Examining the 10 Commandments of Atheism
by Alan Anderson
The Atheist Mind Humanist Heart website recently conducted a crowd sourcing project titled, “The ReThink Project”, where they asked their viewers to submit entries with the goal of developing the “Ten Commandments for the 21st century”. They had a slew of popular atheist names on the judge’s panel to narrow all the entries down to ten, which included well-known atheistic advocates such as Adam Savage from Mythbusters, Dan Barker from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, and Matt Dillahunty from the Atheist Experience television show. There was a reasonable amount of responses from their fan base with over 2,800 entries submitted from over 18 countries. However I must admit, when I heard of the “ReThink Project”, I almost laughed aloud.
The first question that ran through my head was, ‘how are they going to ground any moral values and duties to an objective standard without a God?’ Without an objective moral standard by which to differentiate morally good actions and morally evil actions, will any of their revised Ten Commandments make any sense? Below, I have listed their version of the Ten Commandments along with an explanation of why they believe it should be on the list. After the listed the commandment and its explanation, I’ll outline my thoughts on whether their revised commandment truly aligns with an atheistic worldview. From an ontological perspective, moral laws (i.e. commandments) cannot be objectively grounded without the existence of a moral law giver (i.e. God) who would be the source by which all moral activity can be objectivity measured. Now that I’ve established the basis for my critique, I’ll jump into my assessment of each of their newly development atheistic commandments.
- “Be open minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence”
Why: “It is essential in order for us to be able to collaboratively work together to find common solutions to pressing world problems”
Despite the fact that the New Atheistic movement has been synonymous with a gross display of closed-mindedness, it’s important to ask, what moral obligation does anyone have to be open minded about anything under atheism? Why do “common solutions to pressing world problems” really matter? Obviously, as humans, we naturally feel like this statement is altruistic and morally admirable. It’s only natural to feel like we have a moral obligation to band together as the dominant human species and tackle sex-trafficking, ISIS, world pollution, and corrupt politicians. But the main question remains, why? Why, from an atheistic worldview, is there any reason to believe this sense of obligation is objective? Without a God, the individual atheist must answer this question if he or she is going to going to make it a commandment (i.e. moral obligation) for others to abide by.
- “Strive to understand what is most likely to be true, not to believe what you want to be true”
Why: “We’re more likely to believe what we wish to be true over what we wish not to be true, regardless of veracity. If we’re interested in learning the truth, then we need to actively separate our beliefs from our desires”
This is just as applicable to atheists as it is to theists. I’ve known both atheists and theists who believe what they do simply on the basis of wanting their worldviews to be true rather than believing what they do because their beliefs are evidentially aligned with reality. In fact, I feel too many people are like this. Not surprisingly, their rationale seems to be loaded with atheistic presuppositions. The rationale for this commandment seems to be underhandedly directed at theists who aren’t interested in seeking truth because they are incapable of separating beliefs from reality. While I agree that we should all strive to seek the truth, and those who honestly do so will undoubtedly find it, but what moral obligation is there to act in this way if God does not exist? Why is the quality of studiousness an admirable quality in an atheistic worldview versus the quality of laziness? This commandment to seek ‘what is most likely to be true’ cannot be judged as moral without an objective standard by which to measure it…
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