[discussing the Global Atheist Convention]
I like the part about basing laws on rational thought and evidence. It echoes a sentiment that is a driving force in the atheist community right now, namely the idea that society must develop a set of moral values that is not rooted in any kind of supernatural belief system. I think it could end up being a really good thing that the leaders of modern atheism are coming together to discuss this, because this is an idea that needs a lot more exploration.
The New Atheists and their brethren in the secular humanist movement like to advocate for a godless value system where acceptance and goodwill toward others are prized, where people are free to be kind and loving out of the goodness of their hearts, and not because some man in the sky tells them to do so. While I appreciate the sentiment behind wanting to add more peace and love to the world, I just don’t think this works. And I can’t help but wonder if that might become clear to others as well at one of these atheist conventions.
The group of GAC attendees will undoubtedly contain a lot of intelligent, free thinking types, and so I’d imagine that it will only be a matter of time before folks start questioning the assumptions behind these ideas. For example: Yes, you can defend a peace- and love-based moral code from a purely atheistic point of view. You can point to the fact that more humans survive when we live in harmony together, that we may have an “altruistic gene” that makes us want to do nice things for others, etc. But who’s to say that harmony and survival for the greatest number of people should be our highest goals? You could just as easily advocate for a values system in which the survival of the fittest is the highest aim, and the weak are considered worthless and expendable. It sounds revolting, and it is. But it’s also perfectly defensible from an atheistic point of view.
I imagine that one day someone will get on the stage at one of these conferences, and propose a new moral code in which the the strong exterminate the weak and take all their possessions for themselves, thus ushering in a glorious age where only the most superior genes remain in the gene pool. Everyone in the crowd will gasp and fidget uncomfortably and then realize that they cannot argue against it without stepping outside of their own atheist-materialist worldview. They’ll find themselves tempted to appeal to the transcendent to make their case, wanting to have blind faith in the fact that love should be prized above all else, believing that self-sacrifice is always better than selfishness, regardless of what the latest scientific studies say.
I hope that these events really will provide a forum for questioning assumptions and asking tough questions as much as they claim they will. Because when they do, the nearby churches will be flooded with post-convention crowds.