“Atheism,” observed G. K. Chesterton, “is the most daring of all dogmas, for it is the assertion of a universal negative.”
Militant atheists like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, are Exhibit A for Chesterton’s point. Their books are full of vilifying moral appraisals (with fundamentalist tones) and readers are somehow obliged to see things through their moral grids. I continuously felt the urge to ask why they so strongly believe their moral conclusions are superior. Although they avoid this question by changing the subject, thoughtful readers will not be tricked.
They angrily deny God (with a cherished animosity toward the Christian deity), yet write as if an absolute standard of goodness and duty exists–one they have access to and we are obliged to accept on their word (unless we wish to remain irrational idiots). They expect us to have faith that such a standard is possible without God, but they don’t offer a well-reasoned explanation for how this could be. They just impose it on us with repeated tones of moral superiority assuming we’ll acquiesce to their dogma.
Is it fair to ask, “Who are you to impose your morality on me?” I wish these authors explained why their opinions should be considered superior to other views. Am I obliged to yield to their rules? Isn’t it far more rational to suggest that without God all moral conclusions are merely subjective human opinions without any binding authority beyond what people or cultures attribute to them?
Why is peace better than war or love better than hate? If I claim one to be superior, does that make it right? If I get enough people to agree with me, does this make it true for all people? Are moral issues settled by what increases happiness or decreases suffering? If so, whose happiness? Is some view of human flourishing the measure to use? If so, whose view? And, why am I even asking these kinds of questions?
Reading these authors, I continually found myself asking, “Says whom?” Their statements about right and wrong are simply alternative choices without moral superiority. If they were logically consistent, they would encourage their readers to suppress notions of moral superiority—something they’re clearly unwilling to do.
In fact, rather interestingly these men assume a moral framework that implies higher understandings of morality and humanity — a strange thing for atheists to assert! But even more fascinating is how consistently (and illogically) they borrow assumptions from theism to argue against it. They love to reject things in the Bible considered by them to be inhumane and then expect us to assume some basis for their moral conclusions without providing it for us. Worse yet, they use biblical categories of morality to reject the Bible.
It would be far more consistent for them to admit that evil is merely an illusion made up by humans. For there to be objective evil, there must also be some objective standard of right and wrong. But if the physical universe is all there is (as they firmly believe), there can be no such standard. How could arrangements of matter and energy make judgments about good and evil true? So, there are no real evils, just violations of human customs or conventions. Are they ready to think of murderers as merely having bad manners?
These atheists (and their disciples) must also (to avoid irrational self-contradiction) admit that human beings are not importantly different from other animals or the material world in general. Consistent with their views, humans are simply the result of blind chance operating on some primordial ooze, and differing from animals by only a few genes.
But the beauty and wonders of many human achievements, along with the moral dignity we often ascribe to human beings (acts of benevolence and heroism) cannot fit with the claim that we are no different from animals. The conclusion that humans are creatures uniquely made in the image of the benevolent and righteous God aligns better with reality.
The Bible these men reject speaks openly of both evil and benevolence. One does not need to upgrade her view of the world when reading scripture. No rose colored glasses needed. Yet the scripture offers a larger and more satisfying frame of reference for understanding the complexities of the world. It reveals a world God prescribed (the goodness and innocence of Eden); one he permitted (the violence and rebellion of Cain) and a world he will providentially make new (the new heavens and earth).
Millersville Bible Church
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