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 Kill The Afterlife.
UPDATE: Here is a link to the MP3.