Answering Ian Boyne on Atheism


Jamaican journalist Ian Boyne threw down the gauntlet to atheists in this article. His arguments have been made and refuted so many times, it’s a wonder anyone anywhere on earth can still write them without blushing:

Let us assume that the Bible and the whole Judeo-Christian religion has been based on a myth, and a dangerous one at that. With what shall we replace it, and what will give the legitimacy which the Judeo-Christian culture commanded?

Humanism, and the elimination of human suffering. Reorientation of our priorities toward the living. Global availability of contraception and HIV medication. Mitigation of climate change. Planetary energy and resource sustainability. The universal inoculation of children against curable diseases, efforts toward education and the elimination of poverty, the assurance of universal access to adequate food and clean drinking water, for starters. If that doesn’t provide legitimacy, what would?

If we use majoritarian opinion as a guide to right and wrong, then what if the masses, ruled by their ‘untrained emotions’, want hanging for certain crimes and legislation against homosexuality? Would the enlightened European elite say that that would be ok as morality is now grounded by what the majority believes?

No, 1,000 times no. This would be the ever-fallacious argument from popularity. Human rights have been enshrined in constitutions in every democratic government since the Magna Carta was written–specifically to avoid such majoritarian abuses of power. I would go one step further, and work toward a future government where objective study of human nature could lead to an even more detailed elaboration of inalienable human rights based on evolutionary psychology. This would be accompanied with objective measures of leadership performance (previous post) and automatic ejection of incompetents.

Or should the secular, sophisticated elite be given a ‘divine right’, as it were, to decide ethical issues and to pressure democratically elected governments in the developing world to decriminalise homosexuality (for it is now deemed a human rights issue) and to abolish all laws granting capital punishment?

Homosexuality is present in many species other than humans, so it’s clearly part of animal (thus human) nature and therefore cannot be ethically banned by governments. Capital punishment may be justified in certain circumstances, (serial killers, and the like) but it makes the state subject to criticism that it is sanctioning the very crime it is designed to prevent. These types of ethical debates can only be weighed on their merits and resolved by reason. We do not have to choose between the false dichotomy of religious law vs. mob rule.

What if the majority in certain African societies want to continue to practise female circumcision, on what basis would anyone decide that that is wrong and should not be allowed? If people in certain cultures want to practise child-bride customs, legislate arranged marriages or to decide that thieves should have their hands cut off, who is going to decide that ethically that is wrong?

This is a complete and total straw man argument. Every single one of these cultural practices is clearly barbaric. Only pointy-headed cultural relativists would ever argue that they were remotely acceptable. Humanism does not imply relativism. It means bringing all cultures in line with respect for individual sovereignty over body and conscience, and declarations of objective and universal human rights.

Who has the right to replace the God whom Christopher Hitchens has deemed not great? If we leave individuals to their individual tastes and desires, then that is anarchy.

Since we have no evidence of a god doing anything whatsoever to intervene in world affairs, since god’s ‘books’ and ‘laws’ seem to have been written (poorly) by men, the question is not “Who has the right to replace god?” but rather “Who has the right to claim to speak for god?” That question should be put to organized religion even more strongly than Boyne puts it to the atheists.

What do the atheist men feel about their wives sleeping around on them? They can’t talk about that being against “the law of commitment”, for their wives can give all kinds of reasons as to why enjoying the sack with other men could even help improve their marriage.

If Christian women are only faithful to their husbands because of god, I think they’ve got some ‘splainin to do. What about their own fidelity promises? Do they mean nothing? In either case, that is a matter to be worked out strictly between men (atheist or not) and their wives. As far as giving “all kinds of reasons as to why enjoying the sack with other men could even help improve their marriage”??–some couples are happy swingers. Jamaica’s own Hedonism resorts (of which Boyne must be aware) frequently host such swingers’ events. Regardless, religion has never been any help with stable marriages. Atheists have a lower divorce rate than Christians.

Their business clients might decide to lie to them because it suits those clients. Why not? Who says lying is always wrong and by whose objective standards?

First of all, everyone lies. If you’ve ever had to answer the question “Do I look fat in these pants?” you probably lied. We lie to ourselves about our chances of success (to get psyched up for things we would otherwise be afraid to do). Doctors sometimes lie or fudge to their terminal patients to give them hope.

In terms of business relationships, if no one lied, there would never be any need for lawyers or contracts. Clearly, people never stop trying to gain advantage over each other, and that’s what negotiations are about. So learn the 48 Laws of Power and read The Art of War. These are far more likely to protect you in life than an inconsistent, sanctimonious political document written by who-knows-who 2,000 years ago (and adulterated countless times).

The need for a good reputation is the most powerful check on dishonesty, but the utility of reputation is often trumped by the short-term gains possible through deception. The idea of total honesty anywhere between humans is thus pretty much of a pipe dream. After all, anyone who says ‘god’ keeps them honest is already lying–or at least hedging–to protect the biggest racket of them all. Most importantly, religious leaders lie to their congregations repeatedly and systematically about their false certainties of an afterlife.

Any more questions?

Comments (13 comments)

Atheist Revolution / June 12th, 2007, 8:02 am / #1

What do you make of this trend among Christians to keep recycling the same old arguments as if they are new. It doesn’t seem to bother them at all that the arguments have been thoroughly destroyed many times over; they just keep trying to pass them off as new and relevant. I suppose it is like bowling – Christians keep setting up the same old pins, and atheists keep knocking them down.

John P / June 12th, 2007, 9:25 am / #2

It’s the Christian mindset. They may be tired old arguments to us, easily knocked down, but to them, they are irrefutable. They don’t see them being knocked down, and in fact they have the same reaction you have to them being raised in the first place. They say “Why don’t atheists see the superiority of our arguments?”, despite the fact that we have shown they are just plain stupid. There is a serious disconnect going on here, and I, for one, can never figure it out.

Take this argument

With what shall we replace it?

Why do we have to replace it? Just let religion fade away. It won’t change anything. When we allow Santa Clause to fade from our sense of reality as we age and mature, do we replace him with something else?

BlackSun / June 12th, 2007, 9:39 am / #3

Christians keep setting up the same old pins, and atheists keep knocking them down.

It’s so true. What’s interesting is that earlier in the article, Boyne also asks some tough questions to the religious. But by trying to walk the middle road, he loses his way in a muddle of confusion.

There is a serious disconnect going on here, and I, for one, can never figure it out.

Whenever I read something like this, I smell fear. It’s like they think if they accept logic, they quiver about where it might lead. What they’re really afraid of is that it will lead to some Pandora’s box–a sweeping torrent of logic so inescapable that no one will be able to take the fairy tales seriously anymore. Your Santa Claus analogy is apt–they just don’t want to grow up.

John P / June 12th, 2007, 10:47 am / #4

Whenever I read something like this, I smell fear.

I can understand this. I was the same way as a tentative atheist/agnostic, before I took the bull by the horns, confronted my doubts, and read as much as a could on the subject. Before that, for a long time (maybe 25 years) I was always afraid to get into religious discussions, for fear that they might be right, and my gut feelings were wrong. I was afraid they would convince me that Jesus Christ was my savior, etc, etc, ad nauseum. I used to think that I’d be like Paul on the road to Damascus, that all of a sudden I’d have this revelation if I looked too hard at my beliefs. So I avoided them.

I think their mindless arguments are simply defense mechanisms of avoidance. If they keep making stupid arguments, they don’t have to confront the doubts and questions they are experiencing viscerally.

a / June 12th, 2007, 11:03 am / #5

Great post.

Jeff / June 12th, 2007, 11:37 am / #6

Nice rebuttal, Sean. But let me quote some scripture…just kidding. I’m finding it harder and harder not to be arrogant as an atheist. I feel like atheists are pioneers who have discovered the truth, and we’re just waiting for the rest of the world to catch up with us. Will it ever happen? Isn’t it frustrating?

How can mankind make progress with a rusty anchor in the past?

The 4ever BELIEVER / April 19th, 2009, 7:59 pm / #7

IT IS WRITTEN and no matter how much you puff and spew 'logic' a fool says in his heart there is no GOD and you can never erase this FACT. If you want to believe you evolved from primeapes who play with there own shit………..may GOD have mercy on you as HE is doing right now, thats why you say all this crap but as the BIBLE says you are fools. A bunch of Hedonistic, self- centered, perverse people being lied to by satan, yeah he is REAL and you not believing he exists dosnt make him go away, who seem to get off the edge any time someone wants to put you in line telling the people to have discipline isnt bad. And WOE unto you when THE LORD JESUS CHRIST…'our fairy tale imagination friend'…returns to execute judgement on the WORLD. So ill keep reading and believing my 'book of fairy tales',BIBLE, and never will be ashamed. While you keep watching and believing all that 'logic' about the universe and how the earth was made you see on discovery and national geographic you bunch of EDUCATED FOOLS. P.S. yeah you can bury this one as you do all the others but remember it will never die.

4ever BELIEVER / April 19th, 2009, 8:03 pm / #8


Amaterasu / April 20th, 2009, 1:01 pm / #9

Actually, make that the best lunatic impersonation ever!

Amaterasu / April 20th, 2009, 1:00 pm / #10

Worst. Lunatic. Impersonation. Ever.

Lion-dread / May 17th, 2010, 6:01 pm / #11

Ian Boyne? yu wrong yu follow the false white faith.african is black seen an not long will yu wash yu self till yu are whte like snow.yu really a clown,Selassie I is yu have neva ovastand what Muta sehs,yu only try to dis the man.vaticaanshity is the false christian bumba claat..Muta is right,.

briggy / February 21st, 2011, 11:57 am / #12

ian boyne is a very good interviewer but that is the only virtue of him, because he buckled under the pressure from the jamaican elite when they did not want him to interview Johnnie cochran on a trip to jamaica immediately after the oj simpson trial, so he has no credibility

Ghoots / September 27th, 2011, 8:25 am / #13

Free Thought MUST replace Religion. "God" is against progress and we know it. Every time progress is being talked or thought, the religious find an excuse to be "militant" towards it. There was popular Jamaican lady (sorry, I dont remember her name) that came onto a nightly talk show on CVM with Lisa Hanna and Carline (the Dancehall Queen) for a discussion of her life. She admitted to political aspirations AND to her atheism. It didn't take her a week to die, burnt almost unrecognizingly. About a year or so later i got an chain email from my sister with this story (which I already knew) telling me that is what happens when I don't believe in god. Really? Radical much? Well fuck "God" and his crazy murderers then.

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