Originally Posted by muppetry
You are pointlessly conflating belief (religious in this case) that claims knowledge as its foundation, with practical societal devices (government, voting, marriage etc.) that do not require knowledge of anything to underpin them - they are empirical methods - and do not require religion to function.
Your assertion that atheists claim the moral high ground is almost too fatuous to argue with - they may feel they have the intellectual high ground (and hard not to sympathize with that one), but the moral high ground is obviously claimed by the religious, and the great the zealotry, the higher the elevation. By all means live your life as dictated by your religion (provided it is consistent with the law), but when you insert it into the process of government then you impose it on everyone. Ironic, don't you think, considering the incessant bleating about the erosion of "freedom of religion"?
Muppetry, you do seem to be trying so think a bit harder and deeper here. Government, voting, marriage do require knowledge to underpin them. They do not exist in nature. They are not natural states or things. If a human is hungry, they will seek food. Marriage has nothing to do with science. What aspect of science says monogomy for life is the best solution and second to that is serialized monogomy with the occasional divorce?
It isn't just that they don't require religion to function. They aren't required to function at all PERIOD. There is nothing that declares we have to have democracy, we have to have a vote or that we must have marriage as some official and sanctioned entity. All of these things are artificial constructs.
So the point is that any atheist who argues that they even have the intellectual high ground then that is a falsehood because true intellectual enlightenment would realize that humans and their institutions are no different than animals and by definition cannot be free of nature. Better still they would realize that humankind is no great achievement nor even a concern in the context of the universe and that even the universe itself is causeless and purposeless.
You can't fight for a cause when everything is causeless. You can't say do it for the kids or society when all those are happenstance and could disappear without anyone or thinking caring in a cosmic blink of an eye.
To claim purpose from purposeless is the ultimate delusion. It is far worse than someone who claims life has a purpose, a cause and a creator and who tries to be consistant with those things. Their nature may be from a deluded premise but they are at least consistant. A person who claims that the universe is purposeless, causeless and without reason or rational is at odds with their premise and fighting them with all of their being when claiming and acting contrary to that.
Originally Posted by muppetry
OK - the reason I asked is that most of the disagreements along these lines seem to have been about different kinds of legislation. The proposals that tend to offend the secular mindset are those banning things based on religious belief; gay marriage, abortion etc.. The laws that seem to offend the religious right are those legalizing things, for example gay marriage and abortion. The difference is that legalizing something does not impose it on anyone, and does not disturb one's right to live one's own life according to one's beliefs. On the other hand, banning something for everyone, just because it may be counter to one's personal moral code, is a direct intrusion on the rights of others to do the same.
So, I was hoping you might have a good example the opposite - attempts to legislate to impose "non-religious" morality on everyone, because that would be equally bad in my view.
This reflects a caricatured state of understanding. A deeper study, and one that reflects history will reveal a deeper and more nuanced understanding. Eugenics for example have closely followed the secular mindset. Abortion, euthaniasia and steralization all have followed secular beliefs. In fact all manner of "culling the herd" have followed secular beliefs. It makes sense to them though. If we kill 10,000 chickens to stop an outbreak of some virus or disease, why would we worry about doing any different for humans? If a dog is unwanted after three days at a shelter, we kill it. Why should it be any different for the homeless or the elderly?
The things that make us say why any different from animals and nature are artificial constructs. Part of those artificial constructs could be and include religion. Religion says care for your fellow man and help the sick and poor. We can say those thing without religion but there isn't any less artificial a designation for declaring we should do those things. Nature dictates survival of the fittest or perhaps survival of no one with the consequence being nothing of concern.
Here is George Carlin in 1992 and people love quoting him as a humbug to religion. He was consistent though in what he claimed.
"We're so self-important. So self-important. Everybody's going to save something now. "Save the trees, save the bees, save the whales, save those snails." And the greatest arrogance of all: save the planet. What? Are these fucking people kidding me? Save the planet, we don't even know how to take care of ourselves yet. We haven't learned how to care for one another, we're gonna save the fucking planet?
I'm getting tired of that shit. Tired of that shit. I'm tired of fucking Earth Day, I'm tired of these self-righteous environmentalists, these white, bourgeois liberals who think the only thing wrong with this country is there aren't enough bicycle paths. People trying to make the world save for their Volvos. Besides, environmentalists don't give a shit about the planet. They don't care about the planet. Not in the abstract they don't. Not in the abstract they don't. You know what they're interested in? A clean place to live. Their own habitat. They're worried that some day in the future, they might be personally inconvenienced. Narrow, unenlightened self-interest doesn't impress me.
Besides, there is nothing wrong with the planet. Nothing wrong with the planet. The planet is fine. The PEOPLE are fucked. Difference. Difference. The planet is fine. Compared to the people, the planet is doing great. Been here four and a half billion years. Did you ever think about the arithmetic? The planet has been here four and a half billion years. We've been here, what, a hundred thousand? Maybe two hundred thousand? And we've only been engaged in heavy industry for a little over two hundred years. Two hundred years versus four and a half billion. And we have the CONCEIT to think that somehow we're a threat? That somehow we're gonna put in jeopardy this beautiful little blue-green ball that's just a-floatin' around the sun?
The planet has been through a lot worse than us. Been through all kinds of things worse than us. Been through earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, continental drift, solar flares, sun spots, magnetic storms, the magnetic reversal of the poles...hundreds of thousands of years of bombardment by comets and asteroids and meteors, worlwide floods, tidal waves, worldwide fires, erosion, cosmic rays, recurring ice ages...And we think some plastic bags, and some aluminum cans are going to make a difference? The planet...the planet...the planet isn't going anywhere. WE ARE!
We're going away. Pack your shit, folks. We're going away. And we won't leave much of a trace, either. Thank God for that. Maybe a little styrofoam. Maybe. A little styrofoam. The planet'll be here and we'll be long gone. Just another failed mutation. Just another closed-end biological mistake. An evolutionary cul-de-sac. The planet'll shake us off like a bad case of fleas. A surface nuisance.
You wanna know how the planet's doing? Ask those people at Pompeii, who are frozen into position from volcanic ash, how the planet's doing. You wanna know if the planet's all right, ask those people in Mexico City or Armenia or a hundred other places buried under thousands of tons of earthquake rubble, if they feel like a threat to the planet this week. Or how about those people in Kilowaia, Hawaii, who built their homes right next to an active volcano, and then wonder why they have lava in the living room.
The planet will be here for a long, long, LONG time after we're gone, and it will heal itself, it will cleanse itself, 'cause that's what it does. It's a self-correcting system. The air and the water will recover, the earth will be renewed, and if it's true that plastic is not degradable, well, the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new pardigm: the earth plus plastic. The earth doesn't share our prejudice towards plastic. Plastic came out of the earth. The earth probably sees plastic as just another one of its children. Could be the only reason the earth allowed us to be spawned from it in the first place. It wanted plastic for itself. Didn't know how to make it. Needed us. Could be the answer to our age-old egocentric philosophical question, "Why are we here?" Plastic...asshole.
So, the plastic is here, our job is done, we can be phased out now. And I think that's begun. Don't you think that's already started? I think, to be fair, the planet sees us as a mild threat. Something to be dealt with. And the planet can defend itself in an organized, collective way, the way a beehive or an ant colony can. A collective defense mechanism. The planet will think of something. What would you do if you were the planet? How would you defend yourself against this troublesome, pesky species? Let's see... Viruses. Viruses might be good. They seem vulnerable to viruses. And, uh...viruses are tricky, always mutating and forming new strains whenever a vaccine is developed. Perhaps, this first virus could be one that compromises the immune system of these creatures. Perhaps a human immunodeficiency virus, making them vulnerable to all sorts of other diseases and infections that might come along. And maybe it could be spread sexually, making them a little reluctant to engage in the act of reproduction.
Well, that's a poetic note. And it's a start. And I can dream, can't I? See I don't worry about the little things: bees, trees, whales, snails. I think we're part of a greater wisdom than we will ever understand. A higher order. Call it what you want. Know what I call it? The Big Electron. The Big Electron...whoooa. Whoooa. Whoooa. It doesn't punish, it doesn't reward, it doesn't judge at all. It just is. And so are we. For a little while."