I spent some time talking to an atheist millennial recently. He considers himself a moral person, and he is very helpful to others. I asked him to define morality, and he said that morality was feeling good, and helping other people to feel good. I was trying to think of a way to punch a hole in his feelings-based utilitarianism. How could I show him that happy feelings are not a good basis for morality?
Now, you’re probably thinking that abortion is the most obvious example of something that is morally wrong – it’s just killing a baby because adults don’t want to take responsibility for their foolish pursuit of pleasure. But atheists typically don’t think of unborn children as people. They usually believe in naturalistic evolution, and they are committed to a view of reality where the universe is an accident, human beings are accidents, there are no objective human rights, and biological evolution progresses because the strong survive while the weak die. So you aren’t going to be able to generate a moral standard that includes compassion for weak unborn children on that scenario. If the rule is “let’s do what makes us happy”, and the unborn child can’t voice her opinion, then the selfish grown-ups win.
Instead, I decided to focus on fatherlessness. I asked him whether he thought that fatherlessness harmed children. Surprisingly, he said that it didn’t, and that he had a relative who was doing a great job raising fatherless kids. I asked him if he had ever looked at the research on what father absence does to children. He hadn’t. Then I asked him if a system of sexual rules based on “me feeling good, and other people around me feeling good”, was likely to protect children. He went silent.
Well, that was the end of that conversation. And I think it was a nice window into how millennials – who are absolutely clueless about what research says about sex, dating, marriage and parenting – think about relationships. They’re making decisions based on their feelings, then acting surprised when their “common sense” decisions based on happiness “in the moment” blow up in their faces, and destroy the lives of their children, including their unborn children.
Unfortunately, young people are having children outside of a marriage commitment more and more.
Far-left Bloomberg News reports:
Forty percent of all births in the U.S. now occur outside of wedlock, up from 10 percent in 1970, according to an annual report released on Wednesday by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the largest international provider of sexual and reproductive health services. That number is even higher in the European Union.
The EU has a higher rate of fatherless births because they have high taxes and big government to allow women to have children without having to commit to a husband:
The EU likely sees more births out of wedlock because many member countries have welfare systems that support gender-balanced child care, said Michael Hermann, UNFPA’s senior adviser on economics and demography, in an interview. Public health care systems, paid paternal leave, early education programs and tax incentives give unwed parents support beyond what a partner can provide.
More welfare and more government services make it easier for women to pursue relationships with men who aren’t interested in marriage. Hot bad boys who give them all the tingles. Big government makes those boring, predictable marriage-ready men dispensable. Big government also makes it much harder for a man who does marry to afford a stay-at-home mother for his kids, because he has to pay higher taxes for big government.
The data show such births in the U.S. and EU are predominantly to unmarried couples living together rather than to single mothers, the report says.
[…]Jones also noted that the rise in births outside of marriage is closely correlated to delays in childbearing. “Women are claiming their ground professionally,” she said. “Delaying motherhood is a rational decision when you consider the impact it can have on your career, and that’s contributing to this trend.”
[….]The traditional progression of Western life “has been reversed,” said John Santelli, a professor in population, family health and pediatrics at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health. “Cohabiting partners are having children before getting married. That’s a long-term trend across developing nations.”
Regardless of marital status, more couples are choosing not to have kids at all. The U.S. fertility rate hit a historic 30-year low last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hermann said the rise in births outside of wedlock has actually mitigated the decline in fertility, which “would be much steeper if women weren’t having children outside marriage.”
What’s interesting about this anti-marriage article is that they have nothing to say about the research showing that cohabitation – and also marriages that occur after a period of cohabitation – are inferior to no-cohabitation marriages. People who are serious about self-control, and who are serious about committing through thick and thin, tend to have longer lasting marriages. But we don’t prioritize chastity, fidelity and self-sacrificial commitment anymore, because that relationships that require self-denial make us unhappy.
The article concludes: “We can’t go back to the ’50s”. Right. Because if feelings-based “morality” is assumed, then any choice between adult happiness and children’s happiness will favor the adults. Today’s young people carefully AVOID any evidence that contradicts their new “happiness-morality”. They act surprised when their unstable relationships dissolve, leaving children separated from their fathers. Marriage requires that both partners have a system of morality that puts the commitment above happy feelings. People have to be accustomed to doing things that feel bad, just because they are good and moral things to do according to an objective standard of morality. The new atheist morality of happy feelings doesn’t develop the character needed for commitment.
If you ask an atheist millennial, they think they are doing a great job of being “moral”. They don’t see the messes they are making for children as something that they are causing themselves, with their own foolish feelings-based decision-making. They think they know everything about relationships through their feelings. They think that they are exempt from the patterns of cause and effect in the peer-reviewed research.
8 thoughts on “My conversation about morality with an atheist millennial man”
On the moral argument of abortion, I think Stephanie Gray gives the best way to use universal moralities to argue for protecting unborn children. Here is a great talk she gave at Google.
Even if I was an ashiest humanist I would not be able to disagree with her arguments.
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I’ve met her in person!
You mean this one:
He’s a crazy imbecile. Don’t talk to him! He will attack in a crazy rage.
I had a long conversation with an atheist family member who outright admitted to moral relativism. Later in the conversation I caught him complaining about people whom he thought were behaving immorally, like CEOs being payed too much at the expense of the workers. It was somewhat effective to point out that by his own standard they were not immoral; he simply did not *like* their behavior as I do not like oysters.
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I think moral statements by atheists are always about their psychological state, and usual the motive is to signal virtue to others who are present, not to make an argument to persuade anyone who they disagree with.
This atheist was all alone with me by the campfire late one night. He was one of the few atheists I’d met who outright accepted moral relativism. Didn’t stop him from expressing a bit of moral outrage at certain people, though.
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Most people do not realise that the norms and mores of the Western world until recent decades were founded on Judeo-Christian values and principles. These were the norm when I was a child, but things began to change in the 1960s as secular humanism became more mainstream, and it gathered speed from the 1970s as anti-Christian views became more prevalent and moral relativism/ situational ethics (do what feels right to you/ what suits you), political correctness and cultural marxism (variations on a theme) spread through society via academia, education and the media.
Many Westerners who are not Christians still adhere to certain of the traditional values, perhaps because these were what they grew up with, but they don’t understand the reason for those values.
Similarly, many Christians know the basics (one hopes!) of what they believe, but don’t know why they believe it, which is why many if not most cannot defend their faith.
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