Atheism and the Bonds of Society

“An atheist is a person who questions every kind of authority, and this is the thing that is important. Because, if we can, without blinking an eye, question the ultimate authority, God, who must be obeyed; then we can question the authority of the state, we can question the authority of a university structure, we can question the authority of our employer, we can question anything.”

–Madalyn Murray O’Hair (quote from here)

“A being, independent of any other, has no rule to pursue, but such as he prescribes to himself…”

— Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England

“Those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of God. Promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist. The taking away of God, though but even in thought, dissolves all.”

“For in all states of created beings capable of laws, where there is no law, there is no freedom; for liberty is to be free from restraint and violence from others; which cannot be where there is no law: but freedom is not, as we are told, a liberty for every man to do what he lists: (for who could be free, when every other man’s humor might domineer over him?)”

–1. John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration,  2. John Locke, Second Treatise of Government

“For as God, when he created matter, and endued it with a principle of mobility, established certain rules for the perpetual direction of that motion; so, when he created man, and endued him with freewill to conduct himself in all parts of life, he laid down certain immutable laws of human nature, whereby that freewill is in some degree regulated and restrained, and gave him also the faculty of reason to discover the purport of those laws.”

–Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England

The law of human nature is not, in all points, a limitation of human freedom but a direction of a freewill agent toward his proper interest. That law does not deserve the description of confinement which prevents us from falling off of cliffs and getting stuck in ditches. It’s aim is to preserve and broaden our freedom, not only to restrain.

If no God exists, then no law of human nature exists. If no law of human nature exists, then all government of human society is arbitrary and has no objective foundation or obligation upon men.

Moreover, there is no foundation for the establishment of government by free discourse in light of atheism because there is no objective and equal value of human persons to respect concerning each other’s jurisdiction or dominion over one another. Others need not respect the property (life, liberty, and estate) of their neighbors because no one has laid equality upon them or an obligation to respect.

The only reason, outside of the law of human nature, that can be maintained concerning respect of property, is only in the pursuit of certain social ends: i.e. If it is the case that men are pleased to preserve their property, then they need only confine their actions in such a manner as to meet those ends. But, let it be clear, if there is no superior being to lay an obligation upon them, then the choice to confine one’s action toward the preservation of property is arbitrary, and only holds so much as men are pleased to do so.

Also on atheism, outside of society, freedom is to do what one lists. There is no security within which one may conduct one’s affairs without constant threat of harm, and that harm cannot be considered illegitimate. There is no law the victim may appeal to, neither has he right to punish the offender, although, he may punish the offender if it so pleases him.

Furthermore, since rules of society are arbitrary, in a democratic society where the social end is peace with one another, those who think themselves outside this arbitrary law can rightly consider it tyranny. Tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right, and right cannot be defined by arbitrary decision if a person is not pleased to accept that arbitrary decision.

This is why John Locke states that promises and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, cannot hold for an atheist. He has no law but such as he prescribes to himself and it holds as long as it pleases him to hold it.

The objection may arise, “But there are, indeed moral atheists. Are you saying that atheist are inherently immoral?” No. Because there is a law of human nature and they can apprehend it as much as the religious man can. They can be just as moral or even more so than the Christian because the same law holds for both and both understand it. Not only does the law of nature govern them, but the laws of the society they are in confine their actions as well. However, since the atheist has rejected God, the only foundation for moral obligation; the option is left open to him to reject the law of society and the bonds of nature’s law, even in the smallest of measures, because his true foundation is whatever pleases him.

What is the legitimate basis for governmental law? The will of God or the will of man?

Men who value liberty but believe themselves to be self-sufficient in matters of truth and existence and who have no need for authority apart from themselves, also have no compulsion to follow laws, except laws conforming to their own reasoning or inclination. Contrariwise, men who value liberty but believe themselves to be in a state of dependence on a Superior Being for matters of truth and existence, eventually accept the will of this Being on whom they depend to be the foundation for self-restraint and morality. The extent to which man believes himself to be dependent affects the degree of his adherence to the will of his Maker.

This superior Being; having brought matter into existence and provided it with rules for motion, has also, in bestowing upon man a freewill, given a law of nature whereby man’s actions may be conducted in accordance with his greatest happiness. Man’s reason, although corrupt, has the ability to discover this law of nature manifested by the moral standards men have held each other accountable to from the beginning of time until now. Because of man’s corrupted reasoning, moral standards look different throughout history, but never amount to a total difference. A greater understanding of the natural law provides better individual self-regulation, which in turn, keeps liberty free from corruption.

This doctrine applies to all men at all times and in all places, regardless of belief, religion, or disposition. No legitimate rule in existence can oppose this law of nature without corrupting man’s happiness, or providing a false happiness. Therefore, pure liberty cannot exist without the self-governance of man founded upon the will of his maker.

George Washington said in his farewell address in 1796, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.”

Enhanced by Zemanta