Over the last few months, we have taken the time to discuss two commonly used “Foundations for Atheist Morality”.
We began our journey with a look at Societal Relativism. We explored a few of the arguments used to support the idea that moral right and wrong are not universal, but are determined by individual societies. We examined what this means for those who would go outside of their own society to right apparent wrongs like slavery or genocide, took a look at the difficulties which arise when we try to determine what constitutes a “society”, and even ran a few numbers to demonstrate the difficulties which accompany attempts to determine the moral views of the majority within those societies. We concluded with the view that the only logical outcome of a societally relativist view of morality is an individually relativist view of morality in which each individual may create his own version of right and wrong without regard for others.
We then turned our attention to the Law of Nature. We examined the proposition that a universal moral law can exist without a lawgiver and took a look at some of the apparent support for the idea that a solid foundation for moral behavior can be found within the natural world. We took a careful look at nature’s “goal” to preserve individual species and considered the implications that this goal has in regard to human reproduction. We examined natural selection and the ways in which a strict application of its principles would influence the use of modern medicine including the preservation of the lives of the elderly and disabled. And we concluded with the view that an appeal to the Law of Nature leads to apathy rather than action.
Our purpose in examining these perspectives was to help Christians learn to effectively reason through the fallacies of each view with their atheist friends. In the process, I had numerous discussions with atheists – some of whom did not hold to these views of morality and some who did. It is important that Christians recognize that atheism (like the belief in a supreme being or beings) comes in many forms. Indeed, it would take a lifetime to address the full scope of moral views held by those who do not believe in a god and it is for this reason that we chose to address only two of them here.
Like the religious, atheists come to their views in many different ways. Some were born into atheist homes. Others reject god on the basis of bad experiences they’ve had with those who claim to worship a deity. And others have serious questions about the rationality of religious belief. It is the responsibility of every Christian to take the time to get to know and understand the views of the atheists in their lives before jumping into a moral debate. We must approach our neighbors, friends, and family with humble, teachable spirits if we want to earn the right to be heard.