So let's take a look at a recent article by Vox Day. A "Christian libertarian" and a member of the Southern Baptist Convention, Day writes for World Net Daily:
The idea that he is a devotee of reason seeing through the outdated superstitions of other, lesser beings is the foremost conceit of the proud atheist.
Actually, I was wrong about Day - he does have a single point his entire article: it is true that some proud atheists are so conceited that they think they have managed to see through the outdated superstitions of others without realizing that they, too, have their own "superstitions" (if by that we can refer to irrational beliefs generally). Unfortunately, Day isn't just trying to talk about a few atheists. He thinks he's talking about all atheists. He generalizes about all atheists in existence even though the only thing common to all atheists is that they lack belief in any gods. But, if that were acknowledged, then I suppose there would be nothing for him to write. So, moving right along...
The atheist is without God but not without faith, for today he puts his trust in the investigative method known as science, whether he understands it or not.
Here's a very common myth: atheists rely on faith just as much as theists do. Now, while it may be true that some atheists have a "religious faith" that is akin to the sort of faith that Southern Baptists such as Vox Day have, it certainly isn't true of all atheists and it certainly isn't necessitated by atheism itself.
And what of science? Speaking for myself and most of the atheists I have ever met, we don't have "faith" in science in the way that Day is using the term and the way the term is normally used in a religious context. We have a confidence in the process of science not due to any metaphysical or supernatural commitments but, rather, because we have abundant experience that it works. It's like being confident that your brakes will work when you use them next - true, they might not, but experience shows that you're justified in assuming that they will.
This is nothing at all like the "faith" employed by religious people and it is certainly nothing like the "faith" expected of Christians. I would expect Vox Day, a self-professed Southern Baptist, to be familiar with Paul's definition faith: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1-3). That's how "faith" is commonly used in religion, but it comes nowhere close to describing confidence either in one's brakes or in the process of science.
The irrationality of the atheist can primarily be seen in his actions - and it is here that the cowardice of his intellectual convictions is also exposed. Whereas Christians and the faithful of other religions have good reason for attempting to live by the Golden Rule - they are commanded to do so - the atheist does not. ... [H]e usually seeks to live by them when they are convenient, and there are even those, who, despite their faithlessness, do a better job of living by the tenets of religion than those who actually subscribe to them. Still, even the most admirable of atheists is nothing more than a moral parasite, living his life based on borrowed ethics.
Ah, so much silliness, so little time.... First, we need to wonder how and why being commanded to treat others as you want to be treated qualifies as a good reason. It is certainly true that it can be a good reason - if by "good" we mean "pragmatic" or "prudential." That is to say, if the consequences of not obeying that command are sufficiently dire and nasty, you do have a "good reason" to treat others well.
Now, while I won't dispute that Vox Day could indeed find "I don't want to get into trouble" to be a "good reason" for him to treat others well, I must insist that it isn't a good enough reason for me. To be perfectly honest, I don't need to be commanded to be moral. I can manage to do that all on my own. And, contrary to Day's scurrilous insinuation, I also don't consider morality something to adhere to only when it is convenient. That is because, unlike Day, my morality isn't dependent upon outside pressures; it comes from within because I believe that other human beings are worthy of being treated well, regardless what any god might or might not have to say on the matter.
Is that a product of intellectual cowardice? Hardly. Vox Day may mean by that the idea that atheists don't want to acknowledge the source of their moral principles - i.e., theistic religions. If so, then I am quite happy to prove Day wrong: the source of my moral principles can be found in experience, empathy, and reason. I am pleased (but not at all surprised) that various religious systems, theistic and atheistic, have codified the same moral principles that I follow. I do not, however, adhere to those principles for any religious reasons.
Are my reasons worse than Day's? Well, let's compare: Vox Day believes the he is commanded by God to follow the Golden Rule; he then proceeds to smear all atheists, even though he certainly doesn't know them all, by claiming (or at least implying) that they are "moral parasites," that they are necessarily "irrational," that they are intellectual cowards, that they only follow morals when it is convenient, and that the logical consequence of atheism lead to "Hell, by way of the guillotine, the gulag and the gas chamber."
I, however, don't consider myself to be "commanded" to follow the Golden Rule; instead, I treat other people with decency because I believe that they deserve that - regardless of what any gods might think on the matter. At the same time, I take great pains not to generalize about all theists, all Christians, or even all Southern Baptists. Inappropriate generalizations may slip into my writing from time to time, but I certainly don't build entire articles upon them and I don't argue that theism, Christianity, or even Southern Baptism causes one to be immoral or an intellectual coward.
"By their fruits ye shall know them..."
I am quite comfortable with the fruits of my moral compass being compared to those of someone like Vox Day.
This is not to say there are no atheists who are rational, that there are none who are true to their godless convictions. Friedrich Nietzsche is the foremost example, but there are certainly others who do not fear to determine their own moral compass. Today, we call them sociopaths and suicides.
Or we just call them normal, moral people. - they are, after all, everywhere around us and not causing any trouble for anyone. Vox Day might prefer it if atheists could all be dismissed with such a simple wave of the hand, but life doesn't work that way. The fact of the matter is, neither suicide nor being a sociopath are logically entailed by atheism. Believing in a god isn't necessary for a person to enjoy life, to love life, and to want to be alive. Granted, it could be possible that Day does not find anything about life that is worth living outside of his god, but he shouldn't assume that the same must be true of the rest of us.
Similarly, belief in a god isn't a pre-requisite for being a good person who treats other human beings decently. Granted once again, it is possible that Day might not have any other reason for being moral and for treating people decently - I don't know him so I can't say (although he seems to have no trouble making assumptions about me, and merely because I don't believe in his god). But if that is the case, it is again wrong for him to assume that anything similar must be true of others. I know many people, atheists and theists, who don't depend upon any gods in order to have a well-calibrated moral compass.
Without God, there is only the left-hand path of the philosopher. It leads invariably to Hell, by way of the guillotine, the gulag and the gas chamber. The atheist is irrational because he has no other choice - because the rational consequences of his non-belief are simply too terrible to bear.
Let's see, Vox Day spends all this time explaining how atheists are "moral parasites" without any reason to follow the Golden Rule and that they are necessarily "irrational," and then he ends his little screed with an irrational attack on atheists which, I am quite sure, he would not approve of were it directed towards theists, Christians, or Southern Baptists. Perhaps Day only follows the Golden Rule when it is convenient? Perhaps his belief that he has seen through the irrationalities of atheists has led him to become proud and conceited?
Actually, if you go back through Day's article and read it closely, you'll find that pretty much everything he accuses atheists of, he is guilty of doing himself - often right at the very point that he is making his accusations. There's a word for this: it's called hypocrisy. Vox Day is, unquestionably, a hypocrite. He's also quite ignorant about the most basic issues he tries to discuss. He doesn't know anything about atheism - he tries, for example, to contrast atheism with religion which is simplistic nonsense.
He also likes to talk about "the atheist," as if there were such a thing. That makes even less sense than talking about "the theist" or "the Christian" - something he'd understand if he actually knew a thing or two about atheism in the first place. Unfortunately, not know what he is talking about doesn't stop him from pretending as if he did.
The rational consequences of my non-belief in gods aren't too terrible to bear at all. I lead a very happy and enjoyable life without any apparent problems in my moral compass. Neither I nor most of the atheists I know fit into the neat little categories that Vox Day has carved out for atheists, and that's not really surprising. He's created nothing more than a caricature of atheism and atheists - a Straw Man that he can easily knock down because the real thing is so much more complicated and difficult.