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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Refreshingly Honest View of How an Atheist Perceives Morality

For those who are Political Science/Pop Philosophy enthusiasts like myself, today's in-depth article by Robert P. Kraynak is pure gold. In it, Kraynak takes a close look at the writings of American philosopher and atheist Richard Rorty. Kraynak demonstrats brilliantly how atheists are basically moral parasites, absorbing the morality of the culture they live in. For example, check out this quote from Rorty that Kraynak mentions...

"With intentional irony, Rorty describes people like himself as “free-loading atheists.” He also displays exquisite sensitivity to human dignity in making this admission: he imagines “a child found wandering in the woods, the remnant of a slaughtered nation,” and asks if such a lost person should have “no share in human dignity.” He explains:

'..it does not follow that she may be treated like an animal. For it is part of the tradition of our community that the human stranger from whom all dignity has been stripped is to be taken in, to be reclothed with dignity. This Jewish and Christian element in our tradition is gratefully invoked by free-loading atheists like myself.... The existence of human rights, in the sense in which it is at issue in this meta-ethical debate, has as much or as little relevance to our treatment of such a child as the question of the existence of God. I think both have equally little relevance'.

Rorty’s point is that seeing a lost child wandering around as a naked, shivering homeless person inspires in him a strong sense of moral duty to “reclothe” that person with dignity (an elegant phrase), but not because he believes in God or in Kantian moral duties and rights. His justification is that he is part of a community of moral traditions inherited from Judaism and Christianity, which teaches us to care for a homeless person like the Good Samaritan would do. The problem is that our belief in God or rationally grounded moral duties turns out to be relevant after all: we have and need these beliefs, too, because we have been so taught by “the tradition of our community.” Rorty argues that we can subscribe to parts of our inherited traditions simply because they are inherited, but offers no grounds for why we can adhere to some parts and not others. He is thus a “free-loading atheist” because he lives off of the moral inheritance of the biblical tradition without contributing to it, and even while undermining it."

Kraynak goes on to point out the authoritarian streak prevelent in atheism through Rorty's musings..

"..'When we American college teachers encounter religious fundamentalists ... we do our best to convince these students of the benefits of secularization. We assign first-person accounts of growing up homosexual to our homophobic students for the same reasons that German schoolteachers in the postwar period assigned The Diary of Anne Frank....

I do not claim to make the distinction between education and conversation on the basis of anything except my loyalty to a particular community, a community whose interests required re-educating the Hitler Youth in 1945 and required re-educating the bigoted students of Virginia in 1993. I don’t see anything herrschaftsfrei [free from moral authoritarianism] about my handling of my fundamentalist students. Rather, I think those students are lucky to find themselves under the benevolent Herrschaft of people like me, and to have escaped the grip of their frightening, vicious, dangerous parents.... It seems to me that I am just as provincial and contextualist as the Nazi teachers who made their students read Der Stürmer; the only difference is that I serve a better cause. I come from a better province.'

Rorty’s technique is to use disarming candor in referring to himself as a benevolent Nazi rather than a rational educator, and in admitting that he is not free of moral authoritarianism. The effect is to shock or lull the reader into overlooking the contradiction between claiming his views are merely contingent on his accidental upbringing (namely, that he comes from a different province than Nazis or his bigoted students) while also claiming that he is “benevolent” rather than “vicious” and serves a “better cause.” In other words, Rorty says that he imposes his political views on others simply because he is more willful, while also claiming that his views are objectively better than Nazi ideology or religious fundamentalism. Yet he feels no obligation to give a rational justification for the moral superiority of his beliefs: he simply enjoys the luxury of imposing justice without foundations."

There is ALOT of information in the Kraynak article and if anyone would like to offer up their thoughts on it, please feel free to do so in the comment box below.

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