Life counts…. Life means something…. The whole is greater than…. Something outside ones own life compels…. We feel that it matters that we do the right thing.
The above infer universals WRM; universals born from millenniums of human existence – a fine testament to both Yule Blog and Christmas Story on fifth day.
“The difference between theists on the one hand and atheists and agnostics on the other is relatively minor compared with the difference between those who believe that life means something and those who don’t know and don’t care.”
“Maybe we feel this way [believe life is meaningful] because we are biologically hard-wired to do so…”
Why would we be, in the absence of a genuine, non-mythical God?
Like global warming, the idea that evolution groomed us to be faithful, honest, and so on has never made sense to me. History, including ancient history, is the bloody history of tribes. America at its founding was unique in its pluralism, and still we had horrific bloodshed over emancipation, and a bit more when America finally gave Blacks full civil rights.
Re the term “ethical atheists”: It is neither redundant nor oxymoronic. I spent decades of my adult life angry at the God I claim not to believe in. I led a mostly ethical life because I chose to. The only objective reason I could think of to lead an ethical life is that it would promote the survival of the human species. But in a meaningless universe, whether we humans survive is also meaningless. Leading an ethical life was my preference and nothing more.
But to me, being ethical means treating those closest to you well. According to his “Confessions,” Jean-Jacques Rousseau never married either his first mistress (with whom he’d been engaged in a menage a trois) or the penniless seamstress who bore him five children, all of whom Rousseau persuaded the seamstress to turn over to foundling hospitals, ostensibly for the sake of their education. At the time, infants turned over to French foundling hospitals most likely died.
According to Wikipedia, Christopher Hitchens left his first wife for a mistress. He married Wife 1 in a Greek Orthodox Church and the aforementioned mistress in a synagogue. Also according to Wikipedia, Richard Dawkins left Wife 1 for a probably pregnant mistress; he divorced Wife 1, married Wife 2, and had a daughter by Wife 2 in a single year. When he divorced Wife 2 is unclear. He married Wife 3 the year the daughter turned eight.
As someone whose father left his first wife for a mistress whom he later married, I imagine these men’s children were also very hurt and confused. Children of divorce often are.
As I wrote above, “ethical atheist” needn’t be oxymoronic, any more than “ethical Christian” should be assumed to be redundant. But believing that reason alone is a sufficient guide CAN lead to libertinism of all sorts. Rationalization and self-justification are very common weaknesses. Who among us says easily, “I was wrong. Please forgive me”?
The deist Voltaire knew as much. In a letter, he wrote, “I want my attorney, my tailor, my servants, even my wife, to believe in God, and I fancy that as a result I shall suffer from less theft and less cuckoldry.”
A convert to Christianity, Augustine of Hippo wryly acknowledged his own youthful struggles to adhere to its principles. In middle age, he admitted in his own “Confessions” that he’d been praying, “Lord, make me chaste — but not yet.”