An Atheist announced on an internet discussion board, “Atheists are good without God!” It was not the first time I had heard it. Over the past twelve years, on the many atheist forums I had visited, the atheists and even some professing “Christians” had made this claim. To support their assertion, they posted a few “studies” that showed how atheist ethics (devised from their own empty non-belief system) were superior. Atheists had lesser numbers in prison, they claimed, a lower divorce rate, less crime in secular countries, and better raised children because they taught their children (the atheist ethics of) tolerance (which excluded Christians), anti-racism and the “Golden Rule” or empathy. Empathy, they avowed, was the best guide for morality. Empathy, in fact, would create the Utopia the world has, since the Garden of Eden, yearned after for so long. This godless form of morality was purportedly superior to all notions of cold and rigid religious dogma and objectivity.
Upon first consideration, exchanging cold, hard, objective morality for that of warm, gentle, compassionate empathy is appealing. But is it correct? In this blog I will show my readers how in truth it is a recipe for failure and the reasons why.”
“There are many brands of atheism, but they all have some points in common. First, one common point is that none have a rational explanation of the objectivity of moral rules.
Not all cultures agree on what priority to place on various moral rules, but one thing that is so obvious about moral rules is that they are objective. When guilt pricks us, it does not say we betray a matter of taste or opinion; the feeling of guilt is the feeling of having offended a law. When injustice rankles, we do not accuse those who trespass against us of having breached a matter of taste or opinion; we refer to a standard we expect the other to know and acknowledge. We cannot help it.
In all human experience, everything is open to doubt but this. No man with a working conscience can escape the knowledge. It is the one thing we cannot not know. And yet atheists are at a loss to explain it.
I do not call atheists immoral, but I note they cannot give a rational reason to account for morality.
In any atheist worldview, moral laws are an invention of man and serve his contingent purposes, or an imposition of Darwinian survival mechanisms that serve the contingent purposes of the Selfish Gene. Such purposes as the preservation of life or the pursuit of happiness are subjective, hence not laws at all. Whether selected by nature or by man, if moral maxims are selected merely as a means to an arbitrary end, they are merely expedient conveniences.”
In any society, only two forces hold the sinful nature in check: the restraint of conscience or the restraint of the sword. The less that citizens have of the former, the more the state must employ the latter.
~ Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, How Now Shall We Live? (Tyndale, 1999), p. 191
Having just come through what is arguably the bloodiest century in human history, this study of the moral vision and understanding of our young is especially frightening. The 20th century — when warfare morphed from battlefield combat between professional soldiers to the indiscriminate slaughter of men, women and children, and where efficient extermination factories were built — should have jarred awake our moral sensibilities. And, too, this still new 21st century has inherited huge ethical challenges, from the on-going threat of nuclear and biological warfare to the life threatening destruction of our fragile ecosystem.
One might expect in the face of these global problems that families, schools and churches would be making an all-out effort to pass on to our young as vigorously as possible our heritage of moral thought. While clearly there is no dearth of individual efforts to ignite the consciences and moral vision of our children, the Smith study suggests the institutional effort is lacking. The “if-it-feels-good-it’s-okay” morality is winning and it is the death knell of civilization.
One of the clichés you will hear in our society today over and over is that “you can’t legislate morality.” When you hear someone say this, usually a liberal or a libertarian, I want you to remember what I am about to tell you. It’s very important. Every single law or regulation or edict of government is the reflection of someone’s sense of morality. Whether it’s a speed limit designed to save lives or a change in tax law designed to bring about “fairness” or one of these crazy laws I’ve told you about in this column, they are all the result of someone, some lawmaker, some politician attempting to impose his or her morality on the rest of us. So, in fact, someone’s sense of morality is the ONLY thing we can ever legislate.
Note: this article is worth reading just for the list of crazy laws that exist in the United States. I remember debating with a friend over the very issue that the author of this article is raising. I argued the same position the author does; namely, that all law ultimately reflects some sort of moralily. My friend disagreed. What do you think?