Being An Atheist Doesn’t Mean You Are Immoral

A comment on a recent Newsvine thread stated:

A Columbine shooter’s diary, released along with loads of other documents by the Denver Post, shows that he was an atheist who believed all the evolutionary teaching he’d been fed in school. He wondered why he should suppress his natural instincts and be nice. Surely natural instincts like eating, breeding, and fighting are good since they were instrumental in evolving us to our present state. He viewed most people as being worthless, and would have selectively killed most U.S. citizens if he could. If we are created by God, and He loved us enough to send His Son to die for our sins, then we are all very special indeed.

If there is no God and we are purely the result of random chance, then we are no more significant than bacteria on a mote of dust.

The Columbine shooters held the latter view and took it to a logical conclusion for their circumstances.

I hear this line all the time, and find it very interesting. To be fair, I describe myself as fanatically agnostic, rather than atheistic, but in fully embracing the fact that I do not know, and in fact cannot know whether or not there is a god, I must face squarely the possibility that there is not. When you couple this with the fact that in all my nearly 31 years on this earth, I have never yet seen any indisputable evidence of a god, I find that I often proceed on the assumption that there is not. And yet, somehow, I don’t find myself tempted to go out and hurt others. How could this be?

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Why Animals Don’t Have Souls

When I was in the tenth grade, I had to do a research paper for my English class. I decided to do mine on animals in laboratory research. I have always identified with animals more than with people (I think it has something to do with having been raised by housecats, with my parents assisting), and I was fairly sure I was opposed to the practice of experimenting on animals…but at the same time my father had died of cancer and I truly would like to see scientific research on diseases such as cancer progress faster, rather than slower. It seemed a good thing for me to investigate, and I vowed to be objective.

I prowled through the literature on both sides of the fence. I read about the advances that have been made, that couldn’t have been made without animal research. I stumbled on enough pictures of factory farms to ensure that I would never eat another bite of non-free-range meat as long as I lived. I read about experiments that should never have been done…and I read about ones that even I had to concede were vital to our advancement as a species. I was doing o.k. in being non-biased, until I met and interviewed the head of animal research at UNC-Chapel Hill. After quite a few other questions, I finally came around to the one that bothered me most: How do you cope with the feeling that you are causing suffering to another living being, even if it is in the quest to ease suffering for others?

His answer was very simple: Oh, I don’t feel bad about it at all. They don’t feel pain like we do.

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