Morality: Doing the “Right” Thing

Posted: November 11, 2014 in Blog Post

We now come to the third piece in the puzzle of reality – Morality. Morality is a strange subject in many ways. Our culture seems very entrenched in a “supposedly” relativistic view of morality these days. By relativistic, I mean that people tend to think that they should be able to determine right and wrong for themselves. By “supposedly”, I mean that I don’t think that anyone actually would want to live in a world like that, and that’s why no one actually believes they can decide right and wrong for themselves. Some people may talk like they believe it, but if we observe them long enough we catch them talking like there is a real right and wrong that everyone should follow.

How many times have we heard the phrase: “Do the right thing!” Or how about the opposite? “What that person did was just wrong!” We hear these kind of sentiments all the time – on the news, on the radio, and on social media – EVERYWHERE! No matter what, humans cannot stop themselves from speaking in moral terms. There is a real right and a real wrong, and we all know it. But which worldview best explains this concept?

As before, I will begin by trying to fit this piece into the worldview of atheism. Once again, we must be reminded that an accurate worldview is not going to have contradictions between the main pieces: origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. So where does that leave the atheistic/naturalistic worldview? Well to put it bluntly, an atheist cannot make any sense of morality with their worldview. In this view everything we are, everything we think, and everything we feel is all the product of chemical reactions and evolution. There really can’t be things like good and evil or right and wrong in a world like this. All we are is our DNA. All our beliefs about right and wrong are simply the result of a long line of bio-chemical dominoes falling. In other words, in a world such as this, when someone says rape is wrong, their feeling of the wrongness of rape is supposedly just a trick that their evolution is playing on them to make them dislike rape. However, in this worldview it is not the act of rape itself that is wrong. Another person could have evolved to believe the exact opposite, and we would supposedly be wrong to criticize such a person for having DNA we don’t agree with.

I am sure to any casual observer, rape is the kind of thing that is wrong regardless of what anyone thinks about it. We would never tell a woman who was raped that what happened was not really wrong, but that the rapist just evolved differently than her and that’s why she thinks it was a horrible crime and he thinks it was perfectly fine.

We all know that things like murder, rape, theft, lying, betrayal, adultery, and other related crimes are immoral acts. Whatever worldview we embrace should have a way of accounting for the reality of objective moral values like these, and atheism doesn’t even have a way to ground them (For more on this see my article: The Problem of Evil for Atheists under Topics).

For pantheistic worldviews, like Hinduism, that depend on systems like reincarnation, evil is often described as an illusion. Remember that in this worldview, God is the universe. God is everything. You are God. I am God. Your uncle Frank is God. Even my cat is God (I think my cat actually believes this)! It would therefore seem that in this view, there is no reference point for defining right and wrong either, as everything is actually the same thing, and whenever we think there is a distinction between good and evil, it is just an illusion.

Strangely enough though, reincarnation teaches that we pay for our “bad” deeds in the following life, and we will continue being reincarnated until we are able to pay off the debt we accumulated in all our previous lives! If that seems like a huge contradiction……it’s because it is. However, despite this, there are millions of people who adhere to this worldview and the consequences are staggering. Countries like India are filled with millions of homeless people who have no one to help them. They are told their suffering is the result of a previous life they are now paying off, and if another person were to help them it might interfere with the process! This is why an accurate worldview is so important – because ideas have consequences. I personally do not find a worldview that labels the suffering of a starving homeless child – as a punishment for bad Karma – to be a very compelling explanation of reality.

How about Christian theism? What does the Christian worldview have to offer in terms of the question of morality? In one word – coherence. If the universe was really created by God – a claim that we saw in the post on Origins, which is fairly well evidenced – then it is an easy step to say that our moral reference point is the very character of the God who created everything. The reason we know rape and murder and theft and lying are wrong is because these things are a direct violation of the moral compass that God has given us. I am not in any way saying that a person needs to believe in God to know the difference between right and wrong. People can certainly understand that without any belief in God at all. I am saying that our undeniable moral values, (our unconscious moral reference point), are the imprint of the image of God in which all humans possess.

There is no contradiction here – the puzzle of reality fits quite nicely together. Unlike atheistic or pantheistic worldviews, the Christian worldview actually matches what we can observe to be true about the world, especially when it comes to morality. There is a real right and a real wrong. A real good and a real evil. There are such categories as moral and immoral, and they are not opinions derived from evolution nor an illusion. Only a worldview with God as the creator can explain them for what they really are.

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Comments
  1. Tyler says:

    Hey Nick, thought I’d pop in with my two cents. When you speak of evolution from an atheists standpoint, you say that there’s just as good of a chance that we could’ve evolved to accept rape as to dislike it. Like flipping a coin? That’s simply not the case. The idea behind natural selection in this case is throughout time we would’ve discouraged those who do harm to others because we know we wouldn’t want harm done to ourselves or our loved ones. Back when we were just tribes wandering the land, it gradually became accepted that if you harm members of the tribe you’d be weeded out and forced to leave. It’s the same logic behind the domestication of dogs. The humans would only keep around and feed the wolves that would help them hunt, protect the tribe and not bite the humans. If a wolf bite a human, that wolf would be put down. Now every other household has a dog! Look how far we’ve come! I must point out that this type of thinking developed long before any thought of worshiping a Christian God, Muslim God, Zeus or which ever God mankind has come up with over time.

    They’ve performed studies in which they noticed behavior patterns in chimps that are very much the same as a childs. In one example they gave one chimp a cucumber, not the tastiest treat but it’s food. Then gave the chimp in the next cage grapes. Immediately the chimp with the cucumber started spazzing out, making a fuss and threw the cucumber out of the cage. He was obviously jealous that his buddy recieved the more delicious treat. Later they gave both chimps cucumber, and sure enough both chimps just ate it with no problem. In another experiment they gave one chimp a bunch of grapes and the other nothing. The one with nothing had his little spaz and then eventually just became sad. The biologists then noticed the chimp with all the grapes noticed the other had nothing. So he broke off a stem of grapes and handed it to the other. My point is that not only is this a clear indication that we are very much evolved monkeys, but emotions such as empathy, jealousy, sympathy and the need for equality are indeed attributes we’ve obtained through evolution. If the Christian belief is the only one that makes sense and that we can credit our moral values to, then were we just anarchaic, evil savages leading up to discovery of christianity? Of course not we’ve had striving civilizations when we used to worship the gods of lighting, the sun, the moon and so fourth. It didn’t matter who we credited as our creator.

    Atheists do not believe our DNA determines whether or not we are good or bad people. “Good” and “Evil” are actions or thought processes we and only we choose for ourselves. I can decide to rob a bank or punch an elderly woman if i choose, but i won’t because I know to me it’s wrong. If you were brought up in a horrible home were your parents were always drunk, on drugs and were never there to raise you, then it’s more likely you’ll have a troubled youth and become a criminal. Not in all cases but i’m sure the probability goes up. There will always be the strays from the “tribe” but society, the general population as a whole understands what we can or cannot do. That’s why society as implemented laws and formed police forces to enforce those laws. Again thanks to generations of trial and error, this is how far mankind has come and it will continue to change. Nothing is written in stone. Hence, Gays can now get married. What used to be viewed as wrong according to the law, has now evolved into a right. Good for them! I’m sure you’re thinking, “So society may view rape as wrong, but the individual may still think it’s ok if it’s up to evolution”. Again not the case. Just like the monkey who sees his sad friend with no grapes, we are all able to feel sympathy and love without the FEAR of upsetting a divine, all knowing, all loving creator whom will not let you enter those gates or whom may just flood the planet if you don’t do exactly as he says.

    Goodnight to all and may the star stuff that we and everything are made up of continue its incredible cycle. Peace and Love

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    • defendingyourfaith says:

      Tyler! I am so glad to see you checking out my stuff! It’s great to see someone who disagrees giving me a hearing and adding some input. So thanks for stopping by!

      You made some interesting points in this comment, and I hope I can at least shed some more light on the points I was trying to make so that we are on the same page. I am well versed in the line of argument you offered me with the chimps and the dogs and the types of behaviour they have been seen to exhibit. There is a large problem however in the conclusion you and others have drawn from such observations. When it comes to moral “oughtness,” describing what we ought to do, it is a mistake to equate that with what “is.” You cannot get an “ought” from an “is.” Let me give you an example: We might say that some behaviour “is” what a person does, but that doesn’t show it is what they “ought to do. If I bake my grandma a cake, and so does my brother, which one of us did something immoral? I suppose it would depend on the reason we did it don’t you think? If I did it because I just love my grandma, but my brother did it because he wants her to leave him money when she dies, now we can see a moral category emerge. It is much the same with the monkeys. We can spend all day long describing their behaviour or actions, but that can not tell us whether what they are doing is moral or immoral. That is a seperate issue. When a man rapes a woman, are we describing just an evolutionary behaviour (what “is”), or a genuine evil (what “ought” not happen)? That depends on your worldview I guess.

      I also noticed, as is often the case, that even though your claim was that there is no real objective morality, you were unable to restrain yourself from using terms like “good, better, evil,” etc. I want you to contemplate the fact that these terms are really meaningless in a world such as you describe. What does it even mean to be getting better when we are just evolving and changing what is supposedly good and evil. I know it is nice to think that people need to be really sweet to each other to flourish, but history shows that to be incorrect. Things like mass genocide and slavery have allowed some cultures to do quite well. They didn’t need to be nice to anyone that disagreed with them. So why is being nice a necessary thing given evolution? A human animal is much more likely to propagate his DNA, the primary function of all creatures on atheism, if he just rapes the opposite sex as opposed to the long process of being nice and dating them in hopes of one day maybe having kids. If it’s survival of the fittest, then I cannot see why it would be wrong to kill people and mate with their wives. And why we would see such a thing as “objectively” wrong. That is what it means when the fit survive. It is not survival of the nicest. Not with animals anyways, which is what we supposedly are. Just pigs with big brains, who somehow managed to evolve to the point of completely reversing all the evolutionary behaviours that got us here. How does one evolve so far to go against their evolution?

      Also, please don’t misunderstand my claim about objective morality being rooted in the character of God. I tried to make it quite clear that a person does not need to believe in God or fear Him to think in moral terms, but rather that ALL humans are created that way, and that is why we absolutely cannot help ourselves from constantly making moral assessments. We say things are good and evil all the time. We say we are better now that we got rid of slavery. And every time we do that, we are referring to what “ought” to be. People ought not be enslaved. They ought not be killed. And yet if you leave that decision between Mother Theresa and Adolf Hitler, you might get some disagreement. If we humans actually think that we can decide for ourselves what is right and wrong, then we should not even be using terms like good and evil, and yet we do all the time. This is why the number one objection brought against God is the problem of evil. But the funny thing is, without God, there is no problem of evil. Just a bunch of opinions. That kind of reasoning allows for things like the Holocaust, Soviet Russia, Communist China etc. with body counts in the hundreds of millions. But who is to say right? All these things about tribes and stuff sound nice, but they are just stories. And they completely contradict the foundations of the atheistic/naturalistic worldview.

      I am well aware that many atheists like yourself live very moral lives, probably more moral than some supposed Christians at times. That is not my point. If we are products of evolution, then even THAT statement does not make sense. How can they live more moral lives when there is no real morality? it would just be my DNA vs your DNA.How can we judge something like that. I hope you see my point.

      I also think that your argument is a bit flawed when you say the evidence is pretty strong that we are just evolved monkeys. If this statement is based on the observation that chimps act like humans sometimes, I don’t at all see why I cannot use that as evidence for a common designer. I would like for you to explain to me how it is, that even our thought processes can be trusted if they are merely a product of blind chemical and biological forces. Start all the way back from the first organism (let’s not even start to debate where that came from :)) and trace a path to where we are now. EVERYTHING you are thinking and feeling is just the end result of all the biological and chemical reactions that came before it. You did not come to your beliefs based on rational thought, but rather by event causation. It is the difference between me choosing to push something off a table, or it falling off from an earthquake. On atheism, I am sorry to say you are stuck with the second option. At least if you are consistent.

      I say all that because I am hoping you will see that all the things that have been fed to you are extremely incoherent, and I think if you assess the big picture logically you will see that.You can’t have it both ways. Either we are beings with moral compasses and free will, or we are more like a coke can fizzing. Not reasoning, just reacting. You have to decide for yourself which one explains the world better. I am so glad to see that you are doing your homework, and honored that you left your thoughts. I know email can be difficult to decipher tone of voice, but please know I enjoy our conversations and look forward to future ones, and I hope through my responses no offense is taken, because none is meant.

      Thanks so much and I will start working on your other comment!

      Nic

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  2. hazel says:

    Awesome Nick! And the truth will set anyone free.

    Like

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