Sunday, September 18, 2005

Aaron Kinney @ The Atheist Hour: Aftermath

My guest appearance on Gene Cook’s radio show, The Atheist Hour, has just finished. I appreciate Gene having me on his show, I appreciate the questions that the callers had, and I enjoyed the dialogue. I would definitely be open to being on Gene’s show again if he ever wanted to bring me back. I feel that the dialogue was positive, constructive, and that there was ample mutual respect between everyone who participated. I really enjoyed the show, and I hope that the listeners also got some understanding of my atheistic worldview.

My thoughts on the show: I think I made a good point about the sacrifice of Jesus, how it (and all sacrifice) is morally wrong, and how two wrongs don’t make a right. In other words, having an innocent person such as Jesus or a six-year-old girl serve punishment for the crimes of another, especially by being killed on a cross, is never right. I conceded to Gene that a parent might want to sacrifice himself in favor of their child being punished for a crime, but I noted, and maintain, that it would not be just in either case, and any impartial observer (like the rest of society) would surely not agree that justice has been served when a parent serves the punishment of a murdering child, allowing the child to walk the streets free and forgiven.

Undoubtedly, the Hitler reference was brought up. While the kind Christian caller Dustin said that my moral position and arguments were a breath of fresh air (thanks!), he insisted that I could not get from an objective observation of reality (like Hitler’s genocidal campaign) and determine that it is against objective moral values.

I kept coming back to the value of life, and I think that’s what all these questions were reducible to: Why, as an atheist, should I value life? After the mid-show break, I stated that the question of “why should I value life?” was just as much a problem for a Christian as it is for an atheist in that there is no more reason to follow God’s word than there is to follow natural law based on reality and causality. Gene is a good radio host, and is good at making it seem like he adequately answered my question, but he only managed to push the question back one level, and I tried to point that out as well. Allow me to paraphrase:

Aaron: Why do you value life?
Gene: Because God tells us to.
Aaron: But you’re only pushing the question back one level. Why do you care if God tells you to?
Gene: Because he says that life is good and following his rules is good.
Aaron: But why do you want to follow his rules?
Gene: Because of the punishment he has in store for us if we don’t.
Aaron: But why do you care if you get punished? Why do you avoid punishment?
(From here the question will repeatedly get pushed back unless the Christian admits that they want to follow God’s rule for the same reason I want to follow objective values based on natural law: we both innately want to sustain our consciousnesses and allow them to thrive due to our evolutionary programming).

I think it’s clear by now that the problem they claim belongs to my worldview (that I can’t account for objective values) actually is a problem for their worldview! During the entire show I didn’t hear a sufficient answer for my question: Why does the Christian want to follow God’s rule and avoid punishment from God? Their only answer is to push it back one level.

Now as for me accounting for my values, I was able to mention evolutionary programming, and I said that an “ought” may not even have to come into the picture, because life itself (the definition of life that transcends any given species) wants to sustain, spread, and thrive. Therefore my worldview can account for objective values because of the evolutionary programming. In some ways, it might even be considered a materialistic, evolutionary “presupposition,” and if this is true, then it would be obvious that the Christians are borrowing from my worldview (the evolutionary programming) to justify their desire to value life, God’s law, and not getting cast into hell when they die.

Now remember folks, this was Gene’s show, and Gene is a pastor. That means that I’m on the Christian turf. I will not be getting the last word here, and I didn’t. Gene ended the show with a strawman, and it was basically along the lines of “an atheist can’t account for values or the desire to live, but a Christian can through God’s word, through his love for us, and through the desire to follow his rules.” But as you can all see, I have just demonstrated that it is the materialistic atheist who can account for the desire to live, and it is the Christian who “borrows capital” from the materialistic atheist’s worldview by using their built-in evolutionary programming every time they say that it’s a good thing to follow God’s law and avoid his wrath.

If anyone wants a copy of the show, register for free at Gene’s website Unchained Radio within the next week as it will be available for free download for a week. Alternatively, you can request it from me here in the comments section, and I will see what I can do. If anyone comments about the show, or criticisms of my arguments, etc… Feel free to post them here!

Crossposted at Goosing the Antithesis.

UPDATE: Here is a link to the MP3.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Aaron Kinney said...

There is no afterlife for you, spam.

Aaron Kinney said...

Okay thats it. I'm forced to turn on word verification. *sigh*

Francois Tremblay said...

I want to answer to the point about life, which apparently is the only one Aaron wasn't able to answer head-on, although his Q&A about the incapacity of Christians to validate their belief in "the value of life" is very good.

Basically, there is no such thing as "the value of life". Life is a prerequisite for ANY discussion of value or morality. We can no more ask why we value life (or death) than we can ask why we use logic. We have no choice but to use logic and we have no choice but to be alive. There is no such thing as "being dead", and there is no "choice", therefore no value and no moral judgment, attached to life.

The Christian, on the other hand, is stuck with life as a choice, because he believes there is more than biological life. So why does the Christian "choose life" (i.e. to be alive) ? It is because of the afterlife belief itself that the Christian is stuck with an intractable problem. He cannot use the same standard as he believes in an afterlife, and whatever theistic standard he uses to validate it has to be circular, because all theistic standards are circular (validity of the Bible, personal revelation, personal experience, evidential theology).

So the answer to Cook's boast is simple : there is no "value of life", for us life is an absolute, and for you life is a standard you cannot justify. Christianity is a bankrupt moral belief system, just like it is a bankrupt epistemic belief system, a bankrupt ontological belief system, and a bankrupt spiritual belief system.

Anonymous said...

"Christianity is a bankrupt moral belief system, just like it is a bankrupt epistemic belief system, a bankrupt ontological belief system, and a bankrupt spiritual belief system."

Hot damn, I like that sentence. I'm going to steal it from now on. :P

BibleBelted said...

It's just me again. The same invite that applied to Goosing the Antithesis aplies here. Brandon

Francois Tremblay said...

Thanks, although it's perhaps not the best way to express it. Let's just say that if you accept the premise that a sky fairy popped everything out of nothing, judges everyone for the crimes of their ancestors, and sends itself to sacrifice itself for a rule it made, you're not gonna arrive at the right answers for anything.

Aaron Kinney said...

Hi Brandon,

I appreciate your consideration. Before I decide though, I wanted to get a bit more information. I looked at your blog but didn't see any conclusive information as to what political party your blog supports. It seemed to support the Democratic party, but I wanted to get an official word from you.

Is your blog promoting a specific political party/ideology, or is it more of an "anti-Republican" blog?

Error said...

Francois Tremblay said...

You don't even have the decency of letting people comment on your blog, but you're still here ?

Error said...

Franc, tie all those non-sequiturs in for me, mmkay?

Not Reformed said...


I just finished listening to your interview with Gene. You did a great job, and it was surprisingly nice to listen to an actual cordial discussion between 2 people with vastly different perspectives on the world.

Good job, and it was good to put a voice with the name.


Francois Tremblay said...

Pointing out your hypocrisy is a non sequitur ? Well Paul, let it never be said that you're honest or have integrity, fucking yellow belly.

Aaron Kinney said...

After like a month, Paul wants my attention and wants everyone to see his post that claims 1) I am waving a paper sword while the real fighters are in the valley below, and 2) evolution is a religion.

Paul still seems to want to interact with me, but I think all he wants to do is insult me. Throwing high-school mud is the only thing he does willingly.

Its strange that literally two days after I gave up on trying to deal with him, he writes a really long reply to my evolution post, and posts in my blog for the first time ever, with a link.

But I digress. I think I should mention that Kill The Afterlife is an anti-afterlife blog. I posted the evolution-related post over at Goosing the Antithesis. I know you're quite proud of your work, but I'd be grateful if we can keep the notifications of responses to blog posts contained within the relevant blog? It looks alot less like spam that way. And in case you dont know, I have a strict anti-spam policy.

Aaron Kinney said...

Not Reformed,

I'm glad you enjoyed the cordiality. I've always felt that dialogue is most productive when clear mutual respect is shown on both sides. These are very sensitive issues (naturally) and if anyone wants to get anything useful out of these discussions, then understanding and respect needs to come from both parties. I think far too many people dont understand that.

Thanx for the compliments too! It was the first time I've ever been on a Christian radio show. I think there were a lot of things I could have done alot better, but there were also some points I think I got across well. It was a big learning experience for me and it was also very enjoyable. Its quite different than conversing with a Christian in an online forum setting!