We’re not going to cover chapter 5 here as it deals with faith and reason and there’s very little there that is arguing against Christianity. I do have a few comments in my copy of the book in that section, but I want to stick as much as I can to the topics that go against the Christian faith directly. The next chapter then is the one on the Christian illusion of moral and rational superiority.
Let us begin with rational superiority. Now we all know that each of us has times of doubt. Sometimes, this is about rational issues. If that is the case though, then usually when the doubt is answered successfully, it goes away. However, rational doubt can often be a hider of emotional doubt. This is where you encounter the doubter and as you probe his questions, you find emotional reasons underlying them.
Now there is a list of thinkers who have denied Christianity supposedly on rational grounds. It is my understanding that Paul Vitz has written about such thinkers in “Faith of the Fatherless” and shown the underlying emotional issues. (It is a book that I have ordered and look forward to reading when it arrives.)
Is Christianity a matter of the rational alone? Not for most of us. Many of us do have emotional reasons involved. Thats why we speak of the rational and emotional problem of evil. I contend that if you were truly rational, you would be a much better Christian and if you weren’t a Christian, you would become one.
It’s worth noting also that Christianity has a basis for rationality.
Let’s move on to moral superiority.
The argument presented is that Christians will say that atheists have no justification or motivation for being moral. Now I will grant that there could be some personal motivations and there could even be some justification in that an atheist wants to be good. A lot of atheists are really good people and a lot of Christians sadly aren’t.
I will contend though that atheism has no basis for a morality whereby goodness is established. If that isn’t there also, this will lead to the Problem of Evil no longer being a problem. From the Christian perspective, it is a problem that needs to be answered. If there is no evil though, there is no problem.
When Loftus chooses to argue against the divine command theory, I have no problem. I do not hold to that view so I see no need to defend it. However, when we get into the natural law theory, then that is something that I will address. The question boils down to how we know that God is good.
The best way I can think of is to say that God is pure actuality. This also explains that he never makes a choice to be good. Any “choices” God makes are eternal choices that he’s eternally choosing and eternally acting on. If you pray today and God answers your prayer, that is because God has been eternally hearing your prayer and eternally choosing to answer it.
Also, we can see Augustine’s description of the definition between good and evil. Evil is a lack of that which should be there. A rock cannot see, but that is hardly an evil as a rock is not supposed to see. If you have a man who is blind though, then that is considered an evil as the eye is meant to see. Aristotle would even say that you can’t call an eye that can’t see an eye.
Now take that eye that can’t see and take away the evil of it not being able to see and what do you have? You have a better eye. However, take away all that is good in it and what do you have left? You have nothing. Removing evil always makes the good that is there better. Removing good always leaves you with nothing.
In case anyone thinks they have a killer caveat, let me go on and defeat it. This even applies to the devil. You take away all the evil of the devil and you are left with a beautiful angel. You take away the good and you have nothing. What good is there? Existence is good, intellect is good, and will is good. They’re just all used in a wrong way.
Goodness, by this standard would be pure existence with no lack of what should be there. God lacks no power. He lacks no knowledge. He lacks no wisdom, beauty, truth, fellowship, etc. You cannot improve on him in anyway. He is perfect goodness. He is that which is desired for its own sake. Nothing else experiences existence like God does.
Now someone like James Rachels will be quoted who will say that if natural law theories are true, it means “That the religious believer has no special access to moral truth. The believer and the nonbeliever are in exactly the same position. God has made all people rational, not just believers; and so for believer and nonbeliever alike, making a responsible moral judgment is a matter of listening to reason and following its directives.” (p. 64)
I wouldn’t have a problem with that.
Now Loftus thinks that this is his point. However, there is a difference between the atheist and the theist on this. The Christian theist does have a basis for the rooting of the natural law. Does the atheist? There have been many attempts, but so far, none have worked. They all root themselves on foundations that they cannot back.
While it is brought up about Christians doing awful things, this should hardly be news. We all know that we are fallen and that the church hasn’t been the best in the past. This is also done contrary to the teachings of Christ. When atheism reigns and reigns by the sword persecuting Christianity, is this in contradiction to the “teachings of atheism” or not? How is someone like Stalin being inconsistent with atheism?
Now when he talks about the motivation for Christians, two are mentioned. The first is that Christians are good because they think that they’ll fry in Hell. The other is that God will just forgive them. I’ll go on and say that both of these are not the best motivators. For the first one, I think that can be a start to get to the kingdom, but it should not stay that way. The second is taking advantage of God.
The motivation to do the good is simply because it is good and this brings glory to God when we do this. To claim the others as the motivations for Christians does not really tell us about Christians. Instead, it seems to tell us more about Loftus. The actions that he condemns, I will more than happy be ready to condemn. It is a shame, for instance, that Christians have long affairs.
This gets us to the problem though for atheism. An atheist can say they have a basis to be good, but what is good? It will not work to borrow the answer from Christianity and then use it against Christianity. Atheism must come up with its own basis totally apart from a theistic view. The lack of such has been revealing.
So why is there moral and rational superiority? There’s a simple reason. It’s rooted in a perfectly moral and rational God.