Author Archive

Morality Without God—Introducing Pactualism: A New Ethical Framework (Part 3/3)

Without God, morality doesn’t exist.

And it doesn’t need to.

Have you ever had someone try to convince you that you ought to do something? Having failed to convince you, do they resort, in exasperation, to the phrase “it is the right thing to do”?

The right-wrong moral construct is a tool whereby people seek to impose their will on others when persuasion fails. If they can’t convince you, they simply appeal to morality. For theists, this moral authority is God. And while atheists are fond of dismissing God, they essentially declare themselves to be God in their assertion of what is “clearly” right and wrong.

The fact is, unless you have God to tell you otherwise, there is no such thing as right and wrong. Theists have successfully nailed atheists to the wall on this point.


If we set aside this hopeless question of “what is right and what is wrong?” we can get to the nub of what the atheist ethicist pursues. Human behavior can be either awful or wonderful; we want a set of rules that will inhibit the former while promoting and maximizing the latter.

We can have such a set of rules even without moral authority.

(If this sounds like crazy talk, I highly suggest reading Part 1 and Part 2 before proceeding).

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Morality Without God—Toward a Solution (Part 2/3)

As noted in Part 1, the atheist is not entitled to make an assertion of moral rightness/wrongness and have it understood in the traditional sense: a proclamation of universal, objective truth with regard to a platform of universal objective morality.  Only a theist may do this.  To drive this point home, a healthy dose of moral nihilism is in order.

Moral Nihilism

To the atheist:  You are born with no responsibility to anything or anyone—living or nonliving.  You may do whatever you want to anything or anyone, living or nonliving.  At the same time no one and no thing—living or nonliving—has any responsibility to you either.  Anyone or anything may do anything to you.  There exists no moral authority whatsoever to say that you or they are right or wrong.  And so, appraising the intrinsic “rightness” or “wrongness” of any action is nonsensical.  After death, there will be no consequences at all for anything any of us have done to anyone or any thing.  None whatsoever.

For a Christian, the pursuit of righteousness is the pursuit of truth.  For the Christian, to declare something as “right” is to say that it is objectively true that this action is right.  Because of the influence of Christianity on western civilization, western atheists are inclined to approach morality the same way.  But the atheist may not pursue morality as if it is a real thing that he may discover, as if it is a treasure to find, or a righteousness that is true—a truth that is there to find.  In breaking with God, atheists must jettison the inclination to think this way.  In their dispute with religion, atheists are doomed to confusion and frustration if they continue to play this game by the theist’s rules.  Atheists cannot discover morality because it is not there for them to discover.
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Philosophy—A Waste of Time?

A lot of smart people claim that philosophy is a waste of time.   Stephen Hawking claims that philosophy is dead.  And no doubt there are obscure highly abstract corners of the world of philosophy that are arguably mental masturbation with little in the way of valuable application.

This misses the point.

Philosophy is not in the class of things to which we can appraise the value of time and mental effort expended in their pursuit, concluding that they are valuable or a “waste”.  Philosophy is inextricably intertwined in every valuation we make.  Ironically, you have to do philosophy to appraise it.  Calling philosophy a waste is like saying, “Words are meaningless.”  The very assertion undermines itself.

We can’t not do philosophy.

You do philosophy a little bit in almost every decision you make and every conclusion you draw.  Every time you determine that something is “good”, “bad”, “right”, “wrong”, “valuable”, “worthless”, “virtuous”, “evil”, “true”, or “untrue” you are doing philosophy.  You do philosophy virtually continuously in every waking moment.

Every assertion of value begs the question “why?”  If your philosophy is sound, you will be prepared to answer that question.  But if you are not prepared to answer then you cling to a philosophy that you cannot defend.

Typically those who dismiss “philosophy” as a “waste of time” are those who are are happy with their particular philosophy and do not wish to expend the mental energy contending with scrutiny.

It’s not a question of the value of philosophy.  It’s a question of the value of your philosophy.

Morality Without God—The Problem (Part 1/3)

You can be an atheist and you can be a sadomasochist.  You can be an atheist and a psychopath.  You can be an atheist and be fascist.  To be a communist, you practically have to be an atheist.  It doesn’t commit you to anything.  But it certainly does not commit you to the absurd belief that if you don’t have a supernatural belief you have no morals.  ~ Christopher Hitchens

If you have not yet seen the film Collision, I highly recommend it.  In it Christopher Hitchens takes on Christian apologist Douglas Wilson in a series of lively debates on the validity and value of Christian theism.  Hitchens’ trademark rhetorical style is on full display and does not fail to entertain even as it instructs.  Again and again Hitchens levels devastating blows to Christianity’s reputation as he makes the case that not only is Christianity untrue, but that it is a “wicked cult”.  The inconsistencies inherent in Christianity are serious problems that Christians must make sense of in order to convince thinking people to embrace their system, and Hitchens makes this painfully clear.

At the same time, Wilson puts Hitchens on the defensive repeatedly on one critical point:
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Listen, you silly atheists and theists…

…you really need to cut out the asinine bickering.  Neither of you are getting anywhere.

Take a look at this.


Atheism and Curiosity

Extraterrestrial Life

Life on other planets—does it exist?  We want to know.  Why?  Perhaps we suspect that life on this planet is ultimately doomed and so we hope that the opportunity for life exists elsewhere.  Is it that we simply find life fascinating, and any new exotic form tickles our wonder?  Is it because we are looking for a greater intelligence from which we may learn?  Are we seeking new friends?
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Being An American

Being an American means recognizing that America is primarily an idea, not a plot of land, and not an order of authority and rule.

Being an American does not imply collective identity.

Being an American is not about national pride.

Being an American does not mean the inheritance of, or the obligation to adhere to, any particular culture.

Being an American does not mean particular privilege.
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Niche Activism

There is a flavor of political activism for every belief, background, or personal preference. We have them for gays, Christians, atheists, gun lovers, Jews, gun haters, women, Muslims, homeschoolers, public school teachers, children, families, poor people, businesspeople, environmentalists, etc.

Almost all of these movements arose out of a condition of encroachment, oppression, or violence. This means that most of these groups began with an excellent cause and were justified in their advocacy. The problem is that most of these niche movements will continue to exist and operate long after they have achieved justice and fairness. The reason is that these advocacy groups were never founded on any kind of a rational principle, rather they were founded on the basis of self-interest—a group of people were not happy with the way things were working out for them. But self-interest is no ethical principle at all. Unrestrained self-interest is the lack of ethical principle. At first this seems obvious, but it gets fuzzy when self-interest and ethical principle happen to overlap.
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An entertaining illustration of the irrationality of collectivist thinking.

Rights, Atheists, and Earth

The United Nations is considering a proposal that would grant the Earth rights similar to those of humans.

What is a right?  Where does it come from?  Perhaps Merriam-Webster can help:

  • right: something to which one has a just claim (So what makes a claim just?)
  • just: acting or being in conformity with what is morally upright or good (What is moral?)
  • moral: conforming to a standard of right behavior (What is right?  Oh crap.  That’s where we started.  And where do we get this “standard” from?)


If you’re a theist, and you believe that God has revealed to us rights and wrongs, it’s simple; God grants and ultimately enforces those rights.

What if you don’t believe in God?
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