There Isn’t Any God: The Importance of Truth
By Kenneth Lipp
A man told his grandson: “A terrible fight is going on inside me — a fight between two wolves. One is evil, and represents hate, anger, arrogance, intolerance, and superiority. The other is good, and represents joy, peace, love, tolerance, understanding, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, and compassion. This same fight is going on inside you, inside every other person too.”
The grandson then asked: “Which wolf will win?” The old man replied simply: ”The one you feed.”
Absent religious faith in an ultimate authority, which determines for us what is bad and good, theists, and especially the religious, would have us believe that we would descend into an abject, monstrously empty existence, with nothing to prevent acting for our personal benefit, and ours alone. Saying nothing here about the record for theocrats, it is a grand assumption to make that we should behave“absolutely” one way or another; everyone I know is possessed of far more dimension, I think we all are, without straining.
The words “ethical relativism” are spoken in the same hushed tones as “pedophilia,” when it is the implications of theism as compared to relative values which proves it is theists for whom good or bad are arbitrary. Relativism understands morals in relation to circumstances, and gives the most specific reference possible for a moment’s correct act. When moral authority comes from a deity by virtue of its omnipresent omnipotence, this means that the circumstance, the people involved, and action itself are only correct if aligned with commandments. The murder of children could be virtuous if god wants it to be. It is time that we spun some new material into our thinking, the record playing now just skips and skips.
Atheists are often criticized for attacking the religious with undue “militancy.” I’ll position myself counter right away, and say that not much could possibly be undue, a certain fervor is to be expected given the historical record and potential for “Holy” atrocities, and the violence and exploitative State, and the global imperialist manifold of Western human-aid colonialism. What’s more, in reality this appeal against over-zealousness is typically not a response to an overt confrontation, but rather offense at explicative incidental assertions of lack of theistic beliefs. Under the same scrutiny which I would subject any idea I was asked to accept, no theistic account can be defended. To deny them, then, asserts my personal identity with truth on the issue, and my strongest belief is in truth’s necessity.
The right to truth has emerged as a foundational principle of international human rights law. Central to confronting transitions to democracy is the task of accounting for gross violations of human rights committed by a despot. The implementation of truth as entitlement, which a human possesses no matter their geography, is a vital measure to prevent furthering the legacy of torture and killing without fear of reprisal.
The right to the truth as a stand-alone right is a fundamental right of the individual and therefore should not be subject to limitations. Giving its inalienable nature and its close relationship with other non-derogable rights, such as the right not to be subjected to torture and ill-treatment, the right to the truth should be treated as a non-derogable right. Amnesties or similar measures and restrictions to the right to seek information must never be used to limit, deny or impair the right to the truth. The right to the truth is intimately linked with the States’ obligation to fight and eradicate impunity.
PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS: Study on the Right to the Truth Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
All the rumors of religion’s potential to encourage the best of compassionate morality are, at the very kindest, exaggerated wildly; a lucid gaze at common era history means a survey of blood splatters on a canvas, where Christendom and Islam went to war or instituted oppression with only their own gods vouching for the motives behind cruelties.
Religious morality works, or it did, and understanding how it did so is central to encouraging present global democratic attempts to renegotiate ancient relationships.
No one knows how or when men first worshiped an anthropic supernatural authority, but a coincidence with a scaling up of communal agricultural society is a strong possibility with clear power for explanation—we had to get along. From a basic system of conditional cooperation, with direct forms of community enforcement, we grew to construct sprawling codifications of official “right” and “wrong” which were not as closely tied to their contributions to stability.
The Romans were the great geniuses at utilizing religion as an Empire cement. Conquered peoples were invited to be not only citizens of Rome, but they could bring whatever god they wanted, and heck, they’d even build a temple for it. Just pay your taxes, please, and fill the Legions’ ranks as called.
The later Empire was no longer waxing, and to solidify an identity as Roman, and therefore allegiant to Caesar, might work to overrule a malignant regional hemophilia already bleeding away the edges of Imperial Rome’s glory. It was to no avail. Yep, that’s right, in his first big time gig:, Jesus didn’t save.
In Declining Western Rome and then the Byzantine, political amalgam of texts known at the time as the Nicaean bible was insinuated as a narrative and morality for most of Europe. At the time, humans likely would have needed a credulity which was not easily discouraged, but it was also a very prudent advantage taken to seize upon belief recommended by the bosses. I should mention that the Emperors themselves, and the elite, did not practice Christian beliefs, the Abrahamic tone as a whole was so pedestrian to taste as to seem vulgar.
Humans are legalistic rather than moralist. We do not do as the absolute most upright perspective would have us, but rather as we want to do inasmuch as that there will be no, or at least acceptable, consequences. Roman steel enforced Imperial authority and was its only actual sanction. We obey laws to avoid a punitive response. When free to move unmonitored by physical policing, regulation of behavior could be alternately served if everyone believed that GOD WAS WATCHING.
I have no personal reason to think any god’s existence is likely, call me an atheist, no qualification required. I don’t seek to reject every possible manifestation of some supernatural creative force in the universe, as it would be neither possible, nor desirable, to try to make any decisions about what is of merit to believe without any information or at least a certain probability of supporting the phenomena being observed.
When I am confronted, once again, with similar systems of supernatural morality, of course my reaction is even more suspicious, because my experience with deconstructing them is statistically perfect. I am indifferent, not ambivalent, to accounts of history which supposedly are evidence that a specific god is THE god, and that his story is our own, as well as his will. There s a party of incompatible players vying on the field. Only one can be correct. Is any? And, are all the others false, which make it almost certain that all of them are. I still do not mean to say that god does not exist. I mean that I really, really, really don’t think that he/she does. I don’t “kind of doubt it,” but can dismiss it without a hiccough. In fact, it is ridiculous for humans, to have had the scientific method for four centuries, not to mention Darwin (blessed be) for going on two, and yet for us to be so invested in imaginary planning and often insanely violent systems of human socialization. But we are slow monkeys about our habits and our fairy tales.
We have only fairly recently stopped letting men, and some women (but pretty much all men) take our money from us freely, or impose restrictions on our physical autonomy, and at most grumbling in return, “because I’m the king and I said so.” The Enlightenment came along, and informed us that we were being bluffed—that the king could only tell us what to do because we had allowed it. We thought a powerful force compelled us to defer to its chosen representatives. The scientific revolution made easy sport showing scripture is fallible, which meant that the reinforcement was a fiction.
Usually the church was involved in talking up the monarchy so that the rulers could retain the gleam of honorable detachment, but historical and economic novelties were frequent, as in the short lived In-House squaring of Charles vs Parliament. The first and only British monarch to be executed while seated put his neck in danger with loud proclamation of divine backing, particularly with his claim’s explicitness that he could assert his rule with absolute impunity, The merchant class and the land barons could economically handle organized mutiny by “official” channels.
The men involved in drafting the United State’s formative writ and literature and eventually influencing the mentality of law of the whole land were quite adamant that the new nation would be a historical experiment, a place to implement the promise and freedom of writings of Locke and Rousseau. The United States of America was the first modern state to codify secularism as required by descriptive of laws, and in the process of legislating. We had a chance way back when, and this article could be unnecessary.
Free speech, and personal volition in formation of thought, cannot be compromised to suit any claimed need of expediency. Citizens must be ensured of protection from being silenced, no matter how much some take displeasure at what is spoke.
We don’t imprison people for holding any belief, because we cannot show a rational cause There are actions and conditions for which no reasonable explanation can satisfactorily be given. Behavior not supported by rational consideration can’t be allowed to maneuver into acceptance with its internal grandfather clause. Ideas do not have Constitutional protection, they have no 6th Amendment right to assisted defense. The 1st amendment freedom of speech is freedom for speakers to offer their perspectives without hindrance—no one is required to give those ideas heed or even tacit non-interference. If what you say is something I deplore, I can’t, and do not wish to, force your silence. But I can exercise my own rights in deriding it and discouraging its spread.
To me all the claims for divinity prove sorely lacking in gravity, and the undue excess is in giving religious doctrine special demonstrative weight. Complaints of poor diplomacy about the tack of outspoken critics is dishonest, as the subject of a god has its very necessity born of theistic insistence, and it will itself expressed be contrary to not only non-believers but passionate adherents to other faiths.
Laws can be forcibly imposed by the governments behind them, because governments most often will, by design, get most of the guns. Ideally the state’s power to act independently would be a means of stabilization only, as in cases of natural emergency
Acts, of whatever kind, which without justifiable cause do harm to others may be, and in the important cases absolutely require to be, controlled by the unfavourable sentiments and, when needful, by the active interference of mankind. The liberty of the individual must be thus far limited.
We also want to have roads, and “Bass ProShops,” and safe water. And, for benefits like these, we agree that it is worth sacrificing a few of the liberties we weren’t using anyway
While it will never be possible to prove gods’ nonexistence, it is unnecessary to do so in public policy deliberations. There is no evidence for his/her/its existence, or reason we should have to consider it. That millions believe is no refutation—millions believe in a universe with thousands of gods, as Hindus, or give their single god a different name and narrative from that claimed by another flock of believers. They cannot all be right. Millions upon millions are obviously capable of embracing an idea that is patently ridiculous, and defending it with their lives.
To explain rational ethical principles as they apply to individual acts can take a long time, and if properly done it almost always is incredibly boring.
An ethical system for what makes “right” governance involves the reasoning for correct actions among people, constructed for, in theory, the way to best decide on laws for society, how those laws will be enforced, and in what entity should we entrust our calculated surrender of freedom. It is boring already.
Philosophers speak of the above in very specific language, (the same, for the most part, as their native tongue) with words understood by a sort of prior agreement to each mean a very particular thing. Take the following set of statements:
A. Jesus has a talk show on that new Oprah Wins Everything Ever Network
B. Talk shows on the OWEEN will not be hosted by anyone supposedly present for the Tiberian Census
C. Jesus was not someone supposedly present for the Tiberian Census.
This….IS a valid argument.
It is valid, not because its conclusion or its premises A or B are true; we don’t know about either of the premises, for sure, but the accepted story of Jesus is that he was born in Bethlehem when his folks were just visiting, because Emperor Tiberius had ordered a roll call, and you had to go to your hometown and say “here.”
In order to be called valid, an argument doesn’t need to accomplish anything but sort of match up with itself, so that IF both statement A AND statement B were true, then the conclusion MUST be true as well. The conclusion is true when it is valid and its premises are also true.
That’s a simple example, but shows that the discussion of ethics involves a sort of technical vocabulary that we will not be worrying about now. Having these specific definitions established is very important, because it ensures that all assent or disagreement with an idea, as well as the responses of authors to critiques, can be crafted using terminology compatible with all who are interested. It would also require the re-definition of terms and some direct communication prior to any discourse, and this is better because all of that stuff is boring and gets skipped, mostly.
In a democracy, the law must be formulated by reason rather than revelation, it is the truth is determined by seeing the relations which can be demonstrated in this deductive manner. It cannot be assumed that everyone will give credence to one faith or religious text, and no religious claims about their possession of the truth are backed by concrete evidence of a god or gods. Although worldwide we share very basic notions of right and wrong, they are a product of the evolutionary pressures on a species which is easily most distinguished by its deep and complex sociality. We are born without belief, or at least it cannot be demonstrated empirically that babies should acquire in utero needs for mythology and construct supernatural metaphysic before we’ve had our chance to really suck on some breasts. As I said, we share basic psychological bias for behavior and ideas which had fitness for a hyper social ape. A belief in a god is a culturally specific acquisition. For instance, being born in the Western Hemisphere means being born into a culturally Christian environment for the most part. I have not heard an instance wherein a child expressed beliefs not consistent with those which were taught in the home or community, such as ‘independently’ becoming a baptist after being born into a family of Buddhist yak herders in Tibet.
The Truth is that nature is the business of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You and I, we do the things we do and form the systems of knowledge which organize our lives because doing so is either beneficial, or we are disposed at least to believe it will be. We survived the Pleistocene through social learning, and through accumulating information and developing our ability to share it worldwide almost instantly, have cultivated cruel geographic impasses into our private farms and weekend getaways. Yes, it’s true: humans win Evolution! Now we stop the victory lap and pay heed to what we trample.
Let no one fear to call a lie a lie, or to draw attention to and promote the remedy of laws and practices that cause harm, or that deny a person freedom but cannot show why doing so should be accepted. It is possible to attack and deplore a group’s beliefs without denying that group equal rights and considerations.
If speaking ill can be shown to cause harm to another person or people, then a legal remedy exists for written and verbal statements—provided that those statements were made in full knowledge that they are false. We have no recourse against someone for undermining the popular acceptance of baseless nonsense. A right to a belief or a right to an opinion is a thing to take for granted, one which should be understood as meaningless. You do not have a “right” to an opinion so much, but more like circumstances compel you that you must have THAT one. If it’s yours, you will have emotions which surround it, and also these do nothing to indicate to anyone that they are true.
Pro-choice laws are supported by rational analysis of benefit to society at large, irrespective of the way you feel when you say “killing babies.” It is killing fetuses, to be exact, and now tell us why you should pass laws intruding the biology of women with more than the whizz-bang impact of those words.
Marriage is, in fact, the one thing which the western ritual of getting married never mentions explicitly: an economic contract. The rest of the vows are things which once cannot compel another to surrender. Neither God, nor Christians, invented marriage. They hold no copyright on its terms, and there exists no basis to denying homosexuals the financial benefit of legal matrimony.
Blue laws, book bans, dress codes, regulation of commercialized sexuality, are all widespread examples of the residue of imaginary tempers, scowling at us as we squint through reading Henry Miller or enjoy a night cap and lay us down to sleep. The single most vital freedom and duty of the governed is to ALWAYS question authority. When the State becomes a proxy god whose dictates cannot be challenged, then the purges come and the bodies pile in mass graves, and are officially forgotten. Every liberty, every freedom, every enlightened aspect of our culture we enjoy depends on protection of access to the truth, and we must protest loudly at any degradation.
Editor’s Note: Kenneth Lipp is a researcher in both primate and human genetics, and writes regularly on issues of public health and international health care policy. He has published research on telomere attrition and cellular aging in various peer-reviewed publications, and is an avid advocate of human rights.