Thursday, May 07, 2009

Equality, Sanctity of Life, and Atheism

To understand Singer, it's helpful to contrast him with "New Atheists" like Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Richard Dawkins. The New Atheists say we can get rid of God but preserve morality. They insist that no one needs God in order to be good; atheists can act no less virtuously than Christians. (And indeed, some atheists do put Christians to shame.) Even while repudiating the Christian God, Dawkins has publicly called himself a "cultural Christian."

But this position creates a problem outlined more than a century ago by the atheist philosopher Nietzsche. The death of God, Nietzsche argued, means that all the Christian values that have shaped the West rest on a mythical foundation. One may, out of habit, continue to live according to these values for a while. Over time, however, the values will decay, and if they are not replaced by new values, man will truly have to face the prospect of nihilism, what Nietzsche termed "the abyss."

Nietzsche's argument is illustrated in considering two of the central principles of Western civilization: "All men are created equal" and "Human life is precious." Nietzsche attributes both ideas to Christianity. It is because we are created equal and in the image of God that our lives have moral worth and that we share the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Nietzsche's warning was that none of these values make sense without the background moral framework against which they were formulated. A post-Christian West, he argued, must go back to the ethical drawing board and reconsider its most cherished values, which include its traditional belief in the equal dignity of every human life.

What they haven't considered, however, is whether Singer, virtually alone among their numbers, is uncompromisingly working out the implications of living in a truly secular society, one completely purged of Christian and transcendental foundations.

Singer resolutely takes up a Nietzschean call for a "transvaluation of values," with a full awareness of the radical implications. DINESH D'SOUZA


Anonymous said...

there are no quotes(from singer's works) in dinesh's article to support his claims on peter singer's positions, so to me, all is distilled summary judgement on dinesh's part.

curiously while the article is on singer, there are no quotes on from singer's works, but instead there are quotes from other ppl, just wondered if dinesh sidetracked a little too much, that he lost some focus.

i hope dinesh is not misrepresenting singer but since i do not follow what singer writes, i don't think i am in the position to say anything except that peter singer does not represent atheist/agnostics in any general way, which dinesh agrees sincee he says singer is a contrast to the other atheists he knew.

[To understand Singer, it's helpful to contrast him with "New Atheists" like Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Richard Dawkins.]

i am disappointed he brought up a straw man like Nietzsche becos to me it is an over used tactic, Nietzsche has been rightly/wrongly given a lot of bad press over the years n the classic ploy of attacking a person is to align that person(in this case singer) with a particular "bad egg" (at least in public opinion whether understood/misunderstood) in a 'guilty via association' gimmick.

it's like a atheist who keep harping on the life details of ppl like Pope Alexander VI, other corrupt popes like him or those classified under antipopes n associating them with.. say dinesh d'souza, well, i am a atheist n if a fellow atheist did that take issue with it as well.

lastly i disagree with the phrasing of dinesh's last sentence, in saying singer is a intellectually honest atheist is fine with me, he might be right or wrong, but , i disagree with the fact that in saying singer is honest is he hinting that the other atheists are not honest? thats begging the question.

or is he hinting that simply via being "more" honest singer is representing the atheist/agnostic population ?

singer might be honestly representing his own views, but as far as i am concerned i am a atheist n singer is not representing me.

neither do i take kindly ppl who are trying throw other ppl's values/beliefs on me, for who knows?, after dipping Nietzsche's purported values in glue n sticking them on singer, somebody might be dipping hitler's purported vales in glue n sticking it all over my face tomorrow.

why have atheist not "embrace" singer? well, "embracing" is a religious centric concept, we atheist do not do "embracing" perhaps it's too difficult for someone like dinesh to understand since he is used to be under the watch of a central authority(the vatican) n has EMBRACED christ by virtue of being a catholic, he cannot understand that we atheist do NOT embrace anyone as if he's some kinda idol superstar, we do not embrace a central monarchic institution/individual n fall under it's fall jurisdiction/authority/charm.

Austin Cartrwight said...

I'm sorry I haven't responded more to your comments. I have read them all. There is just not enough time in the day with all the stuff I have going on.

Where you once a fundamentalist Christian? They way you look at the Catholic Church and interpretation of scripture gives me a strong hunch that this was once the case.

Anonymous said...

i was never a fundamentalist Christian, i started off as a freethinker n i was glad that i was not subjected to indoctrination since childhood which enabled me to make an informed choice at a appropriate time in my life.

as a freethinker i held no postions (not even atheistic position), i reckoned that to be fair n make an informed decision at least i need to know what each faith system stood for, therefore i went around studying various ideologies from a neutral standpoint.

thats explains why i have a reasonable amount of background knowledge on the theological positions of the christian denominations n what makes them tick, sometimes more that fair-weathered christian themselves.

i also did roughly the same amount of work on agnosticism, atheism, deism, buddhism, taoism n to a lesser extent islam.

so u need to understand where i come from, i actually gave each of these ideas/belief systems a fair chance n evaluted all of them based on what they offer from a neutral position. then i made a choice.

i didn't got indortrinated since day one, started off as an atheist n decide to reject every other choice simply becos i was taught that they were not true.