Space Bunny was going through my email, and she pointed out that these emails were a) the longest; b) the most thoughtful; and c) the least desirous of inflicting personal violence that I have received from an interest group whose ox has been gored. This speaks well of atheists in general, and really does not surprise me. There are a virtuous few; those who behave with genuine altruism, be it on an understanding of the optimal handling of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, a genuine commitment to rational utilitarianism or simple goodness of heart. I may disagree with these atheists; they are also not those of whom I wrote. Some of you recognized this, most did not.
It is a pity that this virtue does not hold true for the vast majority of humanity, which is incapable of even beginning to address the required logic. Once Maughm’s due regard for the policeman around the corner is gone – or due regard for the Father in Heaven, if you prefer – I think that the less imaginative among the virtuous few will be very unpleasantly surprised to learn exactly what shadows lurk in the hearts of most men.
Perhaps you don’t need a God to prevent you from behaving in an immoral manner. I certainly do.
The great challenge of atheism is dealing with the fact that when ‘do what thou wilt’ is the whole of the law, most will choose to do “evil”, against which the atheist has very little to offer except abstract reason. As for me, I see this as a hot knife v. butter situation.