Ask the Monkey
We don't, we are usually too busy eating babies to be bothered with things like morals.
THAT'S A JOKE PEOPLE!!!
All kidding aside, atheists get a bad rap for being evil by ignorant people. I tend to think that this is because we don't prescribe to a credo or set of divinely inspired laws to conduct ourselves in daily life. So what are our morals based on? Well there is evidence that suggests that human morality as a whole is based largely on evolutionary considerations. Yes, it always comes back to the Darwin, doesn't it?
People that are ignorant of evolutionary theory tend to think that the "survival of the fittest" paradigm of evolution applies only to the individual. It is assumed that the theory supposes that every man, or monkey, is only out for himself. In actual fact, Darwin's theory as well as current research supports altruistic intent for organisms. This is commonly known as kin selection.
Kin selection permits an organism to be self sacrificing for the benefit of the whole group. In essence a creature will sacrifice himself and his well being for the betterment of others. This altruistic intent is at the roots of morality. Sam Harris covers this in much more depth in his book, "The Moral Landscape". In the early chapters it provides the secular case for morality evolving naturally in groups of organisms. The long and short of it is that we are actually all out for each other, provided they belong to the group.
As the world has shrunk in the recent decade, I believe that the scope of our moral interest has grown reciprocally. As we have become more and more one global tribe we have become more and more concerned with the well being and morals of others. While on the surface this is a good thing, religion has muddied the waters of what is moral. Rather than becoming an authority of morality, they have by and large taken a heavy handed approach to their specific doctrines as the source for what is right vs. wrong. Regrettably this has devolved into a conflict globally of the differences in non-humanist moral precepts. In other words we have resorted to bickering over principles that have their only grounding in divinely inspired decrees. Gays are bad, women should be subservient, condoms are bad, etc. In essence we have lost sight of the common principles that evolved within all of us, and inspire us by and large to look out for each other. Those principles that make us kind, better to each other, and truly moral people are lost in the noise. Watch Fox News for one day and you will see what I mean.
With that in mind I present the Atheist-Monkey Principles:
- Reject any custom that would be evil if only one person did it:
- Just because something is done by a group of people, or is a cultural custom, it does not mean that it is "moral" or appropriate. By way of common example, if only one person in the world thought that strapping an infant to a board and slicing off part of his penis was a good idea, we would all be horrified at their actions.
- Respect, love and protect all peoples:
- Fairly self explanatory and a simplified spin on the basic humanist principles found in most religions.
- Be the person you want your children to be:
- If we all followed this basic principle, we would all be better off. You are your children's role models and they will follow your behavior well after you are gone. Don't screw up the most important job of your life. Be a good person, so your children will be too.
So in summary, atheists can and do have morals. In fact, if they follow the humanist approach, they are irrefutably purer in intent than those of religious folks. Atheists recognize that we are all human after all, and the only way we made it this far was by taking care of each other. The only way we will survive in the future is by doing the same.
Why wear an atheist t-shirt?
While there are many reasons for wearing atheist apparel, perhaps the best reason is that it is one of the only ways we can be visible. We live in a world that is full of religious messaging, from bumper stickers to billboards extolling their ideals. It can appear to many of us that we are very few in number, because the religious are so loud.
Atheists are a silent minority, almost literately. We come from all walks of life, and are a veritable rainbow of races and colors. It is this diversity that makes us all but invisible as a whole. Each one of us has been in social situations where we felt awkward, or hesitant to speak about our beliefs. Why is that? It certainly isn't because we are evil. Religious people generally don't know the kind person that is holding the door for them, or in some other way helping them out is an atheist. As a result we are vilified, demonized and generally misunderstood. Wearing atheist apparel is a great way to let the world know that we are among them, and let other atheists know they are not alone.
Why don't you believe in God?
Because I'm a monkey silly! This is a deeply personal question, and like most atheists that are as vocal as I am, one I have considered at great length. I was raised by a loving, deeply Christian family. I attended Sunday School regularly in our Lutheran church and was even a senior sacristan at my Anglican private school. I'll be honest though, I was always doubtful in the existence of God. So for me, I spent most of my young adult life seeking a spiritual awakening. I tried religions on like shoes for a few years. I dabbled in Mormonism, Scientology, and every major denomination of the Christian churches. Never having the born again awakening that so many spoke of.
In the end it took a trip to Jerusalem to sway me. I did a tour and saw the wall being built around Palestine; I stood at the Wailing Wall with a cardboard yarmulke on my head. I visited the twelve Stations of the Cross, knelt at the rock of Golgotha, and finally entered the tomb of the holy sepulcher.
It was in this low ceilinged tomb that I lost my faith. As I peered at the marble slab over the place of Jesus' supposed burial I was stuck by the crack in the marble. This crack was a too perfect flaw in a too perfect piece of marble on a too perfect altar in a too perfect room. I peered deep into the dark crack searching for answers, waiting for my personal spiritual awakening. It never came, and I realized...this is silly. This "Holy City" was in actual fact a contrived Disney world from the era of Constantine. I believed in none of it, and realized I wasn't in love with God; I was in love with the idea of God.
My faith thoroughly fractured by the most holy place on earth I returned home. I watched with wry cynicism as the Orthodox Jewish gentlemen on the plane got up to say their prayers. I watched as they strapped with leather the small black boxes that contain scripture to their arms and head. I watched as they rocked and murmured their prayers in the aisles just as they had at the Wailing Wall. I realized in that moment that faith can be forced, but true belief was not a choice. A person's faith was at best a product of repetition, an act of continued self assurance against all observable evidence. No one truly knew, as I had assumed they did. They just lie to convince themselves. It seemed that the more frequently you do this, the deeper your faith appeared to become.
More importantly I discovered that for me, continuing to try to do this for myself was disingenuous. An act of self denial that was wholly unnecessary. As my eyes opened I began to see the negative aspects of religion. The complete disdain religions have for other people's ethics and life choices became enraging in that moment. The use of faith based arguments against logical reason became fallacious. I realized religion as a whole only marginally emulates the social awareness and humanist philosophies of the fabled Jesus, and at worst it destroys outsider's lives in an almost incomprehensible number of vicious ways.
The final remnants of my faith departed me when I read The God Delusion. Richard Dawkins' book justified my doubt, confirmed my skepticism and explained how one can accept that the question "what is the meaning of life" does not require succinct explanation. To paraphrase my very best and first atheist friend, "You can't possibly answer the question, so why bother asking?" Those words still resonate in my ears almost twenty years later. I take it to mean that not everything requires an answer, and if you are unable to come up with it on your own, why waste your time on it. Rather, gaze in wonder that is our life, the world, the universe and everything and be dumbfounded. Because the fact is we are just that, too dumb to explain it all.
Isn't the Atheist-Monkey Technically an Ape?
The origins of the Atheist-Monkey is a sad history, and we don't really like to talk about it. But in the interest of full disclosure we shall reveal the sordid tale of how our tail-less mascot became known as a monkey.
Many years ago, the chimpanzee God Chimpweh, ruled over all the monkeys and apes of the world. One evening he couldn't sleep and decided to pass the time impregnating a Siamang Gibbon monkey in her sleep. We'll call her Mary.
Being a God, Chimpweh was able to spread his seed across different species, and an abomination of Siamang/Chimp God grew in Mary's belly. Mary was shamed and her husband was absolutely furious that she had gotten pregnant while he was out of town collecting figs. After much flinging of excrement he left. Mary contacted her local clinic to see about terminating hew unwanted pregnancy. Sadly, in the jungle world Chimpweh law states that all primates, regardless of circumstance, must be carried to term. Mary found herself a single mother of a child born of horrible circumstance. To make matters worse, she was ostracized from the group and shortly after giving birth dissapeared.
Atheist-Monkey was adopted by a kindly celebrity macaque monkey family, and grew up in a comfortable environment unaware of his ape heritage. As Atheist-Monkey grew he realized he was different and eventually discovered he had been adopted. Eventually he sought out his mother living alone deep in the jungle and she recounted the sad tale of his birth and subsequent abdandonment. She had never really recovered from the incident and had lived her life alone as a result. Atheist-Monkey vowed to keep in touch and still sends her figs every Chimpmas.
Despite these revalations he decided that love meant more than blood and never abondoned his adopted monkey roots. Rather he adopted the moniker that described his true self, Atheist-Monkey. In fact he liked the new name so much that he changed his name to it. Although his birth name was Willard, so this wasn't a hard decision.
There is the alternate explanation of course, our mascot is a cartoon character for a website that sells t-shirts...so...maybe that explains it.