How Do We Explain Morality?

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by Randy Alcorn

Many years ago I took a sequence of college philosophy classes from a likeable atheist. I found the ethics course most interesting. Every time it came to the question of why the professor believed something to be right or wrong, he could say only that it “seemed” to him to be best, it “seemed” to him to help the most people. In other words, it always boiled down to his personal preference. Thirty of us sat in that ethics class, all with our own personal preferences, many fluxing with the current of popular culture…

Choosing moral behaviors because they make you feel happy can make sense, in a Bertrand Russell/Sam Harris sort of way, but what if it makes you feel happy to torture animals or kill Jews or steal from your employer?

“You misunderstand,” someone says. “We atheists do not base our morality on personal preferences, but on the judgments of society as a whole, on what benefits the most people.” But how does this help the argument? What if in our class of thirty students, sixteen of us really wanted to kill the professor? Would that be good? Or what if the majority of an entire nation thought it best to liquidate one portion of that population—would that be good?…

Nor does it help to claim the authority of some group of “elites” who supposedly have a finer moral sense. History teaches us that elite groups tend to call good whatever it is they’re inclined to do.

If there is no God who created us for an eternal purpose, and no God who will judge us; if there is no God who has revealed his standards and no God who informs our consciences—then surely any morality we forge on our own will ultimately amount to a mirror image of our own subjective opinions that will change with the times.

To say that the Holocaust or child abuse is wrong is a moral judgment. But such a judgment has no meaning without a standard to measure it against. Why are the Holocaust and child abuse wrong? Because they involve suffering? Because other people have said they are wrong? Feeling it or saying it doesn’t make it so…

We have only one basis for good moral judgments: the existence of objective standards based on unchanging reference points outside ourselves. Personal opinion falls far short.

After all, Nazis and rapists have their opinions too.

To read the entire article go to:
https://www.epm.org/blog/2015/May/25/atheism-morality

No Higher Ideal

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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

Ethics, Moral Laws, and Harvard

Charles ColsonInvited to give a lecture at Harvard Business School, Chuck Colson was given the topic: “Why Good People Do Bad Things.” Never one to mince words, Chuck told the students that Harvard could never teach business ethics because it did not believe in absolute values. The best it could do would be to teach pragmatic business judgments.

“You can’t teach ethics here because you don’t believe there are moral laws,” he said. “But there are moral laws just as certain as there are physical laws. We are simply unwilling to admit it because it interferes with our desire to do whatever we please, and doing what we please has become the supreme virtue of our society. Places like Harvard, indeed Harvard of all institutions, propagate these kinds of values.”

Colson’s speech was met by passive silence, then polite applause. Anticipating a more hostile reaction, he later queried organizers of the event: “Why such a docile response?”

“The material you presented was totally new to them,” said one young man. “They didn’t have the tools to debate it.”

–Jack Eckerd and Charles Colson,
Why America Doesn’t Work

Science cannot define morality

Justice_symbolOn atheism, there is no objective standard of good or evil, because atheism declares that the natural world is all that exists, and the natural world is valueless: There is no such thing as a good or bad bird, or a good or bad tree, etc. Therefore, one cannot use the study of the natural world (science) to determine right and wrong. As Albert Einstein put it:

“You are right in speaking of the moral foundations of science, but you cannot turn around and speak of the scientific foundations of morality.”

–Scott Youngren

The ethical bankruptcy of humanism

Clark pinnock copyAlthough the world cries out for justice, the basis for it has been disintegrating now that the vagaries of human will have come to replace faith in divine justice and eternal law. Although there is still a broad cultural consensus that it is right to be committed to the well-being of others, the rise of secular humanism makes it more and more difficult to support and explain any such obligation . . . All that the secular humanist has is his own present existence. Nothing has a rational claim to be of greater value for him. Therefore, no ethical claim which involves self-sacrifice, unless it promises due recompense, can win his assent.

The secular humanist who performs an act genuinely altruistic and self-sacrificing is presupposing the falsity of his humanistic beliefs. Loving our neighbour is not a rationally defensible ethic within the humanistic system. It is an ethic theologically grounded in the gospel and respected long after the erosion of faith because of its recognized rightness. It does not and did not grow out of humanistic soil. Logically speaking secular humanism is ethically bankrupt and its assumptions about reality when taken to their logical conclusions turn out to be inhuman and anti-human. The world’s deepest problems are moral and spiritual, not economic and technological.

–Clark Pinnock