Seeker of Truth

Ruminations of One Suspended between Catholic Christianity and Scientific Utopianism

Location: Washington, United States

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Quest for Values in a Godless Universe - bottom up

I once met a very nice lady, who professed to being both an atheist, and a pacifist. I guess there are a lot of people like her. Many of my non-christian, non-muslim non-jewish etc. acquaintances are truly 'nice' persons, perfectly friendly, a bit charitable, good-natured overall. Maybe it is the influence of their genes, programmed no doubt to produce efficient survival machines, alas pleasant ones. Or possibly their brains have been infested with goodness memes, blocking any stubbornness of reasoning which might question why a person who is not bound by any higher authority should adopt a personal philosophy not altogether different from a religiously motivated one. My problem with this situation is, that I find no foundation for such ‘goodness’ other than vague concepts like character, constitution... A religious person can surely be a great sinner, and outdo the best of his pagan competitors in wantonness. History has given us many examples of that. However, it also abundantly clear, that such behavior is wrong within that person’s cultural beliefs, and those are not mere individual fancies without base, but edifices of thinking which have been contributed to by countless people before him, and have cropped up in numerous civilizations. Often they are referred to as ‘natural law’ because those concepts of right and wrong are thought to have been laid down by God himself.An atheist/materialist, on the other hand, might be a ‘good’ person simply because they have not considered deeply enough the basis for their actions, thereby missing the fact that the best that can be said for their conduct is that it is a sort of self-domestication. During the twentieth century, when both fascism and communism rose so rapidly to power and infamy, secular people in the remaining free nations found it difficult to erect an intellectual defense against such doctrines, and were it not for the fact that nazism was eventually the formal enemy in a world war, there would probably be as many nazi sympathizers here in the US as there still are communist ones. Especially intellectuals and artists, who consider themselves above superstitious beliefs like religion, fall prey to the lure of totalitarian utopias, in one form or another. It is hubris that leads them there, the conceit that their own intellect is formidable enough to discern the truth without recourse to a guiding framework. The simple man, devout in some theological belief system he does not fully comprehend, can nonetheless reject aberrations of human thought easily. ‘They are evil’ he might say, and be done with it.How do we then establish values in a materialist universe? One notion is game theory and related mathematical frameworks, which might serve to weigh decisions properly. But then the questions becomes: What is a proper course of action in a world without an absolute standard? Ladies and gentlemen, much can be said about the atrocities committed in the name of religion, first by Christians, now by Moslems, and others, of course. But at least all those who believe in religion have a yard stick to gauge their actions against, even if they do a horrible job of it. The materialist has none, and I have some dire predictions how ‘morality’ might be enforced in the technocratic society of the future. More of that in a later post.


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