[LMB] philosophies

Elizabeth Holden azurite at rogers.com
Tue Sep 13 04:45:26 BST 2011

Mitch answers me with a question:

> What I'm asking is, how did you determine those things are
> "good?"  Is there anything in atheism which compels
> that belief? 

How can any belief be fostered by compulsion?  No, it's about freedom of choice and freedom of judgement. I use reason and experience to foster understanding. I read. I contemplate the universe and my place in it.  I look at how human beings interact.  I examine my conscience and my spirit. 

> Can one be a "good" atheist and believe
> that one should steal, kill, and do whatever else one wants
> to, to get what one wants? 

"Atheist" is not a morally-laden word.  There is no dogma of atheism.  Can one be a good person and do those things?  No, of course not.  An atheist is just a person.
> Again, just to be clear, I am not asking about YOUR
> personal philosophy.

It's the only one I have.  Atheists are individuals.  There is no creed for atheists.
> Because I do share your beliefs -- but because God has told
> me (to be more precise, my ancestors, who passed it down to
> me) they are "good," not because I was able to derive them
> myself. 

We each have our own way of seeing the world, and draw our conclusions by what we learn from it.  

> I don't see anything in human history which
> tells me human beings are able to derive what is good from
> their own reason, starting from square one

I can think of no answer to that except that, not believing in the same god you do, I believe that all good that has happened in human history - and there is plenty - has been derived from reason, emotion, curiosity, inspiration, love, intelligence and other human attributes.  Triumph over disease (insofar as we have managed to do so), exploration, art, invention of technology.  And so on.

> My
> experience is that people rationalize that whatever they're
> doing is "good," rather than reasoning out what is "good"
> and trying to do it.

Maybe you've been meeting a rather pathetic type of person?  Really, I can't think of a good answer here.  My experience has been otherwise.  And yes, people do often rationalize the bad things they do, and try to justify themselves. But there are many good people who do good things deliberately.

>  As I said before, we humans are
> generally pretty awful even WITH religion. 

I don't agree that people are generally pretty awful.  They are what they are. Some bad, some good, most in between and doing their best - sometimes succeeding, sometimes not.


who is actually a pantheist, but more comfortable identifying with atheists than otherwise

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