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Are Atheists Confused About "Rights"?

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  • Are Atheists Confused About "Rights"?

    Three Meanings of the Word "Rights" ; Atheists are Confused

    By this I mean that in the pre-Brown v Board of Ed era in Kansas, blacks did not have the right to attend school as equals according to either the social milieu in Kansas or according to the government in Kansas.

    …and yet almost every modern atheist would choose to describe this not merely in flat factual terms, but in terms of "injustice".

    What is an injustice? It is a violation of justice, which is itself a term with two meanings: the actual black-letter law, and also abstract principles of ethical behavior. Clearly anyone who calls legal racial discrimination in 1950 an injustice can not mean the former, because they have already acknowledged that it was legal – so they mean the latter, that there is some ethical principle that is being violated.

  • #2
    I think there should be a name for these threads like "atheists obviously can't care about anything so why do they pretend to do so" thread. Before we are atheists or people who strive for greater contact with the divine, we are human. 99.99% of humans care about other people and would like things like justice and kindness to rule. I don't really get why we have to keep using semantics to try and convince atheists that somehow what they believe in must necessarily point to the existence of the divine.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by blavatsky View Post
      I think there should be a name for these threads like "atheists obviously can't care about anything so why do they pretend to do so" thread. Before we are atheists or people who strive for greater contact with the divine, we are human. 99.99% of humans care about other people and would like things like justice and kindness to rule. I don't really get why we have to keep using semantics to try and convince atheists that somehow what they believe in must necessarily point to the existence of the divine.
      The article says nothing about what atheists can and can't care about. The question is what grounds morality if the only truths are those rooted in the material world?

      It's a pretty important question, and it doesn't offer any actual proof of the divine at all. It can, however, provide motivation to not blithely dismiss things like qualia potentially pointing to something that transcends the material.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by article
        The three meanings are:

        1. the "rights" that society acknowledges a person has
        2. the "rights" that government acknowledges a person has
        3. the "rights" that a person actually has according to non-material abstract principles
        I'm not sure what he means by "actually has according to non-material abstract principles," but it sounds like it's begging the question.

        I assert that almost everyone in the modern West, including "Brights" / "new atheists" / Ayn Rand followers / etc. acknowledges these three distinct things and acknowledges them as distinct.
        I believe the third description of rights is incoherent.

        ~~ Paul

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Sciborg2 View Post
          The article says nothing about what atheists can and can't care about. The question is what grounds morality if the only truths are those rooted in the material world?
          I suppose you could ask the same of morality rooted in a non material world. What grounds it then?

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Paul C. Anagnostopoulos View Post
            I'm not sure what he means by "actually has according to non-material abstract principles," but it sounds like it's begging the question.
            ~~ Paul
            Yeah, that's the part that suggests a crack in his argument. I think whether he's begging the question depends on what you consider a statement like "X is simply wrong, Y is the right thing to do" to be grounded in.

            I think his general understanding of the is-ought problem is correct (from my layman perspective anyway) but he doesn't do the best job of showing morality must depend on non-material principles.

            He also should note that theists don't fare much better with the is-ought problem, and those who link morality to God's word run into the Euthyphro problem.
            Last edited by Sciborg2; August 26th, 2013, 06:13 PM.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Sciborg2 View Post
              The article says nothing about what atheists can and can't care about. The question is what grounds morality if the only truths are those rooted in the material world?
              It would probably be better to discuss this in terms of "materialists", not atheists.

              Cheers,
              Bill

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              • #8
                I don't think I'd have any different responses to this OP than what I wrote in the couple recent threads on morals and ethics from an atheist perspective.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Arouet View Post
                  I don't think I'd have any different responses to this OP than what I wrote in the couple recent threads on morals and ethics from an atheist perspective.
                  Yeah, it's a continuation of the same argument. I don't recall any real grounding of atheist morality though. [Nor was there was one for God derived morality due to the Euthypro problem.]

                  Do we have a definitive atheist morality thread? Perhaps I should have posted this in the materialism -> consumerism thread.
                  Last edited by Sciborg2; August 26th, 2013, 08:44 PM.

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                  • #10
                    An atheist doesn't believe in God. A disbelief in anything doesn't confer or withhold human rights in progressive societies. If an atheist extrapolates beliefs from that disbelief, he enters the arena of laws and morals. Most atheists do so from materialist principles. Where materialism meets society, the usual model is some kind of humanism. Humanism hangs together as an idea so long as nobody looks too closely at its philosophy. I have yet to see any consistent or credible atheist model of morality, although individual atheists are often moral by religious standards.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by gabriel View Post
                      An atheist doesn't believe in God. A disbelief in anything doesn't confer or withhold human rights in progressive societies. If an atheist extrapolates beliefs from that disbelief, he enters the arena of laws and morals. Most atheists do so from materialist principles. Where materialism meets society, the usual model is some kind of humanism. Humanism hangs together as an idea so long as nobody looks too closely at its philosophy. I have yet to see any consistent or credible atheist model of morality, although individual atheists are often moral by religious standards.
                      I think Julian Baggini's Atheist Ethics is a decent effort. You can read it here:

                      Julian Baggini: ATHEISM. Chapter 3. Atheist Ethics.
                      Last edited by Dom1978; August 27th, 2013, 10:19 AM.

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                      • #12
                        Here's my post from the other thread:

                        Originally posted by Arouet View Post
                        We can come pretty close though. I've set this out before: humans have three basic goals that are shared by the vast majority: to survive, thrive and be happy. Humans are not generally self-sufficient and therefore have developed to live in societies.

                        From those admittedly subjective - though I would argue near universally shared - basic goals, we can develop rules for the society. We can argue about these rules and what will result in the best society to live in for all and some rules will certainly be arguable but we can come up with some pretty objective (or as close as we can come) type rules.

                        The golden rule, rules against killing, basic human rights, rules against theft all come out of these basic principles quite easily and we see that societies that do not follow those basic rules are often pretty terrible places to live - even for the people benefiting from the system.
                        Again, my approach does not quite provide for completely objective morality - one has to accept the basic goals. But I believe most people share those goals - even if they don't always appreciate how one can best achieve them. I ran it by a philosophy PHd once who said it looked sound to me but I'll admit I haven't gotten anyone to have a detailed conversation with me about this, even though I've set it out on various forums over the years. I can't recalll anyone telling me they think its wrong though.

                        I'm sure I was influenced by other things I've heard or read, I can't swear that I didn't borrow this from anyone, but I think its basically my own formulation. I'd certainly be interested in constructive criticism

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