Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The problem with atheists . . .

Slavoj Zizek argues for atheism in the New York Times:

For centuries, we have been told that without religion we are no more than egotistic animals fighting for our share, our only morality that of a pack of wolves; only religion, it is said, can elevate us to a higher spiritual level. Today, when religion is emerging as the wellspring of murderous violence around the world, assurances that Christian or Muslim or Hindu fundamentalists are only abusing and perverting the noble spiritual messages of their creeds ring increasingly hollow. What about restoring the dignity of atheism, one of Europe's greatest legacies and perhaps our only chance for peace?
The problem with vesting one's hope for humanity in atheism is that atheism only rejects faith in God; beyond declaring what it does not accept, it has nothing else to offer philosophically. That’s unfortunately why so many atheists are moonbats—they may have rejected one form of mysticism, but it does not follow that they have rejected all forms. That’s why I’m not surprised when Zizek says this:

A moral deed is by definition its own reward. David Hume, a believer, made this point in a very poignant way, when he wrote that the only way to show true respect for God is to act morally while ignoring God's existence.
Ah, Hume—and a moral code that is still disconnected from the individual’s life. A moral deed is not its own reward—it is recognition of the facts of one’s nature as a living human being and the nature of choices one must make in order to flourish. Every rational moral choice is self-interested—even if given the nature of our times, it doesn’t seem that way to most.

Zizek makes one last observation:

While a true atheist has no need to boost his own stance by provoking believers with blasphemy, he also refuses to reduce the problem of the Muhammad caricatures to one of respect for other's beliefs. Respect for other's beliefs as the highest value can mean only one of two things: either we treat the other in a patronizing way and avoid hurting him in order not to ruin his illusions, or we adopt the relativist stance of multiple "regimes of truth," disqualifying as violent imposition any clear insistence on truth.

What, however, about submitting Islam — together with all other religions — to a respectful, but for that reason no less ruthless, critical analysis? This, and only this, is the way to show a true respect for Muslims: to treat them as serious adults responsible for their beliefs.
But I don’t respect Muslims for their beliefs. I respect the Muslims right to hold their beliefs (and harm no one but themselves in the process) but I have nothing but contempt for any code that damns existence on this earth in the name of the supernatural. Life demands rationality, and that is why, in the end, atheism is not substitute for Objectivism.

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