Following my article Effects of Atheist Propaganda Come Home to Roost, - although on Free Republic the comments were favourable to my position - readers of my blog have posted comments that need a more analytical and detailed answer than allowed in the comments section.
Complex subjects require complex treatment. Furthermore, there seems to be much confusion about the theme of Christianity and ethics.
For example, an anonymous reader calling himself "roger in florida" wrote: "I believe you are very misguided if you equate Christianity with morality or cannot understand that atheists, such as myself, are incapable [he then explained that he meant "capable"] of morality".
Indeed I never made (and it would have been absurd to make) such a sweeping generalization as that atheists are incapable of morality.
I was myself an atheist (and now am an agnostic) capable of morality, as I am sure many others are.
Besides, if we want to be specific - and this philosophical topic requires it - everybody is capable of morality, in varying degrees, with possible pathological exceptions.
The devil is in the detail, it is those different degrees that make all the difference.
The late-18th-century philosopher Immanuel Kant distinguished between "autonomy" and "heteronomy": the former is the capability of giving oneself moral guidance and rules, the latter applies to individuals when their morality is determined from outside themselves, through fears of losing social approval and of punishments like those associated with the penal system.
The vast majority of individuals will have a combination of the two, in proportions that will diverge greatly. Children and adults who are generally considered immoral, like criminals, will need more external guidance and deterrents.
Anyway, my article was about a specific connection between atheism and immoral behaviour, not a generic one.
Another reader, aLeRGya, addressed this thus: "I don' think implying what Dr. Dawkins is promoting directly leads to the dilemma relating to the video is that simple. Correlation does not imply causation".
Of course, as exposed by the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, we cannot logically derive causation from correlation or temporal coincidence.
But here we do not need to.
When a company invests large sums of money to advertise a product and then it sees the product's sales soar, it is a highly plausible hypothesis that the advertising campaign caused the increase in sales.
In fact, this pattern follows that of a scientific experiment: you change one variable (the experimental variable) and, coeteris paribus (all the rest being equal), the change in the responding variable (the result) will likely be due to your intervention, proportionally to how much the rest has been maintained equal.
The very fact that companies and other organizations and agencies keep spending lots of money in advertising is in itself a sign that this method achieves the desired objectives.
What is true for advertising of products is also true of advertising of ideas, propaganda, which was literally what I explored in my article, i.e. an atheist advertising campaign in Britain.
The population of a country like Britain had been exposed, until the 1950s, to an education following the values of Christian ethics, which centre around self-discipline and self-constraint in all areas of life, not just sexuality as it is vulgarly assumed but also eating, drinking, shopping and spending, drug taking, personal relationships, and so on in every sphere.
In the last 5-6 decades the British population has been subjected to a politically Leftist, anti-clerical, militant atheist propaganda and bombarded with messages similar to and pointing in the same direction as those described in my article.
God does not exist, therefore enjoy your life and live for today: commenters who criticize my piece for making the connection between atheism and absence of ethical thinking (ethics requires exactly that, going beyond the "now" and instant self-gratification) overlook the fact that Leftist, militant atheists are the first to make that connection, as evidenced in this particular bus and train advertising campaign.
Some, more ascetic people, in seeing those slogans, may have thought of a different kind of enjoyment, but the vast majority will have understood right in thinking that it was an invitation and encouragement to a relaxation in sexual behaviour, which Christianity rightly sees as covered by ethics but atheist moral philosophers, like Peter Singer who has influenced Richard Dawkins, do not.
Here is what Peter Singer, one of the main contemporary proponents of atheist ethics, writes on pages 1 and 2 of his book Practical Ethics (Amazon US), (Amazon UK) , when giving the basic foundations of his ethical system:
Some people think that morality is now out of date. They regard morality as a system of nasty puritanical prohibitions, mainly designed to stop people having fun...For a utilitarian like Singer, a consequentialist moral philosopher, to so easily neglect the specific consequences of sex, the human activity that leads to the conception of children, is an incredible mistake.
So the first thing to say about ethics is that it is not a set of prohibitions particularly concerned with sex. Even in the era of AIDS, sex raises no unique moral issues at all. Decisions about sex may involve considerations of honesty, concern for others, prudence, and so on, but there is nothing special about sex in this respect, for the same could be said of decisions about driving a car. (In fact, the moral issues raised by driving a car, both from an environmental and from a safety point of view, are much more serious than those raised by sex.) Accordingly, this book contains no discussion of sexual morality. There are more important ethical issues to be considered. [Emphasis added]
Throughout this period from the '50s to now Britain has experienced a vast rise in the incidence of teenage pregnancy, illegitimacy, sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS/HIV, divorce, abortion, broken families, multiple marriages, fatherless children, eating disorders, overeating, obesity, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, over spending, obsessive shopping, indebtedness, sexual child abuse, neglect of the elderly, loss of sense of community, individual isolation, and more.
To argue that there is no causal connection between these two sets of events stretches credibility way too far.
Try to bombard people for decades with the message: "People have been telling you that in the morning you should get up from the right side of the bed. Well, they were wrong. People who say that are superstitious, pervert ignoramuses. We are on the right side of history, on the side of progress, have science in our support and we tell you that you should get up from the left side of the bed".
The human mind is very plastic, malleable, flexible and adaptable.
If, after half a century of people's hearing this message continuously repeated in overt or subtle ways in their living rooms from the TV, in cinema screens, classrooms and college halls, in newspapers, political, academic, entertainment and indeed any public discourse, even on billboards on buses and trains, would you be surprised if people who had always got up from the right side of the bed eventually get up from the left, and would you not see that the first set of phenomena caused the other?
There could be other concomitant causes too, there always are in sociological events of a certain complexity, but atheist, anti-Christian, anti-ethical propaganda is undoubtedly a major one.
The reader aLeRGya also makes a reference to the Catholic Church's so-called "paedophile" scandal, which is nothing of the sort and will be treated in a future article.