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Good Without God 3: Why be Good Without a God?

10/20/2010

Dr. Dawkins, I’m thinking of committing suicide- what do you have to say?” Dawkins could at first think of nothing better than to suggest the kid put his question to the readers of the discussion forumon the Richard Dawkins Foundation Web site. . . is that the best we can do? Rage, rage against the dying of the Enlightenment, then shoo our troubled youth right back to religion because we’re too distracted or cerebral or both to spend a few minutes of our deep thoughts on how to be more loving, more helpful?. . . Dawkins has been cast as something of a world atheist spokesman in recent years, and he can be emotionally tone-deaf on this crucial issue.

The above- that’s why this book is here, why it exists. Dawkins is good at telling us a lot of things that aren’t true, and giving us some great scientific information about evolution and maybe some other fields. If that’s all there is to a worldview, there isn’t that much support there. As the most famous of public atheists, I think Dawkins has a responsibility to be able to answer such difficult emotion laden questions with more than just a forwarding to some other people (64).

Page 69: Epstein is confronting the accusation of nihilism. He outlines an ‘anything goes’ sort of nihilism, an ‘Eeyore’ type, and the ‘Noble Liar’ type. This stuff is important to answer. “The vast majority of non-religious people are neither nihilists nor believers in any supernatural or absolute values. . . we are what some philosophers call ‘subjective realists’- we know there really are such properties and values as good, fear, pain, and meaning, but they are dependent on humans for their existence. In her book The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir describes femininity in these terms. Femininity would be nothing without people’s beliefs, she argues, but this doesn’t make it false- there are women.”

Interesting view. I’ve said this before, at least in my mind. Morality is subjective in that humans must exist for there to be any concept of good or bad. In that sense it is subjective. Still, even though morality is subjective, that doesn’t make it arbitrary. Things are good and bad from a human perspective for important social reasons. The above could be stated a little better- maybe I’ll work on that.

Page 96: Epstein struggles with the problem of what people should strive for in their lives. He goes over some failed attempts. Happiness? Self actualization? Serving others? These all fail for multiple reasons. The answer that he lands on is dignity, which includes some sort of valuing oneself and others. I don’t know if I really understand his point here.

Page 98: Epstein provides a little story of his struggles in writing this book. He was having lots of trouble. Not getting as much done as he ought to. He even considered praying. That’s messed up, huh? His point in his story about struggles is that we cannot be all about ourselves. When we focus solely on ourselves, we end up becoming self pitying, expecting attention, for all our needs to be met. Maybe this speaks to me a little.

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