An Atheist Response, Re: The Richard Dawkins Delusion

I’ve responded to another post on YouTube. Here’s the YouTube link

[youtube h_EU5cKzXyI]

Here’s a transcript:

Hi Dan, I’m Al. I’m an atheist. I actively believe that supernatural gods, including the Abrahamic God, don’t exist.

This is a video response to Dan Key-ran’s video entitled The Richard Dawkins Delusion, which is kind of a confusing title since he never mentions Dr. Richard Dawkins or Dawkins’ book The God Delusion in his video.

Dan makes two assertions in his video. First he says that without God, we have no method to assign value to anything, and that we can’t say that human life is more valuable than rocks.

Wow, Dan, that’d be a real bummer. But fortunately that’s just a common misconception of atheism as being the same as nihilism.

Just because atheist don’t derive their values from religion doesn’t mean they don’t have any values at all.

Dan’s argument is easy to disprove by simply looking at the people around us.

I don’t know anybody, atheist or theist, who believes that human life has no value relative to, using Dan’s example, rocks.

The atheists I know do hold human life to be very valuable. I know this because those atheists act on this belief in the way they behave in their everyday life.

If these atheists aren’t deriving their values and moral code purely from the Bible, they must be getting them from another source.

One major source of an atheists’ morality comes from our own intrinsic sense of empathy.

Most people realize that we should treat others the same way we’d like to be treated, because we an innate sense of fairness.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you is a value that is found in almost every culture because it is such an obviously good idea.

A second source of atheist morality comes from our own critical thinking of how we believe people in society should behave.

For example, I’m morally against gambling because I’ve concluded that it is a unproductive zero sum game.

In a zero sum game, one person benefits only at the expense of someone else. There is no net benefit. In gambling there’s one person getting rich at the expense of another, but nothing of value is being produced.

Critically thinking about it some more, you could say that given a fair wager, the gambling parties consented to the gamble and should therefore be allowed to bet as much as they like.

But when I think about it some more, the problems that widespread legalized gambling produces is an overall detrement to society, and that should overrule the desires of the consenting parties.

It turns out that the Bible and many other religious texts aren’t fond of gambling either.

In fact, the Bible has many laws and decrees that are near universal, so atheists will most likely agree with them also.

However, I may encounter new information or insights about gambling that could change my position in the future.

You could see this as a weakness in my moral beliefs because they seem so malleable.

But I consider it a great strength because it protects me from dogmatically holding onto erroneous values even in the face of new information. This helps prevent me from holding unfair or counter-productive values, but only as long as I keep questioning my own beliefs.

This fact shows me that I should keep us this introspection.

Although I may never be completely sure of the right choice in every given situation, if I keep forcing myself to reevaluate my values from several different perspectives, I can become more certain of my conclusions.

But perhaps Dan wasn’t saying that atheists don’t assign value to things like human life but that they can’t assign valid value because regardless of their critical thinking, humans are still flawed.

But I think that the fact that atheist values match up with so many universal values in Christianity and other religions, these human-created values have undeniable substance.

In the second part of Dan’s video he states that without an immortal soul or similar entity, individuals will have no accountability for the good and bad acts they commit during their life.

I agree that this is bad thing, but this isn’t evidence for God’s existence.

This argument is an example of a logical fallacy known as an Appeal to consequences.

The appeal to consequences is an argument that concludes a premise to be true or false solely because that premise leads to a desireable or undesireable consequence.

A negative appeal to consequence is that if my friends are jerks, that would mean I have poor judgement. I don’t like the sound of that, so my friends must not be jerks.

A positive appeal to consequence is that the person I voted for is the most qualified, because that would mean I voted for the right person. I like the sound of that, therefore the person I voted for must be the most qualified.

Colloquially, you could call a positive appeal to consequence wishful thinking.

Dan’s argument is a negative appeal to consequence. If God doesn’t exist, that would mean that some jerks and crooks could get away with the crimes they commit in life, and die rich and happy. That’s awful, therefore God must exist.

You could just say that the world isn’t a perfect place.

But I’ll add that because the world isn’t a perfect place we should work to bring it closer to the ideal.

I can’t stand the fact that even though I may have good intentions, my actions might end up being completely ineffective at bettering the world. So I spend a lot of time thinking how I can make changes that matter.

I also can’t stand the fact that people may escape justice or consequences for their criminal acts.

And since I don’t believe in God, I can’t rely on everyone getting their just desserts in the afterlife. This makes it all the more imperative that I work to effect positive changes in this life.

Wow, that was kind of a long response to Dan’s misnomic video.

But I couldn’t help but notice that Dan used two arguments that I have seen over and over again in theist/atheist debates.

Making this video has given me some insights about theism and theists that I’d like to share with you.

If you agree with these insights, then I’d like you to leave comments on why you agree with them.

But more importantly, if you disagree with my insights I’d like you to leave comments telling me why.

I’ll weigh your arguments and if I find them convincing, I’ll alter my beliefs or maybe completely change them altogether.

Insight, the first.

Dan seems to believe that atheism is synnonomous with nihilism, or the belief that there are no objective values, purpose or truths in the universe.

(in a really bad, unrealistic French accent) Life is devoid of meaning as we drift through an unconcerned universe.

I’ve heard this from many theists.

I think they believe this because in their view, their religion offer an inerrant view of some perfect morality.

This absolute belief gives them the confidence that their holy books offer a supreme moral authority.

As I said before, I’m very skeptical of simply taking these values at their word.

Some of them, like their views on gambling, I agree with. But other things, like the examples of misogyny in the Bible, I disagree with, based on my values of justice and fairness.

But I think that since theists believe in the absolute authority of their religion, they can’t imagine how atheists and agnostics can know that their beliefs aren’t mistaken.

Actually, we don’t know if we’re mistaken or not. We have to keep thinking and weighing the arguments for our values, keeping in mind any subtlety or nuance for a particular given situation.

I think this leads them to believe that atheists have completely relavtive values based on nothing.

And since they don’t have any divine authoritaty to instruct them, the’ll ruthlessly act in their own self-interest.

Like the really obnoxious pseudo-liberatarians who always quote Ayn Rand at you.

But I think that if theists had to build up their moral beliefs and the reasons for those beliefs from scratch without referencing their holy books, they would come to many of the same conclusions that are written in those books.

But more importantly, they may also form values that are very different from the ones in their holy books, values they would not have accepted before simply because they had no reason to question their religious dogma.

Insight, the second.

Dan also stated without afterlife equivalents of Heaven or Hell, good deeds may go unrewarded and wickedness may go unpunished.

I find a lot of theists make this argument without considering the fact that this doesn’t mean such afterlifes actually exist.

I think that many theists use this as reasoning because it’s a very comfortable belief.

Nobody likes to consider that aside from blowing his brains out while Soviet troops were closing in on his bunker, Hitler was never apprehended and punished for this terrible crimes.

It’s very comforting to think that he’s going through agonizing punishment right now for his evil deeds, because in a way that would assure us that we aren’t suckers for avoiding potentially lucrative criminal careers.

But just because these beliefs are comforting doesn’t mean they’re true.

I think a large appeal of religion is because they offer so many comforting beliefs. For example:
Jesus offers his love and forgiveness for our human imperfections.
Reincarnation means that our existence doesn’t simple cease at death.
There’s a grand purpose for all us in the universe.

People like comforting beliefs, even enough that they might ignore evidence or reasoning that might show these beliefs to be untrue.

At the same time, nobody likes to hold the uncomfortable beliefs that atheism implies:
Our departed loved ones are simply gone and aren’t watching over us.
Some people can become rich and powerful through evil deeds, and they may die in old age rich and powerful.
Your free-loading slob of a former roommate who owes you $200 will never be forced in some way to pay up.


I think that many theists who attack atheism moreso then other, even completely incompatible, religions is because they only see the uncomfortable beliefs of atheism and none of the positive ones.

But atheism does have some positivie implications:

That our actions in this world have consequences, so it really does matter that we act as positive role models for each other.

That through critical thinking and consideration, we’re able to discover values that are both idealistic and practical.

That as a society we’ll be able to make progressive gains in equality and fairness, and not repeat the mistakes of those that came before us.

So I’d like to thank you for watching this video, and I want to consider what I had to say. And if you have anything to say in response, please leave a comment or make your own video so we can learn from each other.

Because no matter what our beliefs about the nature of the universe or existence of the afterlife are…

We’re all in this world together.

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