Sunday, May 9, 2010


Mental health professionals recognize that living in accordance with our moral convictions is an important factor for mental health. Accordingly, Karen Wright wrote,

"Eudaimonia refers to a state of well-being and full functioning that derives from a sense of living in accordance with one’s deeply held values."

This is so obvious. Even atheists perceive this and are intent upon living moral lives. However, they ascribe their moral programming to evolution. For example, Richard Dawkins writes:

"Natural selection, in ancestral times when we lived in small stable bands like baboons, programmed into our brains altruistic urges, alongside sexual urges, hunger urges, xenophobic urges and so on."

Consequently, altruism has nothing to do with truth or a right and wrong, but chance processes. Why then follow these altruistic urges? Appealing to our genetic programming isn’t adequate. Should we be “xenophobic” (fearful of strangers) merely because we had been “programmed” with this reaction? Of course not! Why then be altruistic? For the atheist, the only possible answer is pragmatic. Altruistic behavior works; it benefits the doer with good feelings. It’s solely a matter of cost/benefit analysis.

Atheist, humanist, and author of the Humanist Manifesto II, Paul Kurtz affirms that pragmatism is the “only” possible justification for morality:

"How are these principles [of equality, freedom, etc.] to be justified? They are not derived from a divine or natural law nor do they have a special metaphysical [beyond the material world] status. They are rules offered to govern how we shall behave. They can be justified only by reference to their results."

However, pragmatism isn’t adequate. Sometimes it isn’t pragmatic to be moral. Hiding Jews from the Nazis wouldn’t pass the cost/benefit analysis. The price of a bullet in the head of the entire family is just too high! Therefore, non-theists can not live in harmony with both their rationale and the law of God written upon their conscience (Rom. 2:14-15). Either they hide Jews and violate their pragmatic rationale or they don’t hide Jews and violate their conscience. Heart and mind (pragmatism) are divided and in conflict. In either case, their mental well-being will suffer, because they are unable to live “in accordance with one’s deeply held values.”

More fundamentally, the one who denies God and therefore denies the moral absolutes of the conscience will fail to derive the benefits of eudaimonia. There is little satisfaction in living in accordance with the dictates of the conscience if we understand it to be no more than a tyrannical electro-chemical reaction that demands us to make sacrifices that go against our desires and then punishes us with guilt feelings. In other words, just take a conscience-numbing drug!

In contrast, for the Christian, the conscience and the Word (heart and mind) represent the will of God, the source of all truth, joy, peace and love. We have every reason to regard it as a tremendous privilege to follow Him. Understandably, living according to His truth is a delight (Psalm 1:1-3; John 4:34).

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