Someone once told me I was too smart to be a Christian. I was both flattered and pretty sure they were insulting me. And I know what they meant. It’s true, there are a ton of people out there who grew up in the faith but have never really thought it through, or seem to just blindly believe, and say things that don’t make sense and such. And most people I know who don’t believe in God have either experienced a high volume of life pain and just given up on the idea, or are pretty smart and have thought about it a lot.
I’ll save the “how I met Jesus” story for another day. But I wanted to share some thoughts I had to this article: http://www.salon.com/2014/03/18/the_destructive_myth_about_religion_that_americans_disproportionately_believe_partner/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=socialflow
A friend shared it on Facebook, and it got me thinking. To summarize, in case you’re too lazy to read it, the guy is saying that in most developed nations, people believe that you can be a moral person without believing in God. But not America. We, the majority, anyway, apparently believe that you can’t be a good person unless you believe in God. He is saying how crazy that is – that we should be more like the evolved Europeans, and less like the dummies in Africa and South America. Basically, he’s saying we’re rich enough to know better.
Aside from being patently offensive to our friends in less developed nations, there is a problem with this argument from a logical perspective.
Moral, according to WHO? Feel free to quit now. I’m about to get all Philosophy 101 up in here.
What is the basis for morality if not (a) God? If there is no god, no higher power, then there is no basis for morality except whatever the individual believes is right/wrong.
When an atheist uses a term like morality, logically, what they mean is a standard that meets their own. Like this: I think killing puppies is wrong because, well, because I think so. So my standard is “no puppy killing.” You don’t kill puppies, therefore I deem you to be “moral.”
How can any of us believe we are sound enough to set the standard? Seriously! I mean, I once believed that the Care Bears could rescue me if I wished hard enough. Clearly I cannot be trusted with inventing a sound version of morality.
How can we view another person or group or culture and deem them moral or amoral unless we have a standard that originates in a higher being of some kind? I know I’m not “good” enough to set the standards. There is no way I could judge another person’s choices against simply my own current ideas.
I’m not saying you’re stupid if you don’t believe in God. Hey, this world is ROUGH sometimes and having faith has major challenges. But being an atheist and thinking you can judge who is moral and who isn’t is bananas.
I know I’m not good enough – I would make up an easy system that I could probably adhere to: no murdering, no punching anyone in the face, no stealing anything of significant value (I accidentally steal pens a lot) and call it a day. Beyond that…who is to say? It’s all relative. Yes. It IS all relative. UNLESS there is a “higher power.”
See, I have to turn to something that I believe is far more infallible than I am – for me, it’s the Bible. No judgment here toward any atheists for the choice to not believe. That’s between you and God (haha, see what I did there?). But I do, logically, question the place of the idea of morality in the belief system of someone who believes in nothing greater than humans. Our own senses of morality vary so much from person to person, and greatly just within ourselves, throughout our own singular life. Maybe you used to believe divorce was wrong, but now you don’t. Maybe you believed stealing was wrong but you can see some situations where stealing is, maybe ok. Gay marriage seemed bonkers 20 years ago. Now you have married gay friends. You used to think pornography was fine, until you saw someone’s life ruined by it. You used to think drugs were bad, but now pot is legal…hmm. How can we trust ourselves to set any standards?
I have no idea what I’m doing and neither do you. I have to go to a being higher than myself. I have to look to God. As for morality…I just try to read a bunch of books written by really smart people who do their best to interpret The Bible, read it myself clumsily, mostly fail at doing what it says, but knowing for sure a couple of simple, plain truths of Scripture: God loves me, I screw up a lot (fail at being moral) but that’s why Jesus died, all things work together for my good, heaven is going to be really great and while many things suck, everything is going to be ok.
So if we don’t all want to follow Jesus, that’s cool. But you really can’t make up your own buffet-style moral code and possibly think you’re the one who got it right. In order for direction to even exist, let alone find it, we must have a compass.
You can’t be the compass – you’re broken. Me, too.
Maybe there is no God…sure, that’s possible. But it’s just crazy to not believe in God but think that morality is real or somehow matters. No God = no morality. No compass = no direction. So, if that’s where you land, fine. Just do whatever and don’t worry about the direction.
My last point: that need for direction, that urge for justice, that sense of right and wrong…that’s God…the whispers of Him in and around you. You can reject it because of how deeply you hold onto whatever sent you down the path away from belief in the first place. Or you can turn around and come back this way a little. You’re always welcome.