In a 2007 article (now in his website archives), atheist Richard Dawkins frowned upon those valuing faithfulness. In “Banishing the Green-Eyed Monster,” he asked, “Why are we so obsessed with monogamous fidelity in the first place?” He says that we need to intellectually “rise above” the sexual jealousy that blind Darwinian evolution has produced in us and cheerfully permit our spouses to carry on any sexual recreation they choose to have outside the marriage bed. “Why should you deny your loved one the pleasure of sexual encounters with others if he or she is that way inclined?” he asks. Dawkins is being completely consistent with his worldview by denying any objective sexual morality, even where marriage is concerned, so long as no one is harmed. (It remains unclear, however, why harming anyone or anything is objectively wrong in his view, where morality is nothing but an evolutionary social construct.)
My sense is that most self-described atheists, particularly those who are in happy marriages, have a deep-seated conviction that something is truly wrong with marital infidelity. As God’s image-bearers, the Truth of Things resonates strongly within their soul, and they know that spouses should be faithful. Just like they know, intuitively, that it is wrong to stab puppies with scissors for fun. The Apostle Paul talked about how even those who do not profess to follow God often still follow His law, for it is written on their hearts—“their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them” (Romans 2:15).
Even those who have renounced Christianity and attack it, in their inmost being still follow the Christian ideal, for hitherto neither their subtlety nor the ardor of their hearts has been able to create a higher ideal of man and of virtue than the ideal given by Christ.
–Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky
Science has been the iron wedge by which the secular has penetrated the realm of the sacred. Science has been the sharp scalpel with which our most cherished ideas about humanity have been subjected to dissection and doubt. Those who suggest that religion is the primary source of human conflict and bloodshed are not looking closely enough. If we examine the history of violence in modern times we will often find rationales rooted in science.
The idea that all human lives are sacred and of equal value is not a product of science. The sanctity of human life cannot be proven in a laboratory. When it comes to this most profound and foundational moral insight, we in the West have only one source: the Judeo-Christian tradition. This idea was first expressed in the Bible and it has survived throughout the centuries because of the ongoing authority of the Jewish and Christian faiths. If some of the Enlightenment thinkers later embraced and reiterated the concept, they cannot be credited with an immaculate intellectual conception. It was right there in the Bible most of them read.
The Judeo-Christian tradition has built a wall between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom. It has placed man on a pedestal and put a crown on his head. Modern science, on the other hand, has consistently sought to tear down this wall and treat man as just another species of animal. Science has sought to take that crown off our heads—and measure the size of our skulls.
We are frequently warned these days about the great danger of religion expanding into fields where it does not belong. This concern is not without justification. There are areas of expertise, especially in the realm of science, where religion can contribute little. Religion cannot help us split the atom or map out our DNA. The Bible provides no clues that can help us cure cancer…
But we must also recognize that there exists an equal and possibly greater threat of science exceeding its proper boundaries. Especially when it comes to morality, science can confuse, but it rarely enlightens. Science can enable us to split the atom, but it cannot help us decide whether we are justified in using an atom bomb. Science can help us map out our DNA, but it cannot help us determine whether it is moral to clone humans. Science can help us cure cancer, but it cannot help us cope with cancer.
When science ventures beyond its core areas of competence into the area of morality, it often leaves corpses in its wake… With an air of authority to which they have no claim, scientists have called into question the key principles which protect humanity—especially the weakest among us—from annihilation. Before even grasping the danger, they could bring our whole ethical edifice crashing down. If religion does not belong in the science classroom, then it is equally true that science has no place in the ethics classroom. We need a wall of separation between science and morality every bit as much as we need on between church and state.
In Defense of Faith
An ancient Hebrew songwriter coined a phrase: “Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.”
I think he was on to something.
We need something higher. A vantage point. Something above. Something that transcends us.
In a world where equality reigns, where everyone is in the same boat, on the same level, in the same mess, we are left without a clear reference point. We have no guiding star to show the way. We are without a North Pole to make our moral compass work. No clear guidelines. Just sameness.
We need a Rock that is higher.
If we develop and choose our own values, then what we put in with one hand, we are taking out with the other. We end up building on something no better, no higher than ourselves. Not a promising foundation.
Equality informs us that no one has the right to judge. We are all in the same soup. No one is qualified to say something is wrong or evil, or to suggest their opinion is the best. All ideas are equal—except, of course, the idea that one might be better than another.
If that’s the case, Mother Teresa and Hitler end up on the same level. Heaven and hell would no longer exist. If no one has the right to “judge,” then the Holocaust and hospitals are both equally valid. We have no solid basis to discriminate between killers and caregivers. We are left only with different options, opinions, and personal preferences. We have leveled the playing field, and now it’s all up for grabs.
We have become confused about gender. We don’t know how to differentiate between men and women, or how many variations there are in between. Everyone is free to make their choice from the gender smorgasbord. We don’t know which bathroom to use, or if we should say Mr, Mrs, Ms, or something else. We are at sea without a rudder.
How did we get into this mess?
We need something rocklike—something solid that doesn’t shift or quake with each passing fad. A strong foundation that is resilient and resistant to the changing winds that blow. Something fixed and unmovable.
We need something higher.
Maybe . . . it’s Someone higher that we need.
Someone to define which direction is up and which is down, how things are to work, how life is to be lived. That would sure help.
Maybe there is Someone.
Perhaps we lost our way because we lost sight of Him.
Maybe we need to join the Hebrew poet and said: “Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.”
—J. O. Schulz