I recently had a short discussion with an atheist at Lavartus Prodeo. The host thread “Are You Rapture Ready” used the recent highly publicized false ‘rapture’ prophecy of Harold Campling as a vehicle to denigrate God, Jesus, The Bible and believers in the usual atheist fashion.
Ethical Or Merely Rational
The article which introduced the thread alluded to The Problem Of Evil; which got me thinking as to whether or not evil or moral wrong could ever exists under atheism. Googling atheist ethics I came across sites like this one that described atheist ethics of kindness and compassion having supposedly arisen from an evolutionary survival technique of mutual help, so I posed this question:
Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that atheists don’t have a system of ethics based on morality, but rather on rational survival strategies ?
To which my atheist responsent (AR) replied:
Atheists can observe that certain ethical behaviours have been empirically shown to result in the one life we have to live being longer, healthier, safer and generally more pleasant for the group as a whole than if those ethical behaviours are not followed.
AR’s use of empirical methods to determine ethics confirmed to me that the fundamental atheist ethic is rationality determined by notions of the common good, which would make sociopathic acts merely irrational as opposed to actually wrong or evil. AR didn’t address this directly. She merely said:
It makes them [sociopathic acts] an unacceptable danger to others.
.. which evades the question I was driving at which is what is the ground or basis of the atheist ethic.
Can Amoral Systems Give Rise To A Satisfactory Human Ethic ?
I pointed out this evasion to AR and underlined the amoral concept of rationality at the heart of her atheist ethic by providing a specific example: If ethics arise from rational self-interest in avoiding anti-social behaviours directed back at oneself then if some bloke should kill a child her atheist response would be ‘That’s irrational. Doesn’t he know that someone could kill his children ?’
I make no value judgements about someone’s behaviour when I describe it as dangerous… Your [child murder] scenario is a community presented with a person of proven dangerous-to-others behaviour. The community’s interest in their mutual safety will lead them to develop guidelines about protecting themselves from dangerous people.
I was stunned to read AR describing child murder in her atheist ethic as merely dangerous as opposed to immoral, evil or wrong and that the label of dangerous was sufficient to cover sociopathic acts considered in general and specifically child murder.
I sought clarification by summarizing AR’s ethical propositions to date: I make no value judgements about someone’s behaviour and observed Perhaps I misunderstand you. The murder of a child is immoral, right [not merely dangerous]?
AR was outraged and told me I was engaging in dishonest cherry-picking,. From that point, being a Moderator on Lavartus Prodeo, she simply banned me from the thread.
AR showed a strong inclination to evade examination of her atheist ethic. She wanted her statements about how she derived her atheist ethic to stand without examination. When her ethic was critiqued she engaged in a superficial and somewhat deflective conversation and then banned any further inquiry.
Even given the opportunity to clarify or resile from an astoundingly weak ethical judgement on child murder as merely dangerous she would not.
I believe that this is because the discussion had shown in a few short exchanges what is obvious, namely that there is no objective basis for atheist ethics and hence nothing that is recognisable as a grounded morality.
The Limits And Impoverishment Of Atheist Ethics
All that atheists can do in place of an objective morality is appeal to subjective notions such as rational self-interets or the common good, both concepts which are necessarly subjective and can be replaced by any arbitrary statement of value or worth.
An ethic submitted to AR’s atheist committee for approval would need to demonstrate an empirical rational basis for acceptance. Rationality is the basis. The actual ethics are subject to revision at any time.
So unethical behaviour is defined in terms of its irrationality not its intrinsic characteristics. Should killing certain segments of the population improve the common good e.g. by removing defective genes leading to better overall health outcomes, then such killings are ethical.
Empathy and compassion arise from rational self-interest
I say that the reduction of empathy and compassion to the impoverished formulation of Classical Economics robs them of their very humanity.
Empathy and compassion are not subject to a Business Case and ethics are not in thrall to Key Performance Indicators.
The Bible says that fallen humanity suppresses moral truth.
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
AR suppressed truth in the Blog thread under discussion by moderating posts of mine which described a Biblical approach to universal ethics and its rejection of karma or works-based systems of salvation; but AR permitted other posters describing ‘what the Bible says’ incorrectly and by permitting a clearly off-topic post rejecting Jesus’s Ddvinity.
Hilariously inventing the concept of an on-topic thread derail AR moderated and eventually banned my posts to prevent critique of atheist ethics and thereby protect the atheist ethic from a Biblical challenge.
Problems Justifying An Atheist Ethic
While there are many ways of justifying an atheist ethic, it is difficult for atheists to avoid subjective and hence ungrounded ethics, or alternatively a universal ethic based merely on survial or rational self-interest which logically lead to horrific propositions such as Eugenics being morally acceptable.
The Biblical alternative is that morality is grounded in God who alone is Holy and Wise and who thus is uniquely qualified to state what is moral and what is not.
God then graciously communicates those moral truths to us in His Scripture, in creation and in the person of Jesus; more than that, implanted those truths in humanity by creating them in His moral image. The Image Of God in Humanity is now marred and distorted by Original Sin, hence mankind is no longer perfectly able to determine moral outcomes. Nevertheless the residual Image Of God in mankind explains how Universal or near-Universal moral truths can exist.