

Holy cruelty. " A man who held a newborn child in his hands approached a holy man. "What shall I do with this child?" he asked; "it is wretched, misshapen, and does not have life enough to die." "Kill it!" shouted the holy man with a terrible voice; "and then hold it in your arms for three days and three nights to create a memory for yourself: never again will you beget a child this way when it is not time for you to
beget." " When the man had heard this, he walked away, disappointed, and many people reproached the holy man because he had counseled cruelty; for he had counseled the man to kill the child. "But is it not cruder to let it live?" asked the holy man."

Twilight of the Idols

"When one gives up Christian belief one thereby deprives oneself of the right to Christian morality. For the latter is absolutely not self-evident: one must make this point clear again and again, in spite of English shallow-pates."

Lenin

The Economic Content of Narodism and the Criticism of it in Mr. Struve"s Book

"One therefore cannot deny the justice of Sombart"s remark that in Marxism
itself there is not a grain of ethics from beginning to end; theoretically, it
subordinates the "ethical standpoint" to the "principle of causality"; in practice
it reduces it to the class struggle."

Margaret Sanger

Woman and the New Race

"Many, perhaps, will think it idle to go farther in demonstrating the immorality of large families, but since there is still an abundance of proof at hand, it may be offered for the sake of those who find difficulty in adjusting old-fashioned ideas to the facts. The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it. The same factors which create the terrible infant mortality rate, and which swell the death rate of children between the ages of one and five, operate even more extensively to lower the health rate of the surviving members. Moreover, the overcrowded homes of large families reared in poverty further contribute to this condition. Lack of medical attention is still another factor, so that the child who must struggle for health in competition with other members of a closely packed family has still great difficulties to meet after its poor constitution and malnutrition have been accounted for."

We see that one thing unites all these thinkers murder and death. Theirs is a religion of Thanatos, Nietzsche and Stirner supplies the reasons for an atheist morality if God is dead, then morality that derives from God, which is all morality, is without foundation and must be rejected. If our existence and our struggles are merely material than no moral consideration can come into play? Do Lions or Wolves consider the morality of disemboweling Zebras and Caribou? No. Or in other words

If Man is merely an animal (A), than morality is not a consideration (B).
If morality is not a consideration (B), then nothing is forbidden. (C)
If Man is merely an animal (A), then nothing is forbidden. (C)

This argument again is a valid hypothetical syllogism.

If man and the universe are purely material, if God does not exist, if all that governs man is "nature," then one can have no recourse to the rapaciousness of man. The atheism itself has cut of all possibility for moral discourse. In fact most atheists are not really atheists at all, for as Max Stirner points out in The Ego and His Own:

"But, because Man represents only another Supreme Being, nothing in fact has taken place but a metamorphosis in the Supreme Being, and the fear of Man is merely an altered form of the fear of God. Our atheists are pious people. If in the so-called feudal times we held everything as a fief from God, in the liberal period the same feudal relation exists with Man. God was the Lord, now Man is the Lord; God was the Mediator, now Man is; God was the Spirit, now Man is. In this three fold regard the feudal relation has experienced a transformation. For now, firstly, we hold as a fief from all-powerful Man our power, which, because it comes from a higher, is not called power or might, but "right" " the "rights of man"; we further hold as a fief from him our position in the world, for he, the mediator, mediates our intercourse with others, which therefore may not be otherwise than "human"; finally, we hold as a fief from him ourselves " to wit, our own value, or all that we are worth " inasmuch as we are worth nothing when he does not dwell in us, and when or where we are not "human." The power is Man"s, the world is
Man"s, I am Man"s"

"Here we come upon the old, old craze of the world, which has not yet learned to do without clericalism " that to live and work for an idea is man"s calling, and according to the faithfulness of its fulfillment his human worth is measured"

Most atheists are in fact half-Christian. To describe such atheists a meme has developed calling them Atheistkult.

When man supplants God man defines morality and since man is mutable and subjective his morality is as well. If morality is mutable and subjective no answer can be given to the immoralist.

In conclusion I content that my first syllogism as well as this second syllogism are both valid, in virtue of their structure, and sound, in virtue of the truth of the premises that compose them. There soundness is confirmed by the testimony and content of atheists themselves. Atheism is unable to provide a foundation for moral action as de Sade, Max Stirner and Nietzsche show. I have provided warrant to believe the truth value of my premises and my proponent must provide a defeater to them. Atheism also provides inducements for evil as de Sade, Max Stirner and Nietzsche show a sort of anti-morality replaces traditional morality. Therefore atheism is morally bankrupt and provides positive inducements for evil.
ChristusExemplar

Con

I'd like to thank Pro (Tertullian) for arranging this debate and presenting his arguments in a manner sufficient to establish plenty of dialogue/debate for the proposition at hand.


(i) The Debate Understood

A number of problems arise just looking at the presentation of Pro's case. The first and perhaps most notable is his mistake of not defining the terms at hand. The question to be asked when we are faced with a proposition such as "Atheism is morally bankrupt" would be to properly wonder as to what exactly is meant by atheism - including other given terms such as theism and conventional morality, along with in what sense those terms are somewhat related. The reason for this I think can be best stated in C. Stephen Evans' discussion in his book God and Moral Obligation:
  • Of course the claim that morality depends on God is ambiguous and can be interpreted in a number of different ways. One way it might be understood is as a claim that a person must be believe in God to act morally or have a moral character. Religious belief is necessary to be a moral person. . . This seems implausible. . . and I have no reason to argue otherwise. [1]
In other words, the claim "morality is dependent" is too ambiguous (general) so as to have a particular meaning. Along with the interpretation of religious belief as a necessity for there to be moral persons, there are two other interpretations that Evans examines: (1) an epistemological claim (God is the basis of our knowledge of morality) and an (2) ontological claim (morality exists because of God). It is unclear as to which interpretation Pro holds (since he has not stated it clearly), although he argues that "Atheism is unable to provide a foundation for moral action[s]," and quotes several perspectives supporting that view. It seems evident, I think, to suppose that pro holds a view similar to the (3)rd view - that God is the foundation for morality in an ontological sense.

I suppose that this is the case, given claims such as "atheism is unable to provide a foundation for moral actions," along with, "[I]f God is dead, then morality that derives from God, which is all morality, is without foundation and must be rejected." However, if Pro wishes to correct me on this observation, he is more than welcome to do so.



(ii) Defining Terms

By atheism, I simply mean the view that "it is not the case that there is a unique, necessary, eternal, immaterial, personal being who created the universe and who possesses all perfections - specifically omniscience, omnipotence, and benevolence" [2]. We can take nihilism to be the view that "no moral property is instantiated" [3]. Morality (although better definitions are available) can be understood as the opposite of nihilism. Moral atheism thence is the conjunction of atheism and morality.



(iii) Criticism of Pro's Case


Pro offered the following argument (MA1 hereafter):
  1. If one is an atheist (A), then one objects to transcendent foundation of morality i.e., God (B).
  2. If one objects to transcendent foundation of morality i.e., God (B), one lacks the ability to justify conventional morality. (C)
  3. If one is an atheist (A), one lacks the ability to justify conventional morality. (C)


Although I find premise (1) to be uncontroversial, I do take a problem with premise (2). Since I take Pro's argument to contain an ontological claim, it seems to be the case that he is arguing that if one does not accept (B) as the foundation of morality, one cannot justify (C) - conventional morality. The problem with this form of argument is that it commits the genetic fallacy - in other words, Pro is more so concerned with truth and not so much with the justification of morality. Stated simply, we are not capable of holding to (C) because we have not granted the truth of (B) - hence, no other account outside of (C) can adequately explain/account for the existence of (C).


If Pro's argument was concerned with justification, he might be concerned with the following statements:

  • (a) An atheist, by definition, denies the claim that God is the ontological foundation of morality.
  • (b) An atheist believes that our ethical beliefs are true.

However, (b) seems to be problematic. To be fair to my definition of atheism, it would perhaps be best to restate (b) as the following:

  • (b') An atheist, holding to (x), believes that our ethical beliefs are true.
Pro is claiming in his argument that (1) is the case, while also maintaining that whatever represents (x) is nonetheless inadequate to account for conventional morality since the atheist has denied (1). This is problematic for the reason that Pro has not presented us with any barriers to suggest that the justification for the existence of morality cannot be done (or it is highly unlikely that it can be done) given the atheist worldview. Pro's argument (or at least his presentation) is inadequate to suggest that (3) is the case:
  • (3) If one is an atheist, one lacks the ability to justify conventional morality.

Furthermore, Pro in supporting this conclusion merely quotes several atheistic perspectives as evidence that (3) holds. This is a classic example of the Argument from Authority; namely, that if (x) says (y) is the case, then (y) is the case. I could quote philosophers who hold to the view that an external reality doesn't exist - that doesn't mean that an external reality in fact does not exist. Pro quoting those figures do not add to the substance of his argument.


(iv) Counter Arguments

Moral arguments as we might often hear them are of the sort that suggest our human moral experience points to the existence of God. One form of this line of reasoning is a sort of cosmological argument: the cause of objective moral facts must be God. We can formulate the argument as follows:

(1) If morality is objective and absolute, then God exists.
(2) Morality is objective and absolute.
(3) Therefore, God exists.

Premise (1) is not often adequately addressed by theists. One would need to show (just as Pro would) that no other alternative explanation - especially alternative views that hold morality as absolute and objective - is adequate or justified in holding morality as objective and absolute. If that alternative is naturalistic and fails, then the adherent of the argument must also argue that supernatural explanations are not the case.

Although Hastings Rashdall has argued that the "[moral law] cannot be defended or fully justified without the presupposition of Theism", [4] this doesn't seem to be a view that can be substantiated given the consideration of the possible alternatives available [5]. For instance, consider a discussion by Louise Antony where he suggests that "there is a way that human beliefs could have been shaped by ethically significant factors" [6]:

  • The phenomenon that "emerge" when we abstract from the microphysical details fall into regularities of their own - these regularities form the domains of chemistry, biology, geology, and the other "special sciences." The first point, then, is that there is nothing in the naturalist picture that precludes there being lawlike regularities at higher levels than physics. [7]
He goes on to argue that we as human beings have evolved in such a way so as to develop brains and nervous systems that support a psychology. To have this psychology, argues Antony, is to have the ability to form mental representations and use those representations to have guiding interactions with the subject's environment. For instance, creatures with a psychology (such as human beings) have the ability to integrate representations of the way the world is (beliefs) as well as form representations of the way they'd like to see the world (desires). To finish on Antony's point:
  • Ethical properties. . . are theoretical properties involving crucially, the capacity to see other creatures as psychological beings. It can be seen that one creature is colliding with another, but it takes psychological inference to classify the event as a case of one creature's attacking another, and a further inference to conclude that the attack is an act of aggression. . . Human beings can and do perform such inferences. [8]


(v) Summary


In his Ethics Without God (1973), philosopher Kai Nielsen calls our attention to three fundamental questions crucial to this conversation:

  • (1) Is being willed by God the, or even a, fundamental criterion for that which is so willed being morally good or its being something that ought to be done?
  • (2) Is being willed by God the only criterion for that which is so willed being morally good or its being something that ought to be done?
  • (3) Is being willed by God the only adequate criterion for that which is so willed being morally good or for its being something that ought to be done?
For the following rounds to come, I do hope that Pro will carefully examine these questions and address the points I have raised here in my rebuttal. However, Pro has not adequately presented a case that would establish the above proposition: "Atheism is morally bankrupt." Therefore, I urge a vote in the negation of this proposition.



______________________


Notes:

  • [1] C. Stephen Evans, God and Moral Obligation (Oxford University Press: 2013) p. 1
  • [2] Louise Antony, "The Failure of Moral Arguments" in Debating Christian Theism, ed. J.P. Moreland, Chad Meister, Khaldoun A. Sweis (Oxford University Press: 2013) p. 101
  • [3] Ibid.
  • [4] Hastings Rashdall, "God and the Moral Consciousness," Religious Belief and Philosophical Thought, ed. William Alston (Brace and World: 1963) p. 92
  • [5] See Roderick Firth, "Ethical Absolutism and the Ideal Observer," Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 12, 1952, pp. 317-345 for an example.
  • [6] Louis Antony, "The Failure of Moral Arguments," Debating Christian Theism (2013) p. 105
  • [7] Ibid., p. 106
  • [8] Ibid.
  • [9] Quoted from Peter Angeles, Critiques of God (Promotheus Books: 1997) p. 242
Debate Round No. 1
Tertullian

Pro

Response to (i)

I would like to thank Con (ChristusExemplar) for accepting my debate. The first two-thirds of his response are correct in that I was not sufficiently clear. That does not mean that my argument is false, but is lacking in clarity which in turn renders it difficult to follow and judge. I must confess I was probably too greedy to provide evidences for my premises than in defining terms.

This statement in Con"s conclusion: "However, Pro has not adequately presented a case that would establish the above proposition: "Atheism is morally bankrupt."" I believe should be slightly reworded. I believe my point to be adequate, but my terms have not been clearly delineated.

Let me first define the terms at hand:

I will use the Merriram-Webster dictionary definitions were possible.

Atheism: the doctrine that there is no deity. [1]

Theism: belief in the existence of a god or gods; specifically : belief in the existence of one God viewed as the creative source of the human race and the world who transcends yet is immanent in the world.[2]

Emphasis will be placed on the secondary definition.

Conventional Morality: This term I will have to define myself. By conventional morality I mean the moral tradition that we inherit from the Greeks and the Jews as western man, or as C. S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man calls Tao. Lewis defines the Tao as: "the traditional moralities of East and West, the Christian, the Pagan, and the Jew." [3] This is attested to in Romans 2:14-16.

Evil: Will be defined as violation of the Tao.

Nihilism: a doctrine that denies any objective ground of truth and especially of moral truths. [4]

Response to (ii)

Con is essentially correct in his appraisal of my central claim: "[I]f God is dead, then morality that derives from God, which is all morality, is without foundation and must be rejected."

This claim is clearly affirmed by Marquis de Sade, Nietzsche, and Max Striner explicitly and Lenin and Margaret Sanger, at least in the quotes mentioned implicitly. I content that nihilism is the only consistent morality of atheism. I contend that moral atheism cannot exist.

Response to (iii)

While Con has correctly identified my argument to be that atheism denies the ontological foundation for morality he has drawn a mistaken inference from my syllogism. This could be due to 1) I was not clear enough in my syllogism or 2) he is genuinely mistaken. The two are probably related a more clear definition would have given Con better material to work with.

My claim is not that "atheists cannot know what is moral because they lack revelation.", but that they cannot from their own philosophy justify the moral truths they claim to support. I do not believe that I am committing the genetic fallacy, which is defined as describing the origin of a belief and then acting as if that explanation falsifies the belief. I made no attempt to describe the origin of atheist belief in morality and then act as if that explanation rendered it false. So I contend that Con is incorrect in ascribing to me the genetic fallacy.

I want to return to Nietzsche"s claim in Twilight of the Idols that Christian morality is not at all obvious to all men and that Christianity is a package deal God and His morality come together or as Bill Clinton said about his presidency it is a twofer. One cannot hold God"s morality and yet reject the idea that God exists.

Con is mistaken in his definition of the fallacy (Appeal to Authority). The fallacy appeal to authority is an appeal to an illegitimate authority.

As Peter Kreeft states: "Ad verecundiam" means "the appeal to reverence," i.e. reverence for authority. The fallacy is the illegitimate appeal to authority" Appeal to authority is not in itself fallacious" In fact, most of what we know, we have learned by trusting authorities: first of our parents, then our teachers and textbooks. No one can learn everything first-hand; most of what we know comes to us second-hand, with many other human links in the chain. [5]

If we accept Con"s definition of Appeal to Authority certain absurdities arise. His response itself is based on appeals to authority. If Con accepts his own definition of the Appeal to Authority much of what he has already written has not added substance to his argument. From this contradiction I suggest that he has wrongly defined the Appeal to Authority.

I suggest that Marquis de Sade, Nietzsche and Max Stirner are not illegitimate authorities on the possibility of atheist morality, but very relevant sources. My purpose in using the quotes of prominent atheists to support the claim that atheism cannot ground morality is just to show that even thoughtful (dare I call Marquis de Sade thoughtful?) atheists have come to the same realization that I am arguing for.

The driving assumption of my argument is that atheists must smuggle into their own world view implicit Christian assumptions to justify their morality which they cannot do and maintain a claim to logical consistency.

The atheist is self-assumptively incoherent he 1) denies that God and universals exist, but 2) accepts the moral dictums that flow from God and universals.

Roy Clouser defines self-assumptive incoherence thus: "The next criterion says that a theory must not be incompatible with any belief we have to assume for the theory to be true." [6]

The atheist must implicitly assume what he denies, i.e., the existent of universal truth (God, the gods or Platonic forms).

In short the atheist is as Nietszche and Max Stirner state still living as if God were real while denying his existence. One is not allowed to posit meaning in the universe when one"s world view by definition denies the existence of objective meaning.

Response to (iv)

Con claims that "objective morality" can either be justified by supernatural or natural sources. He claims that I need to show that natural foundations are invalid and then that supernatural foundations are valid. I only accept part of his suggestion. My claim is that 1) atheism cannot justify morality (which implies a naturalistic justification) and 2) the atheist cannot smuggle in values and ideas that violate the very notion of atheism. I need not prove that Christians or theists can give a better account of morality to show that an atheist cannot give an account of morality.

Con cites Louise Antony and her argument that: "we as human beings have evolved in such a way so as to develop brains and nervous systems that support a psychology." Now we have here a genuine genetic fallacy Mrs. Antony is giving a description of how our faculties might have developed and then concludes that the moral concepts generated by these evolutionary and cultural forces are true. Normally the genetic fallacy is used to prove something false, not true.

It is unclear what Mrs. Antony is trying to achieve here, is she saying 1) from biological sources moral norms are created, or 2) that one can give an account of the existence of the moral norms we already have. She cannot mean (1) since that would be self-assumptively incoherent, given her atheist world view. The second is again merely an expression of the genetic fallacy. Furthermore if we accept (2) we also see that what she is describing cannot actually ground objective morality. For something to be normative it must be true at all times and places. The laws of logic for example are always true: A does not equal non-A is true irrespective of time, place, gender or race. If something is generated by a process (i.e., evolution) it cannot and is not universal. Before sufficiently evolved life existed than these moral laws could have been operative or even in existence. If Mrs. Antony wants to appeal to some independent universal law governing morality that evolution is merely leading us to, then she is smuggling in God through the back door, for what else could such a grounding for morality be that is independent of existing beings, but an eternal immaterial source?

Response to (v)

I believe I have adequately answered his objections to my argument and clarified the terms under discussion.

Con has failed to:

1)Define fallacies correctly.
2)As a result of (1) he has ignored the claims of Marquis de Sade, Max Stirner and Nietzsche and the arguments they give for the inoperableness of moral norms, in a materialist world view.
3)Grapple with the implication that if God does not exist anything is permitted, or as Marquis de Sade argued immorality become a duty.
4)Show that atheists are not self-assumptively incoherent.
5) Show that if man is an animal that moral laws still apply to him when such laws clearly do not apply to dogs, cats and horses.
6)Show that a world view that explicitly denies objective morals can still have an account of objective morality.

I do not see that he has adequately shown that atheism can be adequately grounded within its own conceptual superstructure without smuggling in foreign ideas and that once God is "killed" acts which were formerly considered evil subsequently are now considered permissible. I conclude that the vote should be in the affirmative that Atheism is Morally Bankrupt.

Notes

[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com...

[2] http://www.merriam-webster.com...

[3] C.S. Lewis, Abolition of Man (HarperCollins Edition 2001) page 44-45

[4] http://www.merriam-webster.com...

[5] Peter Kreeft, Socratic Logic: A Logic text using Socratic Method, Platonic Questions and Aristotelian Principles (St. Augustine"s Press 2010) page 82

[6] Roy A. Clouser, The Myth of Religious Neutrality (University of Notre Dame 2013) page 84
ChristusExemplar

Con

I would like to thank Pro for his response. Although we may thank Pro for his clarification on his position/definitions/terms/etc., we still must fault him for not furthering his case in a fashion that clarifies what he says in his original opening statements.

As I said in my previous rebuttal: "Pro has not adequately presented a case that would establish the above proposition: 'Atheism is morally bankrupt.'" I made this claim to suggest that Pro's argument is not false because of the inadequacy of his case (i.e., didn't define terms) but rather that because his argument isn't clear on the terms (yet to be understood) we are unable to accept his argument as affirming the proposition before us (because he is not clear). While this issue can easily be fixed, Pro has not fixed this problem even here in the second round.

In his response (ii) he writes in affirmation of his original claim that "if God is dead, then morality that derives from God, which is all morality, is without foundation and must be rejected." He says further that "[t]his claim is clearly affirmed by Marquis de Sade, Nietzsche, and Max Striner explicitly and Lenin and Margaret Sanger, at least in the quotes mentioned implicitly..." This was my point in responding to Pro as giving an Argument from Authority.

I could care less what those men/women said on the subject of morality and its relationship with atheism, it does not add to the substance of (or even, probability of) accepting the proposition "Atheism is morally bankrupt." Furthermore, to make this claim as well as affirm it is to go farther than merely quoting authorities on the subject (assuming for argument's sake that they are in fact authorities).

Pro also says: "I content that nihilism is the only consistent morality of atheism. I contend that moral atheism cannot exist." We appreciate Pro for merely stating this; although, he has demonstrated nothing thus far to have us accept this premise.


Response (iii)

In his response (iii), he claims:
  • While Con has correctly identified my argument to be that atheism denies the ontological foundation for morality he has drawn a mistaken inference from my syllogism.

In what way did I draw a mistaken inference? He says again: "My claim is not that 'atheists cannot know what is moral because they lack revelation', but that they cannot from their own philosophy justify the moral truths they claim to support." If he thinks that I am in fact saying that, then it is Pro who is unfortunately mistaken. I am not even concerned with the epistemological claim (which he misunderstands in itself), and never even so much as claimed its relevance in this debate.

He believes that he has not committed the genetic fallacy in his argument. I would have to say that this is so, contrary to Pro's belief. He has not shown, let alone argued, that other alternative explanations (natural as well as supernatural) apart from theism are impossible ontological foundations for morality. In a similar way, where Pro says (a) "it is the case that God is the transcendent foundation of morality" he is still logically saying (b) "it is not the case that not-God is the transcendent foundation of morality." Why should we accept (a) if we aren't given restrictions, limitations/objections to (b)?

Furthermore, I have defined atheism to be the doctrine that "it is not the case that there is a unique, necessary, eternal, immaterial, personal being who created the universe and who possesses all perfections - specifically omniscience, omnipotence, and benevolence" (see my first rebuttal). Therefore, atheists can have a plethora of beliefs separate from other atheists (Buddhists, nihilists, existentialists, etc.) and yet still be labeled as atheists. However, how does Pro's argument not commit the genetic fallacy if atheism were understood in that way? If he says:

If one is an atheist (A), one lacks the ability to justify conventional morality. (C)

Is he saying that the naturalist, the Buddhist, the nihilist, and the humanist (who are atheists) all "lack the ability to justify conventional morality"? Surely, his more naive definition of atheism as merely being "one who denies the existence of a deity" is not so fair a definition as the one I have used above in my first rebuttal - since I allow for the existence of nihilists to even moral atheists. However, jump ahead to Response (iv) to see Pro's treatment of this problem.

He first says: "atheism cannot justify morality (which implies a naturalistic justification)." What Pro needs to understand is that although the naturalist is committed to atheism, the atheist is not committed to naturalism. So, atheism in fact does not imply naturalism or anything with a naturalistic justification. In fact, some of the non-theistic religions (e.g., Jainism) actually hold an atheistic view of the world while maintaining the immortality of the soul and a grand cosmic plan of salvation. Again, I refer Pro to my definition of atheism I stated above.


Louise Antony and the Naturalistic Alternative

Pro makes the following claim:

  • Con cites Louise Antony and her argument that: "we as human beings have evolved in such a way so as to develop brains and nervous systems that support a psychology." Now we have here a genuine genetic fallacy Mrs. Antony is giving a description of how our faculties might have developed and then concludes that the moral concepts generated by these evolutionary and cultural forces are true.
This response is rather ignorant. From this statement alone that Pro has quoted, it cannot be deduced that she is describing how our faculties might have developed and thence conclude that moral concepts generated by evolutionary processes' are in fact true (that is jumping the conclusion a bit - a conclusion that is not even Antony's actual position). Furthermore, Antony's explanation can be taken as a mere possible solution to the challenge that no other alternative explanations are available in light of theism's explanation. If we can give a possible solution, then the challenge is met.


Rebuttal (iv)

We are encountered with the issue of Pro not being clear on the nature of his case. If he is to argue any of the following propositions given the truth of atheism,
  • (1) Human life is meaningless.
  • (2) Human life is absurd.
  • (3) Human life is worthless.

then Pro needs to develop reasons/arguments for why this is so. However, I find problems with these three above statements if Pro is suggesting that they are true for these following reasons:

  • (4) There is no cosmic purpose.
  • (5) Each human life is finite.
  • (6) Human life in general is finite.

The question thence should be, is (4), (5), and (6) the proper prerequisites that justify (1), (2), and (3)? A few things are to be noted here. The first is namely that "atheism per se is not committed to the naturalistic world view of science" [1] that entails (4), (5) and (6). The second is that "if pessimistic conclusions do follow from a naturalistic atheism, this does not show that such an atheism is false" [2]. To quote philosopher Michael Martin on this issue,

  • This is not to say that the practical implications of a theory have no relevance in theory choice. However. . . although practical implications might play some role in theory choice, their role should be very limited. There is a presumption that practical considerations should play no role in theory choice and there is a presumption, if practical considerations do play a role, that they should be used only when nonpractical considerations cannot decide. . . Thus a rational person might regret that so well justified by the evidence has pessimistic implications, but one should not abandon it simply for those reasons. [3]

Hence, even if Pro were correct in his assessment that "atheism is morally bankrupt," (which I do not think he is) that still does not show atheism as false. Moreover, Pro is claiming more than perhaps what he thinks. The argument he puts forth demonstrates that not only do atheist have no ontological foundation for morality, but that they are also morally bankrupt; they are simply animals where nothing is forbidden. They are in fact, nihilists.

Pro has demonstrated nothing! He has not shown why (1) "there is no cosmic purpose" entails (4) "human life is meaningless", or why (2) "each human life is finite" entails (5) "human life is absurd." It is far more than evident that Pro has the Burden of Proof here and has not even begun on the path so as to come close to it.

To conclude here, I will simply say again to vote in the negative on the grounds of Pro's inadequacy to further proper etiquette of debate.

_______________________

Notes:

[1] Michael Martin, Atheism: A Philosophical Justification (Temple University Press: 1990) pp. 14-15
[2] Ibid., p. 15
[3] Ibid.

Debate Round No. 2
Tertullian

Pro

I thank again Pro for responding, but I believe he has contributed nothing new to the debate. He completely ignored my epistemological arguments of self-performative incoherence of atheism or with the argument presented by de Sade, Nietzsche or Max Stirner.

Some things have been helpfully clarified; unfortunately we have only one more response to cut between the fog.

"If he thinks that I am in fact saying that, then it is Pro who is unfortunately mistaken. I am not even concerned with the epistemological claim (which he misunderstands in itself), and never even so much as claimed its relevance in this debate."

Whether that is what you were claiming or not is immaterial that is what I am claiming. I did elaborate on at least one of the above Atheist"s argument. Nietzsche. Nietzsche claimed that Christian morality and the existence of God are a packaged deal and that on cannot accept the latter without accepting the former. My discussing incoherencies I was elaborating on Nietzsche. If he finds it unconvincing that is fine, but to claim I did not respond at all to his charge to elaborate is false.

"Hence, even if Pro were correct in his assessment that "atheism is morally bankrupt," (which I do not think he is) that still does not show atheism as false."

I never attempted to show that atheism is false, if Con is laboring under this misconception I hope to disabuse it of him. I only set out to prove that atheism is morally bankrupt not that it is false.

"Pro has demonstrated nothing!"

Con has shown nothing? He has not shown use how, from nature, we can sustain ontology of morality. He has not shown that atheism is not morally bankrupt. He has not shown, even after two responses, that de Sade, Stirner or Nietzsche"s arguments are false.

"What Pro needs to understand is that although the naturalist is committed to atheism, the atheist is not committed to naturalism"

While Con"s digression into Buddhism and Jansenism are interesting, I was not talking about them. I was talking about naturalist atheists, which my references to de Sade, Stirner and Nietzsche should have indicated. Fine if he wants to include Buddhism and Jansenism as atheistic he can, but I was never arguing against that sort of "atheism" if we can even call it that. My definition of atheism is the classical one used by Marx, Lenin, Spencer and Kropotkin. Philosophical materialism.

"Surely, his more naive definition of atheism as merely being "one who denies the existence of a deity" is not so fair a definition as the one I have used above in my first rebuttal - since I allow for the existence of nihilists to even moral atheists."

If Con wants to use a definition of atheism that is not found in the dictionary he is free to, but brining it up does not good since I do not agree to that definition of atheism. For the sack of concord I will narrow it further, if it will please Con, I am specifically talking about the materialist naturalist Atheism of the western tradition. I thought: "the doctrine that there is no deity" was clear enough to express such a position.

It is also rather tendentious to believe that Asiatic religions are atheist in the same way Nietzsche or Richard Dawkins is they are clearly not. Buddhism and Jansenism both grew out of Hinduism and all three share a pantheist or panentheist foundation. It would probably more accurate to define Buddhists and Jansensits as pantheists rather than atheists.

Etymologically atheist does not mean Buddhist or Jansenist. See:

"1570s, from French ath"iste (16c.), from Greek atheos "without god, denying the gods; abandoned of the gods; godless, ungodly," from a- "without" + theos "a god" (see Thea).

The existence of a world without God seems to me less absurd than the presence of a God, existing in all his perfection, creating an imperfect man in order to make him run the risk of Hell. [Armand Salacrou, "Certitudes et incertitudes," 1943]"[1]

If Con wants to use a word in complete rupture with its etymological meaning that is his prerogative, but not good debating practice. Are we to believe that 16th century Englishmen and Frenchmen had Buddhists in mind why they coined this word?

"This response is rather ignorant. From this statement alone that Pro has quoted, it cannot be deduced that she is describing how our faculties might have developed and thence conclude that moral concepts generated by evolutionary processes' are in fact true (that is jumping the conclusion a bit - a conclusion that is not even Antony's actual position)."

If it was not here conclusion that appeared to be the conclusion you were drawing from it. If you lack of understanding on the etymology of atheist knowlegable?

This whole tirade on defining Buddhists as atheists, which he did not do previously is rather tendentious since I am not his definition of atheist, but the classical definition.

"I could care less what those men/women said on the subject of morality and its relationship with atheism, it does not add to the substance of (or even, probability of) accepting the proposition "Atheism is morally bankrupt.""

Using Con"s logic I could care less what anyone could say about the ability of atheism to ground morality in nature such as Louise Antony, Kai Nielsen or Michael Martin.

A certain consistency arises here. If he can use Mrs. Antony, Mr. Nielsen, and Mr. Martin to produce arguments, than he has no right to deprive me of Mr. Sade, Mr. Stirner or Mr. Nietzsche. If we accept Con"s terms then I couldn"t care less of the sources he uses.

Since Con is so eager for me to elaborate on the arguments of the above mentioned atheists I shall.

The basic argument is this:

If Man is merely an animal (A), than morality is not a consideration (B).
If morality is not a consideration (B), then nothing is forbidden. (C)
If Man is merely an animal (A), then nothing is forbidden. (C)

Premise 1 is obviously true. Are animals moral? No. A good dog is not a dog that keeps the moral law, but a dog that obeys the demands of its master. As a good hammer is a hammer that pounds nails well. Animals by nature perform acts we would consider murder, cannibalism or rape. When a male lion "conquers" a pride he kills all the male cubs from the previous lord. Male crocodiles as well as some species of male fish will eat their own young. Etc. Furthermore if an animal kills humans it is not tried for murder, but merely disposed of as a nuisance. B and C follow from A. If we observe the animal kingdom none of the moral prohibitions that exist between humans exist between animals, and in some cases even with species.

The atheist specifically denies ultimate meaning in the universe. If the universe is ultimately meaningless than how can any relative meaning be found? If the whole is made up of the sum of its parts, and the universe as a whole is meaningless, then so are all of its parts.

One cannot affirm what one explicitly denies. One cannot affirm objective morality if one specifically states that all morality is relative.

Mr. Sade claims that since all things are dissolved into dust and nature (we might also say evolution) progresses through death and predation that when men kill each other they are serving natures demands and forwarding evolution. How can any atheist stand in the way of biological progress?

Richard Dawkin"s states: "The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference." [2]

This is the fundament claim of modern atheism. Yet if they assume it to be true than they cannot say that we can make our own meaning. For if the whole is meaningless than so are all of its parts.

Nothing in a meaningless universe can be imbued with meaning. None of our moral faculties are found in the animal kingdom or the workings of nature itself. Nature is a violent struggle for survival with death coming in many shapes and sizes, predation, famine, plague etc.

As my coherency argument showed, which Con completely ignored, on the basis of there own assumptions atheism cannot ground morality.

We see from Lenin that the struggle of the materialist dialectic is not moral since matter is not moral. Morality and the moral law are not attributes of matter. Just as syntax and grammar or linguistics are not properties of matter. At what temperature does matter become moral? At what pressure level does matter have syntax?

Moral concepts as well as laws of physics are ideas or information. Information is not and cannot be material. For example if we have a hard drive loaded with data and then erase that data does the hard drive after the operation contain any less mass than before? No. Thus the information is not material. Moral laws cannot be justified materially since matter lacks the very properties necessary to ascribe to information. Information cannot be tasted, touched, sniffed or heard. They are ineffable and hence immaterial. For example what is "oneness"? On what coordinate plan does the number 1 exist? Can I hold the number 1? "Oneness" and the number 1 do not exist materially in this universe.

I have shown from incoherency that atheist cannot produce a foundation of morality consistent with their own world view.

In conclusion Con has not shown:

1.That any of the arguments produced by my selection atheists are false.
2.Continues to miss use the definition of Appeal to Authority.
3.That my argument from logical incoherency is false.

[1] http://www.etymonline.com...

[2] River Out of Eden pg 133
ChristusExemplar

Con

ChristusExemplar forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by Tertullian 3 years ago
Tertullian
Rational_Thinker its not that only the "Pro" or only the "Con" have the Burden of Proof (BoP) in any debate both sides are trying to prove a point and thus both have a BoP. I did not explicitly declare myself has having the BoP because I assumed it was implicit with the argument. I declared the BoP for Con, given that I wanted to declare the parameters that would have to be proven to falsify my statement.
Posted by Tertullian 3 years ago
Tertullian
I'm new to Debate.org. Did I take the wrong side or define my position wrong? What is BoP?
Posted by Rational_Thinker9119 3 years ago
Rational_Thinker9119
I would take this if Pro has the BoP.
Posted by themohawkninja 3 years ago
themohawkninja
If you are asserting that CON has BoP, shouldn't you reword the title to be "Atheism isn't morally bankrupt", and then take the CON side?

Also, how are we defining 'evil'? That is a very subjective word.
No votes have been placed for this debate.