Alright everyone. Time to continue onwards. Let’s look at the fifth objection.
Loftus tells us that there are non-ultimate reasons for being good. For instance, humans don’t like pain. He grants the exception of athletes who see pain as a reward. However, I have a few concerns with this.
First off, granted we don’t like pain, but does that mean pain is necessarily bad? Take what he says about financial pain. If anyone knows about this, it is young seminary students. I am in financial pain in some ways. There are many worse off than me though. One of my secrets is that the experience when I started of being on my own forced me to learn to budget my money.
Ironically, because of that pain, I was never happier.
When I first moved out, I found myself limited in what I could buy. Oh I bought things every now and then, but it was extremely limited and I had to save up. That made me appreciate what I had all the more. By contrast, I remember a friend back where I came from who we would go to a bookstore. I’d buy an apologetics or philosophy book or maybe two. He’d buy a bunch of books about TV shows and such and then call me and say he was bored.
There’s a difference there.
As for mental pain, my time with depression and anxiety taught me much about life and I thank God I went through it although I hated it immensely at the time. For physical pain, I think Loftus would have to say I have him beat in that department. That is, unless he’s had his back cut open and about a foot of steel attached to his spinal cord. I run today though, and I thank God for it.
Consider cases outside myself. Leprosy patients are incapable of feeling physical pain. (I’m referring to a specific type of leprosy of course. This isn’t the same found in Scripture.) They can have rats chew off their fingers and they don’t know it. Pain is good at times. It alerts us to danger that is there and helps us to prepare. We may not like it, but not liking something doesn’t mean it is ipso facto evil.
I’ll also say that I agree that tolerance, family, and friendship are good things. By tolerance, of course, I mean the right of a person to say what they want to say within reason. (The old, “You can’t go into a crowded building and yell “FIRE” if there isn’t one.”) I disagree with Loftus greatly, but I tolerate his saying what he says. He has all right to.
What about family though? Consider that in the Republic, family isn’t really seen as that great a thing. In fact, it’s Christian times that really brought the family to life. When Paul gave the orders on how a house was to live, it was revolutionary. The idea of male and female being equal in the image of God is a concept from the Judeo-Christian faith. I’d like to see the atheistic basis for human equality.
And as for friendship, I seriously urge my readers to get a copy of C.S. Lewis’s “The Four Loves” and read what he says about friendship. I’ve learned much about friendship in the past few months from living with a roommate. He’s been a great help to me and I hope I’ve been a great help to him and will continue to be one. We’ve also had dialogues with non-Christians over here and we’ve found we make a great team together. (By the way, if you do go to the library for “The Four Loves”, see if they have it on audio. It’s the only book we have a voice recording of C.S. Lewis himself reading.)
Loftus also speaks of him and his wife giving to good causes. I hope so. I would encourage them to do so. Notice something here. I am not complaining about what he does. I simply ask the question, is it really good? Upon what standard in atheism is it better to give than it is to hoard everything for yourself? Why should we have the golden rule of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” instead of the Godfather’s rule of “Do others before they do you.”?
Loftus says that you don’t need an ultimate anything. There aren’t any ultimates. That very same paragraph though, he speaks of one saying that what he does ultimately matters. He also says he is living without the guilt of Christianity.
Insofar as we experience this guilt in Christianity having confessed our sins and repented, we are not living in the light of Christ. We are not seeing God as he is. We say being Christlike is our goal. Indeed it is. It is not just ours though. It is God’s goal for us as well. Should we not think that he will do all he can to help us reach that goal? Does he not want us to reach it more than we do?
Loftus quotes Russell talking about how we need to help our fellow man in his struggles. I agree. I have hard that Philo once said “Be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” Even if he didn’t say it, it’s an excellent quote. For those readers of mine who don’t know me, I will go on and assure that yes, even the Deeper Waters blogger bleeds when he’s cut and fights hard battles.
The question though is still, “Why?” Can there really be any reason? What is the reason for doing good grounded in? What is the basis for goodness itself?
What about self-seeking people who want everything and are willing to harm anyone who gets in their way? (Which we all are at times.) Loftus says we lock them up. I agree. Why though? Consider how this fits in with where he talks about sociopaths, thieves, and sexual predators. Loftus tells us that they aren’t doing what society considers the norm and it’s not rational either.
Let’s look at this. Because society considers something the norm, it’s right? That would lead us to cultural relativism which would lead us to moral relativism. If that is the case, then the problem of evil goes out the window. Now I do think that there is something that if many societies think something is right, it probably could be, but societies agree on things because they are right. They are not right because societies agree. C.S. Lewis lists such ideas in “The Abolition of Man.”
What about rational though? Rational would mean that their brain is functioning the way it ought. Ought though presupposes a designer and it even presupposes one with a moral law for if the brains are functioning as they ought, then they will be functioning in accordance with the moral law. Why should this brain that results from an accident though have any relation to what’s going on in other accidental brains in an accidental world?
Finally though, Loftus says that Christians with ultimates are far more dangerous. Granted Christians do evil things many times, but atheism has shown what it can do as well. Do we really need to talk about Stalin, Mao, and Pol-Pot? When atheism comes to power, it quickly becomes a tool for evil. The difference is, can it be shown that that is inconsistent with atheism? If there is no ultimate ethic, how can it be?
Note I’m not saying all atheists are evil people. I’m not. Many of them could put us Christians to shame. I am saying though there is no basis in atheism for being a good person. There is no basis for condemning an evil one. There is no basis for good and evil period and without that, there is no way to be inconsistent in morality.
Tomorrow, we shall look at the sixth and final argument.