Pastor's Blog

Christians often say “I don’t see how anyone can live without God.”  I take exception to that statement. 

When I was considering abandoning the Christian faith years ago I didn’t find atheism in and of itself ridiculous or absurd -- and I still don’t.  Atheism makes perfectly good sense to me.  We have no scientific data confirming the existence of God.  Our senses don’t detect him.  No instrumentation detects Him.  The more we study the universe the more we figure out how things work.  We no longer resort to divine interference to explain natural events.  We can make sense of the material world apart from a supreme being.  Atheism in and of itself I don’t find logically untenable.

What I did (and do) find difficult is how to find a way to live in a world without God.  In a world without God there is no right and wrong -- no principles of right and wrong that are solidly true and by which actions can be truly and rightly assessed.  Right and wrong, good and evil, are just opinions, perspectives – and each man has his own perspective – and no two men are exactly alike in their opinions. 

You can construct any morality you like.

So can your neighbor.

If your neighbor believes that taking things from your backyard that you claim as your own is acceptable behavior but you find his taking them objectionable, how do you decide which of your moralities is correct?  You call him a thief.  He says you are greedy and selfish.  Who is right?

Even if someone could sit above you and your neighbor and judge between your moral opinions and practices, what would serve as the basis of that judge’s opinions?  His personal opinions?  What gives his opinions any more weight or value than your own – or your neighbor’s?

If you live in a world without God, the respective moralities of Adolf Hitler, Al Capone, Bernie Madoff, Osama bin Laden, and Jeffrey Dahmer are merely opinions that differ from your own.  You can say you don’t like them.  You can say that you think they are dangerous.  You cannot argue that they are wrong.

This is where I ran into difficulties with secular atheism.  Every atheist I talked to seemed to take for granted that his personal sense of morality was the human default, inherent in every person and innately understood by the entire human race.  Those with a radically different moral outlook – serial killers, pedophiles, racists, tyrants – well, they must be aberrant – mentally ill or brain-damaged.  Something must be “wrong” with them.  Why else would they accept moral values so radically different from mine and from everyone I know?

So, because someone differs with you they must be abnormal and aberrant ??? 

Might it not be the other way around – that you and those like you are the ones that are the deviants?

What makes you the norm?  What makes you the standard?

It is patently obvious – when you look at the real world, at real people – that morality is not patently obvious.  Some cultures see murder as always wrong;  others see it as a justified and even honorable option in some unpleasant circumstances.  The same is true of many other practices that western society sees as criminal, including rape, child abuse, and spouse abuse.

These facts used to be understood the way the Christian faith explains it:  there is a universal moral code but humanity is either ignorant of it, denies it, or rejects it.  The secular view disagrees and says instead that there is no universal moral code.  There is no actual good or evil.  Morals are just rules made up by people for their own benefit.  What a group deems good for itself is “good”;  what it deems harmful for itself is “evil”.  Outside groups may see things in completely the opposite way.  My evil is your good;  my good is your evil.  This is how most secularists view the world. 

This is why when Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union “the evil empire” and George W. Bush spoke of Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as “the axis of evil” the secular world rolled its eyes and mocked their perspectives as quaintly outmoded and naive.  The idea that there were actual “evils” was terribly simplistic and unsophisticated.  There are no evils;  only different perspectives and opinions.

As a result secularists have difficulty assessing evils.  Progressive attorney Sunny Hostin said recently on “The View” that the human rights violations of Saudi Arabia and North Korea – killing or imprisoning homosexuals for being homosexual, forcing women to have abortions against their will – are different from but not worse than the American government’s separating children of illegal immigrants from their parents at the border.  Hostin’s perspective won’t permit her to say anything else.  Hostin is an American.  How is she to know what’s good or evil for the Saudis or the North Koreans?  All she is able to safely say is that from her perspective things look evil – but she can only accurately judge within her own culture because that is the only perspective she really knows.

This is also why secularists are constantly revising American history which has usually been written from the perspective that America is the good guy.  Today’s approach is to take the perspective of the other side.  From the native American’s point of view the European settlers, our revered founding fathers, were the invaders, the bad guys.  Their white Eurocentric point of view is therefore the “great evil” for everyone with whom they come into contact.  Likewise, from the perspective of the radical Muslims the Americans have always been evil invading imperialists bent on taking away the comfortable traditional lifestyles of the Muslims, forcing them to accept western ways.

When I was tempted to leave the Christian faith for atheistic secularism I realized this would be the new perspective on morals that I would have to take.  It made philosophical sense and if there is no moral law it seems to me there is no other way to look at morals.  But in conversation and reading I found that not even secularists lived consistently with this point of view.  For example, all sorts of patience and understanding are extended towards the murderous Mao and Stalin and toward the jihadis and radical Muslim terrorists.  The same level of understanding is NOT extended toward Hitler and the Nazi Party of 1940’s Germany.  Hitler is just plain evil.  Not that I disagree with that assessment of Hitler – but how are you able to make that assessment if you don’t believe in absolute evils and are willing to look past far more egregious violators of human rights?

My problem with the perspective was not that it was intellectually fallacious – but that people couldn’t (or didn’t want to) live within its confines.  And that is one of the reasons I ended up rejecting it for myself.

Many years ago when I was experiencing serious doubts about Christianity an atheist friend asked me:  “Why do you need arguments to support your morality?  Why do you need God to tell you right and wrong?  Isn’t it patently obvious what is good and what is evil?”

I had never thought about that and felt rather silly when he asked.  How could I not see that everybody knows it is good to love others and bad to hurt others?  Isn’t it obvious?  Everybody knows that things like murder and rape are wrong, don’t they?

No, they don’t.  Not only do some people have no conscience about killing others, some cultures believe that killing others is morally justifiable.  The Nazis under Hitler and the Communists under Stalin and Mao had no qualms about mass murder.  You have to break some eggs to make an omelet. 

Some gangs require new members to harm or murder innocent people as an initiation rite – not to mention their willingness to harm or kill those who doesn’t respect their turf.  Presently we have in this country a developing sub-culture of “school shooters” that emulates Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the Columbine shooters of 1999, and that find the murder of random fellow-students fulfilling and enjoyable.  Outside of America some Middle Eastern and Eastern cultures maintain that it is honorable for men in a family to maim or murder women who shame the family by marrying someone not approved by the family – or who have been raped (yes – you read that right – their having been raped shames the family and therefore these victims deserve to die).

Speaking of rape, European countries like Norway, Denmark, Finland, and Germany are struggling with young male immigrants who are raping and gang-raping native European girls.  Such rape, it is argued, is a part of the native culture of these young men (the most recent I’ve read about have been from Pakistan) who “don’t know any better” and European thinkers, believing that all cultures are equal and must be respected, are having difficulty deciding on how to deal with this problem.  Prosecuting these immigrants would be intolerant – THE moral evil to be avoided in western cultures at all costs.

If all cultures are equal, then those that see killing and rape as evils are on a par with those that see rape as acceptable and “honor killing” as justifiable.  Both are right.  Now what?

It is patently obvious that morality is not patently obvious.  Those who think morality is obvious are failing to see the world as it really is.  There is a place, it seems to me, for providing reasonable arguments for your moral beliefs.

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