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Ethics, Out-Group Altruism, And The New Atheism

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Chapter Summary

Historically, atheism and immorality have oft en been equated. In A Letter Concerning Toleration, John Locke (2003, 246) argued at length for state toleration of religious diversity, but excluded atheists on the grounds that Promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold on the atheist. The new atheists seem to assume that the affirmation of out-group altruism is a widely accepted value in modern Western nations. At some level, they are probably correct, although the claim is not as obvious as it might at first seem. In the final chapter, Flanagan outlines his support for universal altruism, including out group altruism, which he sees based on the rational understanding that if I desire to flourish, I must acknowledge that others have a right to flourish as well.

Keywords: Atheism; Flanagan; john locke; out-group altruism



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