Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Problems with a Pragmatic, Non-Theistic Morality

Life and society are unthinkable without morals and laws. Therefore, those who don’t believe in a Divine, authoritative, objective and unchanging source, have to simply create morals and laws. But how can they justify them? They have to justify their laws and morals based upon a pragmatic rationale of what benefits humanity. Most will propose equality as a necessary condition for a pragmatic, workable society, like this Facebooker:

  • I understood equality to mean that the substance of all human life is basically equally worthy of respect. In other words, all are equal in terms of rights and liberties.

However, without the biblical revelation that we are all created in the image of God as a basis of our equality, this humanistic assumption is entirely baseless. Here’s why:

  1. If one doesn’t believe in this Divine revelation, there is no reason to regard humans as equal. Instead, we are unequal in every material way – intelligence, size, education, behavior, sex, and worldview. Some add to the welfare of society; others constitute a great cost. What then can be the basis for equal respect? There is none! Why then treat people as if they all share in the same dignity!
  1. Pragmatism – what serves the interests of individuals and society as a whole – will not work. Pragmatism is ultimately about benefit, and the rationale of benefit can be used to justify horrible things. Actually, pragmatism is the reason for immorality. It also benefits us to do evil.
  1. Why should we even establish laws that benefit humanity? Why not instead benefit frogs or mice? Without God, we can only justify our human chauvinism from selfish man-centered reasons.

Some humanists suggest human intelligence as the basis for a man-centered morality, but this suggestion is equally baseless. Why intelligence rather than creativity or emotionality or just brute strength? Perhaps even more problematic – if intelligence is offered as the basis of human equality, then humans clearly are not equal, since some are more intelligent than others. Should the more intelligent ones then have more rights?

This humanistic system lacks a rational foundation and will ultimately breed cynicism. However, my humanistic Facebook acquaintance claims that the Christian has the same problem:

  • Why must God's commands be heeded as moral principles? Because God is "just and all wise", as you've said? Alright, but why do you value justice and wisdom? You can't answer that using a moral framework as this question precedes such a notion. The same is true for any moral philosophy. We must assume some basic human elements to be valuable, and through those basic values spring forth a moral system. They could be said to be nothing more than mere preference.

I don’t think we need to make any such assumptions. If God is the source of the universe – love, moral law, beauty, redemption, forgiveness, and everlasting life (and I am convinced of this) – then thankfully adopting His moral laws comes very naturally. Besides, most Christians are convinced that they know Jesus personally. Therefore, there is no inconsistency here.

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