There Are No “Nones”

As part of one of the biggest religion stories of the past few years, Time Magazine said in March 2012, in an entry titled “The Rise Of The Nones,” that, “The fastest-growing religious group in the U.S. is the category of people who say they have no religious affiliation.” In October 2012, the Pew Research Center indicated that “one-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.”

This trend is important and worth taking seriously. But, precisely because of the importance of this sociological change, it is essential that we use a better term.

The truth is that there are no “nones.” Why? Let’s look at three reasons in particular.

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Unicorns and Morals: Let’s Be Consistent

Imagine overhearing someone say:

“I love my unicorn Billy. He is the best imaginary friend! He always encourages me when I’m feeling down and he makes the rainbow shine so bright. Billy is the best unicorn friend ever!”

Clearly, this is a delusional set of beliefs and it sounds simply crazy. Why? Because Billy the Unicorn does not exist. Unicorns in general do not exist. Neither do Flying Spaghetti Monsters. As Richard Dawkins explains:

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Physicalism and Reason

Dr. Matt Dickerson, a professor of computer science at Middlebury College, recently gave a lecture at MIT on the relationship between physicalism and reason. The lecture was based on the fourth chapter of his book The Mind and the Machine. After developing an account of human identity on physicalism, and developing an account of what a logical reasoning process requires, he concluded that physicalism is unable to support the ability of humans to reason. In this post I will largely build off of his remarks at the lecture.

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Moral Clarity and the RDFRS Community

Earlier this week I posted “Moral Clarity and Richard Dawkins,”which was then reposted and discussed at the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science website. My first response to the comment thread pointed out the frequent logical fallacies (and incivility) in the comment thread.

Today I want to continue an effort to raise the bar of dialogue with the RDFRS community. My goal in this post is to address the more substantive comments at their site. Before doing so, a brief recap of the original argument is in order.

In “Moral Clarity and Richard Dawkins” I offered the metaphor of a house with a foundation, main floor, and a roof. The foundation is the meta-ethical theory, the main floor is our ethical theory, and the roof is our behavior. I then looked at Richard Dawkins’ overall ‘moral house’ to see how well his meta-ethical theory supports his ethical system and behavior.

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Logical Fallacies and the RDFRS Community

This week the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science decided to link to my post “Moral Clarity and Richard Dawkins,” which resulted in a vigorous discussion on their website. Two kinds of responses seem appropriate.

The first is to provide a robust defense of the position I staked out in the original post, which offered the metaphor of a house in order to explain the logical links between a person’s meta-ethical foundations, the ethical system, and our actual behavior. I then applied this metaphor to Richard Dawkins’ worldview to demonstrate inconsistencies within his belief system.

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Moral Clarity and Richard Dawkins

Moral confusion is a common problem. When a conversation begins about the difference between right and wrong, everyone can feel the tension, because admitting you’re wrong isn’t just about saying you have bad reasons, but can become about whether or not you are a bad person. Sometimes we argue past each other because we’re using the same words to mean radically different things. Sometimes we agree with each other, but we don’t even recognize it. This article is an attempt to offer conceptual clarity so we can have fairer, more intelligent conversations with one another about the pressing moral issues of our day.

For the sake of further clarity, I’ve divided this article on ethics into two parts. In the first part, using the metaphor of a house, I offer a brief overview of the categorical differences between behavior, ethics, and meta-ethics. The second half of the article explains the implications of this metaphor for the ‘New Atheist’ worldview, as exemplified by Richard Dawkins.

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Moral Relativism and Two “Ten Commandments”

Does moral relativism make sense? Are all ethical theories equally good and deserving of our respect? Can a moral code be wrong? Should we always tolerate people and cultures who have different moral standards than we do?

One way of examining these questions is to compare two very different versions of the Ten Commandments. We will look at Richard Dawkins’ version and then the Ten Laws of Camp 14 in North Korea. And finally, we will consider the legitimacy of moral relativism in light of these contrasting systems of morality.

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The Hypocrisy of Richard Dawkins

At yesterday’s Reason Rally, the acknowledged headline speaker was the famous Richard Dawkins. And Dawkins, true to form, managed to display both hypocrisy and irrationality in the course of his fifteen minute speech.

To set the stage, let’s remember the promise the Reason Rally organizers made to us on their website:

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