Sunday, January 6, 2008

Atheism and Morality

OK, this blog will be a bit shorter and more casual than the others. I have been really busy with school lately, but I want to keep writing, and this is the first opportunity I have had for quite some time. So sorry if it isn't really developed.

That being said, I am learning that every blog probably needs to begin with a disclaimer. So here it is. **DISCLAIMER**: First, please read what I am writing and please do not put words in my mouth. I am not claiming that atheists are bad people. I am not claiming that they cannot be generally moral. In fact, I am not even claiming that they cannot be at least as moral, or even more moral, than most Christians. Secondly, I am not here to defend the actions of the Crusaders nor am I here to assert that Hitler, Stalin, and Mao were the epitome of atheism. No, this blog is about the foundations of morality. I am confident that someone will bring these issues, or others like them, up anyway. If they do, I will not answer them.

OK, now that I have explained what this blog is not, I guess its time to make my claim. My point here will be to attempt to show that atheism is insufficient when it comes to explaining morality. I will try my best to support my argument with neutral language and appeal to intuition.

Can an act be right or wrong? Based on my experience, I would have to say that there seems to be at least some things that appear to be wrong. For instance, torturing babies would seem to be a terrible act for anyone to commit, something worthy of some form of punishment (or removal from society). On the contrary, it seems that there are other actions that seem to be worthy of praise, such as rescuing an elderly widow from a burning building. Now, what is it that makes actions such as these right or wrong? It seems like a simple question, but is really much more profound than it at first appears. Most people would simply say that the torture of the baby is wrong because it hurts a human and the rescue is right because it helps a human. But have you ever wondered why this is so. Why is it that I can dismember a live tree without (justified) feelings of guilt or a fear of punishment but cannot do the same with an infant? Why am I a hero if I save the old woman but a fool if I go in only for my chia pet? What is it about a human life that makes it worthy of such respect? As a Christian (and an Aristotelian), I would answer that humans are higher order beings than vegetation and worthy of such honor. Now, I think most people, including atheists, would agree to this point.

The question I would like to ask is "what justifies such a belief?" Why should humans be considered greater than vegetation? Obviously, I would answer that it has something to do with being created in the image of God. But how would the atheist justify such a position? I don't think that they can do so objectively. You see, atheism works from a materialistic view of the universe. There are no such immaterial entities as souls (or forms or what have you) available to differentiate one thing from another thing. All is simply matter. But if all is matter, what makes one chunk of matter any more valuable than another chunk? Is there even a difference between the chunks, other than location and possibly chemical makeup? Is a difference by location actually even a difference? What about an objects chemical makeup could make it worthy and deserving of respect? I am interested to see how the atheist would handle these questions. I don't think that they could give any justification for morality because of their materialistic limitations.

Again, sorry if this is not as well put together as previous posts. However, I am kind of expecting the conversations that follow from it to be much more interesting this time.

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