In an earlier post I lamented the apparent extinction of what I called “Nietzsche atheists,” by which I meant atheists with the courage and honesty to accept the bleak conclusions logically compelled by their premises. Some of our atheist friends seemed to not know what bleak conclusions I was referring to. Here is a comment that sums it up nicely. This post is adapted from kairosfocus’ comment to that earlier post. He refers to Hawthorne on ethics and evolutionary materialist atheism and writes:I made two responses to this. First, I said
Make two assumptions:
(1) That atheistic naturalism is true.
(2) One can’t infer an “ought” from an “is.” Richard Dawkins and many other atheists should grant both of these assumptions.
Given our second assumption, there is nothing in the natural world from which we can infer an “ought.” And given our first assumption, there is nothing that exists over and above the natural world; the natural world is all that there is. It follows logically that, for any action you care to pick, there’s nothing in the natural world from which we can infer that one ought to refrain from performing that action.
Add a further uncontroversial assumption: an action is permissible if and only if it’s not the case that one ought to refrain from performing that action. This is just the standard inferential scheme for formal deontic logic. We’ve conformed to standard principles and inference rules of logic and we’ve started out with assumptions that atheists have conceded. And yet we reach the absurd conclusion: therefore, for any action you care to pick, it’s permissible to perform that action. If you’d like, you can take this as the meat behind the slogan “if atheism is true, all things are permitted.” For example if atheism is true, every action Hitler performed was permissible. Many atheists don’t like this consequence of their worldview. But they cannot escape it and insist that they are being logical at the same time.
Responding to this: “for any action you care to pick, it’s permissible to perform that action. If you’d like, you can take this as the meat behind the slogan ‘if atheism is true, all things are permitted.’ For example if atheism is true, every action Hitler performed was permissible. Many atheists don’t like this consequence of their worldview. But they cannot escape it and insist that they are being logical at the same time.”I wrote later
As an atheist, I think all things are potentially permissible. We have seen plenty of societies that have permitted and even encouraged all sorts of atrocities against targeted groups and individuals. But this is why societies need to establish laws and determine for themselves what actions and behaviors will and will not be tolerated.
In America, we permitted slavery, then Jim Crow. We denied women the right to vote. We allowed polygamy in some parts. We interred our own citizens in camps. We know what Nazi Germany permitted, what Stalinist Russia permitted, what the Puritans permitted, and so on.
Everything is indeed permissible except for what a society prohibits. The role of public discourse is to help shape what we decide is permissible and prohibited. To me, this is the very opposite of bleak. Instead, it would be bleak if injustices and inequities could never be redressed because of an exaggerated assignment of authority to some ancient collection of tales and wisdom now taken to be sacred.
I believe in entry 17 of this thread I provided a direct response to the original post.Unfortunately, I received no direct response to these, but it's not surprising because most of the UD posters prefer hand-waving to real discourse. In any event, I think the whole thread was put to bed nicely by Allen MacNeill
Everything Hitler did was permissible. Germany allowed it. Pope Pius allowed it. England allowed it. Russia allowed it. The US allowed it. It was able to be permitted and it was in fact permitted.
Make no mistake, Hitler’s was a religious crusade against a set of religious targets. We see similar such crusades emerging right now in parts of the US that are inventing so-called “liberal” bogeymen who want to come and take their freedom in the night.
In my experience and understanding of history, the commitment to reason and the free ability to question authority openly have been prized in atheistic viewpoints and admonished in religious.
Only calm, reasoned dialogue - not debate, pace JAD - by parties that want to live together can save us now. Increasingly, it seems to me that creationists, atheists, liberals, and conservatives are choosing instead to opt-out and not to seek mutual reconciliation.
I wonder if this site considers itself part of the solution or part of the problem?
This entire thread has focused on the question of whether a belief in God is necessary for being a moral person. Based on my own experience, I believe that this question is entirely logically separate from the question of whether some supernatural entity participated in the creation of life on Earth and its evolution to current forms. Indeed, there is no logical contradiction whatsoever between believing that a supernatural entity (or entities) provide(s) the foundation for moral prescriptions and the simultaneous belief that including the participation of a supernatural entity (or entities) in the evolution of life on Earth is unnecessary in a logically consistent explanation of how such evolution has occurred. This is especially the case if, as most people have already agreed, it is invalid to derive an “ought” statement (i.e. an ethical prescription) from an “is” statement (i.e. a description of nature).