On the issue of reclaiming moral language - the sixth component of Sean Faircloth's new political strategy for atheists - atheists should learn to react to the claims that they lack a moral foundation the way Jews react to the phrase "Christ killers."
We react as if it is a mere intellectual error - requiring a rebuttal in terms of reason and evidence. However, it is more than that. Like the term "Christ killers" it is politically and socially useful. It serves to marginalize a group of people - to promote religious animosity and to brand followers as "morally superior" to the target group.
When people make certain mistakes, we have reason to ask why they make those mistakes and not some other. Religion is mostly make-believe.
So, why make-believe that some target group lacks a foundation for their moral beliefs and attitudes? Why make-believe that, at any minute, they run the risk of breaking out in an orgy of political and social violence because they have no moral constraints?
They could have easily invented a fiction in which the universe contains certain moral truths built into it by God, but which are available to everybody an discoverable. They could have invented a religion that holds that moral facts are like scientific facts in that even an atheist can determine and assent to the laws of motion and thermodynamics.
Atheists and theists may disagree on the fundamental origin of these laws. However, theists do not assert the because the atheist lacks belief in the author of the law of gravity, he is in danger of floating away (and of causing those he convinces of floating away with him.) It isn't argued that some people choose atheism because they seek to flaunt the second law if thermodynamics or live life as uf it were not the case the E=m*c^2.
So, why choose not to believe that moral facts are facts available to atheists and theists alike, allowing us to have intelligent discussions as to what those facts are?
A theist may object to some of the premises in this argument - that religion is mostly make-believe and that this leads us to the question, "Why make-believe that atheists lack a foundation for their moral beliefs?" However, I am not seeking arguments convincing to theists. I am seeking arguments that are demonstrably sound.
It is a demonstrably sound argument that the belief that atheists lack a foundation for moral beliefs is not merely a mistake. It is a foundation is malicious and discriminatory. It is a mistake that has found favor substantially because it grants those who hold it an unprincipled claim that they may look down their noses on others.
Some may claim that the reason they believe it has nothing to do with a desire to establish and maintain a social order in which those who accept it claim for themselves an exclusive right to stand at the upper tiers. They believe it because they find these ideas in scripture. But how did it get written into scripture to start with? And why is it that this specific interpretation became popular? We have little reason to doubt that it is because this interpretation not only feeds the go of those who adopt it, but gives them an excuse to cast others down onto the lower tiers of he social order.
In America, it casts atheists as untrustworthy, as least likely to share American values, and as being likely to establish a Stalinesque totalitarian regime complete with programs to round up and execute all believers if it should come to pass that atheists get political power.
This type if attitude deserves more that, "Pardon me, but i do not think that reason and evidence properly supports the conclusions you are asserting."
It deserves, "If your fraking religion grants you such a strong moral foundation, why didn't it teach you about the evil of promoting hatred and fear of others for the purpose of harvesting social and political power? Where is that in your moral code and why don't you start practicing it?"
Because this - in fact and in practice - us what the claim that non-believers lack a moral foundation is all about. It is about preaching hate and fear for the purpose of harvesting social and political power.