Does Humphrys understand evil and morality? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
We’re on the final section of this book. Humphrys begins this with talking about evil, the card he seems to play most often. He talks about the case of a taxi driver who murdered his wife with a baseball bat. Then he went upstairs, got one of his four small children and took her downstairs and murdered her. Then he did the rest with his other three children.
From here, Humphrys goes on to tell us about theodicies, which are said to be how to justify the ways of God to men, a term I don’t care for. It assumes that God needs to be justified. Still, it has been around a long time and if you mean an answer to the problem of evil, it is fine.
However, he says for those who take a less intellectual approach, the cries of a child resonate more than an elegant argument. This is a quite telling statement. At the start of this book. Humphrys said anyone with the mind of an inquisitive child can see the God arguments fail. Now at the end, he is saying those who do not go the intellectual route are more persuaded by the case of this murder.
Yet at the same time, if there is no God, then ultimately, what this taxi driver did doesn’t matter in the long run. If he was never caught, he got away with it. There will never be justice for the woman and her children. They will never enjoy life again. If there is a God, and especially the Christian God, there is no free pass for this man. He will face judgment. Even if he repents, the consequences of his action will carry over into eternity still.
Later, Humphrys will speak of the view of theists that atheists could develop a moral code, but without God, there is no way of knowing good from evil. Humphrys says that this is rubbish. How is that so many societies who didn’t know that this monotheistic God existed still produce a moral code very similar in many ways to what is had today?
Once again, Humphrys is someone who does not know what the argument is and if anything, his objection actually DEMONSTRATES the claim of theism. No one is saying you have to have knowledge of God to know right from wrong. Scripture even argues in Romans 2 that all men know this because God has placed it on their hearts in some way.
What the argument claims is that if God does not exist, there is no metaphysical basis for good or evil. (Actually, there’s no metaphysical basis for anything, but that’s another post.) Good and evil as ideas make no sense apart from God. As Dostoyevsky said, if there is no God, anything goes. One does not need to know of this God to know good from evil, but this God needs to be for the knowledge to be there.
Right now, I am also reading The Plague by Camus where he attempts to answer the claims of someone like Dostoyevsky by having a plague in a city killing multiple people and so the city is sealed off from the outside world. The hero is a doctor who does not believe in God, and yet he goes about trying to relieve the suffering of the people of the city. Therefore, God is not needed for morality.
The problem is this is still the world and in this world, good and evil still exist and you don’t have to be a theist to believe in those. However, giving a metaphysical basis is different. What is this good? Why should I think the doctor is the hero? Why should I see him as the good guy?
He also says in America, that some Christians are so convinced of the evils of abortion that some doctors fear their lives due to what has happened to their unfortunate colleagues. It is difficult for us to think of people who have been bombing abortion clinics. For me, just one name comes to mind. These are by and far the exception. Of course, Humphrys doesn’t really give a reason why abortion should be allowed and while I don’t agree with murder in response, I do agree that abortion is a great evil, one of the worst actually.
He also asks if theists can produce a moral code atheists can agree to. He thinks there are plenty of rules that we could all get along with, but then says that even Jimmy Carter said that he has lusted in his heart in an interview. He says this caused a stir in the Baptist community, but why should it? Does anyone really think they haven’t committed this sin, especially my fellow men? Besides this, a moral code should be something you strive to live up to. It should not be easy.
He then produces his own moral code that he says our more enlightened society should embrace to put to death the fundamentalist mindset. On top of the list is homosexuality is not a sin. If all he said was the temptation is not a sin, I would agree, but if he means the behavior, he needs to give me a reason why I should think this. We can talk all we want about how progressive and enlightened we are in society, but when you look at the rate of STDs and of broken families and fatherless children, does anyone think we are really better off?
What a shock that the next one is a woman should be allowed abortion as long as the rules of society are followed. Here we have a talk of enlightened society and what do you know? The first two rules are about sex. Why am I not surprised?
He also says there is hardly a soul alive he is sure who does not regret some sexual adventure. Humphrys must not know a lot of people. I could introduce him to several. Odds are, you can as well.
He then goes on to give a study of the trolley problem where atheists and theists by and large gave the same example and someone like Dawkins uses this to show you don’t need God to know right from wrong. What is missed is that as someone like Tom Holland has pointed out in Dominion, this is because also there is a background Christianity in us all. Would Dawkins be appalled by some of what he would see in ancient Greece and Rome? Quite likely. He and Humphrys make the same mistake again. They think that you have to be religious in order to have epistemology here, when the claim is not an epistemological one, but a metaphysical one. This is one of the most common mistakes in atheist argumentation that I see them making left and right.
They never learn.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)