Atheism and Humanist Values

There is nothing inherently “humanistic” about atheism, and some forms of militant atheism–the outwardly obnoxious, deliberately offensive kind now primarily associated with the Center for Inquiry and the minions of the new atheism–are unhumanistic.

Dr. Hoffmann, in attempting to create a Lexicon of Humanism, refuses to list atheism in it, citing,

But you will not find a definition of atheism in the lexicon, because it is not a value and carries no subordinate values with it. It is not a virtue, because virtue (when I get around to defining it) has to be grounded in human good and happiness.

It is one of the best posts that I’ve read on atheism as a virtue… I tag Robert for a response, after you read the rest of the post here,

via Is Atheism a Humanist Value? « The New Oxonian.

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11 Replies to “Atheism and Humanist Values”

  1. Dr. Hoffmann's argument is fundamentally flawed because atheism in its general form does not posit itself as a value or system of values, but that doesn't mean resistance to the inanities of religion is not of value.

    Hoffmann's statement “…[atheism] must also reject a very big metaphysical idea like wisdom.” is simply asinine. How does lack of belief in god(s) controvert the concept of knowledge gained through experience? Absurd. My values are the direct result of wisdom and not a fantasy construct that came free with purchase of “whole-cloth belief”.

    Further, when Hoffman says “'Whole-cloth atheism' assumes more than that God does not exist. It assumes that religion (nevermind theology) is untrue and positively and actually harmful.”, it expresses the kind of fundamentalism for which you regularly chide me. Why does this guy get not only a pass, but accolades? Interesting…

  2. His background in the area doesn't excuse faulty logic.

    Atheism is not a “value” as we commonly understand “values”. Atheism
    is simply lack of belief in gods. As has been said before, we are all
    atheists–I simply believe in one fewer god than you. The means of
    expressing ones atheism are as varied as the beliefs available for
    adoption. You LOVE telling me “We're not all like that, Rob”… Well,
    we (atheists) are not all like that, Joel.

    Atheism as a term is problematic because it defines based on a
    negative in the same way that “non-smoker” describes one based on the
    acts of others. A comedian I heard recently does a whole bit on this,
    but I can't remember what his name is. Dangit… Those who do not
    belief in gods shouldn't be described using a term reliant on the
    prevalence of belief in others.

    I'll wager that Hoffmann has not read Dawkins' book “The Good
    Delusion” or Hitchens' “god is Not Great” or Sam Harris' “Letter to a
    Christian Nation”, otherwise he'd acknowledge the vast tonal
    differences in each, rightly indicative of the differing ways in which
    lack of belief manifests. Therein lies fundamentalism, which you so
    incessantly point out to refudiate my diatribes.

    You're only failing to point out this instance because you happen to
    agree with his point, which is delightfully hypocritical.

  3. If atheism is nothing more than “resistance to the inanities of religion” then Christians are atheists too. Obviously, atheism must, logically, be more than that. This is one of the base points in this excellent article (one that New Atheists should pay careful heed to rather than dismiss, their usual response to everything critical of them — yet another way they ape fundamentalists!).

  4. Christians are indeed mostly atheist…they simply believe in a single god out of myriad pantheons they rather arbitrarily disavow.

    The article's author is weakly attempting to draw non-existent parallels between the deceptively complex vagaries of the Christian faith (among others) and the straight-forward concept of lack of belief in god(s) and their attendant ritual(s).

    As an atheist, I simply do not believe that god(s) exist(s). End of definition. I have no problem reading opposing views and evaluating for potential merit. Learning new things is a constant process, and my lack of belief doesn't preclude considering new information or alternate points of view.

    You're quite transparently projecting the routine tendency of the religious to vehemently protest that which they have yet even to read for themselves; case in point, Polycarp's admission that he has not read a book that he himself describes as “smut“. This kind of ignorant outrage happens all the time when religious people protest books, music, films, or other works before ever having made a personal evaluation on the matter. It's the height of stupidity and occurs far more frequently among the faithful than those more familiar with the scientific method.

  5. Robert, I also have to chime in here. I think perhaps the more appropriate word would be nihilism is the absence of value as such and therefore cannot be defined. All philosophy (this was Nietzsche's argument) recognizes that atheism ends in nihilism (though he tried to avoid that conclusion with ubermensch). All told, I think the argument still stands. Humanism is an appreciate of value. You may assign a value to atheism/nihilism, but that is your personal judgment not the inherent value system of atheism/nihilsm as such.

    The value of humanistic approaches, from a theological point of view, undercuts the claims of atheism/nihilism.

  6. You would lose that wager. You seem to specialize in adjectives rather than argument: I don't think you get the idea that new atheism is postulating itself as a value system opposed to religion in general and supernaturalism in particular–not merely as a postulate “against God.” That's what Sam Harris is all about, e.g. Anyway, polemic is fine when it's intelligent. yours isn't.

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