Wednesday, March 25, 2009


How often have we atheists been asked how atheists can have any
sense of "morality" since we have no godly law which supports our
ethical beliefs? I'm currently reading a collection of essays called,
The Sense of the Sixties, and in it, Robert Penn Warren (he wrote All
The King's Men) appeals to the same source for my guiding lights as do
most atheists and agnostics. Warren was writing an essay directed to
the situation between blacks and whites as they existed in the
mid-1960s, but his conclusions as to a good foundation for ethics is a
universal I also subscribe to.

"It would be an even more vicious illusion to think that in
trying to solve the problem he would be giving something away, would
be "'liberal," or would be performing an act of charity, Christian or
any other kind. The safest, soberest, most humble, and perhaps not the
most ignoble way for him to think of grounding action is not on
generosity, but on a proper awareness of self-interest.

"It is self-interest to want to live in a society operating by
the love of justice and the concept of law…. It is self-interest to
want all members of society to contribute as fully as possible to the
enrichment of that society…. It is self-interest to seek out friends
and companions who are congenial in temperament and whose experience
and capacities extend our own…. It is self-interest to want to escape
from the pressure to conform to values which we feel immoral or
antiquated…. It is self-interest to want to escape from the burden of
vanity into the hard and happy realization that in the diminishment of
others there is a deep diminishment of the self." —Robert Penn Warren

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