Store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven
where moth and rust cannot destroy and thieves cannot break in and steal

Friday, May 31, 2013

Atheists Aren't Joking

When atheists that I've talked to say they're good people, they're absolutely serious.
And that's no joke. I think this is the main reason that people are leery of electing atheists to high-office. It's one thing to know that all humans lack insight into their personal motives. It's one thing to know that all humans are corrupt to one degree or another. But to advertise the fact, as atheists do, that you're blind to that reality, and to see that blindness as some sort of bonus point is something else altogether.
When the atheists with whom I've spoken say, “I'm a good person,” or “I don't need god to be a good person,” most of them mean they intend to do good things to and for other people and/or the planet. They mean well. They desire to do the right thing. Therefore when they do the wrong thing, or fail to do the right thing it really doesn't count. For an atheist, the only time that doing wrong is, well, wrong, is when it's done by someone else, especially if it's a Christian. Then behaviours count for everything and the other person's intentions count for nothing.
Other atheists that I've encountered, when they say, “I'm a good person,” mean that after they've hurt someone they said they were sorry. They've taken responsibility for the wrong that they've done. They've accepted the blame. And that is a good thing. There's far too little of that kind of maturity in the world. However, the downside is, these atheists think the hurtful behaviour is cancelled out by the apology. The hurt is forgotten, the apology is remembered.
Another subset of “good” atheists I've encountered deem themselves good because they have a code of morality that they can verbalize, delineate, describe, enumerate. It doesn't matter that, to a person, these people fail to live up to their own standard of morality. They believe lying to be wrong, unless it's necessary. They think marital faithfulness is right, unless they fall out of love with their spouse. They think they should be kind unless someone has hurt them first. Nevertheless, for these people, just having a moral code justifies labelling oneself as good.
Other atheists grade themselves on the curve and compare themselves to those who do worse things. “He diddles with little kids. I wouldn't even think of doing such a thing, therefore I'm obviously a good person.” I've said before that I worked in two Super Max prisons for ten years and in all that time, I never met one man who thought he was a bad person. Those people all judged themselves in this same manner. They could always point to someone who was worse, therefore they were by comparison, good. If you can get yourself into the habit of always comparing down to those who are worse than you, instead of comparing up to those who are better than you, you've pretty much got a lock on a self-view that is impervious to reality.

Of course there are the old stand-by solutions:
. Anything that feels this right can't be wrong,
. Once enough people say wrong is right, wrong becomes right,
Either way, "I'm good!"
Finally, there are situations where good intentions aren't present, when apologies haven't been said, when a formal code isn't present and when comparisons aren't appropriate. In those cases, and they aren't as rare as one might hope, there is always the case of, “S/he deserved it. S/he . . . (insert excuse here) to me. Anyone would have done the same thing I did.” Again, as far as the atheist's insight into personal goodness goes, the result is the same. They come out with an A+.
Hmm, where have I heard A+ before? Oh ya. It belongs to the New New atheists who judge themselves as better people than the Old New atheists who judge themselves better than the Old atheists, all of whom judge themselves as being better human beings than everyone else.
This may sound unfair, but if truth be known, atheists judge themselves so highly that they stand as Judge and Jury of their Creator. As one atheist high-priest has famously said, [The Christian God is] “Arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it, a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynist, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
As the saying goes, “All unbelief entails a high opinion of self and a low opinion of God.”

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