Posts Tagged ‘Atheism’

Google Morals

Can you be good without God? There is a Humanist movement that claims you can. And as you can see from the comic above, some think that this is a contradiction of what Christianity teaches. But that’s only true in comics. I’m not aware of any part of Christianity that says that only believers are capable of good deeds. Even the Bible asserts that unbelievers can do good things:

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts… – Romans 2:14-15

So, despite the cross in the comic, the Humanists aren’t fighting a Christian doctrine. The Calvinistic doctrine of “total depravity” does not mean that people are as rotten as they possibly can be at all times. It means that there is not one part of man that isn’t corrupted by the fall. Man’s emotions, desires, reason, etc. are all impacted by the fall. So from the Christian point of view, people can do good and can sin whether they believe or not. For the Christian, we don’t trust in those smatterings of good things we do, our evil far outweighs it. The Christian believer trusts that Jesus’ righteousness on his or her behalf is what makes them commendable to God.

I hope I’m clear on that. Now, the real point I wanted to raise is this, “You’re good without God? So what?” If you don’t believe in God and therefore dismiss the Bible and the Koran and any other religious document, how do you define “good”? If there is no external standard, ethics are nothing more than a matter of public opinion. Consider this:

[Marshall McLuhan] says there is coming a time in the global village (not far ahead, in the area of electronics) when we will be able to wire everyone up to a giant computer, and what the computer strikes as the average at that given moment will be what is right and wrong…We have come to this place in our Western culture because man sees himself as beginning from the impersonal, from the energy particle and nothing else. We are left with only statistical ethics, and in that setting, there is simply no such thing as morals. – Francis A. Schaffer, He Is There and He Is Not Silent, 23

Schaffer wrote this in the ’70s when there was no concept of the networked computers we have today. But aside from the “giant computer”, he pretty much identified the internet right there. 1Schaffer was extremely insightful, to the point where he sometimes startled himself. In a lecture at Wheaton sometime in the late ’60s he said “I must say at times I frighten myself in my projections, because I’m no prophet, I just know something about our generation and I know these truths of the gospel. But I’ve been overwhelmed at times, scared myself to death at how many times I’ve made projections and they’ve turned out right about what will come next.” The audio is available here. We collectively decide what is right and wrong, good or bad and all we’re left with is popularity and opinion.

So the Humanist says he can be good with no concept of a transcendent God. So you can go along with the median of what is appropriate behavior as defined by the opinion of your peers? That’s almost impressive. Falling in the middle of bell curve ethics is no real achievement, it just means you’re normal. But perhaps they’re talking about people who do really good stuff. Okay, so you fall into a slightly higher percentile. Again, no huge achievement there.

The question is not whether Humanists can be good without God, for a Christian, that’s pretty much a given. The issue is, so what? What do you expect to gain by being “good”? At some point your heart will stop beating and the neurons in your brain will stop firing and you’ll disappear into the black. Your corpse may be celebrated by your friends and admirers but then it will be burned or buried and then… what? Within a few generations no one will remember the “good” you did or even who you were. Or possibly, they will have changed the definition of “good” and what you did will be thought of as evil. And even if they did remember you positively, what does that benefit you? The problem isn’t if you can be good without God. The problem is what is “good” and why be it?

Now, lest you think this is nothing more than Christian presuppositional apologetics 2http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presuppositional_apologetics (and it is at least that), you need to read the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon asks all of these same questions as he observed life “under the sun” and wondered why bother.

I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. – Ecclesiastes 2:18-19

See? Same thing and this is the Bible speaking. Solomon works hard to build beautiful things and the person who comes after him is an idiot and squanders it. What did that benefit Solomon after his body temperature drops to room temperature? Nothing. His work was for nothing.

If there is no God, then “good” doesn’t exist. You can be nice. You can be approved. You can be liked. You can run with the crowd but you can’t be truly good. You can be normal.

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1. Schaffer was extremely insightful, to the point where he sometimes startled himself. In a lecture at Wheaton sometime in the late ’60s he said “I must say at times I frighten myself in my projections, because I’m no prophet, I just know something about our generation and I know these truths of the gospel. But I’ve been overwhelmed at times, scared myself to death at how many times I’ve made projections and they’ve turned out right about what will come next.” The audio is available here.
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presuppositional_apologetics

What Do You See?

“What Dana [Tierney, writer for The New York Times Magazine] observed about believers–their wonder over the creation–is at the heart of why we even have science. If the stream is a result of accidental natural forces, then you just see water, rocks, and dirt. If God equals the stream, then you worship the stream god, not the creator of the stream. But if God created the stream, then wonder and curiosity naturally flow into study.” – Paul Miller, A Praying Life

“The contemporary atheist movement has a scorched earth strategy – chop down Christianity, root and branch. I don’t believe in God either, but this strategy is entirely counterproductive.

“Not satisfied to point out that elements of Christian belief are historically implausible, or that religion is scientifically unsubstantiated, the New Atheist movement wants to prove something more. That Christianity has been a force for bad, that there is something fundamental about religious belief that holds back progress, approves of oppression, and stokes hatred.

“Yet virtually all the secular ideas that non-believers value have Christian origins. To pretend otherwise is to toss the substance of those ideas away. It was theologians and religiously minded philosophers who developed the concepts of individual and human rights. Same with progress, reason, and equality before the law: it is fantasy to suggest these values emerged out of thin air once people started questioning God.” – Chris Berg, Secular World Has A Christian Foundation, Brisbane Times, 4/15/2012

Presuppositions have Implications

“Once you grant that the world works this way, anyone who comes bustling up to you with stories about men who came back from the dead is a prima facie nutjob. Simple. But you need to look at your closed-system-universe again and look more closely at the price tag this time. Not only is this vast concourse of atoms spared the spectacle of a Jewish carpenter coming back from the grave, it is also spared all forms of immaterial realities. This would include, unfortunately, your arguments and thoughts. They are as immaterial as Farley’s ghost. Show me your arguments for atheism under a microscope. Then I will think about believing them. What color are they? How much do they weigh? What are they made of?” (Doug Wilson, Letters From a Christian Citizen, pp. 80-81).

Something Is Eternal

[Answering the objection of the infinite regress, “who created the creator?”] Unless there is a known principle excluding the eternality of anything at all, there could be no basis for such an objection. And were we to cook up such a principle, we would find that it excluded, not only God, but the possibility of us having a universe at all. Something is eternal. That something is either God, as we believe, or it is matter — stuff — as Hitchens believes. If infinite regresses are incoherent and any stopping point to head off that regress is always arbitrary by definition, then how’d we get here?” – Douglas Wilson, God Is, p. 31

These Two Paragraphs Have Nothing To Do With Each Other

Another entry in our infrequent series. And don’t let the fact that both articles are from The Christian Post confused you.

Atheist Newdow Says Legal Fight against ‘Under God’ is ‘Over’ Turns out that that one little phrase was all it took to convert Newdow from an atheist to an evangelical Christian! No, not really. He just came to realize that he doesn’t have the goods to prove his case. Personally, I don’t care if the phrase is there or not. We don’t much act like a nation under God very often. Maybe Newdow can go on to fight for something important like prison reform or ending abortion or something. You know, help America behave more like a nation really under God.

Former Dawkins Atheist Richard Morgan Continues to Praise God What we believe really matters. We may fail to live up to our beliefs but we won’t live above them. This poor fellow expected the atheist community to engage in civil, philosophical discussions about his new found atheism. First mistake, he expected civil discourse on the Internet. Second mistake, he expected civil discourse at Richard Dawkins’ website. What he witnessed was atheists behaving according to their beliefs: ┬ásurvival of the fittest. Truth didn’t really matter that much in those settings.

Foisted on His Own Leotard

Ah, Doug Wilson (no, that’s not him to the left there.) My admiration for him comes and goes like the tide. It is currently rising. Not sure why, but it just is. Must be the moon.

Anyway, Doug has written in response to the rise of the New Atheists and today I came across one of his blog entries in which he responds to Christopher Hitchens’ book God is Not Great. I haven’t read it and don’t plan to but from what Doug has said it sounds like Hitchens is taking a better approach than Dawkins and others. I mean, he’s still wrong, but at least it is a different approach. And so Wilson takes a different approach with him. While Wilson appreciates Hitchens’ literary style, he nails him on a glaring gap in the atheist argument: ethics. I totally agree with Wilson on this, how can the atheist tell me that religion is not just wrong but also a bad thing? What is “bad” based on? Here’s how Wilson sharpens the end of the stick before poking it in Hutchens’ eye:

An incoherent approach would go something like this: There is no God; there is no fixed standard of morality overarching all of us, and so we must all pull together and submit to the resultant fixed standard. I don’t get it either.

Simple and elegant isn’t it. What Wilson asks quite elegantly is So What? He enters into Hitchens’ world and then presses his argument against him. Who is Hitchens, or anyone else for that matter, to tell me that religion is good or bad? Hitchens must first assume that there is a good, an objective good, a good that transcends mere personal whims, a good that he can appeal to in order to determine that religion ain’t it.

But here’s where Wilson’s argument (apparently) won’t hold. Read On…