Monday, October 30, 2006

Athiest Morals

My sister mentioned the other day in a com box that she wondered how people who don't believe in God live their lives. I think different Athiests would answer a little differently from person to person. But I think the basic idea I have read is that some atheists believe that morals are a precondition that exists in humans. They believe it is empathy based and that criminals or psychopaths just don't have any empathy. They believe they must follow their own conscience to what they believe is good and that's that. Don't judge them, its their belief. This is where the roots of relativism come from in our society. If we separate God from our everyday lives thinking that He offends others we live in a godless world where we must make our own right and wrong, yours might be different then mine but that's okay because its our rights to think differently.

The problem with that is obvious I think. In a society that can't settle on a basis for its own rules, it can't be ruled and I think this tends to expose something in atheist thought. Cardinal John Henry Newman had an argument that brought out the fault of the atheist relativistic thought. If you ask an atheist what he thinks of someone who disregards a religious moral law the peson is likely to say thats just fine. He may even go so far as to praise the person for going "beyond the traditional boundaries of false theism." But ask an atheist what they think of a person who disregards their own conscience and you will get a very different answer. "No, never you can't disregard your conscience." Why? If your conscience is not formed by God but only from the formation of your upbringing then it is the same as if your parents told you what to think is it not? That is not your conscience, it is the conscience programmed into you. What if its societies ever changing influence? How much the worse that it was formed not only by two people but by the masses? It is not your conscience at all but the belief of society and how can it then be relative to itself? Is it not then the product of what the atheist says it is okay to rebel against? So why worry about the right of conscience? Why is conscience so important if not shaped by God?

I think the only correct atheist answer is written by the Catholic Russian writer Fyoder Dostoyevsky. He says (to paraphrase) that if God does not exist, I can do whatever I want. There is no reason to worry about right or wrong. You won't like me? So what I don't like you either. Its not good for society? To hell with society, I don't care about it either, only me. If there are no eternal repercussions, and there is nothing after this, then the only sin is not to take advantage of everything for myself.

There are moral atheists. I think I've even heard of a group called atheists for Jesus because they are "proponents of the golden rule." I think however that they're kind of dumb. Its one thing to deny the existence of God, another to give yourself unecessary rules while not thinking there are any discernable consequences of breaking them. I think I'll end with a Dostoyevski quote that fits the moral atheist:

"Talking nonsense is man's only privilege that distinguishes him
from all other organisms."
(_Crime_and_Punishment_ 3.1)


Ash said...

Ok, so that wasn't exactly my question, but I suppose it sort of answers it. I guess what I was wondering is if people who do believe in a God would be actually live their lives differently if they didn't believe in God. I can't really explain it much better.

One thing that made me think about it I guess was that I was reading about Buddhism the other day. I find Buddhism interesting though because even though they don't believe in God, they do believe in kindess and generousity to others. So I was just wondering how many Christians would be that way if they didn't "have to."

Julie D. said...

My parents, both atheists, taught us that as long as we weren't hurting anyone else then whatever we did was ok as long as we were "good people."

Which is a nice description of moral relativism if you think of it. Certainly it leaves you with society as a guide and that isn't always a good place to be as my brother and sister and I discovered.