Objective Morals Without God?
Let us start this jolly good time with a most interesting thought from Stephen Hawkings (who holds the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, Isaac Newton’s chair) at a lecture given to a university crowd in England entitled “Determinism – Is Man a Slave or the Master of His Fate.” He discussed whether we are the random products of chance, and hence, not free, or whether God had designed these laws within which we are free. In other words, do we have the ability to make choices, or do we simply follow a chemical reaction induced by millions of mutational collisions of free atoms?
Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s maxim rings just as true today as it did in his day, “If there is no God, all things are permissible.” Without an absolute ethical norm, morality is reduced to mere preference and the world is a jungle where might makes right. This same strain of thought caused Mussolini to comment, “Everything I have said and done in these last years is relativism by intuition…. If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories and men who claim to be bearers of an objective, immortal truth… then there is nothing more relativistic than fascistic attitudes and activity…. From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable.”
Notice that Mussolini agrees that might makes right. There was another bad boy on the block in those days, his name was Hitler, who agreed when he said, “I freed
But what is this “absolute” that Mussolini referred to as “the immortal truth?” What is the “stupid and degrading fallacies of conscience and morality” that Hitler removed in order to created a nation of hate mongers? Heidegger, In Being and Time, discussed the problems facing men living in a post-Enlightenment secular society – a world without God in other words. Heidegger called this situation “the dark night of the world,” a world which the light of God had been eclipsed and in which men were left to grope around as best they could, searching in the darkness for any scraps of meaning that might be found. This man of course, Heidegger, backed the National Socialists (Nazis) for most of the 1930’s.
The third article in the Humanist Manifesto begins:
“We affirm that moral values derive their source from human experience. Ethics is autonomous and situational, needing no theological or ideological sanction. Ethics stems from human need and interest.”
For the secular person, man himself is the only standard by which his own behavior is to be assessed, “man is the measure of all things.” Man is to be the sole arbiter in all matters of justice and law, right and wrong. In the words of the Encyclopedia Americana, “Since there is no God, man is the creator of his own values.” The British author John Hick bluntly asserts, “There is no God; therefore no absolute values and no absolute laws.” Joseph Lewis in, The Bible Unmasked, say, “There is in reality no absolute standard by which we can judge… In the final analysis our guide in moral affairs should be what gives to the individual the greatest possible happiness.”
Anthony Freeman comes to the same conclusion: “Not only the absolute existing-out-there God has gone. So have the absolute existing-out-there values such as peace, joy, goodness, beauty, love, etc….” Friedrich Nietzsche agreed: “…the advantage of our times, nothing is true, everything is permitted.” The American scholar David Wells says of our nation, “This is the first time that civilization has existed that, to a significant extent, does not believe in objective right and wrong. We are traveling blind, stripped of our own moral compass.” Paul Kurtz believes that, “The moral principles that govern our behavior are rooted in habit and custom, feeling and fashion,” how can anything be commended as being right, or condemned as being wrong?
Bertrand Russell vehemently opposed war, yet denounced restrictions on sexual freedom. In a letter to the Observer in 1957, Bertrand admitted that he could not live as though ethical values were a matter of personal taste, that he therefore found his own views “incredible” (because he espoused moral relativism) and that “I do not know the solution.” C. S. Lewis talked about this “privatized morality” and showed some of its weaknesses, two of which he identified with his usual clarity:
In the first place, how do ethical standards come into being? In Lewis’s words, “The human mind has no more power of inventing a new value than of planting a new sun in the sky or a new color in the spectrum.”
Secondly, in the absence of absolutes, how can we talk of moral progress? As Lewis puts it, “if things can improve, this means that there must be some absolute standard of good above and outside the cosmic process towards which that process can approximate. There is no sense in talking of ‘becoming better’ if better means simply ‘what we are becoming’ – it is like congratulating yourself on reaching your destination and defining destination as ‘ the place you have reached.’”
Allan Bloom, in his book, The Closing of the American Mind, said that, “There is one thing a professor can be certain of. Almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative.” How did the college student get this way? Let us allow the Father of modern educational philosophy answer that, John Dewey: “There is no God and no soul. Hence, there are no needs for props of traditional religion. With dogma and creed excluded, then immutable [i.e. unchangeable] truth is also dead and buried. There is no room for fixed, natural law or permanent moral absolutes.”
In light of all this, I find it funny when an atheist says that he is so because there is evil in this world (innocent children die, and the such). Again, C. S. Lewis makes my point for me when he was an atheist:
“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it?… Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist – in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense. Consequently, atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning.”
Lewis hit the nail on the head. In the absence of transcendent values, we are left floundering about as best we can… or, as Heidegger put it, “searching in the darkness for any scraps of meaning that might be found.” Ravi Zacharius rightly concludes, if atheism is true, “Thinking atoms discussing morality is absurd.” All this leads to what Jean-Paul Sartre called a “baseless base of values.” In other words, the person who takes this route finds himself in a world with particulars but no universals, relatives but no absolutes, valuations but no values.
So from Cristina Odone (Melrose Place) saying in the June 97’ Daily Telegraph that, “What’s right is what you feel,” to Ernest Hemingway’s creed: “What is moral is what you feel good after, and what is immoral is what you feel bad after,” all this does as a philosophy of evolutionary naturalism is create people who will try to enforce their “will and way” above others.
This is why the “Hitlers” and “Stalins” will always exist! When the moral imperatives of God are thrown to the wayside, it creates a power vacuum. This is why the atheist has no real way to say what is good or bad for any individual besides himself – objectively. This, I believe, drove Bertrand Russell to a solemn grave, and Nietzsche insane. In fact, it was Nietzsche who said that the consequences of the death of God would penetrate every avenue of life, and that this, in-and-of-itself, would be unbearable. Nietzsche went on to say, because God had died in the nineteenth century, there would be two direct results in the twentieth century. First, he prognosticated that the twentieth century would become the bloodiest century in history; and second, that a universal madness would break out.
He has been right on both counts. More people have been killed because of ideological differences, and destroyed on the battlefields of geo-political maneuvering in the name of naturalism and might in this century than the previous nineteen centuries before it. Did you catch that; non-God movements have killed more people in one century than religion did in the first nineteen. Unfortunately we see this madness seeping into other areas of our society as well:
Newspapers in 1996-1997 reported two particularly shocking cases of infanticide. In one, a pair of eighteen-year-old college sweethearts delivered their baby in a hotel room, killed him, and left the body in a dumpster. In the other, an eighteen-year-old briefly left her high school prom to deliver her baby in a bathroom stall, left the infant dead in a garbage can and returned to the dance floor. Both events led to convictions for homicide.
Although these crimes were attributed to either a moral failure (personal or social) or to some form of mental pathology, Steven Pinker had a different explanation. Steven Pinker, professor of psychology at the Massachusetts Institute of Psychology and a leading popularizer of evolutionary psychology, says it is a genetic imperative. Writing in the New York Times, Pinker argued that what he termed neonaticide is not attributable to mental illness because “it has been practiced and acceptable in most cultures throughout history.” Rather, he went on to say, a capacity for neonaticide is hard-wired into the maternal genes by our evolutionary history.
AHHhh! Naturalistic morals (relativism) have struck again! And the only individual to strike at the core of these horrors that materialists have inflicted on the twentieth century is the theist (the Jew and Christian). This is why the non-theist will always have the “Hitlers,” “Stalins,” and “Maos” in their worldview as acceptable to their moral theorizing. They cannot assert objectively – beyond themselves – that those persons are wrong, it would only be their personal preference speaking. Sorta’ like chocolate or vanilla ice cream, or, brownies with or without nuts, Hitler… or Mother Teresa. They (the relativist) are neutered in the political and moral spectrum, or, if they do choose to take a value-laden stance, they are doing so in direct violation of their own doctrines and dogmas, thus, self-refuting their own claims.
Response by John to my paper, “Objective Morals Without God?”
- “Laws are not about absolution, they’re about maintaining the line between Anarchy and Oppression of Society... And Societies change constantly, thus laws and values change constantly. Change is also a fundamental structure of the Universe... It can not be avoided, Everything changes.”
(I respond) You refuted yourself with this one comment John, let me explain with a quote from philosopher Roger Scruton:
- “A writer [or individual] who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ‘merely negative,’ is asking you not to believe him. So don’t”
Also keep this quote by John Benton in mind, “If morality is just a matter of personal opinion, then we have no basis for a legal system. You can’t send people to prison over differences in personal opinion.” [Or a hard-wired pre-disposition in our chemical makeup caused by evolution!]
“Also, the human genetic code has given us certain, predispositions to certain things... like say, pack behavior, sexual drive, you know, certain reactions to certain stimulus... and we also the ability to be fucked up in the head. We are not perfect, but we also have developed (most of us) the mental ability to avoid these situations... (Note: Evolution did it, pure and simple)”
(I respond) You backed my thesis up John. This very same thing caused Malcolm Muggeridge to say,
“If God is ‘dead,’ somebody is going to have to take his place. It will be megalomania or erotomania, the drive for power or the drive for pleasure, the clenched fist or the phallus, Hitler or Hugh Heffner.”
Likewise, Shakespeare said this:
- “ …right and wrong
(Between whose endless jar justice resides)
Should lose their names, and so should justice too.
Then everything includes itself in power,
And appetite, and universal wolf,
So doubly seconded with will and power,
Must make perforce an universal prey,
And last eat up himself.”
So keep it coming John… I love it!
PS, before you comment on the book burning in Germany that came up in the earlier conversation John, first know which books were being burned! The well-known “book” burning that was shown (via newsreel) here in the
“Why was it then, since we were completely non-party, that our purely scientific Institute was the first victim which fell to the new regime? The answer to this is simple…. We knew too much. It would be against medical principles to provide a list of the Nazi leaders and their perversions [but]…not ten percent of the men who, in 1933, took the fate of
To wit, The Times carried the obituary of a man who had worked in turn as secretary to
 The Bible does not teach the horrible practices that some have committed in its name. It is true that it's possible that religion can produce evil, and generally when we look closer at the details it produces evil because the individual people [“Christians”] are actually living in rejection of the tenets of Christianity and a rejection of the God that they are supposed to be following. So it [religion] can produce evil, but the historical fact is that outright rejection of God and institutionalizing of atheism (non-religious practices) actually does produce evil on incredible levels. We're talking about tens of millions of people as a result of the rejection of God. For example: the Inquisitions, Crusades, Salem Witch Trials killed about 40,000 persons combined (World Book Encyclopedia and Encyclopedia Americana). A blight on Christianity? Certainty. Something wrong? Dismally wrong. A tragedy? Of course. Millions and millions of people killed? No. The numbers are tragic, but pale in comparison to the statistics of what non-religious criminals have committed); the Chinese regime of Mao Tse Tung, 60 million [+] dead (1945-1965), Stalin and Khrushchev, 66 million dead (USSR 1917-1959), Khmer Rouge (Cambodia 1975-1979) and Pol Pot, one-third of the populations dead, etc, etc. The difference here is that these non-God movements are merely living out their worldview, the struggle for power, survival of the fittest and all that, no natural law is being violated in other words (as atheists reduce everything to natural law – materialism). However, when people have misused the Christian religion for personal gain, they are in direct violation to what Christ taught, as well as Natural Law.