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Mere Atheism

During the question period of the otherwise unremarkable debate between Christopher Hitchens and Dinesh D’Souza on the question of “Is Christianity the Problem?” the following two questions were posed to Hitchens: 1) “What [does atheism] have to offer us as an ethics?” and 2) “What standard [of value] can you appeal to?” Although any objective approach to debating a theist on this subject would involve answering these two questions in the main course of the debate, Hitchens had not addressed either of them there and was unable to answer either when asked. Instead, he went off on tangents about such things as the absurdity of a God who would permit cannibalism and suffering, man’s oversized adrenal glands (which supposedly explain why people do bad things), and the alleged value of “human solidarity” (a euphemism for altruism and collectivism).

This is yet another example of the feckless nature of mere atheism. While religion holds that morality comes from God via faith and revelation—and while religion posits all sorts of divine laws that are supposed to provide people with moral guidance (e.g., the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes)—atheism provides no moral guidance at all. Atheism says nothing about what is good or bad, right or wrong; nothing about how people should live; nothing about what we should and shouldn’t do. All atheism says is: “There is no god.” It is true that there is no god, but that truth alone is of no value to anyone.

If religion is wrong, then what is right? It is not enough to say “Go by reason, not faith.” What does it mean to go by reason? To what moral principles does reason lead? How are those principles validated? And what do they mean in practice?

Until atheists come to understand and embrace a positive, rational moral philosophy, they will continue to default to the ethics of religion (i.e., altruism and collectivism); consequently, they will continue to accomplish nothing of significance in the battle against religion. And in order to understand and embrace a positive, rational moral philosophy, they will have to find the courage not only to be atheists but also to be egoists—because egoism is the only morality supported by observation and logic.

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