Dr. Hippler believes that if no deity brought humanity into being, then it is impossible for humans to define any meaningful morality or ethics. It is too bad our debate did not probe this popular misunderstanding. Sam Harris responds to the claim brilliantly here.
I received this constructive feedback, from an atheist I'd not previously met.
Dr. Hippler is aware: Adherent Catholics may accept evolution as true, but Dr. Hippler harbors skepticism. A thoroughgoing acceptance of evolution appears to remove god's role in our origin, he fears.
I am also aware that the Catholic Church allows the flock to accept or reject evolution as they please--and understand Dr. Hippler's concern. Were I a believing, Magisterium-accepting Catholic, I too would deem it a concession to say no magical assistance was needed for life to evolve from the single-celled organisms of 3.8 billion years ago to the flora and fauna on earth today, including humans.
The commenter points out: Pope Benedict XVI accepts that evolution is true:
While there is little consensus among scientists about how the origin of this first microscopic life is to be explained, there is general agreement among them that the first organism dwelt on this planet about 3.5–4 billion years ago. Since it has been demonstrated that all living organisms on earth are genetically related, it is virtually certain that all living organisms have descended from this first organism.On this non-doctrinal point, Dr. Hippler is as free to disagree with the Pope as is anybody else, of course.
Some atheists think we need to argue, 'Evolution is not in conflict with your religious beliefs!' But many religious people do perceive great conflict, Dr. Hippler being a clear example.
Dr. Hippler would reply that his abhorrence of atheism stems not from any moralistic demand that non-believers adopt his religious beliefs--but from a hyper-neutral, objective observation--that it is impossible to author any coherent morality in the absence of a Supreme Being.
Dr. Hippler is not arguing that atheists have no moral beliefs: He knows that atheists are not indifferent to the values their children adopt, for example. But he believes god-backed moral beliefs allow religious values to be binding--and that by contrast atheists' moral viewpoints have no force and are therefore of almost no value.
The contrast Dr. Hippler claims exists, between the force of religious morality and the flimsiness of non-religion-based morality, is false and cannot in fact be observed in daily life: We often see purportedly religious people violating their key tenets--and we often observe people doing good things without religious motivation. So if Dr. Hippler can point to any real-world evidence for accepting the superiority of god-backed morality, I'm interested.
When describing our opponents' views to ourselves, we sometimes exaggerate their weirdness: We have a need to view opponents as unreasonable. To counter this widespread human failing, we should facilitate uncensored, easily-accessed commenting, listen closely to our opponents' best arguments--and ask them often if our descriptions of their views are fair and balanced. I hereby do.
**I told my high school classmates [on facebook] about Saturday's experience:
It was an educational experience for me, having never participated in any such event; the library meeting room was SRO. The skeptics in the audience expressed mild to severe disappointment in my performance, though I had no intention of speaking on behalf of the team. A friendly person, not joking, told me afterwards I'd made him cringe several times. A non-anonymous 'Minnesota Atheist' commented 'Unfortunately, Mr. Sullivan wasn't able to demonstrate anything other than his own fecklessness.' My ex-wife attended and was suspiciously supportive and friendly to me afterwards. However much I/we made the audience suffer, I had a great time.