Atheists on Morality: Jumping out of the Bottomless Pit
|February 21, 2011||Posted by Anthony under apologetics, atheism, Blog, evolution, General, morality, scientism, Secular Humanism, theism|
Atheists have a problem. Ok, they have lots of problems. 🙂 But this one is a big one: how to explain morality.
Now, for some reason atheists remained confused on some basic aspects of the issue. It is common to hear from their camp something to the effect, “We do not need God to be moral.”
Indeed, the professional atheists have been churning out attempts to show that they can be moral without God. This seriously misses the point. The argument is not, “You are an immoral and evil clout because you reject theism.” Nor is the theistic argument, “I am moral because God bosses me around.” Rather, the argument is, “Hey, you’re moral, I’m moral, we’re all moral- now how are we to explain that?”
Thus, the main thrust of the theistic argument is not to say that atheists are evil on account of the fact that they don’t believe in God… but rather that they are decidedly not evil.
Indeed, the question is not that hard to understand. If one says that there is no such thing as an objective good, then a five year old understands that there are no limits on behavior. It doesn’t require a high level of philosophical sophistication to grasp this. That the five year old understands abstractly that there isn’t an objective basis for labeling this behavior ‘good’ and that behavior ‘bad’ and then proceeds to try to behave ‘goodly’ nonetheless gives the lie to the abstraction.
This is why the argument from morality still works, despite reductionist attempts to provide ‘scientific’ explanations for morality. Let me rephrase: the argument from morality will always work, because of the nature of the thing in question.
I would like you to imagine a man sitting on the bottom of a bottomless pit. Realizing his desperate situation, he stands up, bends his knees, and leaps! Ah, but now he senses the problem. In order to stand up, bend one’s knees, and leap, one has to put their legs beneath them on something solid. In order to make the jump, there must be something to push off from. But the man is in a bottomless pit. As such, he can’t be sitting on the bottom. There can be no such thing as a bottom of a bottomless pit. It is a logical absurdity.
Because of the nature of the thing in question, the argument that one cannot leap out of a bottomless pits still works, nay, it will always work, because of the terms of the argument.
Now, an atheist making a moral statement or giving a moral justification for his behavior is like the man attempting to jump out of a bottomless pit. In order for the statement/justification to have any meaning at all, he must have something to push off from. Here is the great inconsistency of atheism: To a man, they jump out of the pit; when they get to the top, they deny that the pit had a bottom. They insist it was a bottomless pit all along. Riiiiight.
If we speak about an ‘objective’ anything, we speak of something that exists outside and independent of our being. It’s existence is not contingent on our mental or physical operations.
It is often pointed out that you cannot get an ought from an is. That is, if two men are sitting around a fire, gazing at a rock, the rock is, but there is no way to get from the ‘is-ness’ of the rock to “I ought not use it to bash in my fellow’s skull and take his stew.” The ‘ought’ is a moral assessment about what to do with a thing that is not actually a property of that thing. If the fellow believes that ‘ought’ statements are not objective, he must believe that they are contingent to his mental or physical operations. That is, they exist only in his mind or as necessities of the body (“If I try to bash in his skull, he may bash mine in first…”). This is relative “ought-ness.’
But remember, they deny this pit has a bottom just at the same moment the stand at the edge and look down at what they just jumped out of. So, what to do? Now they appeal to evolutionary mechanisms or social contracts and the like. True, these things are objective in the sense that they would not cease existing if any individual died and went away, but on analysis we discover that this is merely a way to push the ‘bottom’ further back- while denying there is a bottom at all.
For on evolutionary mechanisms- or any atheistic framework- one ultimately must recognize that the two men sitting around the fire examining the rock are not qualitatively any different than the rock itself. The rock is only a particular combination of molecules which themselves are composed of mere atoms of the universe. So too the men and their brains. And you cannot get an ought from an is.
This is the cold fact, yet atheists, like the rest of us, have visceral reactions to anyone who seizes on this cold fact and attempts to live by it. On atheistic grounds, this visceral reaction must be seen as it really is– a mere emotional reaction, and emotions are only certain hormones doing their things or what not in a system that in the final analysis is nothing more than a complicated rock. Or… or, this emotional reaction puts the lie to the whole scheme: there is a bottom, after all.
Why might someone keep trying to jump out of a bottomless pit and pride themselves when they succeed? Well, no one likes to have their accepted worldview skewered. That’s one thing. Many atheists perceive that Christians (and all religionists) are just bumpkins. That’s another thing- they don’t want to be like those people. Most of all, though, it is fear. The logical implications of accepting that there is an arbiter of ‘ought-ness’ that transcends the rock and the man, that cannot be regarded as being on the same plane as them…
Well, it opens up the very serious possibility that this Arbiter has some ideas on ‘ought-ness’ that will change our behavior, or require certain concessions. It was all well and good when it was mere social contract- in a contract, the people involved usually all get something out of it to their mutual benefit. You don’t bash in my skull and I won’t bash in your skull; we will call this ‘good.’ The Arbiter will say, “Bashing in skulls is wrong,” and the atheist could tolerate that. Other demands, however, could be quite unpleasant.
The atheistic approaches to the question of morality lay bare why it is so difficult to reason with them. It isn’t a problem of reason, at all. They make themselves out as the bastions of logic and rationality but the truth is that logic is just how their arguments are cloaked at a particular moment. They claim to be about the evidence, but in point of fact, no evidence will do. “Intelligent Design” is mocked not because of any evidence but because of the implications. To admit a designer is to allow that there might be a Designer. Who can regard the atheistic arguments on the topic with anything but laughter and derision? They insist that science requires that we must exclusively apply naturalistic explanations to everything, a priori, and then come to the conclusion that there are naturalistic explanations for everything. SHOCKER! lol
I shall now assume that there is a God. Upon examination, I have learned that there is a God. Whooopee, look at me! I’m thinking like an atheist!
Some consistency would be welcome, here. If, as you say, there are naturalistic explanations for everything, then that goes all the way down. On this view, in the final analysis, there can never be anything other than ‘is.’ There cannot be a bottom.
There is just one problem: every person walks around with ‘oughts’ in their pocket. They take them out throughout the day and consult them often and expect others to do the same. Everyone, including the atheist, takes these ‘oughts’ seriously. We all act as though there is a bottom, and indeed, are constantly pushing off of it.
This demands an explanation, but due to the nature of the thing in question, will never be explainable in atheistic terms, which by definition means there is no bottom.
That leaves on the table for consideration only those worldviews which have bottoms.
Sorry. That’s just the simple truth.