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LETTER OF THE DAY - Atheism, religion more alike than different

Published:Sunday | April 22, 2012 | 12:00 AM


After reading Hilaire Sobers' article in The Sunday Gleaner of April 15, I felt the need to write this letter to you in response to his claims and counterclaims as he tried to refute Ian Boyne's assertions about theism and human dignity.

Mr Sobers contends that atheists' moral foundation lies neither in theism nor Darwinism. Be that as it may, the crucial question is this: On what moral foundation do atheism and atheists rest? Is it secularism? If so, what is the moral basis of secularism? Man himself?

If indeed atheists do not "automatically subscribe to Darwinism or any other secular theory", what theory do they subscribe to?

Who says Sam Harris was right about happiness and suffering being the essence of morality? This is a ridiculously reductionist view of morality, which is more transcendental and overarching than mere happiness. If this were so, morality would have a secular humanistic foundation, which is absolutely incredible.

Morality is essentially about right and wrong and surpasses human happiness, which many think is our summum bonum (ultimate good). The highest good of our existence lies beyond ourselves in something higher and greater than us. Atheists wouldn't embrace this because they seek answers from below where the human race faces self-destruction.

No brain in a vat

Mr Sobers scoffs at divine creation and the Imago Dei (image of God) theology, which he asserts is not indisputable, like the law of gravity, as if there is anything indisputable in this world beyond the Cartesian self and the necessary Being (God) who chooses not to deceive that self into believing that it is a brain in a vat.

I must agree that the issues of original sin, expiation via human sacrifice and eternal damnation are vexing subjects that seem to contradict the notion of human dignity. I see no contradiction at all, however.

The palpable and irrefutable evils of this world point to the reality of sin and expiation is not dissimilar to the secular forms of punishment for crimes, such as the death penalty, albeit the ultimate sacrifice was the God-man.

I gathered from Sobers' reflection as well that 'human dignity' is the be-all and end-all of human existence. I submit to Mr Sobers that human divinity, rather than human dignity, is more essential and supreme. By 'human divinity', I mean humans being like God. That is the essence of the Christian story and 'livity'.

At the end of the day, expressing no belief in any god, and holding that to be absolute, is basically placing that non-belief on a pedestal, very much like Christians locate their God on the 'highest plain'. In essence, atheism itself is unwittingly given divine status. Where is the dignity in that?