Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Atheist's Case of Commandment Envy

There's an interesting (and popular) post by Kimberly Winston in the Huffington Post entitled "10 Commandments For Atheists Who Want to Explore Their Values."  There are several aspects of the post that I find interesting.  The first is that this strikes me as yet another example of how unsatisfying atheism must be as a philosophy and lifestyle - so much so that they appear to be in desperate want of ritual and guiding principles. 

This truth is reflected in the spate of atheist books aimed at mimicking theology's (often) enviable mastery of the creation of community and the imparting of meaning to their adherents (see Alain De Botton's "Religion For Atheists" and Terry Eagleton's "Culture and the Death of God").  

So too is there a deep and real human need to live life with purpose and meaning - something atheists can only attempt to do by living according to an agreed upon fiction of their own devising.  As I've said and written many times, if there is no God, then there is no meaning or purpose save what individuals invent to call "meaningful."  Hence, there will be many attempts to co-opt the "good" and desirable aspects of religion to plaster over this glaring (and ultimately fatal) flaw in atheism.  The atheist's only other alternative is to fully accept and embrace the inherent bleakness and lack of hope that is inseparable from his or her world-view - something that most of them are understandably reluctant to do. Therefore, the creation of a 10 Commandments for Atheists is another stab at creating meaning and principle from so much vapor.

Regarding the title, I find it perplexing that atheists would want to explore their "values."  Why?  What values are there to be held in the first place and can any two atheists be said to share a set of these common "values?"  If so, where did they get them from?  From a materialist's perspective, a "value" is nothing more than an electro-chemical impulse that occurs in the three pounds of squiggly pudding encased in the skull.  That pudding produces a lot of those impulses.  Are they in any explicable way different from say a lightning storm?  Does the storm have any "meaning" or "values?"  Clearly not.  It would therefore seem fundamentally paradoxical for atheists to explore their "values."  So much for the title.  How about the "commandments" themselves?

Here's #1:

"I. The world is real, and our desire to understand the world is the basis for belief."

Ok, several questions come to mind.  First of all, what is meant by the "world" - presumably just physicality - in essence a lot of electrons, etc.  Why the desire to understand a large amount of random and meaningless particles?  Also, many atheists believe that there is no such thing as free will.  If that's the case, how would we be able to arrive at any conclusions regarding a things's reality or non-reality given that we are just "programmed" to believe one thing or another. Furthermore, how do we know that our faculties (themselves products of random and meaningless forces) are reliable to begin with?  One may have a desire to "understand the world" but what "belief" could that possibly engender?  Belief in what?

It would probably be instructive and interesting to go through each one but I think this suffices for now to evidence the point I'm making - that atheists would be better off (as some have) acknowledging the limitations of their way of thinking and working on ways of unburdening themselves of the (from their perspective anyway) fictitious and erroneous desire for a coherent and meaningful set of principles for living.  Theology has that one under lock and key.


  1. "Theology has that one under lock and key." Which Theology - do you mean Islam ? Hinduism ? Christianity ? ....Of course not - U probably mean your own brand of Orthodox Judaism, and every other ancient or modern religion is bogus. They would all same the same about you. Only a person's naivety of Moral and Value systems claims supernatural beings are required for such. Every religion was invented by people for people. Lets use reason to free the bondage of our minds.

    1. By "theology" I generally mean the Abrahamic faiths and any other monotheistic system. Judaism does not claim to be the only valid system of theology and allows for many expressions of it within certain parameters.

      I think I am using reason - which tells me that "morals" and "values" are words that have no meaning outside of there being a (single) supernatural Being.

    2. Why is it difficult for you atheists to do some research? Why is it that you try to fight "perceived" myth with myth? First of all, humans are born with the belief in the supernatural/God and the idea that all creatures have a purpose. Secondly, moral and value system is the weakest factor within atheism because without God, it can't be explained and established properly. Third, it does not matter what religion someone comes from. If he has faith in God and spends his time doing good, he will go to heaven. You can try writing religion is the invention of people as many times as you want. But the truth is that thousands of studies have shown that belief in God improves people's health. Many around the world got their prayers answered. Fourth, try not to contradict. Your atheism is also a man made agenda.

      And practice what you preach. Without giving any valid reason, you concluded that the author's mind has bondage.