Nick B considers caveman morality:
Rational ethics can be derived from the basic concept of enlightened self-interest alone, even if you don’t want to believe that…. There are hordes of people outside the Judeo-Xtian Belief System who have come to rational behavior of a sorts.
I absolutely agree that rational ethics CAN be derived from the basic concept of enlightened self-interest. I even agree that many secular individuals subscribe to them and live what I would consider to generally be a blameless life. I am merely explaining why such ethics are so obviously and continually powerless in the face of evil. I don’t think it takes a silver-tongued debater to demonstrate to everyone’s liking that the Holocaust or the Killing Fields were irrational and not in the self-interest, enlightened or otherwise, of the very Germans and Kampucheans who perpetrated the democides.
Murdering a liquor store clerk to cover up a $25 theft is ludicrously irrational. But the “rational secularist” has no answer for this except to stand there, as helpless and open-mouthed as Mike Martz watching Adam Viniateri throw to Troy Brown, lamenting that such things should be. What does a rationally derived system of ethics have to say to those who reject it, for whatever reason? We know what Sharia says. We know what the Bible says. But we neither know or care what Mr. Chomsky or whoever the appropriate secular prophet might be has to say, for is not Mr. Nietszche’s offering equally relevant?
I think this inability to conceptually accept the reality of what is outside its Reason is why the atheist left is usually to be found wringing its hands and standing on the sidelines while the religious right is far more willing – let’s be honest, sometimes too willing – to stand in the gap and actively oppose what even those who truly don’t believe in good and evil will describe as evil.