Dan Barker quotes “Clarence Darrow as saying, I don’t believe in God because I don’t believe in Mother Goose” as validation for ‘Freethinkers’’ holding a naturalistic worldview. Apparently Clarence did not hear the Paul Harvey radio program “The Rest of the Story” about the existence of the actual ‘Mother Goose’ who lived in the Massachusetts Colony during the Elizabethan Era. Therefore, given the rationalist/freethinker belief that if a statement is falsifiable it must be rejected, Clarence Darrow, and all who adhere to his rejection of God, must now reject that reason for their dogmatic atheism.
According to Dan Barker; “To be a ‘freethinker’ one must confine reality to what is directly perceivable through the ‘freethinker’s’ natural senses or ‘reason’. ‘Reason’ confines the truth of a statement to the strict tests of the scientific method. To be true, a statement must be testable and have repeated tests confirm the validity of the statement. It must also be parsimonious (the simplest explanation with the fewest assumptions) and be logical (free of contradiction, non-sequiturs and irrelevant ad-hominem character attacks.”
To adhere to the ‘freethinkers’ paradigm, then the freethinkers must reject the scientific method, logic and many other abstract concepts that have no physical, testable presence. They must also reject any and all emotions because they also are immaterial, untestable, and irrational. For the ‘freethinkers’ to allow themselves to use anything that cannot be subjected to their standards automatically refutes their claims of being a member of that group because it contradicts their standards.
For ‘freethinkers’ to base their morality on humanism (People who don’t subscribe to any religion self-identify as Humanists. Humanism is a worldview that emphasizes the value of humanity and social justice while altogether rejecting supernatural concepts and religious dogma) and/or not hurting others, is not a solid base upon which to build a healthy civilization. The USSR and other Soviet-Inspired states were built upon humanist/scientific secular designs.
On 11/17/10 Brandon Norgaard posted in his website The Enlightened Worldview Project that his “…phenomenological and scientific reasoning has led me to the conclusion that people have the natural rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” While many Americans and others in Western Democracies might wish to mockingly congratulate Brandon for catching up with John Locke or Thomas Jeffeson, they should hear him out. He did not arrive at his conclusion from the Judeo-Christian perspective, but as secular humanist.
According to him, “This reasoning is rooted in the realization of the nonphysical aspect of humanity, which is called the soul. There is also an important realization that souls have free will, which is a supernatural concept because there are no natural processes through which all actions of souls, and by extension humans, can be reduced to. Finally there is the realization that the first person experience of right and wrong has a nonphysical aspect as well.”
He refutes Dan Barker’s position of ‘Freethinker’s Morality’ of reason and kindness by stating, “…there is no way that morality, and by extension natural justice, can be real aspects of the universe regardless of anyone’s mere personal opinion unless they are based on some form of nonphysical metaphysics. Quite simply, if everything that exists is physical, then there is no inherent right or wrong, there is just the way things are. The physical universe is not at all concerned with social justice or humanity per se.”
This writer wonders, therefore; How can any atheist that claims to be a humanist even pretend to criticize a theist on the ‘morality’ of God or religion when such criticism relies on an non-existent cosmic absolute and is done in an unkind and unreasonable manner. The sheer hypocrisy of atheist freethinkers utilizing an objective moral standard (whose existence they deny) to condemn others people, not to mention the Creator of the Universe, is staggering, particularly morality does not exist as a physical, testable entity subject to empirical analysis?
Brandon Norgaard also states, “Secular Humanism is not a coherent worldview in essence. A worldview that includes belief in a nonphysical aspect of the self is more rational and I believe more justified given the scientific and phenomenological evidence.” While this embrace of a transcendent consciousness certainly not confirm the existence of God as Western Civilization views that entity, Brandon does not rule out some form of Creator. Rather, he requires one when he states, “I do not reject belief in anything supernatural because the natural universe is not an explanation for itself. The best explanation is that the natural universe was created by something that is over and above nature, and this is a supernatural concept.”
Though Brandon repudiates known mainstream religions when he states, “This concept may be called God, but this does not mean that for one to believe this that they must have blind faith in God as a Christian or Muslim does. There is a reasonable justification for believing this and thus blind faith is not necessary. This is one strike against the Secular Humanist worldview.”
When Dan Barker claims that morality can be based on human need or ‘doing no harm’ to any person, it can sound very fine and dandy. However, when real world scenarios are tried, they become capricious and arbitrary. When humans become the masters of the rules, the in group often becomes favored in catalogue of one-way rules such as those seen in any absolute rule society from the dawn of monarchy in the Tigris and Euphrates valleys through socialist dictatorships around the world from 1917 until now.
By basing morality on ‘human needs’, not imagined ‘cosmic absolutes, Dan’s essay comes into direct contradiction with Brandon’s statements, as well as those of the vast majority of theists. The physiological needs of prison inmates are objectively met. .They have no job and therefore an abundance of free time, free food and drink, free cable and internet, free dental and medical care, etc. According to many activists on the political left, that should equate to paradise. Yet nearly all the prisoners in any jail or prison would take cold, wet, hungry and free over their relatively comfortable life in confinement.
The transcendent human soul, a high melding of intellect and will, has been known for thousands of years to need a purpose. For much longer, each individual human has sought to find their own meaning or goal in life beyond the mere animal drives of survival and reproduction. Their quests have, in large part, succeeded or failed based on how hard each person was willing to work and sacrifice to achieve their goal. The impacts of these goals on human society have depended upon the extent to which they abided within the bounds of both societal written law and the natural law freethinkers as so quick to deny.
According to Dan Barker, “Moral dilemmas involve a conflict of values, requiring a careful use of reason to weigh the outcome…Freethinkers try to base actions on their consequences to real, living human being.” This writer states unequivocally that such attitudes have been used throughout history to legitimize atrocities. The enslavement of captives and criminals in both Europe and the Americas was legitimized by arguing that their lives were better in bondage than in cells or primitive squalor. The euthanasia movements, both in the past and now, base their arguments on the notion that the lives of the insane, disabled, elderly or terminally ill are a burden both to themselves and others; therefore it is a mercy to all to end their lives. The abortion movement and Planned Parenthood argue that careless, recreational sex is a good thing, and that such activities should be without consequences. After all, burdening an unwed woman with an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy is terrible. The fetus would have a life of want and poverty. Therefore terminating the pregnancy is just. For the woman or girl it is a simple procedure and life returns to normal.
“Freethinkers argue that religion promotes a dangerous and inadequate “morality” based on blind obedience, unexamined ultimatums, and “pie-in-the-sky” rewards of heaven or gruesome threats of hell,” Dan Barker argues. That statement sounds like Dan made just the type of absolutist statement of condemnation he accuses religion of making.
Rather than make more cheap hypocrisy points, this author will direct Dan Barker to the sciences and reason he is so fond of. These fields of study were preserved and promoted by the Catholic Religious Orders, both male and female. The Catholic Church has believed for two thousand years that God is both rational and orderly. Those characteristics are discernable in His creations and to learn about these creations is to learn about God. The authors of the renaissance were not the ‘protestant reformers.’ Rather, they were the Catholic Religious Orders that opened educational institutions for children and adults. They were the monks and nuns who studied reason, medicine, logic, mathematics, genetics and astronomy and shared their findings with the public through institutions of learning, hospitals, orphanages and charity. Galileo did not get into his feud with the Pope over his heliocentric theory. It was because his arrogance led him to publicly break a promise he had made to the Pope.
The ‘dangerous and inadequate’ morality built on ‘blind obedience’ Dan Barker condemns seems to be a cartoonish slave state of fundamentalist Islam blended with the worst of Fundamentalist Puritanism displayed during the Salem Witch Trials. It bears no resemblance to true Christianity or any other mainstream Western or Asian theistic religion or philosophy when the true teachings are embodied though the believer’s behavior.
In an earlier post, I noted that Dan is making his anti-religious arguments from the comforts of a civilization built, maintained and protected by a Christian ethos. The laws and unwritten expectations were based on Christian morals. Murder and theft, for example, were always wrong. Now, though, as relativism and other ‘freethinking’ ethics have entered the judicial systems of Western Civilization, the ethical standards are being rapidly eroded away by those unfettered by an absolute morality. ‘Laws/Rules for thee, but not for me’ has become almost a given in personal, business and social media conduct.
As the population looks back through time to when our civilization exercised the rules of self-restraint and delayed gratification, our civilization was more polite. When criminal behavior and unwed motherhood/fatherhood were both scandalous and rare, what do we see? We see absolute rules, codes of conduct that applied to all in equal measure. For millennia these rules were in place through all cultures, all over the world, in every civilization to some extent. Also, when these rules were flagrantly disobeyed, that civilization (from Babylon to Rome to Pre-Revolutionary France to Nazi Germany and Communist/Socialist regimes) declined and fell, often violently.