The Purpose of Atheism and Morality

This blog is designed to discuss topics relevant to atheism and morality. While it will not strictly adhere just to these topics, they will be interwoven throughout any posts I write. I welcome you, and would highly suggest that you leave comments and spark some discussion based on whatever I write if you feel remotely interested in doing so. Just make sure you keep whatever you write civil! I am open to hearing from all points of view as well, so if you are religious and would like to defend the religious side of these arguments, you are more then welcome too!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Supervenience of The Mind and The Human Zombie (Part 3)

To further extend my analogy of a computer, let us consider the nature of the data present both in a computer and in a human being as it relates to anomalies of nature, such as genetic mutations (an individual with Down Syndrome for instance). A question to ask is, "How can we account for such anomalies when we consider the nature of human beings as we perceive them a priori?" It would seem that an overwhelming majority of individuals who were asked to describe a human being would not, at least initially, describe the figure of an individual with Down Syndrome (or any other chromosomal anomaly). The a priori judgment that individuals with chromosomal anomalies do not initially fit our perception of a human being, in part due to their significant minority in comparison to the rest of the world, seems like a fair observation.

In a broad sense, it would seem that every being is composed of data, though at different levels. We frequently are caught up in examining the difference between humans and other non-humans, in terms of thought processes and instinct; though all beings exist in a hierarchical system (as dictated by evolution), and are by nature encoded to act and function in such a way. We can consider Social Dominance Theory to further examine and understand the nature of this system.

"Social Dominance Theory begins with the basic observation that all human societies tend to be structured as systems of group-based social hierarchies. At the very minimum, this hierarchical social structure consists of one or a small number of dominant and hegemonic groups at the top and one or a number of subordinate groups at the bottom (Sidanius, 31)."

While the theory pertains primarily to human social constructs, it is easy to imagine this concept being adapted in such a way that we may examine alternative species in relative comparison to our own. Perhaps most relevant to discussion of the similarities between human beings and lesser animals is an issue of how violence plays a vital role in the formation of beliefs, group structures, and hierarchy in general.

"Systematic terror (the use of violence or threats of violence disproportionately directed against subordinates) functions to maintain expropriative relationships between dominants and subordinates and enforce the continued deference of subordinates toward dominants (Sidanius, 41)."

As one may examine, there is little difference (as observations can tell us) between human beings and animals in terms of how power and control is kept. Though, it may be obvious that humans have adapted in such a way that "systematic terror" may be subtler; it still exists and is frequently used in one form or another. The very nature of the police department, for example, is in part to invoke fear into otherwise animalistic and anarchist human beings so they do not act out in morally and ethically apprehensible ways. The importance of understanding social dominance and hierarchy is to allow a realization that the similarities between humans and lesser animals are undeniably close when one removes the idea that humans are "superior" (in that, their actions differ due to "mental" attributes).

In direct relation to chromosomal "anomalies" as discussed earlier, it would appear that, given the nature of the hierarchical system we exist within, any "anomaly" in this system is not truly an anomaly (though it may appear to be at first glance); but simply encoded into the nature of the system in such a way that it is merely a minority. It would appear that, over time, all anomalies would simply come to be viewed as minorities as they find a place in new or adapted physical theories.

Throughout the ages of scientific exploration, human beings are only now beginning to understand the nature of the body; though, in ways that our ancestors may have never been able to dream of or even fantasize about in their imaginations. As time continues, the nature of the physical body is slowly explaining the nature of the "mind" as it has been viewed for millennia. As science furthers the exploration of microbial cells and neurological systems, human beings will be able to make more and more rational judgments regarding why particular sensations are occurring and how elements of our nature function.

To utilize a relatively extreme example, one may consider hallucinogenic drugs and how some individuals claim to have "spiritual" mental experiences. For example, in a study done on the effects of Psilocybin; results were found that Psilocybin "produced a range of acute perceptual changes, subjective experiences, and labile moods including anxiety. Psilocybin also increased measures of mystical experience. At 2 months, the volunteers rated the psilocybin experience as having substantial personal meaning and spiritual significance and attributed to the experience sustained positive changes in attitudes and behavior consisted with changes rated by community observers (Griffins, et al., 1)." By studying science and psychology, one may be able to draw a conclusion that there are simply chemical alterations occurring within the brain (as well as throughout the entire body as a whole).

"Hallucinogenic drugs cause both physical and psychological effects on humans. The physical effects of these drugs include: dilated pupils, elevated body temperature, increased heart rate and blood pressure, appetite loss, sleeplessness, tremors, headaches, nausea, sweating, heart palpitations, blurring of vision, memory loss, trembling, and itching. A user of hallucinogenic drugs will also experience a number of psychological alterations in the brain. These drugs may cause hallucinations and illusions as well, as the amplification of sense, and the alterations of thinking and self-awareness (Ebbitt)."

The sensory perception of being out of the body or flying is simply an interaction between physical chemicals and functional mental states, and is therefore an altered physical state. For the many whom cling to conceptions of the supernatural, a materialistic atheist would simply right those experiences off as a delusion.

The mind is constructed through physical processes (as it is in itself an alternative physical state [mental]. When one examines the functionalist theory of the mind, there are many qualities that appear to be accurate a priori. For example, it is reasonable to believe that most rational individuals would, in the least, believe in mental states. This does not force a belief in dualism (or minimally, a strict dualism) as there are no two substances (physical and mental). The fundamental flaw with functionalism is that, as a theory, it seemingly plays it safe by only acknowledging the reality of what most people would agree with. Due to this, the functionalist theory allows too much room for sensible opposition; and as far as my argument for materialism is concerned, allows too much room for an opposing dualist to then insist on two separate substances because there are two different states (mental and physical).

Materialism appears to be the most concise evaluation of the mental and physical, though often it is viewed in such a way that mental states do not exist at all. It would appear to me that the best solution to this dilemma is merging some functionalist ideas with materialism. Functionalists would say that "mental states are functional states." As a materialist, I am pressed to further this logical thought process. Mental states are functional states, and functional states are physical states.

To examine this in a logical equation, it would be as follows:

Mental states (A) are Functional states (B), and Functional states (B) are Physical states (C); therefore Mental states (A) are Physical states (C).

The supervenience of mental states on physical substances appears to be a very logical conclusion to draw, though it may be a matter of sheer linguistics and a common public misconception (the fallacy of argumentum ad populum: "the appeal to the masses") that we perceive the mind as being much more than dependent on physical material.

For those who missed the first two installments of this article series, check out the following links:

The Supervenience of The Mind and The Human Zombie (Part 1)


The Supervenience of The Mind and The Human Zombie (Part 2)

Hopefully you enjoyed this rather long article series on the supervenience of the mind and the human zombie. I understand it is a rather complex topic on the whole, so if you have any questions or see any problems with my line of thinking, please feel free to leave a comment and let me know below!

The Supervenience of The Mind and The Human Zombie (Part 2)

To further begin my argument for materialism (and by extension, an atheistic worldview), I will be analyzing the nature of zombies as human beings perceive them through our rampant imaginations in films, comic books, mythic lore, and popular culture. In David Chalmers' article, "Can Consciousness Be Reductively Explained", he argues that there is a logical possibility that zombies could exist; as they are essentially like "lesser" and "unconscious" animals; however they have the same physical form as a human being.

"He (the zombie) is physically identical to me, and we may as well suppose that he is embedded in an identical environment. He will certainly be identical to me functionally: he will be processing the same sort of information, reacting in a similar way to inputs, with his internal configurations being modified appropriately and with indistinguishable behavior resulting. He will psychologically be identical to me. He will even be "conscious" in the functional senses described earlier - he will be awake, able to report the contents of his internal states, able to focus attention in various places, and so on. It is just that none of this functioning will be accompanied by any real conscious experience. There will be no phenomenal feel. There is nothing it is like to be a zombie." - David Chalmers
The fear often associated with zombies in movies and other artistic mediums tend to stem from the fact that, if zombies would come to exist; it would make the most sense that they would spawn from our own species (the human being). The fear that some sort of plague or nuclear fallout would give rise to an enemy so familiar, but yet so different and terrifying is very sensible; and perhaps is a valid reason to examine zombies in a philosophical manner. Popular culture and movies have, specifically, engrained our minds with almost tangible images of zombies; often extremely mutilated and gored, though physically very similar to human beings. While Hollywood and many other outlets have primarily portrayed zombies as, essentially, blood-thirsty, mythological monsters; Chalmers has envisioned what one may deem a "functional" zombie. A being that would be capable of coexisting with humans (instead of attempting to murder and eat them). To further, and perhaps leave, his point; I am interested in the nature of a zombie (a strictly physical being with no mental states or substances) in comparison to a human being (a strictly physical being with mental states). For all intents and purposes, zombies and human beings are one in the same; except when we examine the supervenience of the mind on the body that is special to human beings. Despite this relatively minor difference, the similarities between a human and a zombie are undeniable.

My argument for materialism is then dependent on attempting to logically conclude that a human being and a zombie (both as described above) are equal, despite what I would deem a superficial difference (a supervenient mind). For the sake of my argument, I will give an example where I will describe two different human beings. As one can observe in day-to-day life, the human species is very diverse in that each individual has numerous differences on multiple levels (from skin tone to genetic make-up). It would appear that these physical qualities are superficial when one is asked to describe the appearance and overall nature of a human being. For example, if two men are sitting in a room; one is African and the other a Caucasian, would we view each individual as separate species? Or in our examination of the men will we seemingly ignore the significant difference between the two: skin color. It would appear that skin color (as well as most other features of a human being) is also superficial, and what would define a being as a "human" is much more broad (perhaps, a general body shape like the Vitruvian Man by Leonardo Da Vinci, bone structure as a fundamentally observable foundation, or even a specific neurological framework). Assuming features of the body are superficial, and therefore are strictly dependent on other aspects of the body (there is no skin color without a bone structure, for instance); it would appear that a dependent mind would be equally superficial if it is exclusively dependent on a physical body. Without a mutually exclusive mind substance, mind states logically must depend on the physical body in the same way observable features (such as skin tone) are. If this is truly the case, then mental states appear to be nothing more than an anomaly, perhaps developed through evolutionary means. To reexamine the zombie and the human being explained earlier, a zombie and a human both appear to be equal to one another; despite the human beings' mental states. This is due to "mental" states equaling physical states (identity theory). Logically, my argument would be as follows:

If mental states (A) equal physical states (B), then strictly physical zombies (B) must equal humans with mental states (AB). To further this logic by removing the variable "mental states", since I have concluded that mental states equal physical states, then: physical states (A) contain both zombies (B) and human beings (C).

Upon reaching this rather general conclusion, I feel it is important to backtrack and consider qualia (subjective experience) as it is a vital element that is frequently debated when considering the nature of the mind, and for those engaged in folk psychological thought processes, an element that may define one's "soul" in the afterlife. In truth, as far as my argument is concerned, subjective feels are of no significant value in similar fashion as mental states are of no significant value. It would appear that every "subjective" experience is simply programmed by nature. For example, I subjectively experience eating a piece of pie. I am able to utilize my physical senses, such as taste and smell, while I do this. The qualities of my personal experience eating the pie are merely sensory inputs, which I then am able to perceive and distinguish between. While there is subjective experience, it is limited to physical constructs (and perhaps mental states, though one could argue that beings with no mental states, such as a zombie or a dog, still may have subjective experiences; in that their experiences are different relative to another beings).

For a more in depth example of qualia as it fits into a functional materialistic view, consider the nature of a computer. It seems that the mind is essentially a compilation of "coding" on which we rely which allows us to function in such a way that appears to be free, yet without being completely free (separate from the physical body). Much like one can not run a video game without a video game console, or HTML code a website without a computer; the human animal may have a mind (a video game, HTML code) but its value and existence is solely dependent on its processor (the body, a video game console, a computer). It would seem that due to these dependency relationships, existence (and by extension, any other concept that requires a conscious, existent being to exist, such as freedom, beauty, and national pride) is very linear due to one being (or part of a being) needing to exist prior to another is even capable of existing. In strictly physical terms, one can examine the process of conception. I did not exist prior to being conceived by my parents, nor does my potential future son exist at the present time (even if he may come into existence in the future). Mental states exist in the same way. No one was developing video games for the Playstation 3 until the Playstation 3 (hardware) was developed. HTML coding was not being used until computers were invented, and any concept of HTML code was non-existent until computers were created. In a more broad sense, as it relates to the mind and body, the mind only comes into existence after the physical body is created.

For those who missed it, here is the first part of this article series: The Supervenience of The Mind and The Human Zombie (Part 1)

The final part can be viewed here: The Supervenience of The Mind and The Human Zombie (Part 3)

The Supervenience of The Mind and The Human Zombie (Part 1)


Questions regarding the mind and the body have plagued humanity for as long as we could think, and more so as we evolved in such a way that has allowed us to read, write, and share our thoughts with one another. The question of why we exist (if for any reason at all), and what this existence exactly is has always been an important question; and human beings (in all of our superiority in the hierarchy of animals) still lack the ability to give a concise answer. Countless theories have been thrown around, however it would appear (by mere speculation) that many individuals adhere to "mainstream" philosophical theories; whether they be theories provided in social settings (through the church, for example) or through other social means (hearing someone talk about being an atheist on television). While there are some redeeming qualities of this "sheep-like" mentality, such as the opportunity to engage in a social environment or simply have something in common with others who adhere to a particular religion or non-religion; as individuals tend to lose ourselves if we do not examine our own beliefs more closely. I am in most respects very critical of my own thought processes, and therefore will be writing this article with the intent to structure my belief in what I deem functional materialism. I will begin by examining the nature of supervenience, the mind as it has been conceived in modern times, similarities and differences between zombies and human beings, strict materialism, and finally functional materialism. Supervenience is perhaps one of the most interesting concepts I have come across in all of my philosophical studies. In mainstream views, the "mind" is not typically viewed as anything less than existing on its own (or plainly, not existing at all). For example, in most mainstream Christian churches; it is taught that the mind is the soul; and that soul will continue to live even after death of the physical body. The cultural requirement of viewing the physical and potentially non-physical as two separate entities seems to exist, albeit with a graceful subtlety. This is a dualistic way of thinking which dates back to very early philosophers and thinkers like Renee Descartes and Socrates (and even further back before them).

Supervenience, however, indicates that there may be a dependency relationship between the mind and body. In layman's terms, there is an area of grey amidst the extreme ends of the black and white dichotomous spectrum. While this may, at least in theory, go either way (the mind supervenes on the body, the body supervenes on the mind) the former is typically the most examined concept due to the qualities of the physical being more tangible than those that make up the mind. In short, most people are more willing to accept that the physical realm exists in comparison to a notion of the mind which requires metaphysical analysis. Some people consider themselves to be solipsists, who believe that we cannot even know that the physical world exists. I will not be addressing these individuals in this article, as I feel their viewpoint on the world creates an outlook that cannot even be discussed because we utilize the physical world when we speak, write, and so forth. If you doubt the mere existence of the physical words on your screen, then you cannot hold a valid conversation on anything really.

Anyways, in the case of this article, any reference to supervenience will be referring exclusively to the mind supervening on the body unless otherwise noted. The dependency relationship present in this form of supervenience would be that of mental events requiring physical substances and causing physical events. There is no mutually exclusive mental substance.

In the same way that there can be multiple forms of supervenience, there can also be multiple different ways of perceiving the mind. One of the most important factors I consider when I examine the nature of the mind is its fallibility. If the mind is a substance and exists in an alternative plane of existence (though is still present in our physical world), I would fathom that human beings should be capable of one hundred percent accuracy as far as what the nature of this "mind-world" is like. It seems fairly illogical to believe in a mind substance, though not understand, in the least, the general nature of its very existence outside of the physical realm. I am a materialist on the account that I am able to examine the physical realm, and in the least know all there is to know about it on a general, observational level. In comparison, human beings know nothing of the mind except for what can be observed through physical senses. For example, a psychologist may study the mind; however the nature of the mind is tightly connected to the nature of the physical body (even on a neurological level). A majority of modern psychological theories would indicate that there are mental states, however they are dependent on physical states. There is no mind being examined without a patient, nor is their a mind being examined that is separate from a physical being.

There is something it is like to be a physical being. Similarly, there is nothing it is like to be a mind substance.

Furthermore, it is important to examine the mind as it has been perceived throughout the ages in folk psychology. Folk psychology is generally a form of thinking that is viewed as "common-sense" thinking, however this definition is not entirely accurate as the concepts developed through folk psychology are typically those that are easiest to explain and conceptualize; and not necessarily those that hold much weight once further analyzed. Folk psychology may also be viewed as "popular belief" as adherents to folk beliefs are abundant, even in modern day. A very common conception of the mind is that it is a substance that exists mutually exclusively from the body (Cartesian dualism), often in a form typically called the soul (a strictly mental being). In folk psychology, the mind and the soul are typically words that are interchangeable; the former typically invoking a concept of the mind while it is with the body; and the latter expressing a concept of the mind when the physical body dies and only it is left. From this basic concept of the soul, numerous other ideas have been considered; such as concepts of an afterlife (generally, where the mind/soul go after physical death), concepts related to god(s), and even attempts at rationalizing folk psychology by describing the mind as ether (a substance from the heavens). For example, one common concern many individuals tend to have at some point in their life is the nature of the afterlife (if there is one at all). For myself (and countless others), the notion of Hell (as portrayed in the Bible, and depicted through art and literature such as in Dante's Inferno and in Gustave Dore's paintings depicting Hell) is a very frightening concept which begs the question, "If I truly have a soul and am aware of the potential consequences, why am I not following the guidelines for salvation from this damnation?" The questions I have come to pose against this are, "Why can I not know with one hundred percent certainty that this is the true nature of the potential afterlife? Why can I not be fully aware that my mind is a substance that will continue to exist after my body dies?" Inevitably, in depth analysis of each of these concepts alone would require multiple articles to be written (and perhaps I will do this at a later time); however it is important to acknowledge the general public perception of the mind as it is portrayed in the media, in church, in school, and in other social environments.

Read on to the next parts in this article series using the following links:

The Supervenience of the Mind and The Human Zombie Part 2

The Supervenience of the Mind and The Human Zombie Part 3

Saturday, November 19, 2011

An Atheist's Perspective on Religious Morality and Homosexual Sin: St. Thomas Aquinas Analysis

In this article I will be discussing the major points and analyzing the essay written by St. Thomas Aquinas titled “Of the Reason for which Simple Fornication is a Sin by Divine Law, and of the Natural Institution of Marriage.” For those interested in having an educated viewpoint on the thoughts of Thomas Aquinas on sexual morality and homosexuality, I would highly suggest reading his essay. It is available for free online at this link.

As an atheist, it is my intent to be able to make informed decisions about a variety of different topics, religious and non-religious. Since many Christians would claim my understanding of the Bible is flawed (because I do not believe in God, and therefore cannot possibly comprehend it's words), I have decided to look outside of the box to better understand Christian theology. It should be noted, I am an "ex-Christian" for all intent and purposes. My experiences with Christianity are very diverse, some good and some not so good. My reasons for becoming an atheist are much more academic then emotional, though I do admit that emotions played into my original falling out from the church in general. It was a progression from emotions to rational thinking.

I stumbled upon this essay by Thomas Aquinas in a book I had purchased for a philosophy course entitled "Human Love and Sexual Morality." I have read through quite a few of the essays and articles contained within it, and if you are interested in learning about the topics of love and sexual morality I would highly suggest picking it up. You will see references to page numbers in the following essay I have written, and I would like to be clear that they are referencing the page numbers found within this philosophy textbook titled "Philosophy and Sex" by
Robert B. Baker and Kathleen J. Wininger. Below are some links to this book as well as some other philosophical and theological writings on the topic of sexual morality, homosexuality, and writings of Thomas Aquinas, and atheism as well. As a note: I have read all of these books and found them to be worthy of my own time. I will only ever suggests books I have read and found to be worthwhile.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Christian Sexual Morality and Homosexuality

Thomas Aquinas touches on the nature of marriage and sexual sin in “Of the Reason for which Simple Fornication is a Sin by Divine Law, and of the Natural Institution of Marriage.” While homosexuality is not directly discussed in his writing, the implications of his views on marriage and sexual sin in general trickle over and allow the reader to begin understanding his perception of homosexuality and how it is undoubtedly a sin according to the moral law he abides by.

Aquinas has provided several reasons why he views homosexuality as wrong. Again, while he does not explicitly discuss the issue of homosexuality, he describes the nature of what constitutes a sexual sin. There are several points Aquinas makes that are heavily related to his apparent perception that homosexuality is sinful. These include

1. The fact that the emission of semen is sinful if for any reason other then reproduction

2. That fornication is inherently sinful in all contexts (IE: sex outside of wedlock)


3. That marriage should between a male and female only (as this is natural).

These three bullet points are the main sections of this article on homosexual sin and religious morality. You can find each of these sections elaborated on and critiqued below:

1. Sex for any purpose outside of reproduction in Aquinas’ view suggests that it is unnatural to desire pleasure from sexual relationships. On page 65 Aquinas states, “The emission of the semen then ought to be so directed as that both the proper generation may ensue and the education of the offspring be secured. Hence it is clear that every emission of the semen is contrary to the good of man, which takes place in a way whereby generation is impossible; and if this is done on purpose, it must be a sin.” This is a view not exclusively held by Aquinas, as it has been a staple of Catholic church tradition (as well as the tradition of many other religious and cultural customs) throughout the years. He seems to suggest throughout his writing that sexual morality and the moral law in general is not just natural, but divine. God himself has created nature, so it is expected that we function in such a manner that is “natural” (and by extension, “divine”). Aquinas further perceives the emission of semen for reasons outside of reproduction to be a particularly evil thing. On page 66 his states, “…After the sin of murder, whereby a human nature already in actual existence is destroyed, this sort of sin seems to hold the second place whereby the generation of human nature is precluded.” It is apparent through this quote that he perceives the intentional spilling of semen (for reasons outside of reproduction) to be a great evil, and one that is very much comparable to murder.

The inevitable problem with this argument is that it has little to no basis on biological law. While it may be natural to want to copulate and utilize sex as a method of being able to reproduce, sexual desire is not strictly dependent on reproduction; but can result from a desire for pleasure as well (among other things, such as a desire for power and dominance). It could even be argued that pleasure is more desirable (and hence, more “natural”) because when we look for potential mates we often examine their physical attributes, intellectual abilities, and sexual skill sets. We examine these qualities because if a person scores highly in these categories, they are likely to be a very pleasurable partner. The desire to reproduce simply follows other desires one might have, or may simply happen by accident as a result of sexual conduct for pleasurable purposes.

2. Further building on what “natural” sex is, Aquinas views fornication as inherently sinful. As he sees it, sex is not just an intimate act between one individual and another; but is rather the manifestation of the entire society and perhaps even the universe at large. This becomes increasingly evident when one examines how he views the nature of relationships in relation to sexual intercourse. He touches on how a couple should be monogamous, and furthermore how this is evidenced in nature. On page 65 he says, “Hence the fitness of human life requires man to stand by woman after the sexual act is done, and not go off at once and form connections with any one he meets, as is the way of fornicators.” In the Catholic tradition, fornication is viewed as a major sexual sin and Aquinas’ writings only solidify that notion.

Fornication is not in and of itself inherently evil. As biology would suggest, we are not necessarily monogamous creatures. Many animals in the wild take many sexual partners, and following in this animalistic tradition, so do human beings. The main objection with Aquinas’ argument against fornication is how heavily tied it is to the dogma of the Catholic church. There is no biological basis for believing fornication and non-monogamous relationships are evil. However, one may come to this conclusion based on societal expectations. For example, adultery is frowned upon in most cultures where monogamy is primarily accepted. While I would agree that adultery is not appropriate conduct, I would not take my view so far as to believe that every sexual relationship outside of a monogamous marriage is necessarily evil.

3. Finally, Aquinas touches on the nature of marriage and suggests that it should only be between a man and a woman. The notion of a homosexual relationship is not even brought up outright in his writing, though it becomes fairly evident that he perceives homosexuality as a sin in and of itself. On page 68 with reference to marriage Aquinas states, “good manners involve the indissolubility of the union of male and female: for they will love one another with greater fidelity, when they know that they are indissolubly united.” The very nature of a relationship is one that requires monogamous heterosexual couplings bound by marriage that is socially accepted. As such, homosexuals are not able to partake of marriage (at least in this traditional, Catholic sense).

The major objection to this concept of heterosexual only marriage is one that is increasingly prominent in current times. It is becoming more and more evident that relationships can be had between people of many different types, whether they be homo or hetero relationships. Aquinas does not address homosexual relationships and marriage, so it is hard to propose a concrete objection against his viewpoint on the matter; however it is evident that he only believes heterosexual couples can be married and bear the fruits of love and sexual relations. Pairing the theological writings of Aquinas with Biblical Scripture makes the Christian churches view of homosexuality and homosexual marriage very obvious:

"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)


On the whole I do not agree with Aquinas on homosexuality or sexual morality. These moral guidelines are dependent on church doctrine, which itself is dependent on the manifestation of a deity. I do not believe in a metaphysical deity, and therefore have no reason to accept the moral guidelines set forth by the church and the writings of Aquinas. With that said, many of these views are also cultural, which makes them at least understandable when considered in a historical context. Even non-religious individuals can hold similar views as it relates to examining the “natural” way things should be. My major gripe comes to play with how he defines the “natural” manner of things. For example, I believe anything contained within the physical universe is “natural.” Homosexuality, sexual urges, desires, and fetishes are all natural. As such, I find I disagree with Aquinas completely. In order to come to the conclusion that there exist sexually immoral acts, it would be important to have verification that the dogma one which morality is based is completely accurate. As such, the Christian church, while popular in modern society, does not have a completely valid evidential basis. At the end of the day, it is a requirement of faith that one must have in order to believe in God, Jesus Christ, and that there is in some sense absolute morality. Without this evidential base, how can anyone expect society on the whole to take these beliefs on morality seriously?

Discussion: Feel free to leave a comment below on this controversial topic. If you disagree with my interpretation of St. Thomas Aquinas' essay, feel free to let me know. I'm happy to hear other viewpoints without a doubt, just keep your comments civil and respectful.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Atheism IS Immoral

Let me begin this post by defining two keywords to be focused on: moral and immoral. These words constitute the grounds on which we can determine whether or not any given belief, or lack of a belief, is "moral."


Of, pertaining to, or concerned with the principles or rules of right conduct or the distinction between right and wrong; ethical: moral attitudes.


Violating moral principles; not conforming to the patterns of conduct usually accepted or established as consistent with principles of personal and social ethics.

While there are many accepted definitions of these words, I found these definitions to most concisely and accurately display the sentiments found within each of the individual definitions. These were taken right from the dictionary, and if you have a problem with these definitions in my analysis; feel free to say so in a comment! As such, I will be moving forward with these definitions of "morality" and "immorality" in mind.

As is evident, I have titled my blog post "Atheism is immoral." But why would an atheist believe in something like this? Why would anyone want to be immoral? These are valid questions for sure.

My simple response to this notion that atheism is immoral is a result from understanding the definitions of these words, and the larger awareness at the existence of many different moral theories. Atheists are often called "immoral" by individuals who are either theists or just stringent fundamentalists and traditionalists. In many respects, these claims are unfounded. They have no formal justification. With that said, let us take these claims a priori ("at face value") and assume they are correct for the sake of experimentation and learning.

For the moment, I am imagining I am a theist and the doctrine of the Christian church is what I believe in. My faith is virtually unshakable. I am bothered by other belief systems, especially those that propose flaws with my own. I believe in Jesus Christ and Yahweh. I believe God speaks to people through his holy word, as found in the Bible. Furthermore, I believe the Bible should be the basis for morality. The Bible is the incarnate word of God, and should therefore be viewed as the ultimate source of knowledge, wisdom, and morality.

This is how I perceive the average Christian would think. If I am wrong, again, feel free to correct me and I will address your points either in a response comment or in a future post. However, moving forward, assuming this to be an accurate depiction of the accurate Christian; the issue of morality can more honestly be discussed. More importantly, the realization that atheism is inherently immoral can also be found.

If the Bible (and by extension the Christian religion and church) is the basis for one's moral code, then atheism is immoral as it is juxtaposed to basic tenants of Christian morality.

When arguing from the side of a theist, there is no doubt that atheists should minimally be perceived as immoral. As in, they act in such a way that "violates moral principles." The moral principles followed by Christians are likely inherently different then those atheists themselves would follow. While we may all agree that in most conditions murder is morally wrong, our justification for this may be rather different. For example, the Ten Commandments plainly states: "Thou shalt not kill." To a Christian, murder is not justified because God has commanded that we not do this. It is sinful and inherently immoral. For an atheist, we are not bound to the will of God, and therefore may conclude that murder is wrong because it violates utilitarian principles (the golden rule), it is socially abhorrent, and similar moral and ethical problems not completely related to the morality and ethics of Scripture.

Since the moral codes of theists and atheists have a tendency to differ, in ways that are both small and great, it is easy to understand how the conclusion that "atheism is immoral" can be reached by those who do not have an atheistic worldview. As such, to a theist, the perception that atheism is, in fact, immoral makes sense. It is logically valid, because the morality these theistic individuals are working off of is one that tells them that atheism IS immoral.

However, the curve ball in the equation is this: By the religious moral code informing us that atheism is immoral, yet other valid moral codes (such as utilitarian moral theory) would suggest that it is not inherently abhorrent; then we are simply stuck in a scenario where the "moral" make-up of an atheist is one that is dependent on how an individual perceives atheists. This my friends is called moral relativism (or subjective morality). The argument that atheism is immoral can go no further then this, as we have no conclusive evidence that any one moral theory is more or less valid then another.

If you have any questions, comments, or would like to stir some debate feel free to comment! Just keep it civil!