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A great humanitarian atheist?


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Initial post: 13 Jan 2008 08:41:12 GMT
Last edited by the author on 13 Jan 2008 08:54:57 GMT
Can anybody name me a great humanitarian atheist, who has done the world a service BESIDES saying there is no God? What atheist has actually done something good, BESIDES that?

Given to the poor, stood up for justice or other great things? Is there a great atheistic figure-head of virtue, anywhere?

Someone who comes from an atheistic family would be preferable. Given that ten percent of the worlds population is atheist, there should be one somewhere.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Jan 2008 08:49:15 GMT
Last edited by the author on 16 Jan 2008 08:54:31 GMT
There are many non-believers (aka. "atheists") who have done the world services - great and small. What you're aiming at here is actually a more opaque version of the old and tired "only Christians can have morals, and atheists are bound to be degenerate, immoral, evil people who can do no good to others". Well, doesn't that argument boil down to the essential logic that the _Christian_ looks deep into himself and realizes that he would indeed go about killing and raping if someone didn't threaten with Eternal Fire, whereas the _Atheist_ readily finds his inner moral compass and needs no particular threats of eternal damnation to treat his fellow man decently?

Every time you enjoy the fruits of technology, scientific advances or modern medicine you're recieving a service rendered by de facto atheists. And I'm sure that in the smaller scale of things among people similar to Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt there's bound to be many de facto atheists (although they probably never bother identifying as such, but you'd have to identify them as such simply because they DON'T put the word "God" into every bloody sentence when they describe the causes of their own actions). Everytime you think of Human Rights and equality for all men, when you look at your Constitutions in our Western democracies, you can be sure that those values are deeply secular - and giving humanity all those wonderful FREEDOMS - including the right to criticize faiths - makes up the very foundation of our modern societies. THOSE are secular, non-believing ideals implemented by de facto atheists that have rendered the perhaps greatest of all services ever done to humankind.

Of course, you might be looking for more saintly examples, you know ... like Mother Teresa or something like that. I'll leave it to you to complete the exercise of looking up "Christopher Hitchens Mother Teresa" on Google. There's a good reason why reasonable people of the non-believing denomination sometimes stays clear of the Mother Teresa thing.

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Mar 2008 18:44:13 GMT
Do you really think she would have been called Mother Teresa, if she didn't do a single good thing? If she was truly a hypocrite?

What do you think she means to the average poor indian in Calcutta? The same as she does to Hitchens?

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Mar 2008 18:49:29 GMT
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In reply to an earlier post on 24 Mar 2008 18:51:10 GMT
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In reply to an earlier post on 27 Mar 2008 13:17:42 GMT
Last edited by the author on 27 Mar 2008 19:31:04 GMT
Well the two greatest philantropists in history are Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. Both are atheists, both have given literally billions of dollars to charity. Does that answer your question?

Moving on from charity, there are many atheists who have made immense contributions to science, saving millions of lives. One could also mention the many atheists in the arts who have produced much-loved films, books etc.

As a side-point, Christopher Hitchens' book 'The Missionary Position' mounts a very strong case against Mother Theresa.

"Atheists do one thing well, and one thing only. Make unfounded claims."
...which is, in itself, an unfounded claim.

"Assuming she hasn't had a Christian upbringing is simply false."
How do you explain all those paedophile priests, then? Their Catholic upbringing didn't stop them abusing children, did it?

You toss asside any atheists who've done good, saying that they owe their goodness to their religious parents. Does that mean any religious people brought up by atheists should ascribe their morals to atheism?

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Mar 2008 20:51:08 BDT
I'm bumping this thread to highlight the shifty hypocrisy of JBB. He issues a challenge to provide a single atheist humanitarian. I offer that the two greatest charity donors in history are both atheists, and what is his response... Nothing.

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Apr 2008 16:44:06 BDT
Last edited by the author on 3 Apr 2008 07:49:36 BDT
Hammo says:
Jesper, I am myself a christian, but I find your atitude to others opinions condescending to say the least. I'm sorry but you manage to come across very arrogantly, judgmental and self-righteous when making any point it seems. I don't see the point in questioning peoples philanthropy, as I could name many athiests I know of a very kindly persuasion and many christians of the opposite nature. I'm sorry but the world is not as black and white as you suggest by your question. Athiest can do many things well - don't be so small minded and please don't exaggerate for effect, that certainly is not displaying a christian attitude to others.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Apr 2008 13:17:23 BDT
Still no answer for Jesper then? Very interesting.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Apr 2008 18:08:53 BDT
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In reply to an earlier post on 16 Apr 2008 05:20:40 BDT
Last edited by the author on 16 Apr 2008 05:27:33 BDT
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In reply to an earlier post on 16 Apr 2008 05:51:05 BDT
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In reply to an earlier post on 16 Apr 2008 06:01:13 BDT
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In reply to an earlier post on 16 Apr 2008 08:42:01 BDT
Last edited by the author on 16 Apr 2008 11:04:44 BDT
Hammo says:
Jesper,

As I said before, and to quote: "the world is not as black and white as you suggest". Where on earth did I suggest I knew only kind atheists and only foul christians?? Again you exaggerate for effect, which is exactly what my previous post dealt with. I know atheists and christians, kind and foul. I never said otherwise, and I certainly didn't become a christian because other christians were kind or because atheists were foul.

As you've said you are by 80% atheist which makes me think you haven't really got the point in becoming a christian - "the old has gone, the new has come". I'm afraid that I don't think your question has much merit, you shoot down most suggestions by claiming that people are christian by association and also how can you judge someone to be an atheist, when truly only they can know. Sorry, but I really don't feel any burden of proof.

I know of one, Pat Macphail, who dedicated his life to serving others in Sierra Leone and in the Far East, and he did profess to being an atheist.

To quote you: "What, like put butter on bread, drive a car, wipe their own bottom?"

This is a very childish statement, made with much bitterness. As you already stated you are 4/5 atheist, so is this all you can do??

Hypocracy and immorality are unfortunately traits of the human condition or the sinful nature of humans, and all of us, atheist and theist fall foul of these. Don't believe that just because you are a christian you are immune! Christians are meant to be saved by grace alone.

Any stealing is wrong, but I confess that I have on occasions taken a pen from my workplace. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone as someone once said.

To finish, I apologise for believing you were a christian, but you had not made clear your atheistic tendancies previously..

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Apr 2008 09:07:14 BDT
Last edited by the author on 16 Apr 2008 09:09:10 BDT
Hammo says:
Jesper,

I'm sure I'm not the only one, but can you please stop going on about "Hitler, Mao, Stalin or Pol Pot" like a man obsessed. We all know these guys are amongst the most evil scumbags to reside on earth, and also that probably they were not devout christians (certainly their actions suggest so). Noone is denying how bad they were.

The fact that people can be so evil is not in itself proof of anything, and to be honest, it makes for a very poor argument. It is obvious noone will come back defending them - why not pick on less blatantly evil figures for examples - maybe moderate evil people!

"need I remind you of Hitler, Mao, Stalin or Pol Pot??"

No please don't - ever again! Sick of hearing about them.

E

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Apr 2008 13:22:44 BDT
Last edited by the author on 16 Apr 2008 13:38:48 BDT
"If you can prove to me, that both his parents and his wife were atheists, or at least only luke-warm Christians, I think it would be proof."

Proof of what?

So if I showed you the reverse situation - a charitiable Christian whose parents were both atheists - would you say that the Christian was only charitable due to their atheist parents? I suspect you'd argue instead that this was proof of the transforming effect of Christianity.

My girlfriend is an atheist daughter of two atheists. She does charity work. I suppose your next question is whether her grandparents were Christians. Where does it end? It's a bit desperate to attribute any good works by atheists to Christians they are related to. I could say that Christians get all their reason from atheists they know. It's an unfounded assertion.

By your logic if, if atheist's good works are due to their Christian parents, then so are their bad deeds. So if Stalin's parents were Christian then we could blame THEM for his evil acts. It's a nonsense.

And you give up on finding out the religious affiliation of Buffet's parents. To make a proper control experiment you'd need to compare the charitable activities of atheist children of atheists with Christian children of atheists, and Christian children of Christians with atheist children of Christians. Can you find such examples? I'm guessing it's pretty hard to pin these people down, rendering your original question pointless.

And it's flim-flam to say that Gates is only charitable due to his wife. I might as well say his wife is only charitable due to him. You lost the argument, give it up.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Apr 2008 18:50:43 BDT
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In reply to an earlier post on 16 Apr 2008 18:59:00 BDT
Ezer Goode,

"I'm afraid that I don't think your question has much merit, you shoot down most suggestions by claiming that people are christian by association and also how can you judge someone to be an atheist, when truly only they can know. Sorry, but I really don't feel any burden of proof."

No, my point is much more simple than that. There is something called social inheritance, ie. the values of the home are inculcated, generally, in the children of that home. I don't mean to say you become Christian by association, I mean to say you become good by being around good people, when you grow up. The question is, where does that goodness come from, in your home?? Most often, from some sort of association with religion, certainly my impression is that religious people have better manners than atheists, overall, this little discussion is actually a prime example, if you think about it. You trying to moderate, the others going for a scrap. I have experienced that over and over, consistently actually.

So, my statement is, if you grow up among good, virtuous parents (which are so due to Christianity) and then you decide to become an atheist, then you will already have Christian MORALS by association, and so will not see a problem with atheism. But what about the emotionally disturbed person, from an emotionally or physically abusive home, who becomes an atheist, at some point?? Where will he get his morals, since he missed out on getting them by association (social inheritance)?

Also, I think it is blantant misrepresentation, when Christian who have been blessed with good morals, because of their parents dedication to religion, turn their back on that and even slander it, though it is the source of their parents virtues, and so, has become their own through social inheritance. I frankly think it is cheap, or thoughtless, or both. Give credit where credit is due.

ps. It is great to see someone who can finally say, that atheists have moral shortcomings as well!! That certainly has been something that has been hush-hush on these pages! Thank you very much for breaking the ice.

Cheers,

Jesper

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Apr 2008 19:06:00 BDT
Last edited by the author on 16 Apr 2008 19:07:31 BDT
"if you grow up among good, virtuous parents (which are so due to Christianity) and then you decide to become an atheist, then you will already have Christian MORALS by association"

"certainly my impression is that religious people have better manners than atheists"
The opposite is my own impression. Perhaps atheists react against your attitude?

Do you have any evidence for this at all? I mean, that having Christian parents makes you more moral?

"the Four Great Atheists mentioned above"

You only mentioned three. If the fourth if Hitler, then I'm afraid he was a believer in God.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Apr 2008 19:55:02 BDT
Mr. A. M. Ryan,

"So if I showed you the reverse situation - a charitiable Christian whose parents were both atheists - would you say that the Christian was only charitable due to their atheist parents? I suspect you'd argue instead that this was proof of the transforming effect of Christianity."

Show me one, for starters. There should be plenty out there. Perhaps a famous exemplar? And no, there is another thing you are missing here. Being a Christian means going to church, listening to sermons, reading the Bible. All these activities influence people to do better things with their lives. So there is the third option, other than it coming from the parents, or from themselves, that it comes from Christianity. You can't say the same about atheism, because there are no such moral exhortations in atheism. It simply can't influence people that way, on it's own, because it doesn't.

Then there is the issue of secular humanism. I hear many atheists talk well of it, but I have never heard from one who has ACTUALLY read about it, studied, they just know that word, secular humanism. Are you different, have you studied any such books? If so, which, and how much? Fair questions, and ones that are readily answered by an honest soul.

"My girlfriend is an atheist daughter of two atheists. She does charity work. I suppose your next question is whether her grandparents were Christians. Where does it end? It's a bit desperate to attribute any good works by atheists to Christians they are related to. I could say that Christians get all their reason from atheists they know. It's an unfounded assertion."

First of all, if her grandparents where strongly Christian, there is a good chance she could have got it from there, IF she hung out with them a lot as a child. I am sure you agree that grandparents are another viable influence. Actually, it would be interesting if you would ask her, what inspired her to get involved with charity. And might I ask, what sort of charity is she involved with?

"By your logic if, if atheist's good works are due to their Christian parents, then so are their bad deeds. So if Stalin's parents were Christian then we could blame THEM for his evil acts. It's a nonsense."

No, it is not nonsense, that is exactly what I mean. To the extent they are bad Christians, their children will be bad, generally, and vice versa. There is the possibility of them being hypocritical (which all are, when measured next to Jesus, really). However, my claim is, that studying Christianity makes people better, and only when they abandon it, does it go the other way. There is that option. Christianity is an INFLUENCE in the lives of the people who call themselves Christians, but some are more involved than others, and this shows in the morals of their children, as well. I am sure you will agree there is a general trend between the moral behaviour of the parents, and that of the child.

The thing is, Christianity is by definition good, about virtue, self-sacrifice, etc. If people turn their backs on it, there is that option. But mostly a person who calls himself a Christian will not do that, but take it seriously, at least to some extent. The whole point it, that Christianity is a good influence, it leads to betterment of character and morals. For instance, in the Rosary, for those who say, are these fifteen virtues, assigned to it by the person who founded it:

Humility, charity towards ones' neighbour, poverty, obedience to good authorities, piety, true contrition (regret for sins), purity, patience, perseverance, faith, hope, love of God, devotion to Mary and eternal happiness.

Basically, these are the things a person meditates on, while praying the Rosary. You may disagree with some of them, or don't understand how they are good (perhaps love of God has you wondering, but that means to love truth, justice, peace, if you REALLY understand it, have studied, taken the time to find out for yourself). But I guess you can see that at least some of them are virtues, and that it is good to think about them, that attaining will make the person, and the world, a slightly better place? Which is what religion is capable of, when PRACTICED SINCERELY.

"And it's flim-flam to say that Gates is only charitable due to his wife. I might as well say his wife is only charitable due to him. You lost the argument, give it up."

First of all, you saying 'You lost the argument, give it up,' is mightily presumptuous. Second, you have not DISPROVEN it, so how can I have lost? Are you trying to bully me?? I see that moral flaw in many atheists, actually. Not all, but more so than in people with a religious background. Go figure. Second, can you explain why he wasn't involved in charity, before his marriage, then? What does that prove? That it was his atheism that made him do it, somehow, not getting involved with charity?

Or, are we at the level where we say that nothing proves anything really? If you look at enough examples, you will start to see a trend. What you have here, is one small example of that. Once you start adding up the evidence, you will see what I am talking about. This is actually pretty consistent, when comparing religious and atheistic people. As a case in point, I only got involved with charity after I returned to religion. One more piece of evidence. Rather than argue, let's look at the evidence.

Also, Warren Buffett had a mentor at business college, a Graham something, who was Jewish. Now, does that mean anything? Nothing besides that Buffett considers him the greatest influence on his business thinking ever, I think he says it is 85% Graham and 15% other influences. Also, you haven't proved that his wife was either one way or the other, so that constitutes a LACK of evidence, which is something we CAN'T look at. In fact, it would be interesting if you would go look for that information on the internet, as well. Perhaps we could find some evidence, in concert. It could be cool to do a little detective work, or are you afraid what we're going to find?

Anyway, it's just a discussion, see you on the pages,

Cheers,

Jesper

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Apr 2008 22:10:56 BDT
Last edited by the author on 16 Apr 2008 22:11:42 BDT
"All these activities influence people to do better things with their lives. "

Evidence please.

"Second, you have not DISPROVEN it, so how can I have lost? "

That's because your premise can't be proven one way or another.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Apr 2008 22:27:45 BDT
Last edited by the author on 16 Apr 2008 22:50:21 BDT
Mr. A. M. Cameron,

"Evidence please."

So, you are saying that it isn't possible to educate people morally? What does that say about secular humanism? So, you are of the idea that there is no hope, no matter what? Suppose a person reads a book about secular humanism, would you be of the conviction that nothing would change? Even if it said directly, that it is a good idea to give to the poor, as an example. It wouldn't work, no matter who read it?

If you say yes, then you don't believe your own statement, and that such things CAN change people - making asking for evidence redundant. If you go with it, that such things don't work, then you think that the efforts of secular humanists are a waste of time, and that atheism can't be informed by morality, since on it's own it is not moral, but needs to be matched with humanistic theories, to gain an ethical foundation. You are essentially saying that secular humanists are (stupid) for trying to achieve something which simply doesn't work. Because such things can't change people, no matter what.

So which is it?

"That's because your premise can't be proven one way or another."

Hmm, that's strange, because you said:

"And it's flim-flam to say that Gates is only charitable due to his wife. I might as well say his wife is only charitable due to him. You lost the argument, give it up."

You said, that 'I lost the argument, give it up.' That was a bold statement. And apparently, you were wrong. What else are you wrong about? How many of your categorical statements are really little more than hot air? So, which of your categorical statements is the wrong one? That I lost, or that it can't be proven? Because those two aren't the same.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Apr 2008 22:46:12 BDT
Last edited by the author on 16 Apr 2008 22:48:33 BDT
"You only mentioned three. If the fourth if Hitler, then I'm afraid he was a believer in God."

Actually, we have been looking at that in here. Hitler was a Catholic, he said he was. But his behaviour said otherwise. For instance, he had Catholic monks, nuns and priests killed in Poland. IF Hitler was Catholic, surely he wouldn't have killed his fellow men and women of faith?? Also, he had pro-Jewish Catholics shot or deported, even the Bishop of Berlin. Would a Catholic do that?

There is another thing. In an early speech, Hitler says how he saw the day Jesus ousted the sellers from the temple, with the knotted cord, as the most glorious thing in all the Bible, and he used that as a pretext to persecute Jews. However, Jesus never killed anybody, in fact he cleared the temple so the devout Jews could worship in there. But because of the frenzied mood and the humiliation from the defeat in WWI, people allowed these kinds of perversions of Christianity to go on. Suppose I said I was an atheist who believed in God - would you consider me an atheist then?? Well, suppose a person says he sees an excuse to go kill all Jews in Europe in the above statement, would you consider that person a Christian? No, being a Christian presupposes an understanding of what it actually says in the Bible, that is not in CONTRADICTION to what is written. What Hitler did was he bent his Catholicism into whatever shape he wanted, so that it allowed all sorts of things. For instance, the persecution of gays, of which I am not a partisan, but nonetheless, Jesus said he was there to SAVE the sinners, not to kill them. Hitler can find not justification in the New Testament for killing people, because Jesus NEVER did. He was simply not a Christian. Actually, him calling himself one was something he HAD to do, because Germany was an intensely Christian nation, and he could not get elected unless he was strongly Christian, same as the President in America. I believe atheists are always on about how they, even today, can't get elected for office - imagine how it must have been back then, in Germany in the late thirties. Impossible, right? Hitler said what he had to do, and then bent it whichever way he wanted. That does not make him a Catholic, anymore than being and atheist and believing firmly in God is a tenable position.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Apr 2008 00:56:25 BDT
Drew Jones says:
Hitler killed few to no people himself. His wishes were carried out by the populous of what Jesper, in his own words, calls "an intensely Christian nation".

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Apr 2008 07:37:30 BDT
"So, you are saying that it isn't possible to educate people morally?"

No. You are claiming that Christianity is intrinsically moral and makes people more moral. THAT is what I am questioning. You have provided no evidence for it. All you've shown is that most people know someone Christian, and you've claimed that any morality a person has probably comes from their Christian relatives or aquaintences.

You might as well claim that all the BAD things someone does comes from their Christian relatives or aquaintences. It's not something you can prove either way. Why not claim any morality a person has probably comes from left-handed relatives or aquaintences, or vegetarians they know?
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Discussion in:  The God Delusion forum
Participants:  13
Total posts:  195
Initial post:  13 Jan 2008
Latest post:  2 Aug 2012

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