March 31, 2009

Steve Harvey: Bigot

No shelter. When Steve Harvey goes on the Tyra Banks show and tells women not to date atheist men, he's being a bigot:
You sitting up there talking to a dude and he tells you he’s an atheist, you need to pack it up and go home. You talking to a person who don’t believe in God… what’s his moral barometer? Where’s it at? It’s nowhere. You gotta get into this stuff.
Well, Mr. Harvey, you do indeed. For instance, if you're looking for a marriage that is unlikely to end in divorce, you ought to date an atheist -- we have a lower rate of divorce than Christians.

At the end of the day, Harvey is recycling the old saw that atheists have no morality, that morality comes from Jehovah. It does not. Consider a very ancient conundrum: is an act morally good because it pleases Jehovah, or is Jehovah pleased by an act because it is morally good?

If the only source of morality is Jehovah's pleasure with an act, then what if genocide pleases Jehovah? In fact, the Bible tells us that genocide does, in fact, please Jehovah, and a failure to follow through on His command to commit genocide displeases Him. Evidence? Exodus 34:11-14, Leviticus 26:7-9, Deuteronomy 20:16, most of the book of Joshua. If this is what God's morality is, I'll accept another metric, thank you very much.

Or, Jehovah might be pleased by an act because it is morally good. This indicates that the moral goodness of the act has nothing to do with God. The act is good, or not, on its own merits and God simply evaluates the act and is either pleased or displeased by it. That means that we can bypass Jehovah's role as a moral judge, and act as moral judges ourselves. This, it seems to me, is a better way of looking at morality -- an act is either good or it is not.

And that means that God is irrelevant to judging morality. Which in turn means that Steve Harvey's suggestion that an atheist necessarily lacks morality is necessarily wrong. Atheism has nothing to do with morality. The atheist is -- just like the theist -- either a person who does morally good things, or one who does morally bad things.

Regular Readers of this blog know full well that I, an atheist, concern myself with issues of ethics and morality on a regular basis. I am hardly the only ethical atheist out there in the world.

Now, Harvey was offering dating advice. I suppose it's probably a good idea to find a dating partner and ultimately a spouse whose point of view on both moral and theological issues is similar to your own. I would suggest that if you are looking for a spouse, be honest about who and what you are, and look for someone who can accept and love you knowing those things about you.

But at the same time, Harvey was perpetuating a myth -- one that is illogical, one that is contrary to evidence, and one that is prejudicial against people based on their religions. If Harvey had said "Don't date Jewish men because they don't have morality," we'd be up in arms about that kind of bigotry, and rightly so. This is no different.

H/T to Hemant Mehta and commenters.

3 comments:

Ken said...

"If the only source of morality is Jehovah's pleasure with an act, then what if genocide pleases Jehovah?"

Or -- more to the point -- what if the people who are generally accepted as Jehovah's representatives on Earth SAY that genocide pleases Jehovah?

Erika said...

"is an act morally good because it pleases Jehovah, or is Jehovah pleased by an act because it is morally good?"

If Jehovah is pleased by any act, and he supposedly dictates the behavior of man, who he created, isn't he equating man with a dog that performs those cool tricks just to get a treat?

No wonder I'm an atheist cat person...

S said...

Amen. I don't know any atheists who aren't ethical people concerned with doing morally good things.

Would it be bigoted of me to declare I won't date Steve Harvey?