If you credit god with your morality, do you also thank him for teaching you not to chew with your mouth open?

Assuming you have table manners, of course…

Over the years, I’ve heard and read the crazy argument from morality, the idea that our morals come from god via religious teachings, from many people, even my own brother. He was quick to remind me of my religious upbringing, as if that somehow gave me my moral values. I honestly don’t get it. Maybe he can’t remember back to before Sunday school? I can.

I remember the first time I attended, at six years old. I remember arriving late my first day, to everybody in class singing, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so”… and feeling isolated because they knew the words while I did not. I remember a couple of weeks later, going to Mass alone, until the rest of the family attended with me. My brother, being two years younger than me, missed those years when our family wasn’t too religious.

I remember sitting alone in Mass, thinking of the stories I’d heard about crazy old Uncle Steve and the crazy Old Apostolic church – looking for the holy spirit under the benches. I played a little game… looking around the church, under the benches, in the front of the church, the back of the church, and so on… Where is this god guy? I don’t see him. Maybe he’s hiding behind the alter?

I soon caught on. God is just an idea. An abstract concept (though I did not know that word), but one that I must believe existed in physical form and actually showed up around two thousand years ago. Same goes for angels. I didn’t buy it. I still believed in god then, but never really believed in Jesus, confession, or a while bunch of other things. I was never very good at being Catholic.

The point is, I remember. I remember already having my moral values before I ever attended Sunday School for the first time. I remember not being taught my morality there, but instead being taught a bunch of nonsense, a bunch of prayers to know off by heart, and when I was older, a bunch of harmful nonsense about contraception being wrong.

So my question stands. If you credit god with your morality, do you also thank him for teaching you not to chew with your mouth open? Because it’s the same thing… Like table manners, you learn most of your morality from your parents, and the rest from your upbringing, from the accepted rules and norms of society around you.

Today I’ve written only about the way we actually learn our morality. If you aren’t much of a critical thinker, and don’t look around and observe the way morality differs in geographical regions, even among the same religions and time period, you might still argue for some kind of god given objective morality. But you have to be willfully ignorant to think that.

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I found this eloquently written rebuttal of the so-called argument from morality, and had to share it…

I don’t normally do this – share the writing of other atheists, I mean. But this article is so well stated that I just can’t help myself. Please go and read it here. (Note that the argument from morality is the fallacious argument that morality is objective, absolute, and comes from god.)

The writer is in my Facebook friends list, not that I can remember how he got there. But I love the way he approaches the subject. Morality is subjective, and I love the way this post describes his journey and his search for truth, through his belief in god.

He’s passionate about atheism, but it’s how he got there that interests me, and his writing is not dismissive of Christian sensibilities, as mine is… It’s fascinating how he reached atheism through a sincere and thoughtful exploration of his understanding of god, and that through his belief he ultimately rejected god as being a false teaching.

Whereas I rejected god outright long ago through logic alone, without caring to study it, much like I don’t care to study other bullshit I don’t believe in, his path to atheism through the exploration of his sincerely held belief was longer and more difficult. Yet he came out of it a man who can write a thoughtful and respectful take on this difficult subject. I only became passionate about atheism because, through rehab and then 12 step bullshit recovery culture, I had the nonsense of religion imposed on me. It turned out, despite my Roman Catholic upbringing and professed Christianity, I never truly understood the message of Christianity until then. Once I did, I found it insulting and rejected it.

Why logical fallacies interest me

A while ago I wrote about circular reasoning. Today I read another example of it, which better illustrates the other name for this fallacy: begging the question:

twat

(Oops. Forgot to blur the twat’s name. Hopefully she won’t be in that group for much longer anyway.) Sorry, twat.

Not that it needs explanation, but the above meme assumes indirectly that god created us, then asks about god as if the assumption answers everything. That’s a classic example of begging the question, since the premises includes the claim that the conclusion is true.

I hadn’t even heard of logical fallacies until about four years ago. The truth is, I started out as gullible as could be… In the throes of meth addiction, I was interested in the occult, just like everybody else (on meth). My girlfriend was interested in Wicca, white magic, black magic, astrology and so on… I even bought us each a deck of tarot cards at one stage, though admittedly I chose mine because I liked the art – mine were all depictions from the legend of King Arthur. (Those cards were sold long ago, but I think it was this deck. Not that it’s relevant to this post, but selling stuff was something she did back then… including those cards and many other things that I bought. I don’t know if all addicts do that… I didn’t.)

It became my duty (since I was the one working) to research all her interests online. (No, really. If I didn’t take her every interest seriously, I was accused of “not being supportive”. And I was interested in some of it too.) I tried to be as fair as I could, and found as much information as I could on each topic, then printed it all out for her. But in my objectivity, I didn’t limit myself to articles written by believers, as I thought it would be best to get different points of view. So my credulity didn’t last terribly long, and within days of starting my research, I began debunking everything she believed in. (She was not happy with that.) Then my skepticism got helped along by accident… I’d believed in astrology for a while, and printed out our generated charts… proper Natal charts and reports using the most popular Astrology software I could find. But in my methamphetamine-addled stupor, I somehow mixed up our charts… yet the wrong chart, with it’s plentiful Barnum statements, applied to me just as well as my own. That was the turning point for me, and I soon found myself believing in nothing without evidence. For a couple of years, it became my pet obsession, something to tweak on while I was high. But with sobriety, although my obsession isn’t quite what it was while using, I have something I didn’t have then; a genuine passion for skepticism.

As I mentioned, about four years ago I discovered bad arguments and logical fallacies, and I have gradually been learning about them ever since. I find them fascinating, because in my opinion, I am using that same part of my brain that drove my gullibility and my credulity, the pattern-matching part of my brain, except rather than use it to see patterns and find meaning or significance where none exists, I now recognize patterns in arguments of believers. Once you start to see them, they’re hard to miss. Especially when it comes to religious apologetics, there are no logical arguments and no new arguments… Just the same assumptions made, and logical fallacies stated. (I mostly debate believers of Abrahamic religions, and it doesn’t matter which religion they are; their arguments are interchangeable.)

At first when debating, I wasn’t at all confident, but after a couple of years, it has reached a point where I’m not just spotting patterns anymore – Now, I often recognize the person’s thinking that’s going on behind their statements. It makes for a fun debate, because I can attack the thought process, and the often subconsciously held illogical assumptions and  motivations behind somebody’s statement aggressively, and that makes them angry. It makes them angry because they don’t want to face their own contradictory beliefs and irrational assumptions… They often think that they are rational, so facing their subconsciously held nonsensical assumptions causes a feeling of discomfort. For example: Read their statement… then instead of countering the straw man of atheism they try to impose on me, point out the implicit assumptions they have made, the fallacious belief behind the straw man (usually argument from morality, or circular reasoning, sometimes with an argument from first cause and its sprinkle of special pleading, or maybe an argument from ignorance), and deny them their request for evidence of a negative. Remind them how burden of proof is supposed to work.

Of course, debating people and making them angry doesn’t help them, but I don’t care. It’s the audience I care about – those who read or hear the debate, not the delusional believer.