On a local atheist’s website, the statement is made that, “Tri Cities Atheist Society was created as a community of atheists who want to see our area grow and prosper without the need for religious beliefs in a fallacious god concept. We want to show that we are good without God and can do everything they can do, whether better or not.We do not shove our views any more than the religious do in our area, it is only fair that our voices be heard also”. http://tricitiesatheistsociety.wordpress.com/about/
I would like to challenge that statement.
It seems that the over-riding principle in this statement is atheists can be “good without god”. Surely, this is true. I don’t believe that Christians, at least thinking Christians, are making the claim that an atheist can’t display goodness in acts of kindness, care for others, social justice, etc. It is obviously true that any human being is capable, volitionally of acting in a “good” way. In other words, a person, regardless of their theistic conviction, may choose to act in a way that is considered moral. If someone has portrayed an opposing message to this group, then I, along with most Christians, would oppose that. This truth is not in play.
The next question though, is more foundational. What does this group mean when they use words like good, fair, better, or moral? I don’t believe they have sufficient grounds in which to make such a claim. Let me explain.
When people use terms like good, moral, right, fair, or even better, these are qualifying terms that indicate an idea of morality that is transcendent. These terms communicate moral ideas that are true, regardless of the person, place, or time.
For example: all people believe it to be wrong to torture and kill innocent babies for fun. This is a transcendent moral truth. It matters not who you are, where you live, or what culture or time you exist. This is true. It is not only true for you and me; it is true for all people.
There may be exceptions, but the exceptions do not negate the rule. Simply because a particular person believes it to be fun to torture and kill innocent babies does not mean that it is moral to do so. It would still be wrong for that person to act this way. It would be transcendently immoral.
Furthermore, not only are these moral truths transcendent in that they exist outside of our opinions or desires, they obviously exist. It is obvious to most people that stealing a person’s wallet is wrong or raping another person its wrong. Although laws prohibit such acts, people would understand these things (and many others) to be wrong if no such law existed. If it were not against the law to murder a man and rape his wife, people would know it to be immoral because it is obvious to them that it is wrong.
Not many people deny the premises that are laid out here.
- There are moral truths that are transcendent.
- Those moral truths are obviously true.
It is what comes next that bothers people, and I would suppose that the folks who wrote the description of their atheist group would disagree with me here.
For there to be transcendent morality, there must be a transcendent moral lawgiver. Materialism, naturalism, or Neo-Darwinism, do not, in fact they can not explain why people understand certain moral laws to be obviously true. These world-views can only point to a preference found within a person or a situation. For example, it may be said that moral laws evolved to provide opportunity for the propagation of the human species. If that were true, why would it be obviously wrong to rape another person? In fact, it would be beneficial to do so, wouldn’t it? Furthermore, why would it not be wrong to destroy Down’s syndrome children? Are they not weaker thus a mere hindrance to us? How about love? Why is it good to love another person? In fact, what would love be?
I’ll sum up Greg Koukl’s statement on this…If love is merely the firing inside of the brain or a set of pre-determined acts for the purpose of propagation, then what does it mean when you tell your wife you love her? Are you saying anything of value? How should she understand what you are telling her?
There is a morality that is obvious to us, which comes from outside of us. The writers of the US Constitution put it this way-We understand these truths to be self-evident…
“We will stand up for the constitutional rights of others in our area no matter what they believe, but at the same time we will fight against the religious beliefs being imposed upon our local communities, schools and government.”
-Tri Cities Atheist Society