A Nonsense Option

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The nonexistence of God is nothing more than a nonsense option. The categories of good and evil themselves require some sort of transcendent standard. What makes things good? What makes things evil? Atheists have, by and large, given up on the idea of an absolute standard of morality. After all, spiritual emptiness and the nonexistence of anything outside of the simple material universe is no way to come up with an ethical system. Morality is cultural preference (which cannot be said to be right or wrong) and fundamentally relative. It takes on (to be generous) the same authority as Wisconsin speed limits on a Nevada highway at night.

People are raped in this world, and rape is evil. Because evil exists, there must be no God. Because there is no God—no authoritative standard over creation—the badness of rape downgrades to a mere matter of societal taste. Ethnic cuisine, ethnic ethics. In God’s absence rape is no longer fundamentally evil. In our country, you’ll get confined to a cell (if caught and convicted), but that just means we enforce our taste, not that our taste has any real authority over anyone else. In other societies, girls have been passed around and traded like baseball cards. Is that right? Is that wrong? You like exploitation; I like apple pie. The two discussions exist on the same plane. There’s no such thing as moral and immoral. In this country, we eat gyros. In this one, we eat pizza. And we’ll give you a ticket for jaywalking. . . .

I’ve watched the Discovery Channel. I’ve enjoyed the Discovery Channel. But in that world, if I want to reproduce with you (or tear you limb from limb) I just need to be bigger and stronger than you are. You look pretty small and a little sickly. Shall I feed you to my young? Why not? Cannibalism might not be condoned in your culture, but it has a long and storied tradition in mine. Are you saying that your culture is superior, that it is somehow right while mine is wrong? You’re being a racist, but likely you’re still small, and even racists taste good in casserole. . . .

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True atheism is nonsense. If there is such a thing as beautiful, such a thing as good, or even such a thing as bad, then there is a transcendent standard that determines which is which. An atheist can say that society prefers mothers to murderers, but he cannot say that this is as it should be. Tell us what is, by all means. But without God, you cannot tell us what ought to be.

An atheist can tell us that he is a good person. I believe he has never stolen a lawn mover or murdered his wife. I believe him. What he cannot tell me is what is fundamentally wrong about lawn mover theft and wife killing. He will try, but he can’t change the fact that in his world there is no such thing as fundamental wrongness.

Let the man with the biggest armies and booming voice make the rules. Jews and gypsies and homosexuals be damned.

I don’t like that picture. I look at the world and I see beauty. I see love and loss, birth and death, joy and sorrow. I see a world where color exists, and in enormous generosity we were given eyes to see it. This is a world where bread makes a smell as it’s baked, and we just happen to have noses to smell it. Color, smell, sound, taste—these are things that could have gone unnoticed; we could have been senseless in this reality, careening around like so many spattering particles. Were our noses invented first, or the smells? Our eyes, or the sights? Breasts, or desire?

We have been created as recipients. I look at the stars, at the stars, at the grass, at my fat-faced children, at my fingernails, and I am oppressed by gratitude.

I have been given a belly so that I might hunger. I have been given hunger so that I might be fed.

I look in the atheist’s mirror. I look at his faith in the nonexistence of meaning. I look at this preaching and painting. I see nothing but a shit-storm.

Why should I walk through that door? Why would I live in your novel?

― N. D. Wilson,
Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl

What Is Missing?

clouds earth hearts 1920x1200 wallpaper_www.wallmay.com_87 copyThe philosopher [Immanuel] Kant was right long ago to notice that moral activity implies a religious dimension. The atheist [Friedrich] Nietzsche also saw the point and argued forcefully that the person who gives up belief in God must be consistent and give up Christian morals as well, because the former is the foundation of the latter. He had nothing but contempt for fellow humanists who refused to see that Christian morality cannot survive the loss of its theological moorings, except as habit or as lifeless tradition. As Ayn Rand also sees so clearly, love of the neighbor cannot be rationally justified within the framework of secular humanism. Love for one’s neighbor is an ethical implication of the Christian position.

This suggests to me that the world’s deepest problem is not economic or technological, but spiritual and moral. What is missing is the vision of reality that can sustain the neighbor-oriented life style that is so urgently needed in our world today.

–Clark H. Pinnock,
Reason Enough

Without a Point of Reference

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Friedrich Nietzsche predicted that secular people, losing touch with transcendence, would eventually lose a reference point from which to look down and judge themselves. In the end they would lose even the capacity to despise themselves. Thus, because of the ‘death of God’, they would confuse heaven with happiness, and happiness with health.

–Os Guinness

The Ghost at the Atheist Feast

nietzscheThere can be little doubt that Nietzsche is the most important figure in modern atheism, but you would never know it from reading the current crop of unbelievers, who rarely cite his arguments or even mention him. Today’s atheists cultivate a broad ignorance of the history of the ideas they fervently preach, and there are many reasons why they might prefer that the 19th-century German thinker be consigned to the memory hole. With few exceptions, contemporary atheists are earnest and militant liberals. Awkwardly, Nietzsche pointed out that liberal values derive from Jewish and Christian monotheism, and rejected these values for that very reason. There is no basis – whether in logic or history – for the prevailing notion that atheism and liberalism go together. Illustrating this fact, Nietzsche can only be an embarrassment for atheists today. Worse, they can’t help dimly suspecting they embody precisely the kind of pious freethinker that Nietzsche despised and mocked: loud in their mawkish reverence for humanity, and stridently censorious of any criticism of liberal hopes …

Reared on a Christian hope of redemption (he was, after all, the son of a Lutheran minister), Nietzsche was unable, finally, to accept a tragic sense of life of the kind he tried to retrieve in his early work. Yet his critique of liberal rationalism remains as forceful as ever. As he argued with masterful irony, the belief that the world can be made fully intelligible is an article of faith: a metaphysical wager, rather than a premise of rational inquiry. It is a thought our pious unbelievers are unwilling to allow. The pivotal modern critic of religion, Friedrich Nietzsche will continue to be the ghost at the atheist feast.

–John Gray in the New Statesman
http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2014/03/ghost-atheist-feast-was-nietzsche-right-about-religion

When insanity becomes the only answer

Francis SchaefferI am convinced that when Nietzsche came to Switzerland and went insane, it was not because of venereal disease, though he did have this disease. Rather, it was because he understood that insanity was the only philosophic answer if the infinite-personal God does not exist.

―Francis A. Schaeffer,
How Should We Then Live?

Where is the Nietzsche Hospital?

Brian ZahndAfter all it was the followers of Jesus who pioneered such radical innovations as hospitals, orphanages, leprosariums, almhouses, relief for the poor, and public education. The idea that the world somehow or other would have arrived at an ethical worldview that could produce such charitable practices and institutions without Christ is an idea wholly lacking in any evidence. As I point out to secular critics, I know of many St. Jude and St. James hospitals, orphanages, relief agencies, and the like, but I’m still looking for the Nietzsche hospital or the Voltaire children’s home.

–Brian Zahnd,
Farewell to Mars

Civilization without God

Peter-KreeftWhen Nietzsche, back in the 19th Century, said, “God is dead,” he didn’t mean simply that God is a myth and a superstition and never did live.  He meant that this superstition, this thing that never was literally alive, was the energy of Western Civilization.  Nietzsche, like the saints, understood that there is no Western Civilization without God.  Although he believed that we created Him in our image, rather than that he created us in His image, he realized that the image and the model go together.  

When there’s a mirror on the wall in a room, and you walk out of that room, due to the finite speed of light, though you can’t see it, your image remains in the mirror for a split second after you leave the room.  Well, if we’re made in God’s image, and God is dead, it may take a split second, or a century, for man, His image, to die.  But man cannot live without God.  An image cannot live without its model.  If God leaves, man leaves.  Nietzsche knew that.  Half of him rejoiced in it; half of him was agonized over it, but he called for the new man, the man without religion and without morality.  We’re seeing it gradually happen.  

–Peter Kreeft