Poking around the internet, I discovered a young man calling himself “Irishfarmer” blogging his attack against atheism. Being an atheist myself, I decided to read through some of his articles and see what his position is. It quickly became clear to me. For two brief examples, check out Irishfarmer on the Problem of Evil:
“Why is the argument from evil still used by atheists? It causes a paradox. If evil disproves God, then God does not exist, but then evil cannot exist and you therefore have no evil to put into the argument from evil. Also, this causes you to have to defend the assertion of a universal negative: There is no purpose or reason for evil that can be morally justified by God.
“Atheists generally hold the positive belief that there are no absolute morals. Which is a positive belief in a universal negative. This isn’t like their so-called “lack of belief in God”, they literally believe that universal morals do not exist, no questions asked. Now, I wouldn’t necessarily argue them on this point, though maybe you’d want to. Its not too hard, just ask them if the holocaust was morally wrong. You’ll usually see some of the most amazing feats of mental gymnastics you could dream up. Its basically a playground for anyone who knows how to debate cogently.”
Irishfarmer appears to insist that absolute morals exist separately from human conception. This is a dualist philosophical position, and is tied to the idea that the mind, or mental processes, are somehow non-physical in nature – with God being the ultimate expression of mind. In other words, it’s a supernatural philosophy. It’s of the same mold as the Platonic ideal, which suggested that there is some kind of “higher” reality above the material world we see around us.
Irishfarmer’s insistence on absolute morals leads him to conclude that anyone who does not believe in absolute morality, anyone who does not believe that Good and Evil are universal and timeless concepts that are not subjective or defined by human minds (in other words, that Good and Evil are defined by God), well, a person who denies that is unable to argue the goodness or evilness of any human action.
There might not be much room for he and I to come to any agreement since, by definition, any supernatural phenomenon are unable to be detected by natural processes or tools, like science or logic. But Irishfarmer’s dismissal of human definitions of good or evil, not to mention the human consequences that adhere to any action, whether it be defined as “good” or “evil”, seems to me to be a flaw of observation.
So I wrote to him, hoping to clarify this point and possibly bring to his attention what I consider to be a blind spot in his argument. I wrote as follows:
Date: Sep 1, 2007 9:56 PM
Subject: Question regarding absolute morality
I stumbled on your site today and read some of your more recent posts. Thought I’d say hello, and also see if I can clarify in my own mind your stance, in particular your idea of an absolute morality.
If I’m understanding you correctly, you argue from the position that there is an absolute morality that exists separately from human conceptions of “good” or “evil”, “right” or “wrong”, and that anyone who does not accept this absolute morality is unable to muster any effective argument against human evil (or argue for any human good), because others might have a different conception of evil.
Is that correct?
I continue on the assumption that I have stated your position correctly. Feel free to correct me if I have mistaken it.
My question for you would be simply this: when faced with humans acting evilly (or good, for that matter), why would you assert that a human conception of morality is inadequate?
What’s wrong with a human conception of morality? Why is that inadequate to address human evil or good?
Yes, there may be people that argue that the German National Socialists’ actions against the Jews, Gypsies, Christians, gays, etc., during World War II was simply a “cultural” or “social” matter. But anyone who makes that assertion would still face the human consequences of their ideas, and their actions. They would face social, legal, and psychological consequences, here in the real world, when other people became aware of them.
I admit it may be frustrating (in the least) or sorrowful (at the extreme) if those human consequences don’t result in preventing unnecessary death or suffering, but often, and in the long term, human actions are enough to cause a change. For instance, Germany, along with it’s allies, did in fact lose the Second World War, and faced the consequences thereof.
I look forward to your response!
…and I wait for a response. It’s been about a day and a half, not a long time by any means, though Irishfarmer has posted several long posts since I sent my email. At any rate, I hope to hear back from him.