Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Adequacy of Morality without God

This represents my response to an atheist who challenged my last posting regarding the proof for moral absolutes:

You did an excellent job in analyzing what I “failed to show” or write, but you would have done better having analyzed what I did write. Perhaps it would now be most productive to take up your challenge:

“All that you have shown is that what Naturalists (a more general term than atheist) do and say is inconsistent with the idea of Moral Absolutes but you fail to show that they are inconsistent with the idea that Morality is a strictly natural phenomenon.”

While we can discuss morality as “a strictly natural phenomenon,” this perspective is not adequate to provide us with a moral system with a rationale to act morally. Here are some reasons for this:

1. Although we both agree that we have a strong natural moral sense (conscience), this provides an insufficient guide and rationale for moral behavior. For instance, we have many anti-social impulses like lust, rage, jealousy, bitterness, and anger. What is our rationale for following one impulse rather than another? Worldview/philosophical considerations must be added to this “natural” perspective.

2. We also both agree that acting morally has personal and social benefits. We also acknowledge this elegant correspondence (or design) between following our conscience and the salutary benefits we derive. However, this pragmatic philosophy is also very limited. In the short run—and we are very short-sighted without a principled divine perspective—pragmatism becomes selfishness. We want immediate benefits and lack the conviction that serving Christ best serves our long-term needs. Without this conviction, pragmatism leads us to sell-out for immediate results. Who is going to be a whistle-blower, understanding that we’ll loose our job in the process, to the immediate detriment of our families? Who would rescue Jews from Nazis knowing that this would result in a bullet to the head? Faithless pragmatism will choose immediate results over uncertain, insufficiently-founded, long-term ethical principles.

3. Much of this discussion about ethics is purely academic. We already agree on many ethical issues: It’s right to preserve the environment; laws should be just; we should be concerned about the welfare of others; it’s wrong to torture babies or kidnap our friend’s wife. However, you lack an adequate rationale to live according to your convictions. If your conscience troubles you, why follow it if you can take a pill to silence it? If a moral action violates your pragmatic convictions, so what! If pragmatism is merely a matter of what renders positive results, it’s no different than selfishness. Pragmatism would argue against sheltering Jews or placing one’s family in jeopardy. Why not then just live a self-serving, selfish life without all of the hypocritical trappings of a “higher” philosophy? Interestingly, the vast majority of people who rescued Jews had a strong faith in Christ.

To return to your original assertion that we can be moral without recourse to the Supernatural -- a “natural” or pragmatic rationale for morality just doesn’t “cut it”! As human beings, we require more than just “natural” inclinations and a philosophy based upon selfishness. We need to have the conviction that we are serving Truth and that this Truth will serve us.

No comments:

Post a Comment