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There Probably are no Duties. Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life!
by Matt Flannagen
Some atheists offer moral critiques of theism; their claim is not just that belief in God is false or unjustified, it is that such irrational beliefs are intricately linked with immoral and oppressive practices. Moral outrage often motivates the critiques offered – one only needs to read the condemnation of religious wars, religiously motivated terrorism, inquisitions, witch hunts, the suppression of science, sexism, homophobia, and so on, which is so prevalent in many free thought writings. Similarly, one needs only to read the accusations, regularly repeated in popular atheist literature, that the Bible condones slavery, or genocide, or stoning cheeky children, or rape, to observe this.
Note that behind this critique is the presupposition that there are moral duties. People have a duty to not engage in wars or acts of terrorism, religious people who promote sexist or homophobic practices are wrong for doing so. I think this is nonsense as it assumes there is such a thing as a moral duty, it assumes things religious people do can be wrong. This is false and here is why:
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First, the burden of proof is on he who makes a claim. I am not making a claim. I am simply not affirming that moral duties exist, therefore I do not have to justify my non-belief in duties. Instead those who believe in duties have to come up with compelling proof that they exist.
Second, no-one has ever seen a duty. Duties have no colour, shape or smell or sound, hence, they are invisible to sensory perception. One cannot empirically verify or falsify the claim that duties exist so it is meaningless incoherent nonsense to believe in duties until verification of them is given. Moreover, the inability to verify these claims shows they are unscientific and so they cannot be accepted as rational.
Third, no one as yet has provided a proof that duties of any sort exist. Such things, if they can be decided at all, must be shown to exist by the methods of natural science…
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