On Jordan Peterson, Religion, & Atheism – Part 6, The Moral Atheist Mystification

The Moral Atheist Mystification

<< Previous, Part 5 – The Dostoevsky Distraction

On Atheism

As laid out in part 5, Jordan has his own definition of what an atheist is—an amoral psychopath who has rejected all societal values— and in his example from U, he elaborated on why people who self-identify as atheists are really not; in his mind:

Jordan: “As I said at the beginning, the atheist types act out a religious structure.”

Host: “You have a fascinating part in your book, Jordan, where, addressing atheists, you say you’re simply not an atheist in your actions, and it is your actions that most accurately reflect your religious beliefs. What do you mean by that? Are you saying that no one is really an atheist deep down?”

Jordan: “I didn’t say no one was; I said that most of the people who claim to be atheists aren’t.”

Jordan reiterated this sentiment in PP, in his talk with Matt Dillahunty:

Matt: “You’ve already suggested that despite me sitting here, and having talked about this for decades, that I don’t believe in God, that I actually do because I have a moral code, but my moral code…”

Jordan: “I was more specific, I said it was because you didn’t want to throw Sam off the stage.”

Given that atheists are already considered untrustworthy by many in the general public, and as eloquently stated by Matt in this quote:

“The mindset of what people have about what an atheist is has been poisoned by religious proclamations, we have been denigrated from the pulpit and it has seeped into every aspect of culture right up to the height of intellectual pursuits, and it’s time for that to end,”

it is irresponsible of Jordan to use his large social media following to fuel further misunderstandings with his misleading and distorted assertions which associate atheists with totalitarian psychopaths.

atheist baby

On Abandoning Religion

At odds with his warnings about the abandonment of Christian values leading to social anarchy, are the statistics demonstrating that the least religious countries are also the happiest. (page 13 in the UN World Happiness Report 2016, Chapter 2)

“Though 59% of the world’s population still describe themselves as religious, the proportion has fallen in most parts of the world, and this trend is likely to continue. Where religious belief declines, a new view of ethics emerges. The rules of behaviour are then seen as made by man rather than by God in order to improve the quality of our human life together.

UN World Happiness Report 2016, Chapter 3

Three of Jordan’s colleagues would disagree with his pessimistic outlook on the declining faith and what it bodes for the world.

“Peterson seems to assume that the only alternatives to religious morality are totalitarian atrocities or despondent nihilism.”

Psychology Today, Jordan Peterson’s Flimsy Philosophy of Life

 

“It is said over and over again by religious conservatives: without faith in God, society will fall apart.

Religion – or so the age-old hypothesis goes – is therefor a necessary glue for keeping society together. And conversely, secularism is a danger to societal well-being.

The correlation is clear and strong: the more secular tend to fare better than the more religious on a vast host of measures, including homicide and violent crime rates, poverty rates, obesity and diabetes rates, child abuse rates, educational attainment levels, income levels, unemployment rates, rates of sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy, etc.”

Psychology Today, Secular Societies Fare Better Than Religious Societies

Steven Pinker, has an entire chapter of his new book, Enlightenment Now, which is dedicated to humanism and its benefits.

On Morality

Jordan is worried atheists—or anti-religious thinkers—want to throw the baby out with the bathwater: not just rejecting the religious texts but ignoring the mythologies that emerged from our psyches, and thus abdicating basic moral values. The series is based on the psychological significance, the “moral of the story,” that’s contained in the some of the passages (if we ignore the not the not-so-moral bits) and so, we are told, keep that accumulated wisdom.

Isaac

“The Bible stories—and I think this is true of fiction in general—is phenomenological. It concentrates on trying to elucidate the nature of human experience.

And so if you know that what the Bible stories, and stories in general, are trying to represent is the structure of the lived experience of conscious individuals, you open up the possibility of a whole different realm of understanding.”

The problem is, the people who believe in the Bible do not understand these stories in the metaphorical way that Jordan feels is important. Just ask Rabbi David Wolpe, who in his 2001 Passover sermon, dared to tell his parishioners that the Exodus story was not grounded in historical fact. As one can imagine, the more conservative Jews and Christians lost their collective minds.

Jew

How dare this honest theologian desecrate one of the most cherished beliefs of the Judeo-Christian tradition by using…dare I use the word, facts. As Jordan would appreciate, the point Rabbi Wolpe was trying to make was that the story contains a message of hope in times of suffering, and that is the psychologically significant take away. But, the light at the end of the tunnel sermon, well, that did not  go over well with the traditionalists who want to preserve their beliefs in the historical accuracy of the Bible as an anchor for their faith.

There are plenty of other meaningful parables in the world from which we can draw moral sustenance and keep us on the straight and narrow path, so we can safely dispense with the Bible and all its collective baggage, and, I think, not wind up in a dystopian hell on Earth.

As the unofficial atheist mantra goes: we are good without God.

On Nihilism

During the conversation between between Jordan and Susan in U, Jordan continued to peddle his nihilistic warnings, and it is clear he is either obtuse or just not listening in this interaction:

Susan: “Nothing matters, it’s all empty and meaningless. This is how the world is, get used to it, get on with it…”

Jordan: “The first part the first part of that is nihilistic and the second part isn’t.”

This outlook is only nihilistic from a Nietzschean perspective, which, Jordan admittedly is; but, Susan is very clearly using this phrase in the Buddhist way. Even the host commented on this fact just before Jordan interrupted. The Buddhist (Mahayana, of which Zen is a subset) meaning is in no way nihilist, but freeing and uplifting.

Monk email

Capital L life has no meaning. We, individuals, create meaning, which, Susan pointed out just after the above quote; but, life, in and of itself is, has no meaning. So, get on with it.

Return to main article >>

Video References:

Biblical Series I (BS1): Introduction to the Idea of God, (transcript)

Biblical Series II (BS2): Genesis 1: Chaos & Order, (transcript)

Pangburn Philosophy (PP): An Evening With Matt Dillahunty & Jordan Peterson

Unbelievable (U): Jordan Peterson vs Susan Blackmore • Do we need God to make sense of life?

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One response to “On Jordan Peterson, Religion, & Atheism – Part 6, The Moral Atheist Mystification

  1. Pingback: On Jordan Peterson, Religion, & Atheism | Diogenes of Mayberry

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