It sucks being on a Facebook ban yet again. While I do end up writing more here, this blog lacks the engagement I crave… It gets loads of views but not much interaction which differs quite a bit from the dozens of reactions and comments I’ve become accustomed to on social media. Anyway, while I’m a Facebook ghost, lurking there and reading without being able to interact, I do find some gems to use for writing material.
Case in point, this.
Any atheist will spot the main problem with this right off the bat, namely that someone who grows up in a secular household will not make that association; they will not connect morals with a deity. So they would never ask the question asked at the bottom of the first panel. Without that association, the straw man set up in panel two could never happen. Not that anyone would claim that evolution “does away with morals”. Not anyone who knows what evolution is.
Evolution is about the gradual change of living organisms over time. We humans, the most advanced species of great ape on the planet, are social animals. Our society depends on us cooperating with one another, and we tend to care for each other through empathy with them. We’re emotional animals and we project our emotions onto others. Do you think it would be an evolutionary advantage for us to do harm to each other? Obviously selfishness benefits individuals but when it goes too far, it harms the group, and being smarter than other animals, we have evolved rules and laws, customs and values, and we find ways of punishing those who don’t adhere to the rules, which at the most basic level are all about empathy we feel for one another.
It should be fairly obvious that if someone right now goes out with a gun and starts shooting random people, sooner or later someone who is responsible for enforcing the law will stop that person. Likewise, if someone went into a public place thousands of years ago and just started beating everybody with a big stick, whoever was responsible for enforcing the rules there would stop them. And thousands of years ago, there was no Yahweh, Jesus, Allah, or any of the other gods currently worshipped.
Religions are a part of our social structure, just like courts of law. If you go to any worldbuilding forum and read the questions, which are generally in the form, “How do I build a cooperative society where the inhabitants do X and not Y?”, there are invariably answers suggesting using religion to control the members of society, using religion to create and enforce rules. And religion often does that, enforcing a set of quite arbitrary rules about what you can and cannot wear, what you are allowed to eat, and so on. But those rules are arbitrary and rely on an already existing framework of morals and values.
In short, morality exists before gods. God doesn’t tell you what’s right and what’s wrong, but rather, we create gods who only know what right and wrong is because they are based on us. Gods are thus projections of an idealized human, with our rules, our morals and values, and our culture. That’s why there have been so many of them over the years.
Psychologist Matt J. Rossano muses that religion emerged after morality and built upon morality by expanding the social scrutiny of individual behavior to include supernatural agents. By including ever watchful ancestors, spirits and gods in the social realm, humans discovered an effective strategy for restraining selfishness and building more cooperative groups. The adaptive value of religion would have enhanced group survival.
Not that the quote proves anything… My point here is to demonstrate that my view is not unusual.
I see I haven’t even mentioned anything about the argument from morality, the religious apologists argument that god is the source of all morality, and therefore if objective morality exists, god must exist. Honestly I shouldn’t need to. It doesn’t take anything other than common sense to notice that morals and values differ by both geographic region and time. Morals change drastically as society changes, and you won’t, for example, find people burning anyone for witchcraft in modern Christian societies of the West. That’s because morality is subjective. Without objective morality, which the religious apologists claim originates from their god, the argument from morality is clearly nonsense. I refer to it as a non sequitur because it does not follow logically that morals come from a god. Of course, believers in different gods all use the same argument for their specific one, making the whole thing quite silly.
Also, in practice, such as with your typical keyboard warriors for Christ on Facebook, they never make the whole argument. Instead they generally write something else, wherein a premise assumes that atheists don’t have morals. It makes debating them a complete waste of time because to do so, you will need to point out that their premise assumes an argument from morality and the existence of objective morality. Normally this isn’t even something they want to debate. It’s just something they assume true so they can get on to the subject that really matters to them, which is some derived bullshit not even worth considering. Actually that’s where debates with theists come apart… we ask for evidence and point out that their arguments include all kinds of ridiculous premises, such as the assumption that objective morality exists and creation being a fact, while they expect the conversation to begin at that point where their conclusions have already been assumed true. We literally have two completely different conversations going on, with no middle ground.