Does “The Future” Have Moral Authority?

People are changing their minds about a great deal of moral and religious truth claims. Because of these dramatic changes, I’ve heard many people advocate for adopting the future moral consensus as the right moral consensus.

For instance, consider four significant trends with me:

  • A recent census in the U.K. showed that the number of self-reported Christians was down sharply, while the number of atheists was up sharply. (Though apparently 176,632 people identified themselves as “Jedi Knights”).

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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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Are We All Nihilists Now?

Earlier this week a student at Harvard asked a great question in a small group meeting: How should a nihilist behave? When asked for the context, he said he had just had lunch with another student, who had proudly proclaimed his dedication to nihilism. The summary of the other student’s position? “There’s no purpose, no meaning, no morality, no God: I can do what I want to do and that sounds great!”

As the group processed the question of this rough-and-ready nihilism, we all agreed: if you are a true nihilist, it is foolish to announce this to the world. Everyone felt that they would be far less likely to trust someone who was so proudly selfish and fundamentally unconcerned about basic claims of morality. If your nihilism is a means of justifying selfishness, you’d do best to keep that to yourself. If nihilism is true, what’s the problem with shrewdly deceiving others and manipulating them to do your bidding?

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The Devil’s Delusion by David Berlinski – A Book Review

Bias. In order to undercut an unpleasant argument, just claim that prejudicial self-interest blinds another person from seeing the error of their ways.

So what to make of Dr. Berlinksi, with a Ph.D. from Princeton and time spent as a postdoctoral fellow in mathematics and molecular biology at Columbia University, who opens his critique of the New Atheists by claiming:

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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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Christian Hypocrisy and Unbelief

The problem of Christian hypocrisy is a major reason for unbelief. As Ghandi perceptively noted, “If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today.” In the same line of thought, one …

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The Atheistic Leap of Faith

In the course of having thousands of conversations about the ultimate issues of life, I’ve encountered many skeptics who, out of a deep respect for their religious friends, are reluctant to explain their objections to faith. These skeptics have noticed that, for their friends, the practice of religion is fundamental to filling their lives with meaning, purpose, joy, and service to others. Out of a gracious and loving spirit they decide, “Hey, if that works for you, that’s great. I don’t want to mess with something that’s so beautiful to you.” Also to their credit, when sincerely invited to be open and direct about their perspective, these skeptics have been excellent conversation partners, and we’ve had rigorous, intriguing conversations about our respective beliefs.

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