Richard Dawkins Must Be Shepping Nachas

Fellow '05 Koch alum and Liberty Bell Clara channels her inner Hitchens:

For centuries, the brightest Jews on Earth slaved over the Mishna, Talmud and Torah. They grappled with such crucial topics as daily prayer rituals, the “purity” of women, the sinfulness of certain food, and the precise constitution of forbidden work on the weekly day of rest. Often they disagreed, and they responded to each other with finely tuned arguments.

One of the great tragedies of the human race has been the decision to funnel its most promising scholars into such narrow, unproductive professions — Jews into the rabbinate, Christians into the priesthood. It is difficult to fathom the extent of medical, technological and artistic progress retarded during centuries spent contemplating this drivel.

Watching friend after friend throw away the chance to attend college and live a self-sustaining, productive life, but instead get married, move to Israel, have lots of babies, and live off the support of their parents, their wives (who are expected to have a career and raise a litter of children at the same time, while their husbands pour over millennia-old religious texts all day) or the government is what convinces me of the importance of Christopher Hitchens' clarion call that religion poisons everything. It is not enough to simply respectfully tolerate religion; it must be actively opposed and dismantled by those concerned with truth, progress and reason.

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Superfluous Scare Quotes

I don't get why the purity of women gets scare quotes. It's a well-known fact they're icky.

- Josh

"It is not enough to simply

"It is not enough to simply respectfully tolerate religion; it must be actively opposed and dismantled by those concerned with truth, progress and reason."

What exactly do you mean by 'actively opposed and dismantled'? It sounds an awful lot like a threat to use force.

New Order

Hey, Stormy, get in line now. Don't you see, it's the New Order.

Envision Dawkins with a cookie-duster mustache.

Sieg Heil.

Really? Does the claim that

Really? Does the claim that racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, and statism must all be actively opposed and dismantled sound an awful lot like a threat to use force?

Yes it does and there is

Yes it does and there is nothing wrong with that.
What matters is not force but aggression, initiation of force. In your example, the state being the initiator of force, there is nothing wrong in answering with force. In the case of religion however, merely having irrational belief does not legitimate the use of force against one.

Sorry, but no initiation of

Sorry, but no initiation of force is implied or necessary to oppose and dismantle harmful social phenomenon. Libertarians don't generally think it's okay to bash statists over their head in order to convince them to change their views on the matter. Peaceful persuasion and non-violent social action has a much better track record.

Then you need to choose your

Then you need to choose your words more carefully. I can think of very few other groups who don't mean force when they talk about 'active opposition'.

Perhaps you could provide some example of the sort of non-forceful 'active opposition' you were thinking of?

Sure. Don't give religions

Sure. Don't give religions and religious views the respect they think they deserve. Be willing to offend and belittle people's religious views, in the same way we offend and belittle views about UFOs and reptilian conspiracies seriously. Actively engange in offending religious bugaboos such as irrational disgust for sexual practices. In his last bloggingheads discussion, Will Wilkinson had a great point about how South Park, by virtue of its willingness to disgust, is doing a great social service in weakening the moral toolbox of religion. This is essentially the social conservative argument in reverse: Yes, contemporary culture is destroying traditional values. Get used to it and die.

So your plan is to convince

So your plan is to convince theists that they should become atheists by having atheists be the most dickish assholes they can possibly be?

Yeah, I'm sure that's going to convince a lot of people.

I'm more concerned with

I'm more concerned with creating a culture that doesn't take religion seriously so that when children grow up in that culture, they look at these biblical stories the same way they look at Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. I have no interest in saving the dyed-in-the-wool theist, or rather, I think they are pretty much a lost cause; their children, on the other hand, are worth saving.

If atheists were the vast

If atheists were the vast majority of society, your method might work. However, given the opposite, your method is likely only to produce a culture increasingly hostile to atheism.

Mocking people general fails to change their minds. It makes them even more intransigent because in addition to their previously held belifs, they now have the added desire to avoid giving the mocker the pleasure of being right.

The idea that "it's a

The idea that "it's a reasonable belief to have faith in god and although you're an atheist we can agree to disagree" must be broken. By granting more respect to theist than to reptilians, we comfort them in their belief that their faith is more plausible, or more reasonable. Theism must be dragged down to reality, and in order to do that, we must break the idea that atheism is a sophisticated position that needs argumentation, we must show that to atheists there is no difference between the belief in god and the belief in a reptilian conspiracy (although we find the later more likely).

Although I generally try to

Although I generally try to avoid offending people (reptilian conspirasists, christians, etc) as a rule I do not behave differently when expressing my views on each matter... so I strive to be respectuous with reptilian conspirasists while politely pointing out that their belief is nut.

Counterexample comes to

Counterexample comes to mind: Saint Thomas d'Aquin was a theologist but I wouldn't call his career a waste. Maybe theology sometime seems pointless, yet it can build some reasoning structures, tools that can be used in other environments.

Another thought... culturally, although I am an atheist, I'd tend to feel closer to the jewish tradition. However, I am extremely puzzled by their law tradition which focuses so much on the letter of the law and not the spirit of the law.

Although I disapprove of mysticism, I think religion provide many people with useful ethical heuristics. It reminds them that positive law is not necessarily natural law. Ultimately, fighting religion may not be a good idea as it might bring more power to the State. What should be done is understand precisely the viral structure of religion and use it to spread antibodies.

Indeed

Counterexample comes to mind: Saint Thomas d'Aquin was a theologist but I wouldn't call his career a waste. Maybe theology sometime seems pointless, yet it can build some reasoning structures, tools that can be used in other environments.

Cases in point:

The oft-praised Bayseian approach was formulated by a Presbyterian minister.

The geneticist and current director of the Human Genome Project is an evangelical christian. Probably attends church, too, what do you want to bet - gasp!

This cannot be tolerated in the New Order.

Saint Thomas d'Aquin was a

Saint Thomas d'Aquin was a theologist but I wouldn't call his career a waste.

The claim is not that a life devoted to religion is necessarily a complete wash, with nothing at all productive arising from it; rather, the claim is that, in the absence of religion, imagine what productive things Aquinas might have done instead - imagine the sorts of much more useful knowledge he might have produced instead of meditating on the intellectual equivalent of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

owever, I am extremely puzzled by their law tradition which focuses so much on the letter of the law and not the spirit of the law.

I believe it's justified (at least in the Orthodox tradition of which I am most familiar) on the grounds of legal conservatism, a kind of stare decisis. Allowing later generations to interpret a law's intent, whether that law was set down by god or the rabbinate, is much riskier and prone to unjustified change (according to the theory) than just taking the law as it is and not allowing for possible social changes to make us reexamine a law's justification.

Ultimately, fighting religion may not be a good idea as it might bring more power to the State.

My concerns are not only with freedom from the state, but freedom from harmful social phenomenon as well.

Aquinas produced ethical

Aquinas produced ethical theories of natural right which are very relevant to libertarianism. This is a productive result.

As for the jewish law tradition, I am far from knowledgable in this area, but I've seen or heard of many cases where the intent is blindly obvious yet is being ignored for the letter. The most blatant cases being shabbat-circumventing devices. Another example: there were, a few years ago, cases of stolen Torah. In order to track them on the black market, a database was needed. The problem was that no serial number could be added as no single character should be added or removed from the Torah. Scientists came up with two solutions. The first one involved scanning the parchment and coming up with a characteristic hash, a purely passive method. The second one involved writing a serial number with a code using microperforations. You could think the second solution is wrong because it is actually adding some characters. Well, the second solution was kept... because... jurisprudence stated that tiny holes could be made for binding! Honestly it's complete nonsense.

It's either working or it's not

Come on,

Make up your mind! Either evolution is working... or it's not. So here's this phenomenom called religion. You don't agree with it's premises, you think it's stupid. And yet, clearly it's existence suggests it's an evolutionary necessity. Once it stops being an evolutionary necessity, it will go away, assuming you are right that there is no God.

Either way, it doesn't make any evolutionary sense for you to waste energy opposing it.

Dawkins point is precisely

Dawkins point is precisely that the existence of religion is not the result of evolution but the result of a viral infection. The fact that the common cold is so common doesn't mean it is an "evolutionary necessity" and that we shouldn't fight it.

Dept of misleading analogies

One might also note that our bodies are host to a large number of "infections" that actually help us more than they hurt. Analogizing beliefs to infectious agents doesn't score any normative points.

Truly. But I didn't say it

Truly. But I didn't say it was bad, I said it was viral. The viral nature merely opens the possibility that religion may not be helping us by explaining how it would not be wiped by evolution, it does not conclude that it is indeed harming us.

In many cases, I believe religion provide useful ethical heuristics. For example, the judeo-christian idea that you don't get something for nothing is an excellent heuristic, but it sometimes fail (I think this is a reason why 0 calorie sodas are seen with such suspicion). Religion probably provides solace, and psychological comfort in life. There are tons of reason why it may be beneficial. It's still a virus though.

well then...

Wouldn't truth be viral in exactly the same sense? If we're merely attempting to describe how religion works as a "meme" then I'm not sure I see the difference.

Be careful of the naturalistic fallacy- if religion was adaptive (and there is evidence that it is in some cases- I'll give a fascinating- imho- example if you want) that would say nothing about the truth-content. Then you'd be dealing with an argument like "It's okay to hold instrumental irrational beliefs"- and I want to post on that one soon, because secular rationalists (again, like myself) have a big bullet to bite there.

aaaathatsfiveas.blogspot.com

Truth does not embed the

Truth does not embed the message:
"shut down your defenses (reason), accept this message (faith), spread it (proselytism)"

not making sense

I fail to see who those things make faith any more viral. Not mention the last 2 which are certainly true of "truth." As far as the first goes, is "shut down your defenses" that much different than simply battling your "defenses" (and are they defenses?) I mean, from an abstract perspective what does it matter to the meme if it's adaptive function was to shut your defenses down (faith) or simply overpower them (a true argument)?

In case Sam Harris is around here, no one is saying any such self-refuting nonsense like "truth isn't better than falsehoods."

aaaathatsfiveas.blogspot.com

I fail to see who those

I fail to see who those things make faith any more viral.

a) because it bypasses your defense
b) because it contains self-replication

If I tell you 2+2 = 4, you don't necessarily feel a urge to tell this to everyone.

The fact that the meme bypasses your defenses and self-replicates is - once again - NOT a proof that it is harmful, but it means that evolution doesn't make it necessarily innocuous.

If religion couldn't bypass your reason, it wouldn't be able to do you any harm, but it does and can ("go blow up that plane").
It religion didn't self-replicate and were harmful, it wouldn't survive, but it does self-replicate, which opens the possibility of harmful religions surviving.

Viral nature of religion - No symbiotic nature

In so far as religion tends to spread by passing from parent to child vs. spreading by evangelism it will tend to be molded by selective pressures which would mold it to be simbiotic with our genes instead of at cross purposes.

Thus one would expect religions that spread via offspring to have adaptive features that are beneficial to individual. So this is one point where I tend to disagree with Dawkins.

Using the term viral is best reserved for cults, although all religions have viral aspects. Actually a better analogy would be somatic aspects. When priests practice celebacy I think it's better to think of them as the worker caste of an ant colony or the somatic cell of a multicellular organism than as being infected.

The same cannot be said of the members of the Jim Jones cult.

Your lack of comprehension

Your lack of comprehension of how evolution actually works is making my brain hurt. Stop it.

The best thinking on this issue right now is that religiousness is a by-product of other cognitive mechanisms that have fitness value (e.g. agency-detection). There's no need (and inadequate grounds) to posit it as a specific adaptation in its own right, though no doubt it has taken on some functional significance since it arose.

And in any case, whether or not it was beneficial in the *past* is neither here nor there as to whether it's beneficial *now*.

I don't think this is the

I don't think this is the right way to look at it - you need the meme's eye view, not the human view.

I think religion is an adaptation in it's own right, just like any other successful memeplex. But it is not an adaptation *of humans*. It is an adaptation *of a set of ideas* to an environment. The fact that it still infects many minds is clear proof that it is adapted pretty well to the current environment.

Which is unfortunate, for those of us who believe as Micha does that it harms its hosts.

Synthesis

I'm sure there's a memetic element to religion. Well, obviously there is. But I think Matt has a good point as well, in saying that religiousness is a by-product of other cognitive mechanisms that have fitness value (e.g. agency-detection). That seems to me a rather good explanation. After all, it is important to detect agency (detect presence of animals and people and to detect what's on their mind, their beliefs, desires, and intentions), and the "detection" of gods behind natural phenomena sure does seem like that agency-detection-module spinning its wheels.

This merely means that

This merely means that religion exploits a natural cognitive mechanism. It's natural it does.

Cognitive architecture

Cognitive architecture shapes the fitness landscape for memes.

on Judaism (as a goy)

I'm sympathetic to the point, but perhaps there's be something to be said for the cultural benefits of Judaism as a religion and way of life; philosophy even. I'm not sure if anyone can move beyond the anecdotal in their discussion of the "jewish genius" phenomenon, but it seems to me that there's something kind of awesome about the Mishna and the Gemara. I'm a secular atheist that's VERY sceptical of this militant atheist movement, and this isn't a major point I'd choose to make against Hitchens/Harris/Dawkins in a debate, but I think that the value one can find in the Talmud is precisely something that shouldn't be overlooked by the atheist movement.

For instance, one can argue persuasively that the tradition of the Mishna and Gemara are radically freeing in that they encourage debate and scholarship and interpretation. That the books of practice aren't just "here are the great pieces of truth; learn them" (i.e. the Torah, traditional Christianity, etc.) but are also about debate and discussion and contrary viewpoints and so on. I guess you could say that, at root, it's still confined to discussion on the bible, but I think this misses the point. There is an ocean of difference between the "here's God's word, learn and live it" version of truth and the implicit version of truth to be found in the Talmud which is almost Socratic, and seems to say that Truth is about research and reasoning between contrary viewpoints and interpretations.

Compare that to a guy like Sam Harris who seemingly gets his ass handed to him around every corner (watch the youtube debate between he and Reza Aslan, or checkout beyondbelief2006.org and the Edge.net debates where Scott Atran makes short work of him) and yet continues to act like he's some Islamic scholar specializing in suicide terror. The boundaries need to be drawn between "dangerous unreason" vs. "humanitarian rationalism" instead of religion vs. atheism. Though there are faults on both sides I find that on balance, guys like Rabbi Arik Ascherman are more my ally than Sam Harris for the things that are actually important.

aaaathatsfiveas.blogspot.com

For instance, one can argue

For instance, one can argue persuasively that the tradition of the Mishna and Gemara are radically freeing in that they encourage debate and scholarship and interpretation.

I agree with this to a certain extent, and it might even be true, but I think it's important to note what our standard for comparison is. If we are comparing a life of Talmudic scholarship to a life of no scholarship at all, then you might have a point. But surely there are other alternatives? One can just as easily argue (and you do in your reference to Socrates) that the tradition of Greek thought is radically freeing and encourages debate and scholarship and interpretation in a much more meaningful way than the tradition of the Talmud.

Now, one might respond that Talmudic scholarship is especially "sticky" in that it comes bundled with a moral imperative, so that even those who might not otherwise want to sit in a library all day reading Aramaic will be persuaded to do so.

But this very stickiness is part of the problem, and precisely what makes Talmudic scholarship as a religious practice (as opposed to a purely academic one) not radically freeing, and not conducive for debate. For as much debate as Talmudic study involves, there are certain types of questions that are considered out of bounds. The vast majority of arguments are settled by appeals to authority (the fact that there are so many different authorities and their pronouncements are not always clear makes this debate possible), either by reference to source texts or reference to a Rabbinic authority from previous generations. These debates are often settled by an extreme form of stare decisis, where contemporaries are allowed to argue amongst themselves, but no one is allowed to argue with something that was said by a previous Rabbinic generation (Rabbinic history is divided into a number of different eras or epochs, and each era has a duty to not overturn rulings of higher eras, much in the same way that state courts are not supposed to rule in opposition to federal courts.)

No appeal

(Rabbinic history is divided into a number of different eras or epochs, and each era has a duty to not overturn rulings of higher eras, much in the same way that state courts are not supposed to rule in opposition to federal courts.)

Ouch. The "higher eras" are of course deceased. So then there isn't even the option of bumping questions up to the higher courts for reconsideration. That is not appealing, not appealing at all. :-)

stare decisis

Your mention of Stare decisis was astute, because this:

But this very stickiness is part of the problem, and precisely what makes Talmudic scholarship as a religious practice (as opposed to a purely academic one) not radically freeing, and not conducive for debate. For as much debate as Talmudic study involves, there are certain types of questions that are considered out of bounds. The vast majority of arguments are settled by appeals to authority (the fact that there are so many different authorities and their pronouncements are not always clear makes this debate possible), either by reference to source texts or reference to a Rabbinic authority from previous generations.

Sounds exactly like law.

I doubt we disagree on this issue too much (and if we do on the Talmudetc., I'd probably do better to learn from you than to argue with you given your background). Of course I'm an atheist in part because I don't see why understanding the world through the lens of religion instead of science is value-added (the opposite for me.) But then the question becomes this: does everyone agree that the Socratic tradition is better and more freeing than the Talmudic? I'm not trying to frame that tendentiously (it may look like it, but as you'll see I'm making a far more general point) incidentally.

Since there are secular philosophies that are more constricting intellectually than the religious ones like the Talmudic tradition (not hard to name, but try Heidegger maybe) then we're RADICALLY oversimplifying things by drawing the boundaries as "religion vs. atheism." It's, again, about freedom vs. control and open-mindedness vs. close-mindedness. Correlating those to religion is one thing, but CONFUSING them with religion is the problem.

That's why I see the Dawkins of "The Blind Watchmaker" as superior to the Dawkins of today, as the goal of Atheists should be to espouse a vision of life that's meaningful, engaging, and wonderous in addition to being true. You and I may agree that an intellectual life free from the constraints of the Talmudic scholars is superior to that with them, but that seems to me a personal decision about value and meaning. Not to say we need to shut up, only that our best hope is in trying to make them aware of exactly what they're giving up in the choice. Hence my comment about Dawkins- showing them the wonder of rationalism so they don't choose instrumental irrationalism.

aaaathatsfiveas.blogspot.com

The choice

I agree with this to a certain extent, and it might even be true, but I think it's important to note what our standard for comparison is. If we are comparing a life of Talmudic scholarship to a life of no scholarship at all, then you might have a point. But surely there are other alternatives? One can just as easily argue (and you do in your reference to Socrates) that the tradition of Greek thought is radically freeing and encourages debate and scholarship and interpretation in a much more meaningful way than the tradition of the Talmud.

Now, one might respond that Talmudic scholarship is especially "sticky" in that it comes bundled with a moral imperative, so that even those who might not otherwise want to sit in a library all day reading Aramaic will be persuaded to do so.

It isn't just that, its also the culture that it creates. When you think about for example the Hasidic Jewish communities, where scholarship is highly respected because of the religious imperative and law and moral order and personal responsibility are considered to be of great importance, you can easily see why there are so many wealthy Jewish brainiac lawyers and such around the blogosphere for example :)

Seriously, cultures are created on shared values, moral expectations and social awareness -- religion can be a great conveyer of such things - for the good and the bad. Other than "non-religious" faiths like Marxism, it is difficult to name another such source for cultural glue. Despite popular legend, the ancients were not all philosophers - the common folk were uneducated and they never eradicated slavery or gave women equal rights.

Do we continue to need religion today to transmit cultural values? I hope we don't. But it isn't as easy to dismiss as the post suggests. Perhaps a slow transformation with emphasis on rational debating religions over pure faith ones, is a more wise approach.

Don't hold your breath. The

Don't hold your breath. The New Atheists like Hitchens & Dawkins & Harris seem to want religious belief to be like having kids, when really it's more like wanting sex: true atheism is less like using a prophylactic than it is like being asexual. Read Scott Atran (In Gods We Trust), Pascal Boyer (Religion Explained), and Paul Bloom (Descartes' Baby), atheists all of them. If they're right, and I think they are, then you are asking religious people to deny what their own subjective experience is telling them. You could have all sorts of perfectly reasonable arguments on your side, but at the end of the day they're not going to believe you over their lying eyes.

I think what secularists should focus on is altering the ways that people's religious instincts are evoked by their cultural millieu. Probably a lot more promising an approach than the full frontal assault technique.

Religion again? Oy vey.

These sweeping condemnations of anything as globally evil, whether it be the state or religion, are useful only as rhetorical flourishes, and are fine so long as, deep down, we admit the truth is more complex.

Of course religion does not poison everything. Many a religious precept has a positive message that few atheists would disagree with. Christians harp on charity, for instance. So any realistic evaluation of religion is going to have to undertake a complex balancing of the good and the bad.

That's one issue.

The second issue is the puzzling question of where morality comes from if not from a deity. Now one can believe morality exists even in an atheistic universe---as I do---but anyone taking this position has to admit this kind of floating moral objectivity---the idea that there exists these spooky normative truths out there---is rather quite close to being religious in the first place. One simply believes in an invisible morality rather than an invisible sentience.

If one takes the other route and chooses to simply not believe in either religion or morality, that's fair, but if that's the case it's hard to take anti-religious outrage all that seriously, since we're simply debating preferences with no truth value.

In his disappointing God Delusion, Dawkins seems to express the sort of atheistic moral realism that I've described above, advocating utilitarianism as the correct theory. Moreover, he writes that he does not have to describe where morality comes from to make his point [that religion is nasty]; rather he only has to prove it does not come from God. But if Dawkins wishes to believe there is an objective right and wrong, he has to believe in an invisible normative universe, which, as I've said, is a leap of faith that seems on par with believing in God. If such leaps of faith are valid, that cuts out much of his book's epistemological thrust.

At any rate, if the brightest Jews on Earth believe in something, as Clara admits, then we should at the very least be hesitant to ridicule that belief as "drivel."

DR Blog

I have a post up on this here blog addressing similar points to the one you just made. I tend to agree with you, though I disagree that ethics are a particularly problematic example. I know you know my take on ethics, but I don't see the existence of ethics being any more a problem than the existence of yellow for the secular worldview. Do you think ethics are especially problematic?

aaaathatsfiveas.blogspot.com

Briefly

I haven't given much thought to color and so can't answer that question. I do believe there are, probably many, other areas of knowledge that are as problematic as ethics, and in that sense ethics is not especially problematic in comparison.

Agnostic on color?

I used to be like you but then I saw the light.

Nice

Let there be applause.

well...

I gotta admit- that was pretty good.

Scott are you a "all of this is an illusion and you're actually being raped in the basement by Matt Besser" agnostic too?

aaaathatsfiveas.blogspot.com

The brilliance of UCB is the

The brilliance of UCB is the best evidence I know of that there is a God.

no doubt

"UCB is proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy" (the original version of that quote always struck me as way more persuasive than it deserved to be, btw.)

aaaathatsfiveas.blogspot.com

The second issue is the

The second issue is the puzzling question of where morality comes from if not from a deity.

That's complete bunk, Scott, and you've participated in enough of these discussions that you should know better. Socrates dealt with this nonsense eons ago, and our own discussions on rule consequentialism and infinite turtle regressions here at Catallarchy have as well.

Let me ask you, Scott: in Randy Barnett's discussion of natural rights at the beginning of The Structure of Liberty, do you think he posits an "invisible normative universe" requiring "a leap of faith that seems on par with believing in God"?

I can't comment on a book I

I can't comment on a book I haven't read. However, I do know Barnett's natural rights stance, and so far as I can tell it's nothing more than rule utilitarianism. Why he dresses it up as a natural rights stance is not clear to me, but perhaps he explains that in The Structure of Liberty. So, my ignorance being conceded, I'll nevertheless assume that all Barnett is preaching is rule utilitarianism. So the question is whether rule utilitarianism requires a leap of faith that seems on par with believing in God?

Presuming that the rule utilitarian believes that rule utilitarianism is an objectively true moral stance, then he believes in moral truth. In particular, he believes in the moral fact: "One should act as to maximize [average or total] utility." Now, where this moral fact exists if not in some "invisible normative universe" is not clear. Certainly nothing about the material world compels anyone to maximize utility, or to make any other moral choice.

Thus, if morality is objective, it does take a leap of faith that seems "on par with believing in God" to believe that it exists. I say that because, so far as moral truth exists, it would seem to be completely undetectable by any other sense. So, however we're sensing morality, it doesn't seem far removed from the inspiration that theists rely on to support their belief system--an intuitive process.

Neither Euthyphro nor stacked turtles seem on point. Even if something isn't good because of anything it's used for, but rather is simply good in and of itself (the more savvy in the crowd can correct me if wrong, but I believe this is precisely what G. E. Moore argues in the Principia Ethica), there remains the question of how we can tell what is good and what is not. It is this question that requires some sort of mystical explanation that is on par with religious belief.

It doesn't matter whether

It doesn't matter whether you categorize Barnett's preferred ethics as natural rights or as rule utilitarianism (I prefer the term consequentialist since it doesn't imply that happiness is the one and only consequence that matters); the important point here is the framework he uses to justify his ethics without reference to God or other imaginary things. It's been a while since I read it, but if I recall correctly, this article seems to indicate that Barnett believes natural rights and consequentialism are essentially two ways of looking at the same thing. I don't necessarily agree with that (a lot depends on Barnett's unique [at least among libertarians, anyway] understanding of natural rights as noncategorical imperatives), but it shouldn't matter much for the purposes of the present argument.

Euthyphro is important in addressing the question of "where morality comes from if not from a deity" for it shows that positing the existence of a deity does not at all help answer the question of where morality comes from. Now, if this were the end of the story, then your argument would be correct: neither theists nor athiests would have anyway of rationally grounding the existence of morality. But, of course, as I think Barnett demonstrates well, the existence of morality can be rationally grounded. It's just not the sort of morality that many people expect it to be: a categorical, objective morality. No problem, since kind of morality isn't needed anyway.

Liberty Bell?

Liberty Bell Clara

Liberty Bell? Are you saying she's fat? Like a bell?