Should atheists have children?


Update: Sep 1 2011

I just realized that I never included a disclaimer on this post before I put it live. That would explain some of the nasty comments that were provided on this blog.

This essay was originally submitted as an undergrad paper when I was at the University of Toronto. It was a thought experiment and I was asked to answer the question, “Should Athiests have children?” This was my response. That being said, I would never consider imposing this on anyone in real life. It was a thought experiment. Nothing more.

I do still stand by my original logic on this topic, but I would never impose this on others or expect it to be applied in society.

In fact, out of all of the comments to this story, I am disappointed that nobody highlighted the main logic flaw with my argument (one that I knew when I wrote it, but realized that it could not be avoided). The flaw was that this same argument (of a purposeless existence) could easily be applied from the athiestic’s perspective towards a religious observer. The problem with this debate is that objective proof cannot be provided either way, which means that this debate will continue, with neither side able to completely substantiate their claims.

Regardless, for those that I have offended… relax. I’m not taking your babies away from you.

And, just an FYI that my creative juices are flowing again. I should have some new and original content on this site shortly.

Stay tuned!

Todd

In the next few posts, I will be asking the following question: Is it morally or ethically responsible for an atheist to bring children into the world, since that atheist subscribes to a worldview that is negative.

I will argue that the atheist is being morally and ethically irresponsible by bringing a child into the world since that same atheist subscribes to a worldview that lacks meaning, which I will argue is a terrible form of punishment. Thus, an atheist, by having children, is acting inappropriately by exposing children to not only the dangers of the world in which we live, but also with inadequate responses in the form of healthy worldviews that can be used to cope with these worldly dangers.

First, I will outline what it means to be an atheist, providing examples from Bertrand Russell and Friedrich Nietzsche. Next I will discuss the negative aspects of the atheistic worldview, thus pointing out the reasons that atheists are being reckless in bringing children into this reality in spite of their negative worldview. Third, I will explain what moral and ethical obligations an atheist has in the world. Finally, I will highlight the contradiction posed by the question of creating life in a meaningless existence. My paper will hinge upon adequately addressing the question of whether or not a life described by atheism is worth living.

Both Bertrand Russell and C.S. Lewis subscribed to similar definitions of atheism:

  • An atheist, like a Christian, holds that we can know whether or not there is a God. The Christian holds that we can know there is a God; the atheist, that we can know there is not.” – Bertrand Russell, What Is An Agnostic? pg 577
  • Some people believe that nothing exists except Nature; I call these people Naturalists. Others think that, besides Nature, there exists something else: I call them Supernaturalists.” – C.S. Lewis, Miracles, New York, New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1947, restored 1996, pg 5-6

Atheism claims that God, as divine creator, is a myth and that the natural world can be completely explained through natural means. Whether or not we, as humans, can comprehend the science behind those natural means is debatable, but regardless, atheists claim that God is not required in our existence.Russell, as an atheist, suggests that the world is generally bad. Russell argues that since, in his opinion, the world is lacking in justice, God must not exist.

  • Supposing you got a crate of oranges that you opened, and you found all the top layer of oranges bad, you would not argue: ‘The underneath ones must be good, so as to redress the balance,’ You would say: ‘Probably the whole lot is a bad consignment’; and that is really what a scientific person would argue about the universe. He would say: ‘Here we find in this world a great deal of injustice and so far as that goes that is a reason for supposing that justice does not rule in the world; and therefore so far as it goes it affords a moral argument against a deity and not in favour of one.’” – Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not A Christian, pg 591.

To Russell, God is an invention created by those that need God as a safety net: “Then I think that the next most powerful reason is the wish for safety, a sort of feeling that there is a big brother who will look after you. That plays a very profound part in influencing people’s desire for a belief in God.” [Russell, Christian, pg 591] As with other social critiques of religion, God exists solely to placate the practitioner into feeling comfort that justice will be served in a future life for perceived injustices that are experienced in this life. Using the concept of God, argues the atheist, is too convenience, especially considering the lack of scientific evidence to explain the existence of God. I counter that the scientific evidence is all around us to explain the existence of God.

Next post: C. S. Lewis to the rescue. Defense of the Christian worldview.

Todd Dow

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Author, Geek, CF fundraiser & Cancer Survivor. My wife & kids, faith, baseball, infosec & devops are a few of my favorite things.

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10 comments on “Should atheists have children?
  1. Cameron Lero says:

    Russel is exactly right. You christians need a supernatuaral deity to feel protected and secure. Of course it appearently doesn’t matter how many people this god has killed because of their religious beliefs or because he just didn’t like them. Before you discredit me by saying that that stuff happened mostly in the the Old Testament (which is true) take this into consideration: Jesus- the supposed “son of god” himself has said not to doubt the Old Testament but to also believe him. Another point, where is there any evidence whatsoever that the Bible is truthful or that god even exists!? If to answer this you say that God is real because the Bible says he is and the Bible is truth because god says it is………… that pause should have been long enough for you to realize utter stupidity of that reasoning. Also, why would god give himself names like Malachi, Luke, Peter, Thomas etc, etc and then make it look like he was writing letters to his different aliases? Why would he write in third person?
    It would appear to me because of your biggotry towards the common atheist that you also dissaprove of the homosesexual caste. How do you explain this? Most christians would simply quote (with deficit of accuracy) some austere passage from the OLD TESTAMENT of your seriously diturbed holy book. Note the “OLD TESTAMENT” :earlier in my letter I mentioned the violence in the old testament (that you probably tossed out because the O.T. is either outdated, discredited because you believe Jesus said so even though that conflicts with other things he said, indicating that multiple people wrote this clumsy fictional novel) and yet you use the vilifying Old Testament as shaky ground for a defense on your religious beliefs.
    God is a hippocrite. Have you ever heard of The Fourth Book of Moses (Exodus), namely a certain commandment commonly known as “THOU SHALT NOT KILL”. guess who kills enough people to make Osama Bin Laden look like a Boy Scout. It is of course your “loving” god just look through whatever version of the book of psudo-science you and your constiuents use and I assure you that you will find more instances of plundering, rape, murder, baby killing, burning (both of people and their villages), stoning, torture, extortion and pirac (all requested by or endorsed/authorized by God) than in any other book holy or otherwise ever written
    In conclusion I ask anyone who agrees or dissagrees(especially if they dissagree) to e-mail me at sonofsling@hotmail.com if you disagree you can also go to evilbible.com, burnjes.us, or whywontgodhealamputees.com
    -Cameron Lero

  2. M. Isom says:

    Christian Philosopher…Isn’t that an oxymoron?

  3. J.M. says:

    An atheist that avoids the argument and asks a stupid rhetorical question, I didn’t see that coming.

  4. T. R. Bishop says:

    This is sick. Is it any more responsible for atheists to bring a child into the world and teach them that they are lucky to exist, than it is for radically religious parents to bring in a child, just to have it inflict harm on other, spread ignorance, or die any way because of attempts at faith healing? After all how many babies have atheists let die, because we wanted God to heal them isntead of a doctor? I pray (it’s a joke get it? Because I’m an atheist actually) that this is a poe…

  5. T.L. says:

    What? This is highly offensive and this website should be blocked.

    I cannot believe the ignorance……

  6. Cameron Lero says:

    So Mr Isom would you like to say anything in your defense? (wow a Christian who criticizes an Atheist for “avoiding an argument and then does the very same. Didn’t see that coming.)

  7. J Hulka says:

    I’m curious what morality and ethics might mean to an atheist. A non-atheist would base their view on the notion that there is a purpose to existence. It just seems to me that these two views cannot even have an intelligent dialogue on the subject.

  8. J Hulka says:

    That didn’t come out quite right. Atheists must see some purpose to their existence, or they wouldn’t bother arguing the point. What I am curious about is what an atheist might base that purpose on, and whether that gives atheists and non-atheists any common ground for discussion.

  9. Joe Bigliogo says:

    You know Toddy, – the pile of shit you just wrote, disguised as serious inquiry, is simply a poor attempt to trash atheists. It is interesting to me that the moral obtuseness you exhibit is typical of the lunatic fringe of the fundamentalist movement in your gratuitous demonstration of false premises, mischaracterization of atheism and poor reasoning skills.

    Those of us who do not believe as you in no way possess a “negative world view… that lacks meaning”. Your transparent bigotry toward ideas that don’t fit in with your pinched view of existence demonstrates a seriously jaded and distorted perception of reality. Your rational faculties are quite seriously damaged by fundamentalist ideology. if you actually believe atheists are too dangerous to raise children I sincerely think you are in need of serious clinical help. Fortunately your views, seriously disturbed though they may be, are extremely rare in civilized societies so they are of no real threat.

    May the god you invented help you.

  10. Brodin says:

    I agree that religious people could plausibly be asked not to spawn, either, because….they’re playing Teleological Roulette!!one1 Eternity is at stake here, and with two opposing infinities to, er, choose from, it’s a wash. Only Buddhism has any internal coherence on this, with Samsara. Add in that life is a bunch of digestive tracts that manage to replicate(and sometimes not even digestive tracts) in a world of indiscriminate forces….how does religion satisfy soft, sensitive, life-sentenced sentience, exactly? Religion is the assumption that, now that we’re here, we’re gonna go somewhere, no matter that it’s as random as this place. Or even right back here, with some connection between actions and fate!

    But that’s my point. If reason has anything to say about it, there is nothing after death. But if absurd reality has been once, know what they say about something happening once? Odds are better that it’ll happen again, and sooner than before (say like losing your virginity)-the prevailing potencies have proven themselves at least once, so now we know, GI Joe. The go-around is half the battle! However, it would be ‘unauthentic’ , Sartre would say ‘bad faith’ to go at such blatant cross-purposes with our Raison which is the greatest thing since opposable thumbs (way before sliced anything…think about it). The best analogy is with Peter Zappfer’s invocation of the Auerochs or whatever what had them….mildly impractical horns. That was THEIR shtick, and goddammit they went under clinging to them like a good soldier and his empty rifle. We put horns something in their latin name, the LEAST we could do. If we put sapiens TWICE In ours, dafuq guys, a big fluffy Jesus? Forget the blue eyes and the sun mythology, why is he tryin to get us with all them fossils? Not roulettey enough? Man. Know thyself. ^PZ

    PS sorry for the necro-post, but you hit meh google bang on teh nose. So sue an existentialist! And yeah while am at it I should apologise for the length, but I do get away with myself, when I’m not besides myselfs. {Chuckles}

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