Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Atheism and Evil

On the issue of the atheistic response to such a disaster, there seems little hope (or even obligation) for the unbeliever to make sense of any of this.

Isn't it correct to say that for the materialist, there is no sense to be made of anything - evil and good are not real, but mere constructs fabricated in the hyperdeveloped nervous systems of one subset of hominids? For the atheist, there is no evil - nor good - because there is no morality, no justice, no reason, no right or wrong.

It's just chemical determinism and physics.

And isn't it question-begging to use the presence or occurrence of evil as an argument against God from the atheistic perspective - since, to the atheist, claims of the existence of evil have no rational basis (indeed, rationality itself has no basis for the atheist, but that's another topic...)?

Like it or not, rationally, the question of God's existence as it relates to the presence of physical tragedy in time-space is entirely the province of the believer and the question really is not does the presence or occurrence of evil say something about whether or not God exists, since that is already decided when we raise the question of evil in the first place, but, rather, what kind of God is it?


Anonymous said...

Didn't see this one when commenting on the other one.

Not all atheists are materialists. Some believe in soul-like objects, but no God. Others (I'm not sure how you'd classify them, but I think I might be among them) believe in sets and numbers, which aren't exactly material objects.

Even a materialist could believe that there is an objective morality, but that this morality is not based on the commands of any deity. The idea that morality presupposes the existence of a god is something you have to argue for, and none of the arguments I've ever seen is valid. In fact, I have a hard time refuting the argument in Plato's Euthyphro dialogue (great read -- check it out!) that concludes the opposite: God cannot be the source of morality, unless morality is to be completely arbitrary.

Just stickin' up for the atheist, you know. We have our moral principles too. (Normal moral principles. Like not killing people or lying to them or causing them unneccessary grief. Not weird moral principles like sacrificing goats to Satan.)

Take care; I've enjoyed reading your blog.

-Creeping Jenny

Anonymous said...

Well said, Jenny! :)


gabzlab00 said...

Yes but even if you are a materialist, the human brain doesn't work that way, you get lots of ideas from other people about whats right and wats worng and those kinds of things stay in the brain for future use... Want it or not, that's a bit how our brain works and it some how prevents you from exactly following your ideology

CJR said...

Jenny - You're correct - I'm talking about materialists - a subset of atheists. There are, I suppose Idealist atheists, perhaps, who would hold to a higher law without believing in a god.

The point still stands though: morality only makes sense if we lay claim to a "higher law" outside human invention.

Plato's argument is a little trickier than you lay it out. As a theist, it's my contention that God's very nature defines right and wrong - morality isn't defined by God as an act of will, it's created by God as a teleological consequence of God's existence - as a direct result of that nature and character. I think Plato's argument was based in the pantheistic religion of his time - where gods were derivative rather than transcendent.