Christianity Teaches Morals,
Atheism Does Not
Carol Booher

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Carol Booher"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: May 12, 2002 8:49 PM

Morality is something that every human learns, regardless of religious training. I hereby challenge you to list the moral tenets and precepts that only the Christians teach, moral precepts that nobody else brought to the world. In other words, if you think the so-called Golden Rule is Christian, think again: it has been found in one form or another in just about every culture, so when people conspired to invent a "Son of God," it was only natural for them to portray the so-called Golden Rule as having issued forth from his mouth.

If you cannot come up with a list for us, a list of moral teachings which only the Christian religion has brought to the world, teachings which the world was without before then, then I will know that you wrote simply to slander us. Since there is no reason to slander atheists in particular except that Christian "morality" says to persecute atheists to the fullest extent of one's capabilities, I will assume that as the reason you have done this.

I speak so confidently on this because I know that you will not be able to provide us with that list! You can't do it! I know because as an atheist, I have studied human morals quite intently. I have studied their whys and wherefores and I have studied their history and I have studied their relative strengths and weaknesses. I know, for a fact, that Christianity has given us nothing good that was not already firmly established either in Roman culture, Alexandrian culture, or Buddhist culture (Buddhism having already been popular in the Middle East for almost 200 years by the time the Christian religion started becoming popular).

I also know that the only things that the Christian religion has given to us that are unique to Christianity range from cutesy to abjectly evil. On the one end, Christianity has given us cute-sounding aphorisms that I wouldn't want my kids to hear. Having found a much better way, I would not want them to be enticed away into an inferior system such as what Christians offer and call "morality." On the other end, Christianity has uniquely given to us evils that humankind has ever since tried to eradicate. Most notable is the slave mentality that the Christian religion fosters with its "Bow down before Me!" Volcano God, whose meddlesome petty jealousy was so intense, extreme, and unquenchable that He (allegedly) had to send His own beloved Son as a propitiation to assuage His own anger against the human species (Romans 3:21-26)! Yaahh! I shudder just to think of the indignity entwined in all that!

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Atheism, unlike Christianity, does not pretend to teach morals. Atheism is simply the absence of theism and nothing more.

For you to portray atheism as the opposite of Christianity by positioning the two as you have done in this argument is like little Johnny asking little Jennifer if she has an apple in her lunch pail. When Jennifer looks and says that she does not, Johnny then begins telling the other kids that Jennifer has an orange in her lunch pail! Well of course she does, since she doesn't have an apple in there, she must have an orange in there! Johnny is wrong: all we know is that Jennifer does not have an apple in there. We know nothing else. For Johnny to start shouting that she has an orange is for him to lie to the others about Jennifer. Even if it turns out that she actually does have an orange in there, Johnny lied, because he said there was an orange in there when the truth was that he did not know what was in her lunch pail. For you to portray atheism as the opposite of Christianity makes as much sense as this little story of Johnny and Jennifer.

Atheism is the absence of theism, not the opposite of Christianity. Christianity is a comprehensive and very complex viewpoint, containing many different aspects. One of those aspects happens to be theism, the belief that one or more gods exist. Atheism means only that the viewpoint in question (whatever that viewpoint may be, be it Secular Humanism, Marxism, Objectivism, Positive Atheism, or simply one individual's hand-tailored personal outlook) does not include, as one of its aspects, the belief that gods exist.

You are thinking in black and white. You are acting as if something is either Christian or it is atheistic: it is one or the other. This is wrong. The Christian religion tends to foster this style of thinking. This is just one of the many ways in which the Christian sense of morality is inferior to many of the other systems I've seen.

In fact, the morals that I notice most Christians practice when they write to me are atrocious. If I gauged the moral qualities of the Christian religion solely on the behavior of those Christians who write to me, the prospects would be dismal, indeed!

But I need not depend solely upon my own experience: I can study Christian morals directly from the source: the New Testament and various church catechisms. When I study the morals of Christianity, I see a barbaric system of morals that I wouldn't want my kids even exposed to until they were in high school and old enough to discern that this is how some people believe and it doesn't mean you have to go along with it, too. The Christian system of morals, do good and you will go to Heaven; do bad and you will go to Hell, is not morality at all. What it says is do good for the self-serving reason that you may, in the future, obtain comforts or avoid pain and discomfort. This is not morality, but a detraction from it, which harkens from an essential distrust toward humankind. Christianity's "morality" says that humans cannot run their own lives and need guidance from "above" and motivation from the "big stick" of the Christian afterlife.

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Morality is something that every human learns, regardless of religious training. Most Christians, if you asked them to write down their personal moral system, would write down something resembling the Enlightenment Era ethic espoused by Benjamin Franklin (a non-Christian who shunned the Christian system of morals) with a blend of Æsop's Fables (pre-Christian). Very little of their system could be traced to New Testament values. What was good in their system would not be unique to the Christian religion, but would be common with all the atheist kids, as well as with kids from other religions.

If you did this little experiment, then what you found that was uniquely Christian, that is, what you found you could trace to the Bible and what you'd find that only Christians answered, would the bigotry and exclusive clannishness that most modern Americans are so diligently (and shamefully) trying to shun in themselves ever since Martin Luther King visited India in 1959 to find out what Gandhi taught so that he could try to repeat here in America elements of the work Gandhi had done. When Dr. King visited India, he went to see Gora, the atheist, who was out of town, and so instead he spoke with my friend Lavanam, Gora's son. (It was Lavanam who initially helped me start this particular operation, Positive Atheism Magazine, almost four years ago, advising me on various directions I ought to take in order to advocate moral change among atheists in America and in the world.) And it is what Lavanam, an atheist, taught Dr. King about Gandhi's ethics, that are now the main difference between the moral system of today and the moral system practiced when my mother graduated from high school.

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You sent this slander to the wrong atheistic operation: Positive Atheism is not just simple atheism, Positive Atheism is atheism plus a moral component. Regular atheism does not and should not because that is not its role: all regular atheism does is give us a way to distinguish ourselves from religious people when it becomes necessary to say, "No, I'm not like that at all! I'm not religious; I don't have a god-belief; I am a nontheist!"

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six-and-a-half years of service
    to people with no reason to believe

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From: "Carol Booher"
To: "Carol Booher"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: May 13, 2002 11:13 AM

Yeah, right!

In that case, hurry up with that list, because those who express this opinion about us without having spent very much time trying to understand what we do here tend to put both feet in their mouths during the very early stages of the exchange. That moment will come for you when it becomes clear that I have grown weary of being told that Christianity teaches morals but atheism does not. I decided to do something about it, so I set aside some time, did some good old-fashioned work, and researched the subject of human morality.

If someone who has bothered to study and learn a subject is "fanatical," then I am much more fanatical than most Christians simply because most of them tend to go along with whatever the pastor says when it comes to religious matters and certain moral teachings. Of course: Christianity is about loyalty to the faith. But methinks you'll find that the other foot tastes the same as the first when you see that Christians don't need to be fanatical: all they need to do is open their mouths and begin to lie. Their rock-solid position in the social structure will protect their reputations no matter what they do, whereas our position at the bottom of the totem pole spells doom for any atheist's reputation regardless of how honestly he or she may play the game. Christians, for the most part, have the luxury of sitting back and letting their outdated reputation do all their work for them. We who are being lied about are the ones who must draw attention to the injustice if we want to get anywhere in life. But guess what: that is impossible to do without drawing some charge along the lines of "fanatical."

So, we cannot win when being assessed by a bigot: Either those who lie about us are considered right by default when we don't fight back, or we're considered "fanatical" (or whatever) when we do fight back.

A bigot is someone who won't let you win regardless of what course you take.

It is impossible to defend oneself against slander, injustice falsehood, whisper campaigns, etc., without appearing unreasonable! That's why these tactics are so effective at bringing one's ideological opponents to their knees.

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All that is left is truth.

If those involved do respect truth, they will see that to call someone "fanatical" or similar names is all part of the dishonest rhetorical tactic known as the ad hominem (that is, "to the man"). This means that the personality of the person holding a particular philosophy reflects upon the credibility of that philosophy!

Can you imagine the World's ornithologists declaring as false everything that was discovered by Robert Stroud, the so-called Bird Man of Alcatraz, simply because he was a murderer? Such would be an example of the ad hominem.

Oh, hurry up with that list of values unique to the Christian religion, will you? I've been trying to get ahold of that information for years.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six-and-a-half years of service
    to people with no reason to believe

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