Friday, November 28, 2014

Swimming with sharks

Unbelievers take offense when Christians say atheism is dangerous. They respond that you don't need God to be moral. Just look at all the virtuous atheists!

Christians reply that this misses the point. The issue is, in the first place, whether atheism has a basis for morality. Moreover, there's naturally a disconnect between how Christians view atheists and how atheists view themselves. For instance, we don't think abortion, after-birth abortion, and euthanasia are virtuous. 

There is, however, another point to be made. There are two forms of moral restraint: internal and external. Conscience or a personal honor-code exerts self-restraint. 

In addition, law and social approval or stigmatization restrain behavior. So the real test of atheism is twofold: what happens to atheists when there's nothing on the outside to shore up what's missing on the inside? 

Take the assassination of Trotsky. Lenin, Stalin, and Trotsky were atheists. But unlike your next-door atheists, they were the law. There was no law to tell them what they could or could not do. They made the rules. A law unto themselves.

There was nothing between the atheists and each other. No moral buffers, internal or external. In that morally denuded setting, their philosophy reduces to "Do unto others before they do unto you."

It becomes a game of chicken. Should you try to kill your fellow atheist before he tries to kill you? There's a risk either way. If you try and fail, you're a marked man. But if you wait for him to make the first move, it may be too late. Even if they didn't plan to kill you, why take the chance? 

Any vulnerability is an invitation to be murdered by your comrades. Once Trotsky began to slip, he was doomed. Out of power, it was safe to kill him. Indeed, it was prudent to kill him. Kill or be killed.  

Lenin was weakened by stroke, but there was some value in keeping him alive as an inspirational figurehead, while Stalin consolidated power behind-the-scenes. 

The French Reign of Terror is another case in point. Close your eyes and imagine a world where there's nobody you can trust. A friendless world. 

Now open your eyes. This isn't just a hypothetical exercise. It happens. It happens when a moral void on the inside meets a moral void on the outside. Only power fills the void. The will to power. 

We use metaphors like "back-stabbing" and "watching your back." But when atheism is in the ascendent, these are realities rather than metaphors. 

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