Thursday, May 03, 2007

Are There Any Prominent, Stable, and Moral Atheists?

Jewish Philosopher posed a question today which troubled me:

Can anyone find an example of a single prominent atheistic leader who was kind, honest, and sober and had a stable family life?


I'm honestly stumped. Every prominent atheist I can think of has divorced

38 comments:

Vilda Chaya said...

Here ya go:
E.O Wilson
http://meaningoflife.tv/video.php?speaker=wilson&topic=goodwogod

dbackdad said...

An interesting question but not necessarily indicative of a problem with atheists. If anything, it might show how societal and family pressures on atheists affect marriages.

beepbeepitsme said...

Dawkins is divorced?

Michael said...

It's actually fairly hard to
a) define atheism, and
b) become a leader of a democratic nation as an avowed atheist.

Despite this, Ben Franklin passes this test, by any plausible standard, with flying colors. By some standards about half of America's founders (and those of Israel) do.

Very very few prominent philosophers of any stripe, theist or atheist, have normal stable reproductive family lives. This is also uncommon among leaders. The vast majority of prominent scientists and other contemporary academics, however, are atheists, and the statistics for their life outcomes are very good regarding divorce etc. Eric Kandel comes to mind. With respect to kind, honest, sober, and good family lives, natural scientists pretty much can't be beat.

Also, I can say with complete sincerity that it is logically impossible to be a philosophically unsophisticated theist and simultaneously be honest. Philosophical theists and philosophical atheists cannot be distinguished by any simple standard or test.

beepbeepitsme said...

Oh, an atheist leadee. I probably misread that. You mean an atheist politician?

Bill gates is an atheist - and a leader of the business community.

beepbeepitsme said...

What about Dan Barker? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Barker

And Sam Harris and Terry Pratchett.

Kurt Vonnegut

Julia Sweeney

PZ Myers :)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PZ_Myers

When I had a look. Many people have been divorced and remarried, but that isn't different from the rest of the population.

Keebo said...
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beepbeepitsme said...

Keebo:

Well, I don't think divorce is an indication of someone's ethical values either. I remember when catholics especially used to stay together when they hated each other's guts. That was common. I think their idea of revenge was to outlive the other person.

Keebo said...
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Anonymous said...

I nominate Neil Kinnock. He's probably not well known in the USA, but he was leader of the British Labour Party for much of the 1980's and stood twice for prime minister (losing both times) and after resigning as party leader he was nominated to the European Commission, serving a couple of terms as vice president of the Commission. He was raised to the peerage a few years ago and is still active in politics in the House of Lords.

As for "kind, honest, and sober and had a stable family life" - I've seen plenty of attacks on his political philosophy (somewhere to the left of John Edwards I suppose - strangely in Britain this is not seen as a barrier to raising him to the peerage...) and talents but nobody seems to have a bad word for him as a man. He's also been married to Glenys since 1967 and produced two children without a breath of scandal being attached to the relationship.

He doesn't shout about his atheism but doesn't keep it a secret either (you'll find his name on plenty of "celebrity atheist" lists if you google it). Will that do?...

Random

asher said...

The fact that you are divorced doesn't mean you don't have a stable family life. With the divorce rate what it is (51% by lat count) the normal family is now Mom and kids with Dad visiting when he can maybe with his new wife or girlfriend. Athiests can be as good people as anyone else...the question should have been why is the family in such trouble when 80% of americans say they believe in God and an afterlife.

foilwoman said...

JA: Let's flip that one on its head (although I think staying married isn't always the sign of great morality either). Why is the Red State divorce rate higher than the Blue State divorce rate? Aren't those states more Christian?

CyberKitten said...

I did wonder what it would actually mean if we *could* name one - or five or five hundred. What would that prove to anyone?

I'm also surprised JA that you found the results (so far) of the question troubling....

Scott said...

The man behind the Dateline "To Catch a Predator" series and the largest on-line anti-predator organization in the world is an atheist and a good friend of mine. He's not married, but I'm not sure what that has to do with anything.

jewish philosopher said...

Full disclosure: I divorced too.

But just once. And that marriage was childless and I have not had sex outside marriage. So I would like to think of myself as being reasonably stable.

littlefoxling said...

JP,

But just once. And that marriage was childless and I have not had sex outside marriage. So I would like to think of myself as being reasonably stable.

So, basically, you are saying that atheists are more likely to have sex outside of marriage? What, exactly, is your point? Many atheists don’t see that as being immoral. Will you next do a post highlighting that atheists don’t bentch lulav and esrog or maavir sedrah.

I also don’t understand the purpose of this exercise. Surely, you realize that the stability of the married lives of atheists has not baring whatsoever on their correctness of their position. They could be completely correct that there is no God but it is still possible that that belief might lead them to be less “stable (whatever the hell that means)” people. So, let’s even assume you could show that religion makes people stable? So, what? It doesn’t mean it’s right! Will you then devote your entire life to stupidity because it creates more stable marriages? To give you a mushul you could relate to: If I could show you that Catholics had a lower divorce rate than Jews, would you convert and devote your life to some stupid Jesus legend because it will reduce your odds of getting divorced?

Sadie Lou said...

Random--I sent you an important email...

beepbeepitsme said...

The question of whether atheists or agnostics lead stable, happy, married lives isn't much of an issue where I live.

I have never heard someone on TV or in public, suggest that atheists or non-religous people were any less moral than anyone else.

I hate to say it, but that sort of idea seems to be reserved for places like the US and Islamic countries. And I would be surprised if a politician here made an appeal against non-religious people.

So far, australians haven't appreciated appeals to overtly politicized religion. I hope it stays that way but you never know, we get an awful lot of fundie american religious tv.

This is not to say that there are not many politicians who are not religious, as there are many who go to church regularly. But as soon as any of them use the political forum as a religious pulpit, I won't be voting for them.

jewish philosopher said...

I just wanted to show that rabbis are way cooler than atheists, that's all.

Seriously, I intended to demonstrate the absurdity of the title of Mr. Hitchen's latest book which was released this week.

Jewish Atheist said...

Just want to clear up a few things.

1) None of this has anything to do with whether atheism is true or not.

2) Being divorced does not make you a bad person. However, I see having a stable family life as being desirable.

3) Atheists have a lower divorce rate than most religious groups, according to some studies I've seen. (Barna.) Maybe being a prominent athiest (or prominent anything? look at conservative politicians) is what's correlated with unstable family lives.

4) I do not think premarital sex is immoral or harmful. I do not think that open marriages are immoral and am unsure about them being harmful to some.

Still, it's not often that JP stumps me and I think he has an interesting point.

beepbeepitsme said...

RE: Hitchen's Book

Well, you know that Hitchen's doesn't even describe himself as an atheist but as an antitheist - so the title of the book doesn't surprise me.

BEAJ said...

Here is a partial list of atheist politicians.

Has Sam Harris been divorced?

Would it matter if Stalin divorced or not?

June Callwood recently passed away in Canada. She was an activist journalist and had a full family life and the same husband for over 50 years.

I think atheist divorce rates may be lower because perhaps atheists don't get married as much as theists. Perhaps?

XGH said...

Neil Kinock?! LOL.

Anyway, I think you should add having good, decent, children to the requirements list.

Keebo said...
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beepbeepitsme said...

"Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." - Samuel Johnson

(Sorry keebo, I had to do it)

Keebo said...
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zach said...

Ben Franklin passes this test, by any plausible standard.

Give me a break. The guy was a philanderer, had a child out of wedlock (this in the 1700s), neglected his wife and didn't even attend her funeral.

zach said...

I also got a laugh our of Keebo mentioning John Lennon as an example of someone of high ethical standards. A violent temper (I remember reading how he almost stomped someone to death in his early days of performing), a drunk, an addict, unfaithful to his wives, a lousy father to his first son.

But I guess the fact that he likes the lyrics of "Imagine" makes up for all of Lennon's serious shortcomings...

jewish philosopher said...

Apparently Carnegie became an atheist only later in life.

Keebo said...
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zach said...

keebo: Where did I use John Lennon as an example of someone of high ethical standards?

Sorry, I misread your intention.

Keebo said...
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Keebo said...
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tommythestone said...

Douglas Adams? He did have an affiair with a married woman prior to when he himself married. But once married, he had at least one child and was married till the end.