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Saturday, March 12, 2005

A Reader Defends Atheists and Agnostics

Are they necessarily just as moral as religious Jews and true Christians?

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Atheists and agnostics make the unwarranted assumption that their impulses to do the right thing are purely rational concepts and that, by implication, everybody should be free to decide for himself what is right or wrong.

Responding to Who Are the Moral Free Riders?, which was published today on The Intellectual Conservative website, a reader emailed the following to me:

I have just finished reading your article entitiled , “Who are the Moral Free Riders”. There is a basic presumption that all atheists and agnostics are socialists and liberals..

Where did you get that from?

I am an atheist who fought in the 199th Lt. Infantry Brigade in VietNam some years ago. I believe in the basic tenets of our constitution. I do not consider myself a “Moral Free Rider”, and know many folks, like myself, who I also do not consider to be?” Free Riders”.  Would this be similar to a free loader?

From this premise forward this is one large load.

Insulting actually… Thanks in advance for your time


My reply:

Thanks for your comment.

I did not write what you attribute to me.  What I wrote was, not that atheists and agnostics are ipso facto socialists, but:

“Atheistic and agnostic liberal-socialists are moral free riders who benefit from living in a society ordered by the morality of spiritual religion, while sneering at spiritual religion and moral codes as simple-minded ignorance.”

It is true that not all atheists and agnostics are socialists.  But it is also true that no liberal-socialist can be a religious Jew or a Christian.  All of the basic writings about socialism firmly reject the idea of a metaphysical realm.

Thanks for fighting to defend the United States.  I honor your service.  But I don’t see any conflict between that and my assertion that liberal-socialists are moral free riders.  You are evidently a non-socialist atheist and inclined toward entirely moral behavior.  But people like you are a rarity.  Questions of right or wrong have no place in the realm of atheism and agnosticism.  If an atheist or agnostic does take the issue of right and wrong to heart, he got the idea from the Judeo-Christian tradition, definitely not from atheism or agnosticism, for which value judgments are inappropriate.  The general run of the population today have been taught for many decades in our schools that the proper approach is John Dewey’s pragmatism (today called situation ethics, which my children were taught).  Pragmatism teaches that the only thing that counts is whatever works to your benefit, and therefore that the ends justify the means.  Enron and Tyco executives, for example, were merely doing what they had been taught in school.

Now some people who subscribe to pragmatism may try to see things in a larger and longer-range context, and thus endeavor to take into consideration the greater good of society.  But such individual behavior is absolutely not inherent in liberal-socialism, which is a collective doctrine that amounts to saying, “Don’t bother me, I gave at the office (via taxes for the welfare state).”  The Judeo-Christian tradition places the burden for social decency and benevolence squarely upon each individual.  Liberal-socialism preaches that Security is the only concern; just let Big Brother take care of you and everyone else.  Don’t save for your family’s future; go out and spend money on consumption; let material goods satisfy you, because humans have no souls, just senses to react to sensual pleasure or pain (what’s taught as basic psychology in colleges).

It is only the Judeo-Christian tradition that teaches that it’s not about you, but about what you can do to serve others. Parenthetically, I’ve often wondered if John F. Kennedy’s stirring inaugural admonition may not have come from his Catholic upbringing. It is only the Judeo-Christian tradition that teaches the Great Commandments:  first, love the Lord God with all your heart, mind, spirit, and strength, then love your neighbor as your self. 

Unfortunately today far too many nominal Jews and Christians pay only lip service to those commands.  Their failures only prove the basically sinful nature of human beings and the need to rely upon God’s Guidance and God’s Grace to strive toward fulfilling the Great Commandments in our everyday lives.

Atheism and agnosticism, and assuredly not the secular materialism of liberal-socialism, offer no such guidance.  Instead, you are left to appropriate ideas of moral behavior from Judaism or Christianity, or to leave it to the political state to regulate behavior in accordance with the latest PC doctrines.  History tells us irrefutably that such reliance upon the wisdom of human beings alone produces the massacres of millions of humans in the name of social justice.

Only in Western civilization, before the 1789 French Revolution, were all temporal rulers avowedly constrained by a higher law of morality emanating from Christianity.  And that was because the entirety of Western civilization, after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, was based upon and preserved by Christianity.  When we reach modern-day America, instead we find socialist Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes writing that there is no such thing as morality or a higher law, that the law is no more than whatever a judge, in his personal opinion, opines it to be.