Atheism and Belief

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Michael Gerson appears to be unaware that secular philosophers have, in fact, been discussing ethical issues for centuries without recourse to supernatural lawgivers and other religious tropes ["What Atheists Can't Answer," op-ed, July 13].

The thesis that atheists have a unique incapacity to objectively judge the conduct of others is simply preposterous. Anyone who holds ethical beliefs can make objective moral judgments, and perhaps we can agree that most people, atheists included, hold ethical beliefs of one sort or another. That one's moral judgments can appear questionable under a different set of ethical beliefs is true irrespective of whether one's judgments are based on a religious or secular foundation. The only significant distinction I see between secular and religious ethics is that one is recognized as a product of human intellect and is open to discussion and revision, while the other appears to be sometimes open to discussion and sometimes not.


Silver Spring


Like the rest of us, proselytizing atheist Christopher Hitchens holds unproven beliefs that provide order and meaning to the world ["An Atheist Responds," op-ed, July 14]. For instance, Mr. Hitchens believes that rational thought alone provides access to moral truths and that humanism should define life's meaning. Mr. Hitchens's ethical humanism is grounded in belief.

He should not take this news too hard. Religious thinking, like inclinations to do good and to do evil, is part of what it is to be human.



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