Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth! I did not do a blog last night as I was still really out of it, but I made it through my surgery just fine. I’m still really sore, but my wife is taking excellent care of me. However, I prefer to jump right back into the swing of things. Tonight, I’d like to look at another atheist sound bite, as we’ve been looking at several lately. This will be the one that we don’t need God to be good.
First off, for those of us who are Christians, there is a point that should bring shame to us. Often, our lives are not any better morally than those whose worldview we criticize, and we’re the ones claiming to have the Holy Spirit in us. If they are looking at us and not seeing something that they don’t have, perhaps we should be living our lives differently. Christians are to be salt and light. We’re not called to be transformed by the culture. We’re called to transform the culture.
However, let us look at this argument. Writers like Dawkins and Stenger and others will regularly make a big deal about how unbelievers can do good things. Now I don’t deny that. No Christian should. Somehow, this misconception has come about that Christians seem to think nonbelievers are just living in sin all day long and just thinking about ways to be evil.
I don’t see it that way largely because our world has been, what I prefer to call, Christianized. Even if you’re not a Christian, most countries in the world have had their ethical cultures shaped by Christian values. However, I suspect that the farther a country moves away from that Christianization, the more that country will decline morally.
A good many nonbeliever you meet could be someone in many ways like you. He wants to love his spouse, raise his family right, and be a good citizen where he lives. I wonder however about the younger generation coming up. We have a nation of hedonists in our midst. It is the culture that seeks to please self without thinking about the past or the future.
In that sense, an unbeliever does not need God to be good. The problem is, the atheist who raise this argument do not seem to understand the Christian argument. It is said that all religions seem to agree on basic moral principles. Well of course they do! This is what I’d expect as a Christian since the Bible tells about the Natural Law written on our hearts. We all know right from wrong on at least fundamental principles. That’s how God can judge the world after all. He can judge us on what we already know about right from wrong. No one will be able to say “I didn’t know X was wrong” on the last day, granted X is one of those basic principles, such as “Do not murder.”
Then what is the argument really? The argument is that you need God for goodness to have an ontological basis to it. For the concept of “good” to have objective meaning, you need God. Well suppose you want to deny objective morality? If that’s the case, then Hitchens’s book goes out the window as there’s nothing good being poisoned by religion. No one can complain about the evil of 9/11 caused by “religion” or how oppressive and intolerant Christians are.
Goodness is either real and a real something that we read out of an object or concept of some sort (And I can include a person or God in the category of object in this case) or else it is something we are throwing onto that object or concept. What we have to ask is if we want to know the things in themselves, or think that we can only have the idea of things and that idea just doesn’t match reality.
When I hear the new atheists use this argument, I get more evidence that they just don’t do their homework. The old atheists would have been embarrassed by this as the new atheists simply use argument from outrage more than anything else.
Actually, the more I think about the moral argument, the more I really don’t like how it’s phrased nowadays. We phrase it so there’s no distinction from right and wrong in ethical actions if there is no objective morality, and I agree. Goodness has to do with more than just morality. Goodness of actions is about morality. What about goodness of substance and goodness of results and other kinds of goodness? Those also need an ontological basis. Our predecessors of Aristotle and Plato spent much time telling us about goodness. It behooves us to listen to what they say. (It amazes me how many atheists refuse to look in the Nicomachean Ethics at my request to see the definition I use of goodness when it’s in fact the first line of the work!)
When we get that definition of goodness down, I think we have an even stronger argument I can go into another day where you no longer have a basis for right and wrong if God does not exist, you no longer have a reason to do anything if he does not exist. Perhaps alert readers can find out why.