This is a recurring series that examines the claims, objections and big ideas that are often squeezed into social media. We want to be fair. Brevity can be the enemy of clarity. And yet, we want to be honest about what it means to take ideas seriously.
Above is a snapshot of an all too normal exchange. Someone reads something I’ve written and then seeks me out on Twitter. I love it! In this case @JoolzHoolz is taking me to task because of my claim that atheism terminally undermines objective morality.
By atheism I mean the belief that the big questions of life (Origin, Meaning, Morality, Destiny) are best answered by something other than a god or the supernatural.
He wanted me to understand that atheism doesn’t make moral claims, but Secular Humanism (SH) does. He may be right, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong. Secular Humanism is just one expression of atheism. It seeks to build a robust morality on reason and Philosophical Naturalism.
There’s a not-so tiny problem when attempting to build morality on reason–you can’t. Reason doesn’t tell you WHAT to think, but HOW to think. Something is reasonable, or logical, if the conclusion follows from the premises. If you’re eyes are starting to glaze over, let me illustrate.
- [PREMISE] It’s wrong to harm.
- [PREMISE] Murder does harm.
- [CONCLUSION] Therefore, murder is wrong.
That conclusion is reasonable, but it’s only true if the premises are true. For this to be objectively true the first premise would have to be absolutely true, even if no one agrees.
THE BIG PROBLEM: All atheists have to fabricate out of thin air every moral premise they start with. These claims may align with our intuitions, but they’re not based on anything other than preference. This is key and this is huge. Secular Humanists are like a fixated dog chasing it’s own tail.
I’m not saying that atheists or secular humanists can’t be moral. They can! I’m pointing out the obvious–they can’t justify any of the premises they start with. They can only assume them (pretend as if they’re true).
So, I pointed this out to @JoolzHoolz. He’s not ignorant and quickly realized where this train was headed–so he jumped off and backed down. All he could do was assert his personal preference. That is the problem with every moral framework that starts by rejecting God–it’s stuck on a moral merry go round. It can make big moral claims, but can never justify them.