Thursday, September 18, 2014

Atheists and Oaths

For an atheist - if an atheist is defined as 'lacking God belief' or 'believing God's existence is unlikely' - there's no obvious reason why swearing an oath to God is offensive, or really, something that should be rejected. It's at most a commitment to a being you don't think really exists, at least a symbolic act.

Now, if you're an anti-theist, we can start seeing reasons you'd get riled at the oath. But then you can't say that the oath is offensive to a mere atheist. You need something more.

15 comments:

Acatus Bensley said...

Honestly when an nonbeliever says something along the lines of 'I find that offensive' it really seems like their pathetic attempt to to erode any aspect of theism from our culture no matter how subtle.

Jakeithus said...

If the nonbeliever was to say "I find the meaning behind giving the oath to be important, and because of its importance would rather not include reference to a deity I don't believe in", I can understand that. I can't say I would find it offensive, but I also wouldn't be entirely comfortable giving an oath before a god I didn't personally believe in.

BenYachov said...

Except on principle if a gay fascist can't make me bake him/her a cake for his/her same sex wedding then I don't see how I can force any Atheist to invoke the name of God in an oath?

Granted for a negative Atheist it seems inconsistent for him to object to invoking God but I don't believe it's the government's place in a free constitutional republican democracy to monitor such inconsistencies but respect freedom and conscience.

A Catholic baker might be inconsistent in not baking a cake for a same sex "wedding" but might do so for a "wedding" between two divorced baptized persons who have no decree of annulment for their previous marriages.

But it's not the job of the State to chastise him for that. Let the Public or the Church do so.

It's all about the liberty YO!!!!

Cheers my friends!:-)

Crude said...

Jakeithus,

Oh, I can easily and entirely see a way a person who was an atheist could dislike it. The problem is that none of that would flow from their atheism.

Put another way: belief that atheism is important is not an intrinsic part of atheism, nor is much else.

Ben,

Gay fascists can, so hey.

BenYachov said...

>Gay fascists can, so hey.

I was speaking morally not practically.

But I don't want to become the thing I hate.

Crude said...

I am sympathetic to the reasoning. It is reasoning I have espoused.

I am forced to question it.

Dan Gillson said...

There are many good, principled reasons to be upset at being forced to swear to a God in whom you do not believe. "Because it makes me feel bad!" isn't one of them. "Because communities can't coerce or co-opt my individual conscience without my consent" is, but as you said, that principle doesn't flow from atheism. The principle isn't membership-specific.

BenYachov said...

Principles are binding even on the inconsistent.

For the sake of argument let us say the Negative Atheist is inconsistent to object to saying an oath to God based on Crude's argument.

Like I said he has a right too it anyone on principle.

People who deny the right too freedom of speech must have their free speech respected otherwise the concept of freedom of speech means nothing and the anti-free speech fascist is vindicated by default if his views are censored.

I am content to let the Atheist opt out of addressing God in an Oath & I will pray for his Soul and Spiritual enlightenment.

Of course I will take every opportunity to harshly shame the Gnu Atheist gay Fascist who wants to force me to bake him a cake for his same sex wedding.

Or turn around forbid me to invoke God's name if I choose too.

Crude said...

Dan,

"Because communities can't coerce or co-opt my individual conscience without my consent" is, but as you said, that principle doesn't flow from atheism.

Let me ask you. Do you consider this to be a situation where a community is coercing or co-opting their individual conscience without their consent? And if so, how?

I'm sincere here. I think there can be reasons for which refusing the oath makes sense. But, as I said (and I guess as you agree) the 'atheist!' claim is not one. This one, I want to examine more, at least a little.

Dan Gillson said...

Crude,

"Do you consider this to be a situation where a community is coercing or co-opting their individual conscience without their consent? And if so, how?" ... Yeah, maybe. I think what troubles me is when you say, "there's no obvious reason why swearing an oath to God is offensive, or really, something that should be rejected." Imagine if I were to say to you, "there's no obvious reason why baking a cake for a gay couple is offensive, or really, something that should be rejected." You have very good reason to take offense at being forced to bake a cake for a gay couple, even though in the end it's only just baking a cake. I think the trouble is that statements like "there's no real reason ... are meant to reinforce the preferences of the status quo. Refusing to recognize someone's reasons as being real is a way for oligarchs and majorities to silence dissenters. Saying, "Your reasons aren't real," is a way for me to assert my power over someone else. Plus, it's patronizing.

Anyways, this is my silly little anarchist thought for the day.

Crude said...

Dan,

Imagine if I were to say to you, "there's no obvious reason why baking a cake for a gay couple is offensive, or really, something that should be rejected." You have very good reason to take offense at being forced to bake a cake for a gay couple, even though in the end it's only just baking a cake.

Sharp comparison. I like it. But I'm not sure it works.

For one thing, most people involved in that issue don't have a problem with 'baking a cake for a gay couple'. It's specifically 'baking a cake for a same-sex wedding' that trips them up. More than that though, I can easily think of reasons that flow from a general Christian belief, natural law belief, or other beliefs that would make that objectionable.

Refusing to recognize someone's reasons as being real is a way for oligarchs and majorities to silence dissenters. Saying, "Your reasons aren't real," is a way for me to assert my power over someone else. Plus, it's patronizing.

I'm fine with recognizing someone's reasons. But they have to give me those reasons if they want me to take them intellectually seriously. I don't want to just assume they have a very good and compelling reason.

msgrx said...

"Imagine if I were to say to you, "there's no obvious reason why baking a cake for a gay couple is offensive, or really, something that should be rejected." You have very good reason to take offense at being forced to bake a cake for a gay couple, even though in the end it's only just baking a cake."

I don't think that analogy works, because people who object to baking said cakes don't generally make statements like "The idea that I believe same-sex marriage is wrong is a slander made up by my opponents. I simply lack belief in the proposition that 'Same-sex marriage is right'."

Dan Gillson said...

Crude,

"For one thing, most people involved in that issue don't have a problem with 'baking a cake for a gay couple'. It's specifically 'baking a cake for a same-sex wedding' that trips them up." ... But it's still only just baking a cake.

"More than that though, I can easily think of reasons that flow from a general Christian belief, natural law belief, or other beliefs that would make that objectionable." ... Well, right. The point is that it's really the other beliefs that motivate the objection, not the identity of being Christian or being atheist.

"I'm fine with recognizing someone's reasons. But they have to give me those reasons if they want me to take them intellectually seriously. I don't want to just assume they have a very good and compelling reason." ... You mean, "It hurts my fee-fees," isn't compelling? I've been doing it wrong.

Crude said...

Dan,

Well, right. The point is that it's really the other beliefs that motivate the objection, not the identity of being Christian or being atheist.

But that's straightforwardly wrong with the Christian: it is precisely the Christian beliefs that motivate the objection in the cake place.

'Christian beliefs' can be and typically are a large web of other beliefs, other fundamental commitments, claims, etc.

For 'atheists', a good share insist that atheism entails no beliefs at all - I think that's bullshit, but let's run with it.

I want to stress something here, since I may have miscommunicated. My attitude towards the atheist isn't, "Pff, c'mon, it's just an oath. Say it." My attitude is, "You can't tell me that as an atheist the oath is offensive to you, because there's nothing about being an atheist in and of itself which would rationalize that."

Now, an anti-theist? Sure, an anti-theist with various commitments could easily say, 'Yeah, I don't want to say that oath, it offends me, it violates my beliefs.' And I may even be on-board with their complaints then, situationally. But we have to get to that point. We have to spell it out, just as the Christian can and WILL spell out their own objections.

The fact is, it's pretty easy to imagine an atheist who not only has no problem with that oath, but who has no problem with prayer in school or even a theocracy. Because when we're considering atheism in isolation, there's not much to it. And that, I think, is not even controversial under most circumstances. But people are used to paying lip service to that idea, then treating it as yet another belief system, when it's not the atheism that could be swinging that belief system.

msgrx said...

"But it's still only just baking a cake."

No, it's baking a cake *in aid of something immoral*. Context matters when deciding the rightness and wrongness of an action. Would you say that when Hitler gave the order to implement the Final Solution, he was "only just signing his name on a piece of paper"?