Category Archives: Reasoning

Legal vs Ethical

There’s been a lot of talk in the atheist community lately about what is acceptable behavior, especially when it comes to speech. There are a lot of arguments that people have used to justify themselves, but a particularly annoying one is the free speech argument: “Free speech! I can say whatever I want, because it’s legal!”

Well, yes, you can say most anything without consequences from the government. But that’s setting the bar for behavior pretty damn low.  Is that really all you want your behavior to be? Legal? What about, you know, ethical? Legality is the minimum standard of behavior. We shouldn’t be striving to behave legally; we should be striving to behave ethically, and most of the time, that means exceeding the legal standards.

Atheist get a lot of shit about how we’re amoral. And we know it’s shit. But when we start saying that we can act however we want, as long as it’s legal, we’re failing our own movement. We need to do better than that. We need to actually think about whether an action is ethical – how much harm it will do to others, and how much benefit. Before we speak, we need to think if we’re treating the other person like an actual human being. We need to think about our individual privilege, whatever it may be, and make sure we’re not abusing it. We need to ask ourselves if we are being bigots, whether it be intentionally or unintentionally.

It’s unacceptable to excuse things like Redditgate or anything said on #mencallmethings or calling things “retarded” or any variant thereof, simply because they’re legal. Be better than that. Recognize that it’s not ethical, and it’s intellectually dishonest. It’s treating others like objects or lesser humans. If you hate something, if you hate someone, go on the attack without relying on bigotry. You can say critical things to someone without being unethical. Hell, you can verbally eviscerate someone without being unethical. Just treat them like an equal human being while you do it.  Because we are better than that.

So act like it.

Faith Is Not A Virtue Part II: Reason

So yesterday I talked about reasons people hang on to faith. I started with the reason of poor scientific education. Today, it’s time for reason number two:


Like I said yesterday, critical thinking is not generally the natural way our mind works. When we’re trained in the scientific method, however, critical thinking becomes easier. It becomes habit to evaluate ideas based on their objective merit. Asking questions becomes a good thing. Asking for evidence becomes default, and saying “I don’t know” becomes acceptable. Even if the idea in question is religion.

If you don’t know how to think critically, accepting the contradictory claims of the bible (or any other holy book or religion) is much easier. “Because I said so” becomes a valid answer. If the information is from someone sufficiently powerful, it is accepted. An example:

God exists. Why? Because the Bible said so. Why is the Bible a reputable source? Because my parents, my pastor, my teachers told me. Why should I believe them? Because I trust them. Bam. End of discussion.

The key here, of course, is stomping out the urge to ask why before we get too old. Any 6-year-old could disprove the existence of god if we would just answer the damn questions. Asking why is natural, but so is trusting people. If children didn’t trust and believe their parents, we’d have died out by now. And so skepticism dies by the hand of safety.

If you can revive that skepticism, though, fallacies become obvious. The bible says god is love, but he commanded his people to commit genocide and mass rape when the Israelites invaded Canaan. He is compassionate, but he commanded his people to bash babies’ heads against rocks. And when they didn’t kill everything, he was pissed. But that’s not even the biggest problem! If god is perfect, why did he make something that was capable of fucking itself over so badly? Why did he give Adam and Eve the capability to sin? If he’s omnipotent, why wasn’t there a less horrific solution to the problem of sin than to have billions of people (and guiltless animals) suffer and die and go to hell? Why did he have to send his son/himself to suffer horribly and die (temporarily) and then leave no evidence behind? In short, what kind of sick fuck is god? Better question: Why the hell would you want to worship this psychopath?

Oh yeah, that’s right: If you don’t, you go to hell. Yep, god is most certainly love.

TOMORROW: Faith Is Not A Virtue Part III: Fear