I’m an atheist and I have every right to celebrate Christmas

I celebrate Christmas because it’s a tradition I grew up with and enjoy. It brings family, friends, and even strangers together in a time of giving and good will.

I have been told by numerous Christians that I have no right to celebrate this holiday—whose traditions are largely pagan in origin—just because I have different beliefs (or lack thereof). That’s persecution, just like telling African Americans not to celebrate Christmas would be racist. It’s more than mere opinion; it’s oppression.

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Evolution does not infer amorality

Christian evangelists Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron have challenged two atheists to a debate over the existence of God that will air live at ABC’s website on May 5. What caught my eye in the article that introduced me to the debate was this quote by Cameron:

Atheism has become very popular in universities – where it’s taught that we evolved from animals and that there are no moral absolutes. So we shouldn’t be surprised when there are school shootings.

Teaching evolution is responsible for school violence? Perhaps if no one had ever committed a wrong in the name of religion there might be some inkling of reason to consider his proposition (which also presumes that evolution and religion are mutually exclusive). But people commit crimes regardless of spiritual belief. And when religion is involved, the criminal always points to dogma, not it’s absence, as justification for his acts. No one has ever hurt another human being out of atheist fanaticism.

The Bible is not the only source of morality. And I’m grateful for that. If we all lived by it’s exact words we’d be stoning our children, keeping slaves, and offering our underage daughters to house guests for non-consensual copulation. Where might an atheist, then, get his or her moral sense? I agree with Albert Sweigart:

[…] I don’t think we have a moral mandate because God said so. I think we have a moral mandate because our actions, nevertheless what we think, make a difference. We affect the people around us in material and emotional terms, and our actions set an example for others to follow.

We have a moral mandate to take responsibility because we are in the rare position among life forms on earth to think, reflect, and take consideration of consequence. I think to fail to excogitate on our actions with our unique mental capabilities is tragic. And we see the problems that arise out of this failure, both in problems of hurt emotions and damaged relationships, and in problems of brutal violence and conflict.

Our ancestry from millions of years ago doesn’t limit our intellectual capability to find solutions to these problems today. It doesn’t impede our moral imperative to heal ourselves.

From what I can tell, most atheists take the ethical position of humanism. While humanism may not contain moral absolutes, it certainly objects to murder and other forms or cruelty and injustice. If there’s anything immoral suggested by Kirk Cameron’s statement, it’s that blaming science courses for deadly violence without sound reason is intellectually, socially, and ethically irresponsible.

There is no connection whatsoever between the teaching of evolution and school shootings. There does however seem to be a link between the promotion of creationism and a delusional cognizance of one of the greatest achievements of science.

Truth is relative

Earlier today I was perusing refutations to atheistic claims and discovered the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry’s website. Their article, Why believe in Christianity over all other religions?, professes an epistemological notion that appears to be a common misunderstanding among many religious apologetics: “If truth is relative, then the statement that truth is relative is an absolute truth and would be self defeating statement by proving that truth is not relative.”

Continue reading

Knowledge vs. utility

Gary Wolf’s article describing the New Atheism movement and Khalid Mir’s post on the value of intuition have prompted me to consider the difference between a belief system’s validity and usefulness.

One such ‘use’ is morality. Is morality superior to knowledge? To make an extreme case: I’d rather live among friendly and fun imbeciles than I would mean and murderous intellectuals. Or as Trey Parker explained it in Reason Magazine’s article, South Park Libertarians:

If a religion’s going to take over the world, and the one that really believes “just be super nice to everyone” takes over, that’s all right with me. Even if it’s all bullshit, that’s OK.

Parker is forgetting all the other things that come attached to religion. Though some beliefs in themselves might be useful or even true, the beliefs in the remainder of a belief system might not be.

[to be continued]