After my last post I had a few posts by some atheists that I think deserve a more lengthy response. Generally I think the atheists here post good questions and concerns and I am grateful to have them visiting. Jim is one of them. Here are some of the comments we exchanged leading up to the point I want to make in this blog.
“Man has trumped the morality of the Bible over and over. ”
Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, North Korean leaders, Lenin, Reign of Terror.
To which Jim responded:
“The bigger problem here isn’t these men. It is the followers. Here we argue which belief is best, but the culprit of all our divisions, racism, hate, all of it Joe, is beliefs. Mere convictions of thought without evidence. Break it down, that is the card played by the writers and founders to keep humanity at odds, while they do whatever the hell they want.”
I want to focus on his claim that we need evidence. I don’t think the atheist has any evidence to support any sort of moral views but I will get to that in a bit.
Consider this statement by Ingrid Newkirk President of PETA:
“Six million Jews died in concentration camps, but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughterhouses.”
Now many atheists say there is no actual truth about morality. Maybe killing six million Jews is not morally worse than killing six billion broiler chickens. But the key word is “maybe.” The thing is they do not know there is no objectively moral way we should live. So a rational person would say either there really is a way we should morally live, or there is not really a way we should morally live. Once we acknowledge this uncertainty we should be rational in how we approach the uncertainty and address the consequences of our actions with respect to both possibilities.
Let’s say the moral anti-realist is right and morality is not real. Then it really doesn’t matter whether I value Jews more than chickens. If that is the case, it doesn’t matter which way I chose. I can make up whatever morality I want. So my going with the Christian view is morally no worse than going with PETA’s view or living any other life of make believe. That state of affairs is a dead option. It is not the option a rational person should concern themselves with, because in that state of affairs it doesn’t matter what we do.
The rational person should focus their mind on the possible state of affairs where there really is moral Truth. That would be the state of affairs where we can live our lives rightly or wrongly. So a rational person would focus on the possibility that, in fact, there is objective moral truth that we should follow. But how could we know what that objective morality requires of us? What evidence do we have that PETA is wrong to think killing six billion broiler chickens is morally comparable to killing six million Jewish people?
Now my own view is that it is morally repulsive to view the killing of six million Jews in the Holocaust as equivalent or even less morally evil then killing six billion broiler chickens. But is my emotional revulsion evidence of moral truth? Why would someone who was created by a random universe guided by natural selection think their moral revulsion tracks objective moral truths? I firmly believe there would be no reason to think that, and I offer my reasons for that conviction here.
So what evidence do I have that morality is on my side? If I appeal to other humans, and their views, is it not obvious they are in the same situation I am? I have no reason to think other people’s convictions are guided in more reliable ways that my own. So why should I listen to other people who are in the same boat as me? What I need is a source of information that is not bound in the same way we are bound.
I have scripture that tells me humans are made in God’s image and humans are indeed more important than chickens and other animals. I have Scripture that tells me God became man in order to save humans. I have scripture that tells me I am to love my neighbor etc. All of this scripture tells me people are special among animals. But what evidence do I have that this scripture is really from something other than another human just like myself? The answer is the evidence of Christ’s miracles including but not limited to the resurrection.
Now I can hear the groans about how that evidence is weak. And I won’t lie there are times I wish I had more evidence. Sometimes, like Saint Thomas I wish I could see Jesus and touch the wounds to see it was really him. I don’t think this is unchristian. Thomas was Saint Thomas after all. So I am not here to say the miracles are strong evidence or weak evidence. You can listen to the debates on that, as there are plenty of them. Weak or strong, we clearly have some evidence that Jesus was from God and therefore his teachings on morality were from a source not bound by human limitations. This means his teachings have a chance of reliably tracking the truth regarding morality.
I think the Christian miracles are the best evidence of any religion actually being from God. I know other religions claim miracles but, I don’t think the claims I examined are as good as the Christian claims. I am certainly willing to consider the evidence if someone wants to claim some other religion has a better claim to being true through miracles or other evidence. Here is a blog where I give an outline of the criteria I use.
In the end, people can say the evidence for Christianity is strong or weak, but it is what it is. This is the situation we are in and it seems quite clear to me that it is the best evidence about what we should do that we have. Why would I trust Ingrid Newkirk (or even my own moral views which I recognize and science suggests are based on emotion) more than Christ?
Now what evidence does the atheist have to offer that their moral views accord with objective moral reality? If you start to say “If the morally good is….(flourishing) or (wellbeing) etc etc ” Then I need to stop you right there. I am asking for the evidence you have for what is morally good. So if you start with an assumption, of what is morally good, and then keep talking based on that assumption, I think you are missing the question. What evidence do you have that your view of moral goodness corresponds with objective reality? You may say something that I like or that I agree with but people agreeing or liking an idea does not make it true.
So you can say you think my evidence for my moral views based on Christ being from a supernatural source is weak. But it is some evidence. Even weak evidence is better than no evidence at all. Life does not have a pause button. You can’t pause life until you find some evidence that you are satisfied with. Rational people have to make due with the evidence they have. And you can call it strong or weak, but the evidence for Christian morality is the best evidence we have for any moral view.