Pastor's Blog

You don’t have to believe in God to be moral.  Atheists have morals.  They just believe that morality, rather than being divinely given, is a part of the natural evolution of our species.  When I was considering abandoning Christianity that’s how it was explained to me.  Natural selection took elements required for our survival and propagation, including our moral sense and our moral codes, and built them into the genetic makeup that we passed down.

I was willing to buy that.  But if that’s true, wouldn’t a sense of the supernatural, a belief in God, also be a part of code that was passed down?  I was told that indeed it was – that human brains evolved with the capacity for and tendency toward belief in the supernatural because those beliefs at some point aided the survival and propagation of our species. 

But now we have grown past that.  Now we know that there is no God, I was told, and we can survive as a species without such outmoded beliefs.  We can safely dispense with them.

I was willing to buy that too.  But there are some important facts that come with that acknowledgment, aren’t there? 

Nature’s priority is survival and propagation, not truth.  Natural selection is willing to use anything that furthers survival and propagation, including falsehoods.  If truth is not a priority to nature, why should it be important to our species?  Wouldn’t the highest form of life be the one that had mastered the ability to survive and propagate, even if that meant using deception to do so?  And yet most of our moral codes have evolved in the opposite direction.  Why is that?

The human species is not by nature monogamous – not by any stretch of the imagination.  Still most modern moral codes frown on adultery and polygamy is prohibited by law, despite nature’s apathy to both.

There is no biological prohibition of incest, but it too is a major moral taboo and is legally prohibited within very close degrees of relationship in America.

“Age of consent” statutes also limit propagation in a way that nature does not.  The ancient world tended to follow nature and saw the onset of puberty delineating the age of consent (ages 12-14).  But some ancient societies recognized the “consent” of a child seven years old as “meaningful”. 

In America today the age of consent ranges between the ages of 16-18 (11th-12th graders), but throughout most of Europe it is 14-15 (8th graders).  The nation with the lowest age of consent is Niger (age 11 – 5th graders) but several Muslim nations have no age of consent.  In those nations sex outside of marriage is forbidden, but in some of those nations girls as young as 9 or 10 (3rd and 4th graders) are “marriageable”.

My point is not to oppose any of these laws.  I am simply observing that if you believe:
     (1) that nature’s primary concern is survival and propagation of itself
     (2) that moral codes evolve to aid and promote that process
     (3) that evolved moral codes are pragmatic rather than truthful, i.e. as long as they contribute to the  
           end of survival and propagation it doesn’t matter if they are true
     (4) that we can evolve beyond the usefulness of some of these codes and can dispense with them if
           they are not true

…then, is it not possible:

     (1) that different groups of people have evolved different codes -- all of which are acceptable
     (2) that some of our evolved codes that restrict, limit, or prohibit forms of propagation were from
           earlier stages in our evolution, were not based on what is true, and have outlived their usefulness
           in an enlightened society? 

Violations of some of these codes are considered heinous crimes.  Why adhere so fiercely to outmoded moral codes when they have no basis in what is true of nature? 

Why retain such codes?  Why not alter them and bring them into line with nature as it is?

Why punish people for the way evolutionary development has oriented them?    

Why punish people for doing what nature moves them so powerfully and irresistibly to do? 

Why demand that nature be something other than what it is?

These are questions that I asked when I was considering abandoning Christianity.

 

“GOD” IS THE NAME GIVEN TO THE COLD, DEAD SILENCE
THAT ANSWERS THE PRAYER OF THE CHILD
BEING MOLESTED BY THE PRIEST

That was a meme I saw on “Embrace the Void”, a webpage maintained by a young atheist who, despite his bold charge to the rest of us, has himself failed to embrace the void.

If nature is the way that science says that it is, then matter and energy are all that exists.  There is nothing immaterial like mind or spirit or soul.  Those are just names given to certain interactions of matter and energy.  There is no such thing as actual thought.  All “thought” is simply biologically pre-determined response to environmental stimuli.  There is nothing supernatural.  Matter and energy developing randomly is all that there is.

The meme on “Embrace the Void” was designed to shock.  It is not shocking to one who has truly embraced the void.  This young atheist has not pulled the curtain back far enough.  He is still deceived by the “Great Oz”.  He is still hiding from the naked truth about reality.  He continues to entertain delusions about “humanity”.  If he had truly embraced the void, he would know that all that can be said about this event is that the priest’s sexual orientation and its accompanying preferences were hard-wired into his genetics while he was developing in his mother’s womb.  In “molesting” the child he obeyed his instincts.  He was at the mercy of the dictates of his biology. 

And who is to judge the priest’s biology?  Or anybody’s biology?  Nature evolves as it evolves and therefore it is what it is.  Why question it?  Accept it.  Embrace the void.

You may protest that his behavior is not normal.  Says who?  The priest is what he is.  Why say he is abnormal?  Because his sexual orientation and his sexual preferences evolved differently than your own???  Are your genetics the standard for everyone?

You may protest that what happened to the child was tragic.  Why is it any more “tragic” than a baby seal being devoured by a hungry orca?  The orca does what it has evolved to do – and so does the priest.  Why is it any more tragic than anything else that happens in nature? 

Matter is matter and nature is nature.  Nature does what it is designed to do.

Does this sound harsh?  Is it any harsher than insisting that we “embrace the void”?  It’s easy to hide behind platitudes.  Pull the curtain back and understand what it means to “embrace the void”.  Stop injecting your pusillanimous moral sense into the picture.  If there is nothing beyond nature then accept nature for what it is.  Accept it for how it has evolved and live within it.  Nature is harsh because it is what it is.  Wanting it to be otherwise is empty wishful thinking.  Open your eyes and embrace the cold, dead silence of the void.

If this doesn’t sit well with you, why it doesn’t sit well with you.  Why this refusal to accept nature as it is?  Why this sense that it ought to be something other than what it is, that it should behave some other way than it has evolved to behave?  Where does this challenge to the nature of nature that resides within you come from and why is it there?

When I was considering abandoning Christianity to embrace atheism these were some of the things that led me away from doing so.

As a Christian I had always been taught to argue against atheism and against an evolutionary view of the universe.   But when I began to have doubts about Christianity I stopped arguing and started pursuing these ideas to mold a new way of life.  And that’s what made me come back to the Christian faith.  It wasn’t that I found Christianity to be overwhelmingly true or without problems.  It’s that with every step into secular atheism I found it to be less and less satisfying as a way to live.

If the universe “made” itself – exploded into existence and evolved by chance in a random way without any direction or input from a “mind” of some sort – then matter and energy are all that exists.  What we call “life” is just a certain configuration of the interaction of matter and energy.

Rocks and gases and stars are matter and energy.  So are redwoods and lima beans and morning glories, bacteria and viruses, clams and barnacles and starfish, worms and spiders and mice, cats and crocodiles, polar bears and elephants, blue whales and dolphins and chimpanzees.

And people.  People are nothing but complex masses of matter and energy. 

Our brains are nothing but matter and energy –an interaction between matter and energy – random chemical reactions that generate pulses of energy, “messages” that travel throughout our bodies and move us to action.

That’s all that thoughts and ideas are:  little pulses of electrical energy produced by the matter in our brains.  You don’t really ”think” thoughts, i.e. there is no unique “you” – no soul, no spirit – whatever word you care to use to try to describe some “immaterial being” – no mind, no “you” that generates ideas out of nothing.  Rather, complex chemical messages developed from series after series after series of responses to the environment, messages recorded over many eons and encoded and stored in strings of proteins and acids within your ancestors were passed down, generation by generation, until they reached you.  Those complex chemical messages dictated what you would think and how you would feel and how you would act when the environment provided certain conditions – certain stimuli.  Those stimuli trigger those previously recorded messages and they unpack themselves and cause your brain to send ancestrally formulated electrical signals through your nervous system and you would, as a result, think a thought and perform an action. 

It’s not really a thought.  It’s a pre-determined electrochemical reaction.  Freedom of thought, creating idea, making free choices – those are all illusions.  Matter and energy dictate.  Biology dictates.  You are at the mercy of a random past.  You don’t choose against it. 

You can’t.

I read and discussed and read and thought and read and questioned.  This was the scientific view.  This was the world without God.  This is what people are.  This is what ideas and thoughts are. 

If this is what you know about yourself – or at least believe about yourself – then how do you see life?  And how do you live?

Can you see that there is no “should”?  There is only what is – and what is, is natural.  How can it be “wrong”?  It just is.

 

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