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Entry 1216, on 2010-08-22 at 20:23:58 (Rating 3, Religion)
Is there anything new to say about atheism? The sorts of things that Hitchens, Dawkins, and the other prominent atheist commentators are saying now are the same as what Bertrand Russell was saying 50 years ago and what Huxley said 100 years before that. So does that mean that atheism has got nothing new to say? Does that mean that it is becoming irrelevant? Not really.
The reason atheist arguments might be perceived as being repetitive and unoriginal is because the religious arguments they are countering are so unoriginal. In fact religious arguments are stale because religion has nothing new to offer. All of the evidence for religion has already been dismissed as irrelevant but, unlike most other areas of knowledge, religion refuses to admit this. It's like if quantum physicists were still pointing out to conventional physicists where the classic physics model failed but the supporters of that model refused to accept it.
So it's not the atheists' fault that the arguments have all been heard before, it's the believers' fault for refusing to accept the facts and forcing their opponents to be repetitive. It would be so much more productive if they would accept the inevitable because then we could all move on to more interesting topics.
In reality the discussion about the existence of god is over because there's just no reason to really think that he does exist. Unless something new comes along we should just accept that and look for something else to debate. If believers really think they have something new then let's hear it but just repeating the same old junk isn't helping anyone and that's what forces the atheists to use the same old counter-arguments.
So let's move on from that point and see what else could be discussed. What actually is there that could be more important than the existence of a god? How about a genuine basis for a universal morality? It's all very convenient to hypothesise the existence of a god to explain universal morality but if the god doesn't actually exist then the morality suddenly becomes invalid. Instead of just pretending a god exists which makes any derived morality useless (in fact dangerous) why not look for a factual basis instead?
Religion derived morality suffers from many problems. First, if god doesn't exist then the morality attributed to that god becomes very dangerous because it means there is a moral code which is attributed to god (and therefore presumably must be obeyed without question) which really has it's origins in the (very subjective and error prone) thoughts of a group of people.
That's why so much of the morality in the Bible is contradictory, irrelevant, and totally out of date. That's why so many religious laws are misogynistic, racist, and just against what most people would consider the ideals of natural justice.
But many people are scared that without a deity there can be no absolute objective morality. I would counter that by saying that it's better to admit that there can be no true objective laws than to invent a deity to give undeserved veracity to an arbitrary set of rules supported more through habit than anything else.
The question then becomes what should this new morality be based on. That's a topic which has been debated by many philosophers and I don't think there has ever been a definitive answer. But that's not the point. Until we can dispose of the fake idea that morality is imposed through a non-existent god we can't move on to even seriously considering the subject.
If we can do this and build a new morality it could provide many benefits. First, we might get truly universal laws which every culture can agree to. Second, we can get some rules which are relevant to the modern world and include references to subjects such as environmentalism which the Bible is conspicuously silent on. Third, we could remove the problem of cynical interpretation of old laws being used to justify actions which might be contrary to the original intent. And finally, we can remove silly rules which are entirely designed to maintain the power of the religion (about half of the Bible's Ten Commandments fit this description).
Progress in science has been rapid because scientists are prepared to throw out old ideas and move forward. Sure, there are examples of some who have refused to accept the inevitable but they are the minority and change shouldn't be too easy anyway. But I can't remember any scientist using an argument which was discredited thousands of years ago like religious people do. That's why religion never really progresses much.
Maybe it's time for us to invent a "religion" which don't include a supernatural god. I suggest substituting metaphorical concepts of divinity like Einstein and others famously did. It is possible to have the best of both worlds and it is possible to move on.
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