Drowning in Stupidity

Atheist Drowning

Once again I would like to extend my profound thanks to Friend of the Blog @IbrahimKaher for pointing me toward this particularly idiotic meme.

Darwinism refers to the theory of evolution by natural selection as published by Charles Darwin in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species.  According to Darwin, the great variety of life on Earth is attributable to a few simple tenets:

  1. There are limited resources, so there will always be competition, between and within species.
  2. There are variations within a species that can be passed from parent to child.
  3. If one of these variations enables an organism to gather resources more effectively than her competitors, then she will be better nourished, and consequently live longer and produce more offspring.
  4. Over many generations, favorable traits will multiply within a population while unfavorable traits will diminish, if not disappear entirely.

Darwin went on to explain how the long-term aggregation of small changes could lead to large-scale changes, and eventually to the immense biodiversity evident in Earth’s panoply of life.

There is nothing particularly atheistic about Darwinism.  Darwin’s theory neither supports nor refutes the existence of God, which is the only question that atheism addresses.  The only way you can convince yourself that Darwinism is atheistic is if you staunchly refuse to budge from your position of literal Biblical creationism.  If you believe that Earth and all of its modern life was spoken into existence by a divine creator, and if you believe that any statement to the contrary is against God, then there is no end to the branches of science which you will interpret as atheistic.  In that case, you should remove yourself from the scientific conversation altogether, because you are in no position to offer helpful contributions.

Perhaps the meme’s author is confusing Darwinism with social Darwinism.  Social Darwinism is the application of the phrase “survival of the fittest” to all aspects of human culture, including economics, politics, and ethics.  There is no overarching definition of fitness with which all social Darwinists agree, but in general, the strong (or fit) thrive while the weak (or unfit) languish.  Social Darwinism has been associated with (and blamed for) ideas from laissez-faire capitalism to eugenics, racism, and Nazism.

The main idea here is that atheists are not inherently social Darwinists, nor are Christians inherently selfless altruists.  Both atheists and believers count good and bad people among their ranks.  If an atheist performs a selfless act, it’s because he wants to do so (and most likely, because his social upbringing conditioned him to do so); not because he fears an eternal punishment for not doing so.  In my opinion, the same is true for believers.  Yes, the faithful justify their good deeds (if such things require justification) as manifestations of God’s grace, but strip away the layers of ingrained belief, and you find that they are simply good people who are emotionally rewarded for doing good things.

Now let’s address the meme’s claim that selflessness is inconsistent with Darwinism.  If you wish to apply Darwinist principles to explain altruistic behavior, you can easily do so.  Humans are social animals.  We live in groups because it benefits us to do so.  For social animals, tribal cohesiveness is key to our survival.  Altruism stems from a time when a person’s social group consisted of closely related individuals.  If you perform a selfless act, perhaps even one in which you risk personal harm, in defense of a tribal mate, then you have ultimately strengthened your bloodline.  You have perpetuated your kind, and in doing so have served the single greatest purpose that evolution demands.

If you’re a Christian, you can’t claim ownership of morality any more than an atheist, Muslim, Jew, or Hindu can.  Your morality – my morality – all of our moralities – stems from the fact that we are human.  We do good by helping others because it strengthens us as a species to do so.  Whether you believe you are serving God or Darwinian principles, selfless devotion to our species is your birthright.

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Cut Off In Mid-

A Godly Favor

Hmmm, perhaps He’ll finish your sentence for you?

This amounts to a chain letter in meme form. On the one hand, it’s almost not worth it to spend time talking about how pointless chain letters are. On the other hand, this meme promises that if you pass it on, you will curry God’s favor. Since that runs counter to most of what I remember being taught about God when I was young, I thought it might be worth a mention.

Now I’ll admit up front: I haven’t been to church in a long, long while. I’ve also spent a good amount of time in this blog poking gentle (and not-so-gentle) fun at fundamentalist conservative Christians – you know, the ones who feverishly attempt to legislate their personal religious convictions for the “good” of everybody else. But I don’t want to give the impression that I dislike Christians in general. I grew up Christian, and at the risk of protesting too much, some of my best friends are Christians. When I see this meme, which, in my opinion, should be offensive to good-hearted God-fearing folk everywhere, I have to take it apart – if not for my sake, then for the sake of the Christian people I care about.

Although I haven’t cracked open a Bible in many years, I seem to remember that currying God’s favor was never so simple as telling everybody how much you love Him. Best I recall, the Christian lifestyle was meant to be an arduous one, full of self-sacrifice and personal reflection and service to others. The reward, so the Bible says, is an eternity in Heaven, not some personal favor to be granted immediately. I’m not saying it would be outside of God’s power to do unto you a solid, but my understanding of the Big Guy’s modus operandi was that you should not expect immediate gratitude. And He never works according to human schedules.

So if you really believe in God – and not just any god but the God of Abraham; the God described in Christian theology – then this meme makes no sense. By passing this meme on, you’ve implied that you believe God is ultimately controllable by human actions, and that regardless of His ultimate plan for your life, you can get some sort of free gift just by showing all your friends how into Him you are. If that’s what you truly believe, then share away…but be aware, the God of your religion is different from the God of most other Christian denominations.

If you don’t believe in God, then this meme still makes no sense. But that pretty much goes without saying.