Mister Pterodactyl
Sunday, December 28, 2003
part 3...

Let’s recap. An unnamed authority is conducting a siege on religion and religious ideas, and will not permit any use of them in public debate. Therefore god and god’s law are no longer informing that debate which is leading us to a society that is not merely secular but openly hostile to religion (okay, he didn’t really say that but the entire article was infected with that kind of paranoia). This will inevitably result in a breakdown of morality and decency, insofar as god’s law is the basis of those things, and humanity will devolve into no-rules every-man-for-himself chaos.
First, something that isn’t apparent to the writer, and may not be apparent to other religious folks. As an atheist, religious arguments don’t work on me. You can’t quote scripture or church doctrine or anything like that, because I’m an atheist, and if I don’t believe in god you can’t expect me to accept as fact the teachings revolving around that god. It’s not that I want you to reject those teachings. It’s not that I want you to shut up about it (okay, I admit it, I do, but that’s not the point). It’s just that in order to convince me, you’re going to have to find an argument that appeals to my beliefs.
It seems obvious beyond mentioning that referrals to religious concepts don’t fit that bill. That’s the basis of the ‘new American secular orthodoxy.’ You can talk about it all you want. Nobody’s stopping you and nobody wants to. But if you want to win a debate, you’re going to have to adapt your message to your listeners.
Second, with regard to the origin of ethics, I naturally place the credit with humanity. Mock the ‘social contract’ all you want (and I have a good friend who did, but he’s still a good friend), but there you have it. We devised our own moral code as a way of getting along; any group of people is going to need rules. Organized religion did eventually claim those rules as their own invention, and did a good job of promoting and propagating them, but their true origin lies with us, not with some ineffable god. My sense of ethics is little different from any other American’s, religious or not, and is unlikely to change even without an outside agency to enforce it, whether god’s law or man’s.

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