The Instigator
natoast
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
iamnotwhoiam
Con (against)
Winning
9 Points

trying to spread aetheism/discourage theism is immoral

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
iamnotwhoiam
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/3/2012 Category: Religion
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,035 times Debate No: 27767
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (0)
Votes (3)

 

natoast

Pro

Im going to purposefully not define 'immoral' here, becuase that can be part of the debate.
the challenger can go first if they desire, or just accept if they don't.
iamnotwhoiam

Con

Thank you natoast. In the interests of fairness, I won't take an extra round off you, so I'll just accept in this round.


Debate Round No. 1
natoast

Pro

I believe it's immoral to try and 'convert' religious persons to atheism, or in any other way convince them to disbelieve their religion, because religion is a means for a person to live their lives in happiness. Religion allows a person to be satisfied that in both life and death, they serve a purpose. The satisfaction that one can derive from religion is unique, because regardless of what an atheist person does or thinks during their lives, they will never be able to believe that they will continue to live after their death. If a person has a deep held fear of serving a purposeless existence, or of the concept of a 'permanent' death, then who are you to try and deny them a source of relief for these fears? Say someone had a phobia of, for example, planes, and they constantly told themselves that the plane can't crash, and if it did, they would probably survive, to the point where they believe it themselves. It would be cruel and pointless for you to approach that person and lay out to them that the plane could in fact crash, and statistically they would most likely die. It is a similar circumstance with religion, except on a much larger scale, because people base their entire lives on that idea. So trying to deny somebody there religion is not only a pointless argument, but it is an attempt at destroying many peoples lives.
iamnotwhoiam

Con

My opponents argument rests on whether theists are happy, but whether religion makes a person happy does not have a bearing on the moral issue, as I will show.

There are many religions, mostly mutually exclusive, so most of them must be false. There is no information that conclusively makes the case that a god exists: Ultimately belief must be a matter of faith. Billions of people must be in error believing in the god they do. Since it arrives at different, mutually exclusive, conclusions, faith is not a reliable means of arriving at truth.

If we do not encourage people to abandon an unreliable means of arriving at truth, we leave them prone to error, to have incorrect information. Obviously we value correct information, not just because of the survival value, but of its own sake. Ceteris paribus, it is self-evident that we have a moral duty to do what we can to ensure our brothers and sisters have reliable methods for arriving at truth. Furthermore, it is obviously to the benefit of a society if our methods of arriving at truth are reliable. We can do much with factual information. So it is moral to try to create a culture where only methods of reliably arriving at truth are used.

Now obviously atheists think all theist beliefs are false. There is an argument that we should leave people to their beliefs if it comforts them or makes them happy in some other way. However, very few people would like to be patronised in this way. I personally would not like to be left with an erroneous belief just because it made
me happy, so how can I in good conscience think it is moral to treat others in this way? From the atheist's point of view, to try to discourage theism is in fact the only moral option.

Given that most theist beliefs must be false (mutually exclusive religions), from a utilitarian point of view the atheist is morally right to discourage theism. By discouraging theism, the non-believer is discouraging a false belief at least most of the time.

The non-believer has a moral duty to speak up against any perceived immorality. Perhaps the believer may find ways to reconcile or mitigate the perceived immorality, but the non-believer provides an important service in putting religious ideas to the test.

‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.'[1]

'Anyone who steals must certainly make restitution, but if they have nothing, they must be sold to pay for their theft.'[2]

'Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and forsake them in beds apart, and beat them.' [3]

The religious texts these statements come from are held to be authorities, but the non-believer can in free conscience assess such sayings purely on their merits, without regard to their authority.

Assessed purely on the merits of its content, the edict against homosexuality is extreme for a victimless consensual act between two adults.
Assessed purely on the merits of its content, the condoning of slavery is contrary to the principles of basic equality that democracy espouses. It is also contrary to our modern conceptions of human rights. It denies a group of humans autonomy. I have no hesitation in saying that is immoral.
Assessed purely on the merits of it content, the verse enjoining men to beat disobedient women is despicable to those who value an equal and just society.

These tenets are anathema to principles, and moral principles, we hold dear. Is it immoral to speak up against these tenets? The non-believer can provide an important moral challenge to the believer.

There is a more fundamental issue here. It is the very principle that all ideas are subject to scrutiny and examination.

Religion can tend to obstruct this principle, by the notion that some ideas should be held sacred.

By testing ideas without restriction we can see what works, what accords to our moral intuitions, what needs to be changed. The non-believer, by not holding any ideas sacred, can help prevent moral stagnation.

Planes do crash

On my opponent's "planes don't crash" analogy:

The correct analogy to religion would be if an airline told everyone that planes couldn't crash. This is immoral. The only moral choice for someone who is aware that planes can crash is to make sure other people are aware of this fact, so they can make informed decisions about whether or not to use air travel. My opponent, who fully accepts that religions may not be true, would have it that people were lied to, so as to prevent informed decisions. This is immoral.


[1] Leviticus 20:13
[2] Exodus 22:2-3
[3] Quran 4:34

Debate Round No. 2
natoast

Pro

When you said that it is self evident that we have a moral duty to assure that others arrive at the truth, I disagree. That the equivalent of saying that it just is, without any evidence, so I'm not going to refute it any further.
You also say that it is beneficial to society to seek the truth. But how is it beneficial? perhaps that society will have greater technologies, and lead more comfortable lives, but that seems like a very narrow view of beneficial. society that is grounded in religion, even if it inhibits technological advancement to some degree, will still inspire personal emotional happiness much more then one grounded in atheism. So if a person considers their mental comfort more important then their physical, then they should consider religion more beneficial to society then atheism.
Your third point, that a person that holds religion would not like to be patronized in that way, is nothing but an opinion. Personally, I would much rather be under the impression that the creator of the universe takes a personal interest in me and I will live forever then believe life is all but meaningless, so I feel I have a moral duty to ensure that others don't break away from religion.
Your fourth argument, that most religions must be false, has nothing to do with the argument. It is about the morality of following religion, not the truthfulness of it.
Now, on to the idea of religion encouraging immoral ideals. Although the bible does instruct people to hold many ideas that are today considering generally to be immoral, it at the same time encourages morality. It supports a person to be kind to their fellow man, to do things like donate and be compassionate. While there are people who act upon these ideas, the majority of religious people generally adopt a more realistic and modern view on prejudices, at least to the degree where the majority of religious persons don't go around murdering homosexuals. At the same time, a majority of these people still observe the positive ideals, like donating to the poor. So while religion may have some people form immoral opinions, and some may act on these, the overall morality that religion encourages is greater the immorality.

also, your refutation to my crashing planes metaphor is incorrect in one important way. Even if we where morally obligated to inform people that the airline is lying, there is still a fundamental difference between airline and death. We don't get to decide not to die, the way we can decide to not ride an airline. We might be morally obligated to inform people the truth about planes so they can chose to not fly, but if you where to inform people the 'truth' about death, they couldn't make the informed decision to not die, they would just be more terrified of it happening.
iamnotwhoiam

Con

Note that my opponent is not arguing on the basis that any religions might be true. Any readers who feel that a religion might be true should try to discount that conviction in assessing the cases we have put forward in this debate, since no contention has been made here that any religion is true.

Further, my opponent does not dispute the point that most religions are false.

My opponent has not made a positive case that promoting atheism is immoral, other than the unwarranted asumption that theism "makes people happy".

Epicureanism makes people happy. That is not sufficient to establish that arguing against it is immoral.


"society that is grounded in religion, even if it inhibits technological advancement to some degree, will still inspire personal emotional happiness much more then one grounded in atheism."

Without adequate technological advancement, a state in today's world leaves itself at the mercy of the more powerful nations. Invasion a probability. A losing war a distinct possibility. The possibility of a nuclear attack it cannot defend itself from. Its citizens would not then be very happy.

Note that my opponent only asserts that religion would instill more personal happiness amongst the citizens of this potentially war-ravaged state.


"Your third point, that a person that holds religion would not like to be patronized in that way, is nothing but an opinion. Personally, I would much rather be under the impression that the creator of the universe takes a personal interest in me and I will live forever then believe life is all but meaningless, so I feel I have a moral duty to ensure that others don't break away from religion."

I'm not going to trouble to dispute that my opponents promotion of theism is morally justified, since that is not the resolution. Be aware that A's promotion of theism and B's promotion of atheism can both be morally justified. I outlined moral reasoning for the promotion of atheism. I personally would not like to be patronized, therefore I cannot treat others in this way. Some may preferred to be patronized, but I cannot in all good conscience do so. Therefore, it is far from immoral, but the right action for me to promote atheism.


Truth is a moral issue

My opponent argues that truth is not a moral issue. If truth were not a moral issue, why is lying widely seen as immoral?

A system of morals can be consequentalist or deontological. Consequentialism focuses on practical outcomes. Under a consequentalist system, truth is a virtue because error encourages a false response to the environment, which may be dangerous. If I have an accurate picture of the busy road in front of me and where the cars are, I am less likely to get run over. If I see some other road than the one I am crossing, with cars in positions that the actual cars are not, I am likely to get run over. If I know the truth of whether there are tigers in the fields, then I am generally less likely to be mauled by a tiger. If I know whether an area is polluted or not, I can weigh up the risks to my health and make an informed decision as to whether to live there. Now, if I have any of that information and do not share it with others, I may be endangering them. Under consequentalism, that is immoral.

Given that truth is a moral issue, then my point that on utilitarian grounds promoting atheism is justified because it is in most cases discouraging a false belief must stand.


"It supports a person to be kind to their fellow man, to do things like donate and be compassionate"

If my opponent can establish that religion is necessary for being kind, then he has an argument that to promote atheism is immoral.


"if you where [sic] to inform people the 'truth' about death, they couldn't make the informed decision to not die"

My opponent wants to imply that given certain death we cannot make informed decisions. On this view, a doctor would have no moral duty to inform a patient they were dying of cancer. A person can make informed decisions about how to live their lives based on the knowledge they are given. Knowledge that you may only have a set time in which to live is valuable knowledge.


My opponent admits that

"the majority of religious people generally adopt a more realistic and modern view on prejudices, at least to the degree where the majority of religious persons don't go around murdering homosexuals"

To the extent that this is true, this is thanks to secular influence.

Unfortunately, it is not so in the highly religious Uganda or numerous Islamic societies such as Iran. Over 96% of the population of Uganda are religious.[1] Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill is a legislative proposal that the penalty for homosexuality should be life imprisonment, or in some cases, death.[2] It is only after much international pressure that the death penalty has now been dropped from the bill.

Several countries impose the death penalty for homosexual acts, on interpretations of Shari'a law. As of 2006, these include Mauritania, Sudan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Pakistan, the parts of Chechnya under Sharia, and some Islamist dominated regions within Nigeria and Somalia.[3][4]

The first law against same-sex marriage was promulgated by the Christian emperors Constantius II and Constans. In the year 390, the Christian emperors Valentinian II, Theodosius I and Arcadius declared homosexual sex to be illegal and those who were guilty of it were condemned to be burned alive in front of the public. The Christian emperor Justinian I (527–565) made homosexuals a scape goat for problems such as "famines, earthquakes, and pestilences."[5]

The Gregorian reform movement in the Catholic Church was an important factor in increased persecution of homosexuals in the twelfth century.

Homosexuals were severely punished through to the nineteenth Century. In the 1730s, as many as one hundred men and boys were executed and denied burial in Holland.[6]

It was only with the rise of secularism that

"an overtly theological framework no longer dominated the discourse about same-sex attraction. Instead, secular arguments and interpretations became increasingly common. Probably the most important secular domain for discussions of homosexuality was in medicine, including psychology."[7]


Dropped argument

My opponent drops the argument that the non-believer, by not holding any ideas sacred, can help prevent moral stagnation (by being free of sanction against examining certain religious values). As he drops it, it should be considered as accepted.



[1] http://www.ubos.org...
[2] http://www.bbc.co.uk...
[3] http://www.religionfacts.com...
[4] http://ilga.org...
[5] James Neill, The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations In Human Societies, McFarland. pp228-230
http://moourl.com...
[6] Greenberg, David F., 1988, The Construction of Homosexuality. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. pp 313-314
[7] http://plato.stanford.edu...

Debate Round No. 3
natoast

Pro

I would like to thank you for bringing up the information you did in your counter argument. After considering what you have to say I have come to this conclusion: it is more beneficial to an individual to embrace religion, while it is more beneficial to a society if it embraces atheism. I still feel that religion servers a better purpose in the individuals life. If you where to compare the personal implications of atheism and theism, if one of the two really where to be true, theism would be highly preferable. Now I understand your reasoning behind the unlikelihood of religion being true, and agree with you. But if one could choose whether theism or atheism where true, they would undoubtedly choose theism, for reasons I stated in the 'patronization' argument, It's just so much more rewarding. Now the only argument that I can see that you have brought up against personal happiness of a theistic person is the argument that they wouldn't like to be patronized in that way. Even this doesn't deal with the actual satisfaction of the person, but it does deal with their potential satisfaction. I've explained how this is more of an argument of 'treat others as you would be treated', so I'll explain a little more thoroughly why I would prefer to be allowed to assume that theism is true. I feel that a life lived without a 'point' is a terrible burden to carry. If we assume that there is no punishment or reward, no anything that comes after life, then it diminishes the relative purpose and fullness of life. Now, this is still more of an opinion, and I believe that opinion is the only logic behind this reasoning.
As I said earlier, I have read your argument and decided it would in fact be better for a society as a whole if it where to embrace atheism. The possible moral uplifting that would accompany religion would not outweigh the prejudice, moral conservatism, and technological inhibition that comes from a religion centered society.
That being said, I still stand by my original statement. Becuase unless you have the intention of converting an entire society to atheism, a person crusading for atheism will only achieve converting individuals to atheism. They will be bringing about the negative changes that come with individual atheism without the positive results of a nation devouted to atheism. In a practical, everyday sense, spreading atheism to a handful of people would not serve the greater good of humanity.
iamnotwhoiam

Con

I thank my opponent and commend his reasonableness for seeing the strength of my argument. He concedes that it is to the benefit of a society to embrace atheism. His reservation is that he thinks theism serves the happiness of the individual in a society that is not yet converted to atheism. He has not established that this is true. Regardless, the short term does not overcome the greatest long term good, which will benefit countless generations not just the next few. It is indisputably to the benefit of societies that are not mainly religious (like many in Europe) to embrace atheism. Therefore it is not immoral to promote atheism, and the resolution is defeated.

I agree with my opponent that the goal should be to encourage atheism completely, and not just to a handful of people.

Since we have space, I will address my opponent's concerns about admitting there is no God. He rightly feels that living without purpose is a terrible burden to carry. I fully agree that one should have goals in life. Whether it is to learn all you can learn about the universe, or an aspect of humanity, or to raise a family, or to be the best you can be in a chosen career, or to help others, deciding on goals when you are young and working towards them invariably leads to a happier life. An active personal sense of purpose is more rewarding than the passive belief that the universe has a purpose, in which grand play you have only a brief walk on role.

There is liberation in being able to determine one's own worldview and to develop one's own ethics. You are free of the tyranny of obedience to what amounts to the power of other human beings.

Yes, there is great responsibility in living in a world without God, but if he doesn't exist you were easing that burden with psychological tricks and social bonding. As an atheist, you can still use psychology to help yourself. You can join groups with similar interests, and have just as full a social life as you had when you were active in the church.

Also, there is great secular philosophy and literature to read, and films that explore life in a world where there may be no God.

Another thing to do is to talk to ex-theists and see how they coped with losing their faith. For many it is a positive experience.

I think it takes integrity to accept your opponent's arguments, and I thank natoast for that.
Debate Round No. 4
natoast

Pro

Here's what I think. Morals are subject to opinion. Even when you back it up with logic, something that you consider to be moral is really just a matter of opinion, a case of do unto others as you would have them to unto you. And while I still believe that it's wrong to promote atheism, I can see no way to back it up in a powerfully logical way, without it seeming like an opinion. Perhaps my ideals are effected by the passion I saw and felt myself as a theist. Either way, the more logical consensus is, ironically, that it is not immoral to spread atheism. In other words, I concede.
iamnotwhoiam

Con

I have given arguments that are based on more than opinion. We have established that most religions are not true. I have shown that truth is a moral issue on consequentialist grounds. I have presented the argument that I cannot in good conscience do anything other than challenge theism. I have also demonstrated the use of challenging theism in preventing moral stagnation.

I thank my opponent for the debate, and trust you will vote CON.
Debate Round No. 5
No comments have been posted on this debate.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by jh1234l 4 years ago
jh1234l
natoastiamnotwhoiamTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Sources to con for using sources, S/G to Con because his paragraph was more organized.
Vote Placed by Niwsa 4 years ago
Niwsa
natoastiamnotwhoiamTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro concession, though I liked his arguments on the short term effects of conversion.
Vote Placed by rross 4 years ago
rross
natoastiamnotwhoiamTied
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Reasons for voting decision: pro conceded. Liked the debate.