My thoughts on the book, 50 Voices of Disbelief, Why We Are Athiests, edited by Russell Blackford and Udo Schuklenk. Written as I read them in no particular order. The page number of the essay is provided at the top of each entry.
p. 33 John Harris – Wicked or Dead? Reflections on the Moral Character and Existential Status of God.
Intriguing title. It is based on what he thought after his father died when he was 12. He was curious about philosophical questions, but never found reason to believe in God.
He starts off saying he won’t provide arguments against existence, a welcome break from some of the recent ones I have read. He provides a very good reading list if you want to look into that:
“Why I Am Not Christian” by Bertrand Russell
“The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins
“God is Not Great” by Christopher Hitchens
“Breaking the Spell” by Daniel Dennett
And for comic relief
“The Restaurant at the End of the Universe” by Douglas Adams
In this essay I found out why there are so many that start out with “if God is an all-powerful, omniscient, good entity running the universe”. It is because the editors asked them to explain why they do not subscribe to that view. Maybe a future book will start with the question, “Now what?” As Nietzsche asked, now that we have declared God dead, what do we do?
To get you started, Mr. Harris provides a few excerpts from the above list and some of his own entertaining commentary. He then shifts to a conversation of respect for people’s beliefs. This was another pleasant break from some of the recent believer bashing. He quotes Voltaire,
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
And also Bentham,
“each counts for one and none for more than one.”
Two simple guidelines for treating everyone as if they matter, physically and morally. We are creatures that are aware that it matters if our existence continues. We should respect each other simply because we exist. He then distinguishes that this does not mean that what you do or what you believe is automatically deserving of respect. Every person has dignity, but beliefs must be judged independently of those that hold them. He says,
“If, by respect for beliefs, we mean an individual’s entitlement to form, hold, and express whatever beliefs they like, so long as the expression or observance of those beliefs does not involve the violation of the rights or disregard of the important interests of other persons, then of course we should respect anyone and everyone’s beliefs…”
Hard to argue with that.