The Instigator
RoyLatham
Pro (for)
Winning
14 Points
The Contender
CerebralCortex
Con (against)
Losing
7 Points

Atheism is consistent with Conservatism

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
RoyLatham
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/19/2009 Category: Politics
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,455 times Debate No: 7000
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (11)
Votes (3)

 

RoyLatham

Pro

Resolved: Atheism is consistent with Conservatism

The definition of a political conservative has changed over time and with place. The context of the present resolution is modern American conservativism. "Modern" means post-1950.

The background is given by http://www.answers.com... which states, "Particular conservative writers have founded their conservatism on individualism as often as on collectivism, on atheism as much as on religious belief, and on the idealistic philosophy of Hegel as well as on profound scepticism or vulgar materialism." How can conservatism embrace so many radically different viewpoints? In modern times in America, arch-Conservative Sen. Barry Goldwater was pro-choice and iconic Conservative author William Buckley favored drug legalization.

The diversity is explained by Conservatism being a methodology, not a list of conclusions. William Buckley defined, "Conservatism is the doctrine of evolutionary change." Russell Kirk is credited with one of the most thoughtful definitions of Conservatism in the "Ten Principles of Conservatism." http://www.kirkcenter.org... saying in part, "Being neither a religion nor an ideology, the body of opinion termed conservatism possesses no Holy Writ and no Das Kapital to provide dogmata." The first of Kirk's ten principles is relevant to the present discussion:

"First, the conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order. That order is made for man, and man is made for it: human nature is a constant, and moral truths are permanent."

Kirk was deeply religious, a Catholic, so he probably thought "made for man" meant "made by God for man," but he notably refrained from making any such explicit definition. He was a very thoughtful person, so refraining from the assertion could not have been an accident. Besides, human nature being defined by God does not resolve what human nature.

The Founders who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution faced the same problem. Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and the other of the founders were Deists. They believed that God created the world and would return one day in judgment, but that God played no role in the affairs of men. They openly admired Christian philosophy, but did not think the Bible had divine authority. Note the Declaration of Independence holds "these truths to be self-evident." That is very much a Deist sentiment. It implies that morality is derived using reason by observing the nature of man.

Madison wrote that the Constitution was derived from natural law, i.e. human nature, and not from any specific religion. There are no specific religious references in the Constitution. However, Madison maintained, in essence, that no religion could be in conflict with natural law, so it didn't make any difference in terms of the bottom line of asserting rights. This was politically astute as well because it avoided offending any of America's vigorous religious sects.

Madison emphasized the enduring moral order derived from human nature in his guideline for interpreting the Constitution. "This natural law approach toward purpose, history, practice, and precedent was summed up by James Madison discussing constitutional interpretation. It has been noted, '[A]mong the obvious and just guides to [interpreting] the Const[itutio]n,' Madison listed: '1. The evils and defects for which the Constitution was called for & introduced. 2. The comments prevailing at the time it was adopted. 3. The early, deliberate, and continued practice under the Constitution, as preferable to constructions adapted on the spur of occasions, and subject to the vicissitudes of party or personal ascendencies.'" http://vlex.com...

Conservatism is belief in the evolution of society according to certain principles. One the key principles is belief in an enduring morality. Atheists and Deists believe that morality is derived by reason from human nature. Therefore atheism is consistent with conservatism.

The resolution is affirmed.
CerebralCortex

Con

Thanks for your arguments.
I tend not to agree with the analogy between atheism and conservatism.

"conservatism" is defined as follows:
n. resistance to change, desire to preserve traditions

Atheism is a position that merely claims that the that the data that supports
any specific theistic belief is insufficient to cash in its claims.
This is a word that shouldn't even exist in a rational world.
just like the words a-astrologist, a-alchemist or a-witchcraftist are words that do not exist.

If you think Atheism is a conservative position you should also be arguing
the same about people that do not believe in astrology or in big foot.
As the data that supports any specific theistic belief is no better.

You argue that:
"Atheists and Deists believe that morality is derived by reason from human nature. Therefore atheism is consistent with conservatism."

But you fail to see that Atheists (or Deists) do not necessarily share any belief about morality at all.
In fact an atheist would still be an atheist if he claimed that morality was programmed into our DNA by aliens :-)
Debate Round No. 1
RoyLatham

Pro

"Consistent" means "In agreement; compatible: The testimony was consistent with the known facts." http://www.answers.com... The question is therefore if there is any principle of Conservatism that is inconsistent with atheism, "disbelief in a god or gods." For example, if there were a principle of Conservatism that affirmed an absolute morality derived from the divine inspiration of the Bible," that would be a clear inconsistency. There is no such thing.

As another example, Conservatism is inconsistent with Liberalism, because Liberalism disavows an absolute morality, while Conservatism affirms.

Conservatism is also consistent with belief in astrology and Big Foot as far as I know, although no one cares.

I never argued or implied that "atheism is a conservative position" and I have no idea how Con got that impression.

Since Con made no argument relative to the resolution, the resolution stands affirmed.
CerebralCortex

Con

Perhaps we both missing the points the other is making.
The problem here is twofold
(1) I feel you have stretched and broadened the definition of conservatism to the level that it can be consistent with almost everything.
(2) You have narrowed down the definition of atheism

You also failed to refute my argument about atheists not necessarily sharing any common views about morality.
This is why I think (2) is correct.

Regarding (1), you say for example:
"Conservatism is also consistent with belief in astrology and Big Foot as far as I know, although no one cares."
But using this same broad definition of conservatism it also follows that it is consistent with lack of belief in astrology and big foot
much in the same way you claim its consistent with atheism.
So perhaps your definition of conservatism is consistent with atheism and theism alike.

A helpful definition of conservatism which is more consistent with how most people perceive it is as follows:
A common way of distinguishing conservatism from both liberalism and radicalism is to say that conservatives deny the perfectibility of humanity.
In other words, they deny the optimistic view that human beings can be morally improved through social and political change.
see http://www.britannica.com...

This is usually not consistent with atheism.

Perhaps I am missing some deeper point that you are trying to make ?
Debate Round No. 2
RoyLatham

Pro

I made it clear in my opening statement that the subject of the debate was political conservatism, and in particular modern political conservatism. Pro claims that I have "stretched and broadened the definition of conservatism to the level that it can be consistent with almost everything." My whole point, of course, was that Conservatism is not an ideology determining conclusions, but rather a methodology embracing a number of principles, the primary principle being the principle of evolutionary change. Conservatism is therefore broadly compatible, and certainly compatible with atheism.

In support of my contention I provided (1) examples of divergent conclusions on issues from modern conservatives, (2) an historical perspective in a referenced article that claimed Conservatism embraced diverse conclusions, (3) the most widely accepted definition of political conservative principles (by Kirk), and (4) the definition offered by Buckley. I later gave examples of political approaches that conservatism did not embrace, Liberalism and anything that did not include an unchanging standard of morality. Rather obviously, any political ideology that desires radical change is also inconsistent. I referenced Kirk's Ten Principles of Conservatism, but only discussed the first principle, because that is the only one that poses an apparent conflict with atheism. The other nine principles exclude many other political ideologies.

My statement that "Atheists and Deists believe that morality is derived by reason from human nature. Therefore atheism is consistent with conservatism." was in the context of atheists and deists who are Conservatives. Neither atheists nor deists necessarily derive morality for human nature, but there is nothing in either atheism or deism that contradicts so doing. It is part of the beliefs of Deists like Jefferson, but it is not an essential part of all of deism.

Con notes, "So perhaps your definition of conservatism is consistent with atheism and theism alike." Of course it is. That is the whole point of the debate. The key element discussed is how a transcendental morality can be derived without reference to God. There was never any doubt that transcendental morality can be derived by reference to unchanging scripture. And, of course, it is not "my" definition of Conservatism, it is the definition agreed to by multiple authoritative sources.

Con states, "But you fail to see that Atheists (or Deists) do not necessarily share any belief about morality at all." That effectively concedes the debate. I agree that they do not necessarily share any belief about morality. If a belief was necessarily shared, then that necessary belief would have to be tested against the Conservative belief that some morality is enduring. But since atheists have no necessary moral beliefs, there is no conflict in some atheists believing that morality is derived from human nature. I have never claimed that there was any necessity in atheists deriving such a morality, I only claimed that so doing was consistent with atheism. It is consistent because in the derivation there is no reference to a god or gods.

Con cites a Britannica article, and then claims the idea of human imperfectibility is inconsistent with atheism. The next few sentences of that article refute that claim. The article says, "A common way of distinguishing conservatism from both liberalism and radicalism is to say that conservatives deny the perfectibility of humanity. In other words, they deny the optimistic view that human beings can be morally improved through social and political change. Conservatives who are Christians sometimes express this point by saying that human beings are guilty of original sin. Skeptical conservatives merely observe that human history, under almost all imaginable social and political circumstances, has been filled with a great deal of evil." The article is using "skeptical" to mean "other than Christian" or "non-religious." In other words, atheists may be Conservatives and derive the concept of imperfectibility from the study of human history.

The resolution is "Atheism is consistent with Conservatism." The reason it is consistent is that atheism does not imply moral beliefs, therefore an atheist may, without contradiction, derive morality from human nature. The derivation does not require a god to establish transcendental morality, so there is no conflict with disbelief in gods. Conservatism requires belief in transcendental morality, but does not require that it be derived from religious belief. Both my sources and Con's sources acknowledge that Conservatives may be atheists.

There was never any claim that atheists must be Conservatives or that Conservatives must be atheists. The resolution was solely that they are consistent -- not in any necessary conflict from the definitions of either. An atheist may or may not be a Conservatives. A Conservative may or may not be an atheist.

Therefore, the resolution is affirmed.
CerebralCortex

Con

Perhaps I should of said this sooner and with more clarity:
Atheism is consistent with anything except a belief in a god or gods.
Therefore it is consistent with rationality, irrationality, conservatism and liberalism or you name it.
This is because atheism is not necessarily as a result of any rational processing.
Technically the resolution is not wrong its just meaningless.
Its like saying that having black hair is consistent with having a mustache.
You have failed to show any real connection between the two terms.
Debate Round No. 3
11 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by RoyLatham 8 years ago
RoyLatham
I don't attribute the rise of neo-pantheism to malice. It is simply subordinating man to the greater good of the religion, like human sacrifice to appease the volcano god. "It just has to be done ... too bad." Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore attributes the rise of environmental extremism to the progress made on the reasonable goals of environmentalism. Staying reasonable threatened to destroy a movement in which activists were able to assert their moral superiority to the rest of humankind. the solution is to become increasing irrational.

Yes, DDT was mass misinformation. That counts along with all of the absurd misinformation propagated in support of global warming crisis and a dozen other things. You seem to believe that this stuff has peaked. I hope so, but I doubt it. It is a classic religious movement, pitting the morally superior believers against infidels who must be crushed in the name of God.
Posted by RoyLatham 8 years ago
RoyLatham
Con conceded the debate by saying that atheism is consistent with virtually everything, including Conservatism. He's right, and that was my point all along. The potential sticking point that I expected to be debated, by somebody, is that Conservatism requires belief in transcendental morality. Some, not Con, suppose that such a morality can only be derived from belief in God. I supposed that either an atheist or a Conservative opponent would make that assertion. Con accepted the debate and then agreed.
Posted by jason_hendirx 8 years ago
jason_hendirx
>If you're talking about DDT, that's an unfortunate artifact of massive misinformation rather than malice.

And by that I mean bad correlations drawn from inconclusive studies.
Posted by jason_hendirx 8 years ago
jason_hendirx
>They believe the greater good is to support neo-pantheism

Fair enough. I am aware that California's one of the most "spiritual" states in the Union "despite" its liberal leanings.
Posted by jason_hendirx 8 years ago
jason_hendirx
>Huh?

Meh, it was a response to a general point, I was rambling.

>It depends upon the religion. Islam has problems because it is still new and relatively unevolved. Japan is dominated by Buddhism. I don't see any problem.

I'm not sure. I ascribe to the "Guns, Germs, and Steel" theory that culture and development are quite dependent on climate and exposure to disease. I think that that would have more to do with their living in the desert than anything else. When Islam came about, it had to adapt to an entrenched pagan culture (djinns, efreeti, etc.) just like Christianity.

>The people who believe we should make ethanol out of corn when there are food shortages

Nowadays it seems like only politicians and farmers "believe" that.

>that poor countries should pay three or four times the price to get "acceptable" energy

Don't environmentalists believe in cap and trade, in which poor countries are paid billions of dollars a year to do that? As in, they make a huge profit from foreign aid in the guise of international trade?

> genetically engineered food necessary to support large populations should be banned

Like the green revolution in India? People oppose genemod only when it's on our side of the Pacific, and it's a movement that's pretty much dying out. Nobody says "genemod bad" anymore; they just turn to organic. Very few people consciously avoid genemod.

>that pesticides harmless to humans should be banned

If you're talking about DDT, that's an unfortunate artifact of massive misinformation rather than malice.

>that nuclear energy needed to support large populations should be banned

That's going away, and the opposition to it might have had more to do with the Cold War than anything else.

>economic growth in poor countries ought to be crippled by environmental regulations

I'd like some examples. I know that the West has a bad habit of mismanaging third-world economies.

>They believe the greater good is to support neo-pan
Posted by RoyLatham 8 years ago
RoyLatham
>Or, one can assert that man's nature can be turned towards something greater.
Huh?

>This is true as long as no single traditional religion gains dominance and ends up directing the actions of society as a whole.

It depends upon the religion. Islam has problems because it is still new and relatively unevolved. Japan is dominated by Buddhism. I don't see any problem.

>Who believes this? [that we need to kill in the name of environmentalism ]

The people who believe we should make ethanol out of corn when there are food shortages, that poor countries should pay three or four times the price to get "acceptable" energy, that genetically engineered food necessary to support large populations should be banned, that pesticides harmless to humans should be banned, that nuclear energy needed to support large populations should be banned, and that economic growth in poor countries ought to be crippled by environmental regulations. They believe the greater good is to support neo-pantheism.
Posted by jason_hendirx 8 years ago
jason_hendirx
>It's much better to be arguing what man's nature is then to start with the ridiculous premise that man has no nature.

Or, one can assert that man's nature can be turned towards something greater. That said, I agree that an unwillingness to acknowledge the reality of human nature, or really, any other reality, is a quality common to pretty much all failed ideologies.

>Traditional religion is superior to modern Liberal religion because most of the traditional beliefs cost nothing. Believing that God created the universe in six days costs me nothing.

This is true as long as no single traditional religion gains dominance and ends up directing the actions of society as a whole. Otherwise, you get the Middle East.

>Believing that we need to kill in the name of environmentalism is genuinely dangerous.

Who believes this?
Posted by RoyLatham 8 years ago
RoyLatham
Jason, With respect to our own beliefs, we ought not care what the mainstream is doing. As citizens concerned with good government, of course we ought to care. Note that only 7% of the population characterizes themselves as "evangelicals" and a third of those are Democrats. So identifying the mainstream among the loud voices is not easy. I think Liberalism's lack of transcendental values is absolutely fatal to the ideology. It's much better to be arguing what man's nature is then to start with the ridiculous premise that man has no nature. Traditional religion is superior to modern Liberal religion because most of the traditional beliefs cost nothing. Believing that God created the universe in six days costs me nothing. Believing that we need to kill in the name of environmentalism is genuinely dangerous.
Posted by jason_hendirx 8 years ago
jason_hendirx
All of which have been lapsed on by "mainstream" conservatism, in my opinion. Barry Goldwater's death was painful for us all.
Posted by jason_hendirx 8 years ago
jason_hendirx
Like rigid adherence to the laws of reason, skepticism, and individualism.
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Vote Placed by rougeagent21 7 years ago
rougeagent21
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RoyLatham
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