“Why Don’t He Lend a Hand”

by Luke Muehlhauser on September 9, 2010 in Problem of Evil

Samuel Porter Putnam, the author of Four Hundred Years of Freethought who helped defeat an 1896 attempt to add a mention of God to the U.S. Constitution, wrote the following poem in 1890:

Why Don’t He Lend a Hand

You say there is a God
Above the boundless sky,
A wise and wondrous deity
Whose strength none can defy.

You say that he is seated
Upon a throne most grand,
Millions of angels at his beck—
Why don’t he lend a hand?

See how the earth is moaning,
What countless tears are shed,
See how the plague stalks forward
And brave and sweet lie dead.

Homes burn and hearts are breaking,
Grim murder stains the land;
You say he is omnipotent—
Why don’t he lend a hand?

Behold, injustice conquers;
Pain curses every hour;
The good and true and beautiful
Are trampled like the flower.

You say he is our father,
That what he wills doth stand;
If he is thus almighty
Why don’t he tend a hand?

What is this monarch doing
Upon his golden throne,
To right the wrong stupendous,
Give joy instead of moan?

With his resistless majesty,
Each force at his command,
Each law his own creation—
Why don’t he lend a hand?

Alas! I fear he’s sleeping,
Or is himself a dream,
A bubble on thought’s ocean,
Our fancy’s fading gleam.

We look in vain to find him
Upon his throne so grand,
Then turn your vision earthward—
‘Tis we must lend a hand.

‘Tis we must grasp the lightning.
And plow the rugged soil;
‘Tis we must beat back suffering,
And plague and murder foil;

‘Tis we must build the paradise
And bravely right the wrong;
The god above us faileth,
The god within is strong.

Boo-ya!

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{ 64 comments… read them below or add one }

NFQ September 9, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Wow. 1890. Can anyone help me find it not so cripplingly depressing that we’re still repeating the exact same ideas 120 years later? How long does it take to make a simple point?

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consideratheism September 9, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Well, theists often try to pull different explanations out of their ass in an attempt to explain all of those questions… Which I find to be far more unlikely than Him just not existing at all.

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ShaneSteinhauser September 9, 2010 at 2:19 pm

I hate to burst your bubble Luke, but there already was a reference to the christian god in the constitution from the start. The last paragraph says “written in the year of our Lord 1789″.

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lukeprog September 9, 2010 at 2:20 pm

ShaneSteinhauser,

Haha, yes. That’s like saying 1789 A.D.

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Josh September 9, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Can we please just drop the problem of evil here?

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Freethinker September 9, 2010 at 3:14 pm

Well, this problem is, of course, easily explained by theists:

1) We are fallen and have freewill. Cancer, hurricanes, etc. are all caused by our sinful nature (somehow).
2) God does lend a hand to those who believe and pray. Furthermore, he has a “divine plan” and if your prayer isn’t answered, it is because he has a bigger plan for you.
3) God works in mysterious ways and we are too stupid to comprehend God’s plan.

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lukeprog September 9, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Lol! “Can we please just drop the problem of evil”? Ummm… no?

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Josh September 9, 2010 at 3:32 pm

The problem is that we all agree that the logical problem of evil is dead, and I just don’t see the force of any other version of it (god works in mysterious ways, as they say).

Just doesn’t seem useful to keep railing on it. There are so many better arguments that don’t necessarily have the EMOTIONAL appeal, but still are much better.

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Mo September 9, 2010 at 3:56 pm

“The god above us faileth,
The god within is strong.”

I don’t know about you guys, but those last two lines made my day.

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mojo.rhythm September 9, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Josh,

You can’t be serious can you?

Gratuitous suffering is a key reason why so many people give up theism. Trust me, it is a damn powerful argument and it is just ludicrous to assert otherwise.

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Wade Anes September 9, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Luke, this is great. There aren’t very many atheist poems (that I know of), let alone this good.

@ Josh,
What is also dead is the response ‘god works in mysterious ways’.

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Hermes September 9, 2010 at 5:33 pm

A few modifications and it could be turned into a song.

(Unfortunately, the ideal type of singer would probably be a folk singer like John Prine and few people would ever know about it. Tori Amos might be able to pull it off. I don’t see Greydon Square being able to do much with it. Hmmm…)

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Rob September 9, 2010 at 5:35 pm

HEAVEN

by: Rupert Brooke (1887-1915)

FISH (fly-replete, in depth of June,
Dawdling away their wat’ry noon)
Ponder deep wisdom, dark or clear,
Each secret fishy hope or fear.
Fish say, they have their Stream and Pond;
But is there anything Beyond?
This life cannot be All, they swear,
For how unpleasant, if it were!
One may not doubt that, somehow, Good
Shall come of Water and of Mud;
And, sure, the reverent eye must see
A Purpose in Liquidity.
We darkly know, by Faith we cry,
The future is not Wholly Dry.
Mud unto mud! — Death eddies near –
Not here the appointed End, not here!
But somewhere, beyond Space and Time.
Is wetter water, slimier slime!
And there (they trust) there swimmeth One
Who swam ere rivers were begun,
Immense, of fishy form and mind,
Squamous, omnipotent, and kind;
And under that Almighty Fin,
The littlest fish may enter in.
Oh! never fly conceals a hook,
Fish say, in the Eternal Brook,
But more than mundane weeds are there,
And mud, celestially fair;
Fat caterpillars drift around,
And Paradisal grubs are found;
Unfading moths, immortal flies,
And the worm that never dies.
And in that Heaven of all their wish,
There shall be no more land, say fish.

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Hermes September 9, 2010 at 5:36 pm

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Josh September 9, 2010 at 6:49 pm

mojo.rhythm,

It may be a key reason that people give up theism but that doesn’t in any way make it a good reason. Frankly I’m embarrassed every time we pull out the argument from evil in any of its forms. It’s just a flat out bad argument—first of all, it’s not a problem for any omni-god (see, e.g. Plantinga). Maybe even more importantly, it’s definitely not a problem for any non-omni-god—and the god of, say, the bible is certainly not an omni-god, and at least some people do recognize that nowadays. Hence it has no substance against the beliefs of most people (remember, just because it convinces people doesn’t actually make it convincing!)

I think that the problem of evil can be part of a larger argument about the way the universe is (i.e. the universe fits all the expectations under a model where there is no god, so why bother positing a god?) but that’s a totally different argument.

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Bill Maher September 9, 2010 at 6:53 pm

Josh,

Paul Draper’s version seems pretty damning.

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Ajay September 9, 2010 at 6:59 pm

“The problem is that we all agree that the logical problem of evil is dead…”

Umm….no. Just…no.

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Joe September 9, 2010 at 7:03 pm

NFQ: it’s sadder than that. Epicurus first expressed this idea as the “argument from evil” something like 2300 years ago.

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Joe September 9, 2010 at 7:06 pm

The “A.D.” and “year of the lord” argument is no more valid than claiming we worship the Norse gods when we use the names for the days of the week named for Thor, Odin and so on.

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NFQ September 9, 2010 at 7:20 pm

Very true, Joe. Cue the saddest violins

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ShaneSteinhauser September 9, 2010 at 7:21 pm

@Joe It’s not valid because the treaty of tripoli makes it clear that we are a secular nation. But yeah one has to wonder what “other” methods the founding father’s would have been able to use. It would be an interesting research question to find out.

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Adito September 9, 2010 at 7:26 pm

The evidential argument from evil is still going strong. Check out the latest updates on philosophical disquisitions if you don’t believe me. Does anyone know of a recent formulation of the logical problem of evil? Plantinga dealt with that one pretty convincingly so it would be interesting to see it resurrected.

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TaiChi September 9, 2010 at 7:40 pm

Adito,
Yes. I think the spam filter caught my earlier comment, but there I linked to Quentin Smith’s “A Sound Logical Argument From Evil” and Raymond Bradley’s “The Free Will Defense Refuted and God’s Existence Disproved“, which you can search for.

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Derrida September 9, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Josh,

Look up “A History of the Free Will Defense” on this site.

Scroll down and you’ll find La Croix’s “Unjustified evil and God’s Choice”, Smith’s “A Sound Logical Argument from Evil”, both logical arguments from evil that, in my estimation, escape Plantinga’s free will defense. They’re downloadable as PDF’s.

Also, the explanatory argument you allude to, that the world is as we would expect it to be if God doesn’t exist, and not as we would expect it to be if God does, sounds a lot like Draper’s formulation of the AfE, that evil is better explained by naturalism than theism. Just look at his “Great Debates” on the Internet Infidels.

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G'DIsraeli September 10, 2010 at 12:21 am

Atheist poetry. beautiful.
We should make an index for atheistic poetry.

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Mindyourmind September 10, 2010 at 6:10 am

Also, for those who believe the problem of evil is all that strong, read the increasingly strong arguments regarding the problem of animal suffering (known by many names), especially as set out by John Loftus in The Christian Delusion, some of his best work IMO.

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David Rogers September 10, 2010 at 6:33 am

“Boo-ya”

And yet millions believe and millions act on their belief. Religious men with arthritic knees and bad backs load up their trucks every time there is a disaster and arrive on the scene usually before the feds arrive. (Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams were in the Katrina areas long before any other secular government teams. The food distributed by the Red Cross is cooked by Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams.)

I will be impressed by atheists when I begin to hear of their immediate response to disasters “in the name of atheism”. C’mon guys get in the game. If all there is, is this life, then show your reason-motivated charity by putting boots on the ground.

I’ve got sixty year old men in my congregation putting thousands of their own dollars and their own time hitting the roads whenever tornados and hurricanes strik’me.

You can debate their “silly” motivations all day long. I’m impressed by their combination of motivation and activation in the trees with their chainsaws clearing trees off the homes of the poor.

Just sayin’

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Wade Anes September 10, 2010 at 6:37 am

@Josh, that is just absurd. You sound like a dude I run into on in the facebook groups who adamantly asserts that the POE is a straw-man because no real theists believe in a 3-0 god. Who will also admit that they don’t read phil of religion that much. I suggest you not be that guy and do some more reading, because not only is the inductive argument much stronger than you think, but as others have said, the logical form is still around, and several philosophers have been formulating versions that avoid Plantinga’s free will defense. Also, remember there is a difference between ‘defense’ and ‘theodicy’.

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David Rogers September 10, 2010 at 7:12 am

Whatever the motivation, get in the game.

Brad Pitt may or may not be and atheist. He was raised a Southern Baptist and it MAY have had some impact. At least, be like him, and do something.

If atheism is so based in reason, does that reason then motivate you to charity?

Just askin’

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David Rogers September 10, 2010 at 7:30 am

Motivated by “in the name of god”
or
Motivated by “pure human decency” (whatever that is?)

I’m sure that the old lady with the tree on her house is glad it’s off.

Will the reason-motivated atheist or the silly theist get there first?

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Jugglable September 10, 2010 at 8:44 am

Maybe the author of this poem needs to be the answer to his own prayers. God works through us, and often it is those with their eyes turned heavenward who make the greatest impact. I’m finding more and more that criticisms of God are simply based on a deficient concept of God. God isn’t one being among many in reality. He’s not going to roll up in a truck with relief supplies. God is love itself, as Christians say. Meaning when a person is loving and helps another, that is God alive there and then in that person.

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al friedlander September 10, 2010 at 12:44 pm

“Whatever the motivation, get in the game.”

Your ‘motivations’ are crystal clear, David

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Wade Anes September 10, 2010 at 3:00 pm

@David, no one is going to do anything ‘in the name of atheism’, would you help a charity in the name of your lack of belief in bigfoot? The fact that the religious do those things ‘in the name of god’ instead of pure human decency is the problem. That being said, since you bring up Katrina, you might want to check out the programs for rebuilding houses being run by Brad Pitt, an atheist.

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David Rogers September 10, 2010 at 9:47 pm

So, apparently my motivations are crystal clear.

Well, whatever they are, I’m just an irrational theist to y’all.

But what will y’all do with the alleged highest reason of atheism?

Will that reason lead you to charitable action?

My motivations lead me to do whatever. What does reason motivate you to do?

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Hermes September 10, 2010 at 10:15 pm

David, there are plenty of secular charities and charitable non-Christians. We’re all humans after all. If you want a pi$$ing match based on some biases you think that non-Christians have, or atheists specifically have, or Christians have, then directly request one. There will probably be plenty of people who would join in on that.

If you wonder what special widget in an atheist drives them to be charitable, I point back to our shared humanity. Your specific ideology set doesn’t make everyone who shares it a better person.

Atheists aren’t theists. That’s it. It’s not an ideology. It’s a reply to the statements of others about the existence of gods. Period.

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TaiChi September 10, 2010 at 10:41 pm

But what will y’all do with the alleged highest reason of atheism?
Will that reason lead you to charitable action?
” ~ David Rogers

It doesn’t need to. The role of reason is to find the truth, not to support preconceived conclusions about how the world ought to be.

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Wade Anes September 10, 2010 at 11:39 pm

@David,
Well, didn’t this take a turn downwards quickly? Now, let me get this straight, doing charity is now a criteria on assessing the validity of an argument? How about just dealing with the argument?
You only underscore the problem, what is the point of helping when your god never lifts a finger? If your god cannot decide whether to help people affected by a hurricane, why do believers think they have the right? Do believers have a better ‘moral compass’ than god? If not, then the problem still stands, why don’t he lend a hand?

Brad Pitt is an admitted atheist, you can search the youtubes (his interview with Bill Maher) to hear it from the horses mouth.

Now you ask what human decency is, do you not see what belief does?! Instead of acknowledging something we can all agree on, (the fact that we are all stuck on this rock together with basically the same needs and wants, with no one but eachother to rely on), you have to deny it in favor of something that has to good evidence or arguments to support it. I say the same thing about your god that you do about human decency, ‘in the name of god’ (whatever that is). At least when asked, I have something to point to.

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David Rogers September 11, 2010 at 10:40 am

I have upset some people, or so it seems.

Some of you have attempted to dissect my motivations and have figured out my clear nefarious ways.

I’ve made comments and asked questions. The answers to the questions I’ve asked seem to be the following.

- shared humanity is the motivation for charity (Hermes)
- human decency is the motivation for charity (Wade Anes)
- being stuck together on this rock with no other help motivates toward charity (Wade Anes)
- reason doesn’t have to support how the world ought to be (TaiChi)

I will now state some of your assumptions, please correct me if I get it wrong.

——

“There is no god or transcendent divine force” is a conclusion that derives from reason.

Thus, atheists are more rational than believers in gods or transcendent divine forces.

——

Humans do all sorts of things. Many of us kill, rape or at least, insult or irritate one another.

Some do what is perceived as charitable things. Others do not. With regard to the ones that do not help other humans, are they wrong for not doing what they could do to help others? Are they being immoral? Is anything wrong with apathy toward others?

What is the process of arriving at “what we can all agree on” (Wade Anes)? Is it reason or shared emotion or what?

What would reason and science say? Please provide the reasoning and/or experimental conclusions?

My answers to those questions are rooted in what you would evaluate as my irrational beliefs, so why would there be any point in discussing them with you since at my most basic I’m irrational in your eyes.

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Hermes September 11, 2010 at 11:16 am

David, atheists are non-theists. If you ask someone “Do you believe that any gods exist?” and they answer “I don’t believe there are.” they are an atheist even if they say “I don’t know there aren’t any gods.” or they say “I know there are no gods.”.

It’s a lack of belief in a god or gods.

There’s nothing implied in that beyond that.

Specifically, some atheists are exceedingly irrational. Some atheists don’t give a damn about charity, the sciences, experimentation, or even reality.

Additionally, I don’t know that you’re generally irrational or not.

I do know that up to today you didn’t know what an atheist was, and that’s OK. Many atheists don’t know what an atheist is or that they might be one.

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David Rogers September 11, 2010 at 11:31 am

So, is the arrival at an atheist conclusion from a rational analysis of reality or is it an emotional reaction? Can morals be rationally argued for or are they derivatives from non-rational instigators?

Are there at least two kinds of atheists?

A. I am not currently believing in any god, therefore I am an atheist.

B. This I believe: “There is no god,” therefore I am an atheist

Option A. is a descriptor of current conviction and there may be an opening for that to change should motivation for change arrive for that person.

Option B. seems to be a conclusion that has been arrived at for whatever fill in the blank motivations.

For either type, what are the reasons for acting morally toward others or it being okay to be apathetic toward others and their needs?

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David Rogers September 11, 2010 at 11:37 am

Option A. atheists may or may not have rational arguments for their current conviction.

Option B. atheists seem to be implying that their conclusion is a reality-based description and that their embrace of it is more rational than those who refuse to acknowledge it.

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Hermes September 11, 2010 at 11:48 am

So, is the arrival at an atheist conclusion from a rational analysis of reality or is it an emotional reaction?

I don’t think you’re getting it. It’s really simple.

Do you define yourself based on your lack of atheism?

Do you reach your conclusions about not being an atheist by emotional or rational arguments?

Do you speak for all non-atheists?

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David Rogers September 11, 2010 at 12:05 pm

“It is really simple.”

Apparently I am less than simple so I need it spelled out.

“Do you define yourself based on your lack of atheism?”

In some ways, yes, especially when I’m talking to atheists.

“Do you reach your conclusions about not being an atheist by emotional or rational arguments?”

Both. Also, observation of the effect of belief in others. I believe all knowing is personal knowing and thus emotion, reason, intuition, gnawing unease, and peaceful sensation create a matrix of support for belief.

“Do you speak for all non-atheists?”
Of course not. But I am asking questions of particular ones commenting here and wondering if I’ll get any articulation of a response to the questions posed. Don’t worry I will neither tar and feather other atheists based on what some say here nor give any credit either.

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Hermes September 11, 2010 at 12:17 pm

More questions;

If you are not an atheist, do you speak for all theistic Hindus?

If you are not an atheist, do you know in your heart that the Great Leader Kim Il Sung will always be with us?

If you are not an atheist, do you seek wisdom from the mother life force that permeates all of reality?

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Hermes September 11, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Posted the last one before doing a refresh. One moment…

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Hermes September 11, 2010 at 12:44 pm

OK, your answers and comments are very generic. Yet, I doubt that you have a vague sense of your own thoughts and beliefs.

As my last questions demonstrated, it should be clear that I do not consider that you speak for other theists because that group is too varied.

Theists, though, are making a positive statement that they believe that one or more gods actually exist. If you are given only the detail that they are a theist, you can say next to nothing about them.

Now, atheists at a minimum don’t have a positive belief in one or more gods existing. What you can say about any random atheist is even more limited than what you could say about any random theist.

As an example, there are practicing priests who both love their chosen religion and are well aware that they do not have a belief that there actually are deities behind that religion. They are religious but are not theists = they are religious non-theists = religious atheists.

As such, any conclusions about people as a group will probably make more sense if you don’t focus on such widely varied categories and instead narrow them down to a subset.

Examples; I would not address a Catholic the same way I would a Sunni even though they share the same Abrahamic deity and use the Torah in some fashion, but I could address a Baptist and a Mormon in some detail even though the Baptist doesn’t consider the Book of Mormon to be canonical, more details could be shared if comparing Catholics to Anglicans or Baptists to Southern Baptists.

There aren’t sects of atheism, though. It’s not a religion like Buddhism is, though a large percentage of Buddhists do not have deities.

So, the general answer to your general questions about atheists is mu.

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David Rogers September 11, 2010 at 1:32 pm

Have to clean my house (literally), so my response will be brief.

I am currently conversing with you (Hermes) so you can represent yourself.

Like I said I will not tar and feather others or credit others with anything you say (or even not say).

My questions were specific.

My answers to your specific questions had some specificty to them in that I revealed that my belief in God is admittedly based in emotional motivators and my perception of what is rational and also in pragmatic effects observed in my own life and that of others. How specific in detail do you want my personal testimony?

I’ll be cleaning now for serveral hours. I’ll check back later.

Please know that I have enjoyed the back and forth.

I’ve asked for your one person represenatation of what is the basis of your convictions regarding morality or amorality. Is apathy by an individual toward helping others a genuine wrong that is shameful or just an expression of preferences?

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David Rogers September 11, 2010 at 1:34 pm

I just noticed the commenting program jumbled my paragraph ordering. Well, technology stinks sometimes.

David

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Hermes September 11, 2010 at 2:37 pm

David Rogers: Is apathy by an individual toward helping others a genuine wrong that is shameful or just an expression of preferences?

Both. If I were Superman, I still could not save the world. Conversely, what good are you if you drain your own resources to a point that you yourself are helpless or fragile?

A classic quandary; If I have brand new clothes and shoes and I’m walking by a lake, if someone is in the lake drowning is it immoral for me to walk by because I don’t want to ruin my clothes? Say, the outfit cost me $250. Now, same situation, except that the person isn’t in the lake and they aren’t drowning. Yet, if I don’t send in a check for $250 they will not be able to fly out of a war torn country and will likely die of starvation.

Does that moral calculus change when there are 10 people in the lake? 100 people starving to death?

Do you currently drain all your assets except those that will bring in yet more money to save people you do not know who will die without your help?

So, the answer to that question is also mu. For me, I keep my generosity and compassion focused on people I know and a limited set of reliable and frugal charities such as the American Lung Association.

Now, you brought up with someone else the speed of response of a specific religious charity. I don’t see that as a plus for the charity that they are based in a religion. If I was able to tax many of my neighbors for 10% of their income and/or get them to do pro bono labor on occasion or in some cases on a regular basis, some of those efforts and some of that money should go towards charity. I’d be able to deploy funds and effort rapidly if I had that network as well.

On a practical note, if you want a fairly effective way to check established charities, take a look at Charity Navigator. A discussion of charity can be found here (login required).

Related: Behavior of seminary students on the way to give a talk on the Good Samaritan parable.

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lukeprog September 11, 2010 at 2:51 pm

David,

You’re saying your paragraphs are out of order within a single comment?

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David Rogers September 11, 2010 at 5:31 pm

lukeprog,

I think so. I could have sworn that my last sentence was “Please know that I have enjoyed the back and forth.”

When it posted an earlier paragraph came after that sentence.

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David Rogers September 11, 2010 at 6:01 pm

So the answer is mu?

So the question cannot be answered?

You did mention “Both.” So, what makes anything “shameful”?

As I understand your moral calculus, the non-helping seminary students did nothing wrong or shameful, they did not know the person in need and might likely be concerned of what the person in need could do to them.

My moral calculus would suggest they should feel some shame.

Oh by the way, giving in my church is not a tax. It is absolutely voluntary and in no way does it reach 10%. If it was 10% of likely income we would be rolling in money. Also, as pastor, I purposely remain ignorant of every person’s givng so that I would not be tempted to manipulate them.

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Hermes September 11, 2010 at 7:16 pm

the non-helping seminary students did nothing wrong or shameful, they did not know the person in need and might likely be concerned of what the person in need could do to them.

Then you have a human answer and I’m not faulting your answer.

A few comments;

Read this for irony: Luke 10:25-37

Review this: tithe

I don’t see that as a charity even if you don’t tithe yourself.

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Wade Anes September 11, 2010 at 7:46 pm

@ David,

Gallons of ink have been spilled over the questions you are asking, & yet you ask them as if you are making a grocery list. I think you’re going to have to narrow it down a little. As Hermes said, atheism implies nothing more than not believing in any gods. Atheists do not have a monopoly on reason more than anyone else, of course atheists themselves think that on the topic of the existence of gods, they do, but an atheist can be just as irrational as anyone else. We humans fool ourselves all the time, I can’t tell you how many atheists I’ve met who still buy into astrology.

Of course atheists have both rational & emotional reasons for their convictions, & of course the observed effect of belief on others, same as you. This, especially, is an emotionally charged issue, no way to get around it. What is not going to help is coming on an atheist blog & spouting emotionally charged rhetoric about the apparent lack of secular charities. If you desire dialouge, that’s one thing, but if you desire a place to have a “comment fight” with atheists, you can always go here.

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David Rogers September 12, 2010 at 5:09 am

I’ll make a few more comments and leave for now.

You said
“What is not going to help is coming on an atheist blog & spouting emotionally charged rhetoric about the apparent lack of secular charities.”

Where did I “spout” about the “apparent” lack of secular charities?

I challenged atheists to do charity. The poem challenged you also while “whining?” about God’s absence.

What I find interesting is very little articulation by the commenters here of the rational principles for charitable actions. A previous comment summarized what I got from you guys.

I await Sam Harris’ attempt to formulate some.

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Hermes September 12, 2010 at 6:02 am

David, why do you think atheists aren’t doing charity? Additionally, besides compassion, what rational principle is needed?

We — that includes you — are human and act in human ways. Charity is not primarily a philosophical issue, though if you give religious institutions advantages that are compounded over time the only question I have is why they don’t do more. As one satirist noted, why not sell the Vatican and feed the world? Satire or not, she’s right. How many other assets flowing through religious institutions could more effectively be applied to other problems, such as improving research to actually solve diseases? How many individual churches or sects are on a vetted list of charities such as the one I linked to before?

On the note of diseases, does charity on one hand make up for the damage backed by religious ideologies? The spread of AIDS in Africa? The rejection of the HPV vaccine that could save 6 million people a year from becoming infected and spreading genital cancer, sterility, or death in the USA alone?

So, when religious groups stop promoting death, disease, and ignorance. When they stand up against the spread of death, disease, and ignorance promoted by other religious groups. When these things are actively done then you can ask atheists earnestly about how charitable any of us have been. Till then, I suggest you get to work and consider that outspoken atheists are already attempting to clean up some of the damage caused by the religious that goes unquestioned by the religious or even promoted with time and tithes.

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puntnf September 12, 2010 at 10:14 am

Hermes, good post

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Hermes September 12, 2010 at 11:08 am

[ tips hat ]

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David Rogers September 12, 2010 at 12:39 pm

You know, I started to write a response, but I erased it. We’re talking past each other. Why should I keep trying.

There is plenty that I could say about the last post, but why do it?

Parting comment a la Bill and Ted “Be excellent to one another.”

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Hermes September 12, 2010 at 2:52 pm

David, do you think atheists are less charitable specifically because they do not follow your religion?

If you do not think this is the case, then what question were you actually asking?

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David Rogers September 13, 2010 at 10:14 am

“do you think atheists are less charitable specifically because they do not follow your religion?”

No.

Are they actually less charitable than non-atheists, sociological demographics may be able to give us some info. Does anyone have any information on that matter?

If they are less so, my opinion is that it is because ideas have consequences.

More later . . .

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Hermes September 13, 2010 at 11:51 am

If they are less so, my opinion is that it is because ideas have consequences.

Yes they do. Have you been following the “Four Bad Arguments for God” threads? Luke and others (including myself) have posted references showing the results of some of those thoughts.

The point of my previous comments includes the idea that causing harm on a massive scale based on an ideology should also be counted in the list. If I help people at a homeless shelter, but when I jump in my car I feel compelled to randomly hit people who ride bicycles because I think it is immoral to ride on 2 wheels, I should not be complemented on my good nature. The work at the shelter doesn’t allow for the damage. In the same way, I see no need to give Christians credit for allowing deaths and disease and ignorance to be promoted by the same institutions that run the soup kitchens.

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David Rogers September 17, 2010 at 4:08 pm

I think Luke’s exploration of moral realism will be interesting.

Of course, horrific atrocties do not excuse good acts. However, what would be the philosophical reasons in favor of not “allowing deaths and disease and ignorance”? That’s what I’ve been asking.

Believers in revelation appeal to the alleged ideas of that alleged revelation.

Non-revelationists appeal to what for acting morally?

Compassion?

What if I lack that compassion in a particular moment? Is my non-compassion or apathy wrong?

If the causations of physicalism is to blame for my absence of chemical reactions of compassion, am I excused from any real moral responsibility?

Does a “belief” in physicalism as inevitable emotional chemical destiny give me “moral” cover for any apathy I have?

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David Rogers September 18, 2010 at 7:20 pm

“Of course, horrific atrocties do not excuse good acts.”

What I meant to type was “Of course, horrifict atrocities are not excused by good acts.”

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