Atheism and Morals

November 11, 2011

If  you missed the first blog about morals and God you can click here and read it if you want to gain an understanding of morals from a Biblical view-point.  In my second blog about God, Morals, and Atheism I want to talk about the way that atheism views morals.    I want to be careful to describe their view of morals correctly because then I want to test it with some questions. After reading books by atheists and talking with them this is what I have found in general about what they believe about morals.

Since most atheists ascribe to Darwin’s theory of evolution, it would not surprise you to find that they believe morals have evolved as well.   They use the example of animals that have a basic conscience that can show fear and shame with their actions.  One website explains “Morals are, basically, the rules by which our social groups function. They ensure that things are reasonably fair and that relationships run reasonably smoothly. Social groups simply wouldn’t survive without rules, so the evolution of the ability to create and follow rules should be expected.”   Atheists also claim that morals have evolved over time and this proves that moral evolution is true.  They claim that we no longer follow the morals of the Bible like slavery, treatment of women, and war.

From here there is a divide about how some atheists see the individual evolution of morals.  Some insist that morals as an individual trump the morals of a society.  Others see it the opposite way around that in order to survive as an individual, humans somehow find it in their best interest to work together as a society to survive.  In the late 19th Century most atheists seem to take the individual viewpoint of morals.  Atheist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche remarks “Equality is lie concocted by inferior people who arrange themselves in herds to overpower those who are naturally superior to them.  The morality of ‘equal rights’ is herd morality and because it opposes the cultivation of superior individuals, it leads to the corruption of the human species.”   New atheists like Sam Harris who are seeking to find a naturalistic view of morals, look more toward the influence of the culture as to defining the morals of an individual.  In his book, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins uses 4 main ideas that can create a cultural view of morality.  They are altruism, kinship, reputation, and fear of punishment/desire for reward.  But both Dawkins and Harris admit that natural will give little help in cultural morals because the individual will fight against other individuals.  There seems to be an evolution of the way things are explained as it comes to morals.  Others might call this a change of mind.

What about the claims of atheists?  Are we really not that much different from all the other animals?  Have morals changed from the times of the Bible?  How do morals evolve?  All that being said, these are some questions that I believe need to be answered and I have difficulties that I have found with the idea of evolutionary morality.  Here are a few thoughts.

1. Are humans really not that much different from the animals?  Darwinism would have you think not, but one look around at the world tells the real story.  Biologist have been experimenting with primates for years, trying to teach them sign language, teach them behaviors, and more, but the best that can be observed is a mimicking of human behavior for a short time for a reward.  Animals are still called the savage beasts for a reason.

2. What about the claim that morals have changed over time?  The idea that we are no longer the selfish individuals of the past or of the Bible?  One look at the last century will tell you that indeed we are not becoming more morally evolve.  The 20th century was the bloodiest centuries of in history.  David Berlinski, in his book The Devils Delusion, outlines all the wars that have been fought and the number of deaths that been as result.  The numbers are over 160 million total.  The Biblical view of slavery is a bit of a straw man argument and was never anything like the African slave trade of the recent century. There is still mistreat meant of women today, perhaps as much as there was in history.  Take a look at the issue of sex-preference abortions that take place in China and India because families don’t want a female child they will terminate the pregnancy in order to try to have a boy. Also just  take a listen to a few Hip Hop songs and you will understand what some people still think of women.  Since the rise of atheists in the 19th century, as far as evolving morals, I see things actually getting worse, not better.

3. How do morals evolve?  This is perhaps the biggest leap concern I have with evolutionary morality.  How does a cell produce thought, a conscience, or morals?  Naturalists who argue for evolution want to say the brain is so highly developed, which it is, and it gets to the point where conscience is born.  This is not the traditional view of the human mind and body that are separate and that the human soul exists separate of the body.   Atheists want to argue that some how, the matter created the mind.  They try to explain it with the complexity of the brain and the long time that has passed to allow slow changes to create a mind.  But, no matter how complex something is, or how much time might pass, cells don’t grow feelings, atoms don’t feel things.  Science has no explanation for this as of yet, perhaps they might in the future, but I doubt it.   There is more to add to the brain/mind discussion but I will save those for another post.

4. There is also another area in morals that has a wide range of thoughts by atheists.  It is the question, Are morals objective?  From a Biblical perspective the answer is an easy, yes.  The Christian worldview has no issues with objective morals or right and wrong because they come from a transcendent God who sent the standard.  On the atheist side of the coin there is wide debate between atheists.  If you ask an atheist whether Rape or child abuse, which is a current topic in the news with Penn State, is objective wrong, they will most likely say yes, it is universally observed as wrong.  They may however be hesitant to say yes because they cannot explain where this universal moral comes from.

I will address some other thoughts related to morals in the near future.  As always, questions, comments, and discussions are welcome.


God, Morals, and Atheism

November 6, 2011

Over the last few weeks I have entered into the discussion of morals with a few atheists.  The subject of morals is a hot topic of late with the new atheists that are contending for an evolutionary answer to morals.  What I want to do through a series of posts is break down the moral debate and examine it from the Christian worldview and a naturalistic position.  After looking at both views I hope you will see that one side is coherent and the other side lacks the internal strength to stand on its on.  I will do my best not to give a strawman’s argument from the side of naturalism, but I should point out that there is a disagreement among naturalists in some of the areas concerning morals.  I will get into the specifics of the disagreements in the next post.

First before I give you the Christian worldview on morals I wanted to make a few concessions based on my Biblical beliefs about humanity and some misunderstandings that some may have about what the Bible says about humanity:

1. It is possible for all people on earth to be moral people regardless of their belief in God or not.
2. It is possible for all people to know and recognize morals as good and bad, loving and hateful, etc…
3. Christians are not far and away any better than atheists when it comes to morals. Christians can make right/wrong moral choices just as any human can.

Morals from the Biblical worldview:
In short, I believe that because God exists and created us in His image. (Genesis 1:27) all people have a moral code written on our hearts (Romans 2:10-16) and a free will to choose (Deuteronomy 30:19, Joshua 25:15, James 4:17) to do whatever our sinful nature desires (Romans 3:23). (Philosophically it would not make sense for God to give is commands that we had no choice but to follow anyway.) I do not see anywhere in real life that contradicts from the Biblical worldview of mankind according to the Bible. Because our morals come from God, a higher transcendent being, I believe that morals are objective and different shades of morals in cultures come from an either purposeful (Romans 1:18-20, 1 Timothy4:2) or ignorant deviation from God’s highest moral law. When looking back at the history of cultures, actions described in the Bible, and their different moral behaviors/acts, I believe it is the people who have chosen to go against the moral law of God and it is not that God changed his moral laws. For example on issues of slavery, racism, and murder we know that God’s laws have stood before the actions of people and their immoral actions. I believe that too many human actions are blamed on God when in fact they are humans who commit these acts. Unfortunately, many people are in error and often claim to speak for God and commit immoral acts from time to time. Lastly I believe that as followers of Christ grow in their understanding of who God is and his word in the Bible it shapes and allows us to change(2 Corinthians 5:17) how we see God’s moral laws. This is why you have a variety of followers of Christ that carry different beliefs.(you will find this in any worldview system, even atheism, people hold different beliefs.) They are slowly transforming (Romans 12:2) into the likeness of Christ. When we as Christians differ it is because we are no longer looking at God’s moral laws, but our own. We must also be careful not to make our subjective opinions absolute moral laws because of personal experiences and how we were nurtured.

As always, questions, comments, and discussions are welcome.


How We Got Here

November 4, 2011

In a conversation recently with an older friend I mentioned that I had been to a Secular Student Alliance Club at a local high school to talk about my faith, and the name of the club begged the question for her, “What is a Secular Student Alliance Club?”  I gave a brief explanation of the club and the kinds of topics that they discuss.  I made the generalization that most of the students in the club don’t hold a theistic position, most are atheist or skeptical.   The friend of mine, responded with a question  “They actually have a club like that in the high school?”  A man listening to our conversation added that they have the right to do that, if a Christian club has the same right to meet.  I agreed with the man and that led to a discussion about the actual statements in the constitution and other ideas like “the separation of church and state” and what it actually meant.  The point I want to focus the rest of the post on what my friend said in wrapping up the conversation.  Being a senior adult, with a “few” years of experience behind her, she asked the rhetorical question,  “How did we get here?”

There are 3 terms that are central keys to the change that American has gone through over the last 50 years.   Secularization, Pluralism, and Privatization.  Each of these ideas have had a large impact of the beliefs, practices, and actions that play out in America.

Secularization is the process of  removing all aspects of God and religion from the public life through avenues like schools, businesses, courthouses, and monuments.  Groups like the ACLU and others make it their number one goal to wipe God out of  all aspects from American culture and history.   In a nation that is predominantly Christian, the few and small groups that are offended by the idea of God can slowly chip away at the Christian foundations that were set early in our countries history.  With God moving out of the picture in American culture this creates a bold new exercise of morality by people who have no ultimate God to answer to.  If God is out of the picture, they can do whatever they want, after all, no one is watching over us.  Secularization pushes the ceiling on how far is too far, by creating an atmosphere of no shame in our world.  With the absence of shame nothing is too far, nothing is taboo.

Pluralism is where you have a wide variety of choices.  “Only in America” as Ravi Zacharias continues “can you find an Indian man selling kosher tacos in a store in Los Angeles”  Ravi goes on to explain that Pluralism in foods, or styles of clothes, and other areas in not bad, bud pluralism with respect to truth and worldviews is dangerous.   When you begin to look at truth as relative, you are taking truth from the objective reality and it becomes watered-down.  In a recent discussion with some high school students they could not grasp the idea that truth is objective and that there can only be one correct worldview.  I also experienced this past summer with some Christians in an apologetics class during camp.   The idea of relative truth has crept into our culture despite the fact that it doesn’t make sense or it falls apart internally.

Privatization is the idea that you can believe what you want to believe so long as you keep it to yourself and don’t bring your beliefs out into the public or life and share them with others.  In America you are free to believe and practice what you wish, but the new atheists and the secularists will go crazy if you dare insist that you actually live by what you believe and speak about your beliefs in a public way, not to mention if you hold a public office and make decisions based on your beliefs.  I have noticed within privatization there is a bias by which many secular thinkers abide.  They tell you that you cannot express your religious views and opinions, but at the same time they can advance their views and opinions without the same scrutiny.  Think about how it affects a person with a worldview who has to constantly separate their personal and public worldviews and how it creates a schizophrenic life.  Imagine that I tell my wife, I love her with all my heart, but why we are out in public I’m not going to acknowledge her, show any affection towards her, or in any way make any decisions based around her.  I hope you see the problems that would cause in my relationship with her.  The same is true of Christians and their relationship with God.  It is insane to think that Christians should keep their faith private.

Desensitization is the key here with these three aspects.  It happens slowly over time, so slow you don’t notice it until you wake up and see how far things have changed and it’s too late.  I like to use the example of a frog in a pot of water when I talk to teens about slowly falling away from their relationship with God.  Imagine you have a frog and a hot-pot of water.  You drop the frog in the water and he will hop right back out as soon as he lands in the water.  If you take the same from and place it in a pot of water and slowly turn the heat up over time the frog will sit in the pot and not jump out.  The frog will eventually die.  The reason being that the frog’s body will match the temperature of the water and not realize that it is too late.  In the same way we need to be aware of the constant changing temperature of the world around us.  Don’t let the little things go by without noticing how they change the environment around us slowly over time.

So what can you do as a Christian?  How can you fight back against the Secularization, Privatization, and Pluralistic world?  Here are a few ideas.  First, do your best to represent God and your Christian values in both private and public.  Your consistency will help yourself and encourage others.  Secondly, get a good grasp on truth and why it matters.  Don’t let the wave of relativism knock you down.  Be ready to defend object moral truths with examples and logical reasons.  Lastly, get involved in a social issue of the day.  It should be something you feel strong about and support from your worldview.  Items like defending traditional marriage, educating people on abortion and supporting groups that hold the Christian worldview.   The worst thing you could do is nothing, being silent when others speak up allows them to get their way without a fight.

As always questions, comments, and discussions are welcome.


Is Humanity Determined or Do We Have Free Will?

October 21, 2011

DominosAs the title above asks  the question, is humanity determined or do we have free will?    The question might seem rather silly, and you may think you know the answer very quickly.  But, it is a very important question to answer, because Determinism is a natural outflow of Darwinian evolution.  We will look at the definitions and then discuss whether naturalists are actually living by what they believe.  By naturalist, I mean someone who holds a philosophical viewpoint according to which everything arises from natural properties and causes, and supernatural or spiritual explanations are excluded or discounted.  In naturalism there are no God or gods, no miracles, hidden forces that drive the universe, no souls or spirits, no inspired scripture or prophecies.   Just physical stuff that operates according to physical laws.

Determinism – The teaching that every event in the universe is caused and controlled by natural law.  Everything we say, do, and think has been predetermined by evolution and encoded into our DNA.

Free Will – The power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one’s own discretion

Are we Really Free?  Think about it, can we choose to hold the door open for someone, can we choose to love someone, can we make decisions based on intellect, reason,  and emotion?  I have found that in my discussions with naturalists that they want to claim that everything is determined, but only to a certain extent.  They claim that they can rise up above their predetermined selves and become free.   This is not how determinism works though, it’s either all or nothing with determinism.  Let me illustrate my statement with an example used by Greg Koukl of why it is either all or nothing.

It’s like a series of dominoes falling. When any particular thing happens in the physical universe we ask ourselves what was the domino before it that caused it? And what was the domino before that? You can chart that. This just points out that all physical systems are deterministic. Every single action is determined, brought by a prior physical action. Science is the discipline that is meant to discover those prior physical conditions so that if we recreate the prior physical conditions, if we set up the dominoes in the exact same way, they are going to fall in exactly the same way every single time.

Picture in your mind two lines of dominoes that are falling. And at the end of the line of dominoes is not another domino, but there is actually a human being, a person standing there right next to a cliff. What happens when the last domino falls and lands on our poor unsuspecting person at the end of the line of dominoes? Well, low and behold, just as every domino has fallen up until then, the last domino strikes the human being and he falls too, right over the cliff. Now, here is my question. Given that scenario, did that person jump off the cliff? The answer is no, of course not. He was pushed. What was he pushed by? A falling domino, a big one, adequate to shove him over the cliff.

Now, what if the person who fell over the cliff actually thought he jumped on his own. perhaps because he didn’t see the dominoes. Would he have done just as he thought? The answer is, of course no. The guy thought he jumped over the precipice but it was really a domino that pushed him.

On the physicalist view of the universe, everything is dominoes, whether you see them or not. Whether they are outside or inside, everything is dominoes. Sometimes we think we are jumping, but the fact is we are not. Instead, he fell because of prior physical conditions that were sufficient to cause the effect of us jumping one way or another. We are always pushed if there are only physical causes in the universe.

Determinism makes everything in life neither true or false, but just as the way things are determined to be.  The next time you get into a conversation with a person who believes in determinism, just simple remind them that according to their view, they are no more right in their belief of determinism as you are in your belief in free will and they are just wasting your time because after all, things are just as they were determined to think, say, and do.

Think about how we operate in life.  We do not live our lives by the rules of determinism, even the naturalists.  We have an internal barometer that helps us discern right from wrong and we make decisions based on that.  Our court system, like all others, is based on the premise that we are accountable for our actions.  Have you ever known anyone to be pronounced innocent based on the plea of determinism.  “Your honor and jury, I am innocent because it was my DNA that made me do it…”  Anyone who believes in determinism but doesn’t live their life like they belief is just being intellectually dishonest.

As always, questions, comments, and discussions welcome.


Building a Firm Case for Christianity

October 4, 2011

Once you know what people believe  you will know where to start building a firm case for a Christian worldview.   If you missed the Conversational apologetics post I suggest you read it.  It will help you discover what people believe, or what worldview they have.  As a disciple of Christ we all know that it is our responsibility to share the Gospel of Jesus with those who ask us about our faith.   You may even have the desire to do so, and have been preparing for an opportunity to do so when the chance comes.  Where do you start?  Should you take a straight path to the cross?  Should you share Bible verses with them?  While it is never wrong to share the message of the cross with anyone, there may be a few other helpful points to consider as you began building your case for Christianity.

If you look at the illustration below, it shows you the progression that it takes to hold a Christian worldview.  You cannot hold a Christian worldview until you move from an atheist position.   Similarly, you cannot hold a Christian worldview, until  you know what type of theistic position you hold.  Do you believe in one God (monotheistic), more than one god (polytheistic), God is in everything (pantheistic), etc…  Likewise, you will have difficulty trying to convince someone that the Bible is the inspired word of God, if they don’t believe that a God or gods exist.  The same way someone will have difficulty with the claim that Jesus is God, if they don’t trust the Bible as a reliable source.

As you talk and ask questions to others about what they believe you will discover what they believe and where they are in the progression above.   Then you will know where to start with helping them along the way towards a Biblical worldview.  A friend of mine, Chris Sherrod, who teaches apologetics and has been published in several books uses an illustration of a set of pillars to show how the different evidence builds upon more evidence to provide a solid case for Christianity.

Building a Case for Christianity

Over the next weeks and months we will begin to break down the 4 pillars above and examine the evidence that God has given us.
As always, questions, comments, and discussions are welcome.


Defining Terms: Theism

October 1, 2011

A few more definitions to add to your knowledge of data base in studying apologetics.  We will look at Theism and the rest of his Family that are connected together.  Hopefully the illustration will help you understand it as well.

Theism – The belief that there is a God and that He is knowable and involved in the world.  It comes from the root word ‘theo‘ meaning ‘God’.  For example, theology is the study of God.

theismMonotheism – The belief that there is only one God in the universe.  It comes from the prefix ‘mono’ meaning ‘one’.  Judaism, Islam, Christianity are examples of Monotheistic worldviews.

Polytheism – The belief that there are many gods in existence in the universe.  It comes from the prefix ‘poly’ meaning ‘many’. Hinduism and the Greeks God’s of Mythology are examples of polytheistic worldviews.

Pantheism –  The belief that God is the universe and all that comprises it: laws, motion, matter, energy, consciousness, life, etc.  It denies that God is a person and is self-aware.  The prefix ‘pan‘  means ‘all‘ or ‘of everything‘.   Buddhism is a pantheistic worldview.

Panentheism –  The belief that God is in the universe.  It differs with pantheism which states that God is the universe and all that it comprises.

Atheism – The lack of belief in a god, and/or the belief that there is no god.  The position held by a person or persons that ‘lack belief’ in god(s) and/or deny that god(s) exist.  The prefix ‘a‘ meaning ‘not’ or ‘against’  literally translates ‘not God‘ when put in front of the root word Theo.  For example amoral would mean the opposite of moral.  Naturalistic or a Darwinian evolution worldview would be atheistic.

Agnosticism – The belief that the existence of God is not knowable. The word is derived from the negative ‘a‘ combined with the Greek word ‘gnosis,’ which means knowledge.  Hence, agnosticism is the belief that God cannot be known.  Someone who might call themselves a Skeptic would most likely have an agnostic worldview.

It is important that we understand the role of the law of non-contradiction when discuss the different positions of theism.  For example, you cannot hold both a theistic view and an atheistic position at the same time.  Either God exists or he doesn’t.  Similarly you cannot hold both a monotheistic and a polytheistic position at the same time either.  There is either one God or multiple gods.

There are a few more other words we could discuss, but we will save them for later in another post.  What position do you take, and why?  As always questions, comments, and discussions are welcome.


God’s Existence: Why is the evidence not overtly clear?

September 30, 2011

In a previous post, I listed out a short summary of the evidence/reasons that I believe in the existence of God and have a Christian worldview.   Towards the end of the post I admitted that none of the reasons were absolute “slam dunk” case ending evidences.  I cannot point to God in a denotative way.  For example, I could point out Amy who is my wife, or Bob who fixed my car, or Luis who made me a Taco for lunch.

Many atheists who reject the idea of God, do so because God cannot be 100% proven by a scientific method or by some other method of proof, be it philosophical,  historical, or etc…   Let me be clear about what I am saying here, God DOES reveal himself to us through science, history, through our philosophical mind, and other ways.  What I’m not saying at is the degree at which God does this is not 100% as the same way we might test something with the scientific method or know that Abraham Lincoln was president of the United States.

According to the Bible, God has progressively revealed himself to us in a variety of different  ways over the span of time.  You might picture a slowly moving curtain that is unavailing the prize behind curtain #1.  I will save a deeper discussion on God’s revelation for a future post, but will let it rest for now.  One of the ways that I have found the Christian worldview reliable is because it not only works within 1 method of proof, but that it works well with all the different methods, not least of all, science.  If God does exist, many atheists ask, “Why doesn’t he make the evidence clear?”  Atheists offer answers for us such as, “maybe He doesn’t exist.” or “he is not all-powerful enough to do so.”  As a Christian you may have asked that question for yourself as well, I have.  The following paragraphs are some of my thoughts on that question.

As I mentioned before, the Bible says in Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”  Why Faith?  Why does God want us to have a trust in Him that is not totally grounded 100% by facts and evidence.  Some might say that is mean.  It is actually love, here’s what I mean.

Let’s follow the thought out for a little while.  If God exists and let’s say he did 100% show himself to us by some means.  Perhaps he used an airplane to write in the sky constantly, or for Star-trek fans, God beams himself down to earth and visits with us, performs miracles, that we can see with our own eyes, and record them on video tape and post to YouTube.  Better yet God shows us Heaven, but then says we can’t come in unless we believe in Him.  Sound silly?  If that did happen, anyone who didn’t believe in God would be well, stupid.  Like telling someone, you need to eat  in order to live.  For God to erase away any doubt, to not require faith in him, would do away with free will.  Without free will, we would be like mindless robots that just did what we were told to do.  We wouldn’t love God because we wanted to, we would love God because we had to.  You cannot force love, if you do, it’s called rape.  I will address the issue of free will and determinism later, but let’s get back to the point.  I believe the answer lies in the sovereign, perfectness of God.   It is exactly how God has planned it for us.  A perfect balance.

What is the balance?  I don’t think I want to put a number on it.  That answer might vary from person to person.  I know that the more I study both sides of the debate, the more I am convinced and for me the number is rising.  Where are you at in your opinion?  Is it 50%, 51%, 60% for you?  Perhaps lower or higher.

There is a great story in the Bible of Thomas (John 20:24-30) .  Thomas was given the nick name “Doubting” Thomas by someone.  The word doubt has a negative connotation, and I think we give Thomas an unjust shake at what He said.  Thomas missed the first appearance of Jesus to the disciples after His resurrection, and the others who saw Jesus went to tell Thomas about what they had seen.  Thomas made the statement “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”  Thomas’ doubts were soon wiped away when Jesus appeared to him.    All Thomas was seeking was some truth.   I have found the same to be true in my life, the more I look and examine the evidence, the stronger my faith becomes and the less my doubts and questions become.

Doubt for a while is good, it leads to truth-seeking, answers, but you cannot stay in doubt forever, soon you must move on.  I watched a debate not to long ago between 2 people over Morals and the existence of God.  One person had a set of thoughts in which they presented in turn and the second man, took a position of doubt, and really questioned everything that was said by the other person and other ad populum topics.  Even though there were points and positions argued, the man continued to doubt.  In the end, I really could not tell what the 2nd gentleman’s positions was, all I could take from his side was that he doubted.

Someone once asked the atheist, Bertrand Russell, one day if he died and stood before God and God asked him why didn’t he believe.  Russell responded that “He did not simply give me enough evidence.”   So how much is enough?  The obvious answer is, enough is enough.  I would just encourage everyone to keep searching and not give up.

As always  questions, comments, and discussions are welcome.  I will be posting a blog on Faith in next week or so, I believe it goes well as a follow-up to this posting.