If you looking for new posts, visit Behind the Waterfall where my new permanent site is. Thank you!
This site is going away. I’ve decided to go back to my old blog, Behind the Waterfall, which will return soon. Check it out at it’s new address (but old, still active WordPress site) mrjosh.blog . See you there.
The subject of morality seems to always come up when the discussion turns to God and His existence (or lack thereof). So I want to make it perfectly clear that I completely understand and agree that non-theists, atheists, jews, muslims, Christians, pagans, etc, all have followers that are both moral and not very moral. The issue is not whether people can be moral and not believe in God. The issue is where the “Moral Law” comes from, who has the authority to set it, and whether or not there is such thing as a Moral law in the first place.
Also note that some of the subjects touched on in this post will be explored deeper in future posts.
Let’s begin with evolution. If we all evolved from on single cell to the plethora of life we have now, where does morality fit into the picture? Are there moral laws that always apply or are they specific to the human experience? The answer to this these two questions are very important. At the risk of once again over simplifying things, if Morality is a product of evolution, then we have to acknowledge some pretty ugly and uncomfortable truths.
Evolution science tells us that evolution is a constant. Species and creatures are constantly in a state of evolution. Granted, it happens so slowly that we don’t actually notice it at all. It is only after a great number of years that we can look back and say “Oh yeah, these were the changes that caused us to evolve to this state.” Those previous states however, in our evolution path, would not become irrelevant. What a species allegedly was at that point was legit.
If morality is also a product of evolution, then it means that it too is constantly changing. It also means that the understanding of what is moral changed over time. Thus if you take a snapshot of one period in time, the morality of the day is just as valid as the morality of today. Think everything from the crusades to slavery to the Salem Witch burnings. Are any of those things moral? Absolutely not. But if Morality is on an evolutionary path, then at that time, during those periods, it was absolutely moral. Thus, we as modern “enlightened” humans can’t really pass judgment on the “sins of the past” because that was a different morality for a different time.
“Outrageous! Those people committed a lot of heinous acts!” Well yes. I think of Christopher Columbus and the recent push to change his holiday to one that celebrates the people that he tried to destroy. If we apply that morality is this culture-specific, evolving thing, then we cannot hold Christopher Columbus to today’s standard. It must be considered through the lens of the time. Because it was deemed as moral then, it was a moral act. Morality has evolved. Today it would not be OK. But that’s today.
Now we’ve backed ourselves into a dilemma. Either Morality is a constant which still exists regardless of whether or not a people, culture, or society believe or agree with it, or morality is not absolute and is therefore subject to those that just happen to agree with it. If the latter is the case, then everyone throughout history was right. Including Columbus. Including the Crusaders. Including the slavers.
If however moral law is objective, then all of those atrocities were immoral regardless of what people at the time thought. They are immoral even if a group of people today got together and decided all of those things were good ideas. And the bigger problem is, in order for any person to be labeled as immoral, then there must be an objective moral standard to hold them to. This isn’t possible if morality is based on the current evolved state of the human consciousness. Other questions would have to be answered. Who’s morality is right? Which culture is right? Does the United States have moral authority? No? Perhaps Saudi Arabia then, a country that kills homosexuals? Surely they believe they are doing it for moral reasons.
See, without objective morality, then nothing is actually evil. It puts morality strictly in the eye of the person observing it. An argument can be made that a society comes up with a moral code in order to function. But even that isn’t a reason for their moral superiority. So what if one group of people came together on the planet and decided that these were the things they detested? It doesn’t mean that another group somewhere else had to agree.
Take for example the recent killing of a missionary by a remote tribe off the coast of India. Which side was evil? The ones that killed or the one that quite literally, just wanted to talk.
“Well, first he broke a law. They were to be left alone.” Great. Someone who kills gays in Saudi Arabia would be well within the law. Clearly a man-made law does not equal moral.
“OK, but it’s not our business to go there and tell them that the way they are living is wrong.” In a world without God, this makes sense. As we mentioned in the last post, in a world without God, we all meet the same fate anyway. So why bother with that one remote tribe that just wants to kill everyone?
Is it our business to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for their decision to execute a certain group of people? Is it our business to hold the people of the past up to our moral microscope? They were doing what was right in their own sight.
Isaiah 5:21, “What sorrow for those who are wise in their own eyes and think themselves so clever.”
We all hold people to a higher standard than we hold ourselves. That’s the problem with a world without God. There isn’t one final authority on what is right and what is wrong. There are just a bunch of people pointing fingers while hoping that nobody finds out about their own failures.
Since we now see that objectivity is necessary in order to truly hold people accountable to what is good and what is evil, we now need to establish where this objectivity comes from. If there is a transcendent moral law, there must be a transcendent moral law giver. This doesn’t mean you have to agree right here that it’s the God of the Bible, but this transcendent, objective moral law has to come from somewhere.
We don’t find it in nature because what is good and bad is inconsistent. A lion that eats its young is not evil. A human that does is. We don’t hold a mountain lion responsible for its actions when it attacks and kills. We might euthanize to keep it from killing again, but we don’t blame the mountain lion. If someone detonates a nuclear bomb destroying the world, they would be evil. If an asteroid strikes an obliterates the planet, that would not be evil.
This opens up another aspect as well. Why does objective morality only apply to humans? We’ve already determined that it can’t just be because of their higher evolved state. If the moral law is always in affect, why is it humans that it applies to.
This is where you have to decide who is in control of the moral law. This is where a moral law giver must be present. And this moral law giver must be above the human experience. This is the only way objective morality can exist and be specific to humans. The universe can’t give us that. Nature can’t. It must come from a being that had a specific standard of living in mind. You evolved mind doesn’t just decide what is good and what is evil. It has the knowledge of good and evil inside with a caveat.
This same mind also decides whether to agree with the objective moral law or to create it’s own version of the law. This is where we get all the different groups that claim they have the answer to all that is good. We can’t have all those answers. We can only judge the world from the perspective of our experience. So, our view of morality and good and evil will always be skewed based on how we experience the world. This is no way to set up an objective moral code and is the reason country’s are in a constant state of tension or war all over the world. The real reason for problems in the world is that humanity can’t agree on what is right and what is wrong. And, it’s been going on since nearly the beginning.
GOD IS THE ONLY MORAL LAW GIVER THAT MAKES SENSE
In the beginning, God…
This sentence in Genesis 1:1 starts the story of God and His interactions with the world and the human race. While many religions have creation stories that decry the evil woes of man, the Christian Bible is the only one that gives a reason for it and offers a path of redemption from it. The Ancient Egyptians had the most sophisticated theology of the ancient world. However in all there rituals and beliefs, it never addresses why humanity seems to always err on the side of evil.
Enter the Hebrews. God decides to pick out Abram from a random city (UR) and reveal his true self as well as a plan to redeem the brokenness in the world caused by humanity’s arrogance that it can decide good and evil for itself. The other religions of the ancient world might point to a god or gods that interact with humans as well, but they either find humans amusing, a nuisance, or even, as some ancient Babylonian texts show, just pawns in some celestial fight over heaven and earth. But then comes the Torah and the God of Israel who not only gives humans purpose for their existence, but also a willingness to correct the mistakes of their past.
As we continue our Journey of Faith, we will see what this path looks likes. For now, you must decide if a world without God, which would lack moral absolutes and judgment for never solved crimes makes sense or if God, a moral judge and lawgiver fits better with the narrative of life. Is life just a series of events and then you die? Or does it all work together of a higher purpose. Open your mind and put your beliefs to the test. You might be surprised where it takes you.
Until next time…
If you’ve been part of discussions between theists and non-theists, you’ve probably heard back and forth that goes like this:
THEIST: What if you die and wake up and discover you were wrong about God?
NON-THEIST: What if you die and discover you were wrong about God?
Neither of these arguments actually make a point. It simply stalls the conversation because neither side can articulate a reasoning for holding their particular views.
So let’s have some fun and explore these two scenarios.
WHAT IF THE BELIEVER IS WRONG ABOUT GOD?
I’ve read blogs from many former theists that struggled with this question. I myself have even thought about this. So what if there is no God?
Is it fear of the unknown that keeps believers “shackled” to their faith? I think the answer is more complicated than it tends get. The answer to “what if there is no God” is huge and actually changes what a believer sees as purpose and truth. It’s a complete undoing of everything they not only believed, but also loved. So, if there is no God?
Let’s start with the end game. Easily the first thing that comes to mind is that there is no heaven and hell.
“Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try…
OK, for some it’s easier than others. But when we seek the answer to what tethers a believer to their belief, heaven and hell are a huge part of it. In order to erase God, you have to also erase the punishment of God. In some Christian sects and denominations, eternal damnation is their core teaching. So the fear of eternal punishment keeps many of these believers at least with one foot in the door of a church.
But if we can really erase God from existence, then we have to acknowledge what a Godless truth looks like. Without God, when we die, who we are, our thoughts, dreams, emotions, feelings, and consciousness ceases to exist. This is more important than you know because if the questions asked “What if the believer dies and finds out he is wrong about God?”, then thr answer is, he never will. Because if God is not real, then there is no consciousness on the “otherside”. So, the believer will have lived his whole life believing God, die, and that’s it. There really isn’t a consequence. It doesn’t matter if it was a life well lived or a disaster, the absence of God means that death, in its finality, renders all that happened as no longer relevant.
Maybe it is to the people that the person touched or destroyed while alive, but the reality is, when death comes, and God is absent, the person death comes for can no longer be a part of anything. They are nothing. They become nothing.
Many atheists will conclude “and thats OK with us”. Maybe it is. But also consider that Hitler died. He died before Justice could be served. Mother Teresa also died. Right now, they are the same. Oh sure, our books and Google talk about their memory. But if there is just nothing, then right now, they are equal. Both died. Both rot. Both cease to exist.
Again, my dear Athiest, you are probably nodding your head but also nervous about where I am going next. Because my next question is, who lived their life better? “Mother Teresa” you shout at your screen. But. Why?
Clearly she did a lot of good things. Helped a lot of people. But Hitler, he rose to power. He became in charge. That’s quite a feat for anyone! Both died. Which one wasted their life? Answer: Neither (under our no-God scenario). They both did what they thought was the best use of their time.
Think of it another way. Bill Cosby was recently convicted for rape practically. He’s well advanced in years. Yet, he got away with it practically his whole life. He could basically sit in the jail cell happily because hey, we all die, but he got his good time out of it. He will die and be the same as Mother Teresa. We are appalled and think he should rot and jail. But see, so what? He still got what he wanted. When he ceases to exist, he will still have had his good times and no longer know that he spent the last few years behind bars. Ah, the joys of dying to get out of judgment. He got his pleasure. Now he can die.
If this is starting to make your stomach churn, then good. Truth isn’t about feeling good. In a reality without God, we have to talk about these things. You atheist can be a moral person without God. Dear Christian, stop telling them that they are not moral. We all know what is right and wrong. The problem is the motivation behind it.
Why are we moral? Because it’s just right? In actuality, if there is no God, no moral law giver, then the stupidest thing you can do is sacrifice your life for the sake of someone elses. What do you get? Death. You cease to exist. And unless you’ve become world-renown for something, your identity and memory won’t survive a generation or two (except maybe the ancestry.com data base). Remember Hitler? Some of us will do great things for people and will fade out of existence almost immediately while Hitler and all the things he’s done will continue to be remembered for ever (or until the sun dies and destroys the earth in what is likely to be something fantastic). After that event, even this blog won’t matter. All the good and bad, no longer will matter. There won’t even be a footprint left of us (unless the voyager craft get lucky and never meet a demise like crashing into a star or something). If all we do is cease to exist at the end of life, then any moral thing we do at the expense of ourself is stupid, and a waste. The only person who really cares what people think of you is you. Once you die, well, you won’t know. You won’t exist, right? So pillage and plunder, drive by that homeless guy. He might stop existing before you, but at least you’ll save a few dollars.
WHAT IF THE ATHEIST IS WRONG ABOUT GOD?
Before we continue, let me first say that this post is not a discussion on doctrine. It simply the very basic discussion on the existence of God. I am aware, believer, that should God exist, more pointedly the God of the Bible, He doesn’t want us to believe just out of fear of nothing. That discussion will come in other posts. The purpose of this post is to rationalize the existence of God.
Unlike the believer being wrong about God, the atheist being wrong has a much bigger problem at death. If he is wrong, he is now face to face with the judge of the world. Imagine standing in a courtroom as the accused but having no idea what the crime is and the criteria the judge uses to decide your fate. What’s worse, you also find out you are representing yourself and have nobody that can stand as a witness to your character. This is what it will be like if the atheist finds out he was wrong.
As stated before, this is an oversimplification of what the Bible says life after death is, but it is important to establish a baseline.
THE END DRAWS NEAR
Atheists can be moral. Believers can cause great pain and do terrible things. But a moral person in a world without God is mostly irrelevant. In the big picture, if you aren’t getting everything you can out of the life, then it’s wasted. But hey, you’ll cease to exist one day so it won’t matter.
Next time we add Morality to the God-No God debate.
I believe every Bible believing Christ follower has been to a point where we begin to question what we believe and why we believe it. Are we merely just continuing the faith of our parents because that’s how we’re brought up? Can the Bible be trusted? Is God real? Does prayer work? Is the creation account accurate, mythology, or some kind of symbolism? If God is real and he is good, why does evil exist. What IS evil? Are there absolutes?
The following blog series is my journey (which I am still on) to answer some of my own questions. I know reading is a lost art on most. They are looking for podcasts, videos, and moving graphics to catch their attention. I’d prefer distraction free reading. So if you’ve had questions, doubted, or maybe even don’t believe, consider journeying with me. I am don’t have a PHD and I am no theologian. But all the knowledge that we have gathered as a species–about God, science, and nature–is available if you are willing to look for it. You also have to be willing to look in places that come from places that are sometimes opposite of your beliefs, values, and world view.
So buckle up and come along or, if this is silly or offensive, feel free to get off here. I do not take offense either. But neither will I apologize for the conclusions I arrive at if it is counter to what you, the reader, might believe. Which brings me to:
Tolerance is a Myth
I need to get this out of the way from the beginning. Those who are pushing for an all-inclusive, tolerant society, do not understand what they are asking for. “Well that’s an ignorant thing to say.” But consider the following:
Let’s say a society values freedom, liberty, free speech, and in the same breath, claims to be all-inclusive and tolerant of all views. Well, we know this isn’t true. We would not tolerate slavery, servitude, and the abridging of our “self-evident” rights. In some countries and cultures today, woman are not allowed to drive a vehicle except for special circumstances. Thus, we are not tolerant of belief that women should not be allowed to drive. We would not allow that rule to be a part of our legal or cultural narrative. Thus, we can’t say we are all-inclusive because we would not include or accept that as law. We the people would work to strike down an attempt at such a law and most likely, even a conservative leaning court, would find the law unconstitutional and the law would be struck down.
So now we are stuck with how do we decide what values and morals to tolerate. This is where my journey started, still is, and probably won’t end. How can we have moral superiority while claiming to be tolerant when we clearly are not? Is there moral reasoning to not be tolerant of all views? Is there an objective moral law? Is it absolute?
It is important for anyone reading this to understand that these writings assume that absolutes absolutely exist. The argument against absolutes is self-defeating. If the rule is “there are no absolutes”, then we either have to make an exception for that rule which means that there is actually at least one absolute making the statement false, or absolutes do exist and the statement is false. Excepting itself does not make it true. It simply becomes a statement built on sand that can’t really stand up when the storm hits.
So if there are absolutes, where do they come from? Well, if absolutes are objective and exist, they must come from somewhere that transcends the human experience. Therefore, the rules that make certain truths absolutely true must be true whether or not humans are part of the equation. The fact that the earth orbits the sun is true whether or not we are here to witness it. That is absolutely true.
When it comes to moral absolutes, it becomes a little trickier. In order for there to be moral absolutes however, there must be a transcendent standard for morals. Whether it is God, or some other unknown entity or just the “laws of nature” itself has to be examined.
Alternatively, if there are no absolute truths, then there is no absolute good or absolute evil. Thus evil wouldn’t really exist because it would be up to the individual to determine whether or not the action was justified.
As we explore this concept further in later posts, you will begin to see how understanding truth and it’s foundation is essential to understand what makes an action and person for that matter good and what makes an action or person evil. We’re not just talking about moral gray areas either such as lying in order to protect the innocent. We are talking about blatant “evil” verses perfect “good”. Consider what you see as the most evil thing that could ever be done and then consider that there are things that are worse. We are going to go there. Down deep. Good vs Evil. Real evil. Does it exist absolutely or is it just in the eye of the beholder?
Not an Expert
This not the work of someone with a PHD. I am not an expert. But I do read and research on my own free time. Maybe you are on a similar journey and have resources to share I didn’t think of. If so, please leave links in the comment section so I can look at them.
So welcome aboard my quest for truth. The absolute truth.
I know what you’re thinking. You are probably rolling your eyes because you think this is another anti-gun rant. There are millions of these on the internet and it’s quite popular right now so it would be smart for a struggling blogger like myself to capitalize on it. This is not one of those however. For those in the anti-gun camp that just let out a groan, allow me to elaborate.
I’ve been researching guns, gun violence, and the second amendment quite extensively for a few months. Let me start by saying I absolutely agree that we should keep the 2nd Amendment in tact and we shouldn’t get rid of it (cue groan by anti-gun groups). the discussion about guns usually gets distorted because everyone is so passionate about their view, they refuse to listen to the other point of view.
Let me encourage you. Do what I did and read some books and articles from people you don’t agree with. I’ve done this on a number of subjects from the creation of the universe to the use of stem cells for medical and research purposes. Knowledge of the opposition is not only important when putting together counter arguments, but also to understand why that side feels as strongly as they do. This is where I have been.
I feel as if nobody really wants to address the elephant in the room. Gun violence and what causes it sets off a firestorm of debates and arguments all over social media and the internet. What I’ve learned from reading, research, and participating in these debates is that both sides actually have a common ground.
Guns are not the root cause of gun violence.
OK, the anti-gun camp doesn’t necessarily use those words exactly, but it’s quite clear that both sides of the debate feel as if broken people are the problem. Those who wish for harsher gun laws argue that limiting the access to these guns will keep these broken people from acquiring them. Those who wish for more relaxed gun laws argue that guns are necessary to protect us from the bad, broken people that will hurt and kill regardless of any laws.
The reality is, neither side is willing to take responsibility for any of it.
The Walk-outs and Marches against gun violence were cute and encouraged political activism. But outside of that, the message was empty and hollow. So we get rid of guns. That’s great, but what about all the lonely, broken people that still are broken, lonely, and violent? Did all that go away because guns are harder to get? “I want to feel safe at (fill in the blank).” That’s cute. We all do. But what have you done to make sure everyone feels not only safe, but welcomed and loved? I’m not saying you have to agree with everyone or everyone’s lifestyle, but you should still treat them like a person. Where was the “anti-bullying” walk out or marches.
Now that I have the gun lobby back, where are your massive demonstrations against bullying? It was a news clip about NRA supporters that made me wonder about this very thing. They were saying how guns aren’t the problem and they should be standing up against bullying and what not. But nobody on that side was willing to plan a protest or walk out against bullying. They instead wanted to criticize and make fun of kids. Regardless of your beliefs, it was nice to see them engaged in the process however misguided it might have been. Wouldn’t it be better to lead by example? Instead of bullying these kids and hurtling insults, what if we staged our own rally? Our own walk out and march on bullying.
Not surprisingly, there is pretty much zero coverage about the massive anti-bullying march because there isn’t one. I searched and searched and while I did fine smaller rallies with a similar theme, it was difficult to find because not one major media outlet thought it was worthy enough to talk about. This includes not just the alleged “fake news” outlets, but the “trusted news sources” as well (I used both terms loosely and don’t necessarily agree with such titles as all news is biased).
So what I am saying? We don’t actually have a gun violence problem. We have a violence problem. We have a bullying problem.
If you are anti-gun, then you are part of the problem. By focusing on the guns, you are deflecting and avoiding the root of the problem. Maybe that’s because most anti-gun arguments come from the left and it’s hard to admit sometimes that true liberalism, the idea that we have to tolerate everyone and everything, does not actually work. I’ve got news for you. Gun control is like weed control. When your answer to ending violence is to take guns away, you are just pulling the top of the weeds while leaving the root system in place. The problem is still there. It grows back and brings friends with it. But the problem with killing the root of the problem is that you have to be able to tell people when they are wrong. Liberalism down’t like to do that because you might offend someone. You might trample on their belief. You would have to admit that their are absolutes and that morality is objective regardless of one’s belief or feeling on the matter.
If you’re pro-gun, you are also part of the problem. I get it. You want the ability to defend yourself. You want the ability to fight off the government that is coming for your guns (which probably a drone strike, but hey, good luck with those bullets). Guns are NOT people. When you care more about your gun than you do people, gun violence gets worse. I find it interesting that gun advocates will tell me how they have a “God given right” to a gun but people don’t have a right to life-sustaining, clean drinking water (I’m looking at you Flint). When people are second to your gun, you’ve lost the argument in mind mind. But those who are pro-gun tend to be conservatives who think that a corporation often has more rights than citizens. Case and point, if they had it their way, they would be OK with all the water in the nation being under the control of private companies. I quote one as saying “private companies handle everything better than the government”. Yes, for a fee. And they don’t care about rights because unlike a government (that work for the people), they don’t have to honor the constitution. Like sell guns. They don’t have to. They are not the government.
So think about these things. I realize I made some broad generalizations to certain groups. I realize that there are those on both sides that don’t fit into those groups exactly. That’s great! Let’s move forward then and work on the root of the problem instead of just clipping the stem.