Making Atheism More Positive


Vice came out with an article today, by Martin Robbins, titled “How To Make Atheism Less Awful in 2014.” I am pleased to say that, most of the issues presented in the article, in terms of the wave of New Atheism, are dead on. However, I think that the appeal of those “Coming Out” as Atheist is beneficial for those who feel trapped and unable to express their distaste and issues with being pinned down by religion. I have known many individuals who have come out as Atheist, and it always occurs with the first phase of having questions and desiring to seek out truth. Consequently, these New Atheists will try to lean on more ‘experienced’ Atheists, and converse with the Atheist community, only to find out that all their thoughts and feelings are similar, and that they’re not alone.

Coming out as an Atheist has been relatively compared to the experience of an LGBT individual “coming out.” The first thing someone who comes out wants to do, is own their feelings, doubts, and distaste from everyone who is opposed to their conclusions about themselves, and counter it. How better to counter those feelings and anxieties, thoughts and arguments, than to take pride in ownership of the label which will be assigned?

I understand and have seen fellow Atheists being ‘dicks’ to each other, to a variety of religious groups, and people who oppose their stance or their conclusions. However, again, this is an issue of anger and rage that is pent up and exerted from being lied to, brainwashed, and in some instances, abused – emotionally, physically or psychologically, by close relatives or the community in which they were once involved. Moreover, I know this because I was once an angry Atheist and I have many friends who have been (and some still are) angry Atheists. Furthermore, as I have learned more and more about different philosophies, engaged in debates (online and in person), talked to different and diverse individuals, I have learned that there is no point in being angry forever. The Christians that I have engaged when I was so angry, they ran and have not come back. I have lost friends and family members because of my angry-Atheist approach. Learning how to take that anger and mold it into something more constructive is the best bet. Therefore, I took all the anger and frustration and started an organization called Mid-Ohio Valley Atheists & Humanists. I did this because I wanted to have a community of Freethinkers to get together and have a support system, a community to express all that which has been pent up. It is one thing to engage in an online community and feel like people understand you; it is completely different when you are able to meet your fellow, like-minded members in your community and engage with them face-to-face, side-by-side.

In 2014, I hope that the New Atheism movement (or era) can become more of a productive and engaging movement that will find new ways of talking to all sorts of people, from all types of backgrounds (whether it be religions or non-religious), and find a way to show them what it means to be a Humanist or Secularist. What I have found over the course of 2013, is that when I approach or come across the opportunity to express my beliefs (or lack thereof), I try to find a middle ground with the person I am speaking with. The discussion is more let’s-agree-to-disagree on my personal conclusions about my views, what negative things can we agree on, in terms of religion? “What experiences did I have in the church, which you’re currently facing? Let us talk about Domestic violence (in which I am a domestic abuse survivor), and what your church should be doing or could do with all the resources available. Let us talk about our local environment and what we can do to team up and try to protect it and raise awareness about issues hurting our environment. Let’s talk about our kids.”

You would not understand how many people, Christian people, come to me because they can trust me to give them another perspective. It is not a lot of fun when you are surrounded by ‘yes-men’ and ‘yes-women’ all the time. Sometimes people seek to find a perspective or to find knowledge that they have not heard before.

I had a woman crying after our Advanced Ethics class together (and this was after my professor asked me to provide the opposing argument to the Divine Command Theory) because she had doubts and had nowhere else to go to talk about them. Her father is a pastor and she said that when she has doubts, she expresses them to members in her church and they give her information that will keep her in the church. This woman’s encounters with me, and my secular-humanist perspectives, were her first she has ever experienced. In addition, when she cried while telling me her story, I cried with her, because I knew what it felt like in her position. I knew what it was like to have so many unanswered questions. Alternatively, questions that were answered, but did not feel quite right to me.

My view of the truth, or what is supposed to be true to me, was different from that of all of my religious friends. It did not hurt to show compassion. It did not hurt to NOT be a dick (or bitch) about her being a Christian. The great thing that came out of the conversation with her, was that I referred her to read Dan Barker’s, “How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists,” because I felt that they both had a similar story. We added each other on Facebook so we could stay in touch and from that day forward when we were in class together, she would just look at me and smile, as if I had become someone who had helped her discover some sort of peace or truth – a look all too familiar. This woman wrote a children’s book that she wants to be published, and I’m telling you, it’s beautiful! It is about accepting people, no matter their differences. This woman wrote a children’s book (completely inspired by ethics and philosophy) which even Atheist parents could share with their children!

To quote Martin Robbins,

As we move toward the end of the New Atheism era, “atheism” is becoming less of an end than a means. A new generation of atheists  – people like Alom Shaha, Dan Trilling, Melody Hensley, Tom Chivers and Rebecca Watson – are defined as much by their positive humanism, secularism or feminism as they are by their negative godlessness. Their focus is on building new systems and advancing new philosophies rather than tearing down old ones, and they lead through example rather than evangelism or head-bashing.

We can do this! New Atheism in 2014 can be our way in which we touch more people’s lives. We do not have to be silent; we do not have to hide or coward back into the closet. We do not have to be silent, but we do not have to act like ravenous barking dogs, either. New Atheism can show those who are not atheists, that we are not something to be feared and that all that is taught in their church or temple, we put into action without a reward. We put our money where our mouth is, and where our mouth is is that which we are proclaiming we do not need God to do good for our fellow human beings. Furthermore, we do not even need money. It if takes us being a support and a shoulder to lean on when tough times hit, we will be that. We do it because we love hard, we fight hard and we rise when asked to assist, because we are all on this journey of life together.

Sometimes, though, we do not even have to be asked to help. We will continue to volunteer wherever there is a need. We will raise money for anyone who is in need (religious or non-religious). If those people we try to assist decide not to take our help, which is fine, someone out there will be more than willing to, because they love us for being human beings, not the label assigned to us.

Atheists, let us love our fellow human beings more in 2014. I always say, “I love you, but I do not have to like you.” Moreover, I always love humanity, but there are things that keep me from liking some aspects of the human condition, but never will stop my love. We can love our fellow humans, just not like all of the actions that produce harm to others.

Let’s accentuate the positive in 2014. Peace and Love be with you always.

From your CheeryAtheist

Plato’s Euthyphro and the Divine Command Theory


The Divine Command Theory is the view that morality is reliant on upon God, and that humankind has a moral obligation to be subservient to God’s directives. Additionally, it encompasses the allegation that morality is ultimately based on the commands or character of God, and that ‘right’ actions are those that God commands or requires. The Divine Command theory is that to which the exact substance of these divine commands would vary on the particular religion and the particular views of the individual.

In Plato’s Euthyphro, it would not be of a happenstance that Socrates encounters Euthyphro, and is astounded to learn that Euthyphro is prosecuting his own father for the assassination of a servant. Which is an allegory for the attempt at holding God or the Gods responsible for the absence of security, and failing to protect the value of life. Euthyphro’s family finds this to be disconcerting, because they think that holding the ‘father’ accountable for the actions that give rise to in the servant’s death, as impious. This sets the stage for a discussion of the nature of piety and consequently Socrates asks the prominent philosophical question: “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?”

To rearticulate the question to pertain it to the Divine Command Theory, it would be suitable to ask, “Does God(s) command particular actions because it is morally right, or is it morally right because God commands it?” The complications that this inquiry creates for the Divine Command Theorist, or those who would reply in ratification that an action is right because God instructs it, would find that if God commanded that the infliction of pain on others for no mere aim that it would be pleasurable, then doing so would be warranted as morally right. It would be an obligation to perpetrate suffering on others as God orders it. Furthermore, if God commanded us to wreak such suffering, doing so would be a just. To say that God’s commands are the foundations of morals, then consider indiscriminate, which allows morally disgraceful actions to become morally enforced.

Those who are in backing of this theory, or agree that morals is reliant on God(s) and God’s commands, do not wish to be wedged with the repercussion that malice could possibly be morally right, nor do they want to consent that the consequence that their fundamentals of morality are essentially capricious. Likewise, the divine command theorist might attempt to evade this quandary completely and opt for a different answer to Socrates’ question, “Does God (s) command particular actions because it is morally right, or is it morally right because God commands it?” They will ponder that the better answer is to propose that for any specific action that God (s) commands, He commands it because it is morally right. This will set up the divine command theorist to evade the impression that imposed suffering on others for merriment could perhaps be a morally right action. It is affirming that an action is right exclusively because God commands it. If God commands a particular action because it is morally right, then ethics no longer is contingent on God in the manner that the Divine Command Theorist avows. It proposes that God is no longer the originator of ethics, but rather just a recognizer of right and wrong and God is no longer the essence of ethics.

Besides, it will seem as though God has advanced some sort of substance to an external moral law and no longer a matter of dominion. John Arthur, “If God approves kindness because it is a virtue and hates the Nazis because they were evil, then it seems that God discovers morality rather than inventing it. So haven’t we then identified a limitation on God’s power, since He now, being a good God, must love kindness and command us not to be cruel? Without the divine command theory, in other words, what is left of God’s omnipotence? (Arthur)” Therefore, that would mean that God could no longer be absolute over the complete cosmos, but rather just as subjected to the moral law external to himself. Which leaves it problematic to admit that the concept of God being subject to an external moral law and not inevitably being at the top of the chain of existence. The Divine Command Theory of ethics is at a strong predicament: either morality rests on arbitrary foundations, or God is not the source of ethics and is subject to an external moral law, both of which allegedly compromise his supreme moral and metaphysical status.

In conclusion, the questions tackled are: What if a person claims God has said something to them, and another person claims god has said something different. Who should be trusted? The answer would be the right one, but who would be right? Moreover, how would one verifiably determine that God had actually said something to one or either individuals? This dilemma is identifiable in, shall I say, the Judeo-Christian faith, the Bible, and in the millennia of time and generations of translations that have multiplied the problems that lead to 41,000 (and counting) denominations that accept different parts of the Bible, and exclude others from the very inclusion in printing. All of these arguments lead us to the fact that the divine command theory is not as universal and full-bodied as many might believe it is. This ought not to be viewed as an anti-religious argument, but as a request for one to delve into profounder contemplation into the subject. To answer that goodness is what God says it is, but God is all good and we know this from his works, is not a satisfactory enough argument. It’s a circular argument and the most horrible part about circular arguments is that they lack common sense, and within ethics, they also lack moral common sense. Additionally, it can be regarded simply as request as a way to concede, that rudiment of religion, do and should develop from moral thoughts, but moral formations may exist distinctly from religion.

Works Cited

Arthur, John. “Religion, Morality, and Conscience.” White, James E. Contemporary Moral Problems. Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2012. 24.

Plato. “Euthyphro.” Landau, Russ Shafter. The Ethical Life: Fundamental Readings In Ethics and Moral Problems. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. 63-71.