Is morality rational, on atheism?

UPDATE: Welcome readers from the the Western Experience! Thanks for the link, Jason!

Last week, I posted a list of 13 questions that Christians could use to get discussions going with their atheist friends. We got 10 responses to the questions. Yesterday, we took a look at the minimal requirements for robust, prescriptive morality. Today, we’ll evaluate atheism, as represented by the 10 respondents to the survey, to see whether the minimal requirements are rationally grounded by atheism.

1) Objective moral values: NOT GROUNDED

All ten respondents stated that moral values have no mind-independent existence. In other words, they are purely subjective. Eight of the respondents thought that each person should decide for themselves what is moral for them, and 2 thought that each person should act in accordance with the arbitrary social conventions of the culture where they lived. Those standards change over time and in different places, of course. They are arbitrary.

2) Objective moral duties: NOT GROUNDED

All ten respondents said that there was no such thing as objective moral values, and so there can be no objective moral duties either. Most people said that their own preferences were the source of subjective moral values. But a duty owed to oneself can be canceled when things get difficult. The best attempt was the social contract answer, but this fails because the social contract is arbitrary. There is no reason to limit your happiness because of an arbitrary social contract, so long as you can escape the social consequences of disobedience.

3) Moral accountability: NOT GROUNDED

Nine respondents did not believe in God. The one who did believe said that God did not care about our actions. Therefore, there is no accountability for the decisions we make. So long as we can avoid the consequences for violating the arbitrary fashions of the time and place where we live, nothing will happen to us if we put our happiness above the needs of our feelings of “empathy” for others.

4) Free will: NOT GROUNDED

All ten respondents were materialists, and therefore did not believe in minds or souls independent of the material that makes up the body. Therefore, everything that humans do is fully determined by the genetic programming and the sensory inputs. To expect moral choices or moral responsibility on atheism is like expecting the same from a computer. Physical systems don’t have free will. There is no “ought to do” for lumps of matter that are not designed by anyone for any specific purpose.

5) Ultimate significance: NOT GROUNDED

All ten of the respondents were materialists, so life ends in the grave for them. Scientists have discovered that in the future, the amount of usable energy, such as the heat and light emitted by stars, will run down to zero, the “heat death of the universe”. What this means is that the entire universe will become cold and lifeless at some point. Humans are therefore doomed to extinction no matter how they act.

Conclusion

On atheism, there is no reason for an atheist to constrain his pursuit of happiness. If he does take into account the needs of others because of feelings and emotions (“empathy”), he is acting irrationally. Feelings are not logical arguments. There is no such thing as a “moral” action on atheism, all actions are undertaken for pleasure or personal preference.

In the survey results, none of the ten respondents could oppose slavery on rational grounds, none of the ten respondents could perform self-sacrificial acts on rational grounds, and none of the ten respondents could explain why murder was wrong, on rational grounds. They may have chosen the right alternative, but only based on emotion, not on reason.

As Greg Koukl argues, morality is not rationally grounded on atheism. Now, it is true that atheists act inconsistently in ways that seem to be moral. This is because:

  1. Judeo-Christian morality is still floating around in out Western society, even though it is on the way out due to materialist persecution of public religious expression and the Judeo-Christian theology that grounded morality
  2. Regardless of what materialism says, God made the universe with objective moral values, and humans with free will, so even if people say that morality is relative and that they are machines, they may still act inconsistently to do the right thing, since their views are mistaken, especially if the costs are minimal

But when the heat is really on, they will cave in to their desires. Rational grounding is needed in order to do the right thing when there are consequences for doing the right thing.

Further study

You can get the full story on the requirements for rational morality in a published, peer-reviewed paper written by William Lane Craig here. You can also hear and see him present the paper to an audience of students and faculty at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2008. The audio is clipped at 67 minutes, the video is the full 84 minutes. There is 45 minutes of Q&A, with many atheist challengers.

The video of this lecture is the best material you can get on this issue, and the Q&A from the hostile audience is vital to the lesson. More debates on atheism and morality can be found on the debate and lecture page.

You can find a post contrasting the morality of an authentic, consistent Christian with an authentic, consistent non-Christian here. A post examining how atheism is responsible for the deaths of 100 million innocent people in the 20th century alone is here. A post analyzing the tiny number of deaths that religion was responsible for is here.

Is Obama keeping America safe?

Let’s see how Obama is performing on national security issues. Most of these links courtesy of Free Canuckistan.

Former FBI agent tells NewsMax that Obama is making another 9/11 “inevitable”. (H/T Infidel Blogger Alliance)

A former FBI agent who recently won a lawsuit defeating FBI attempts to muzzle him tells Newsmax that the agency’s morale may be at its lowest ebb ever, and warns the “chilling” effect of Obama administration policies is making another terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland “inevitable.”

…”I’m not exactly sure where the president is coming from, but all the signals he gives out is that the United States is prepared to talk peace, we’re not going to do anything to upset any of the people that are conducting all these terrorist acts, we’re going to back out of everything we’ve done before, we’re going to apologize for everything we’ve done in the past – what kind of signals does that send?” Vincent asks. “It sends a signal of weakness and: ‘We are not willing to try and stop what you have planned.'”

Yes, this is what happens when the people claim that Bush could have kept us safe without force or surveillance. We already know how Obama’s leftist diplomacy works. We were attacked multiple times during Clinton’s presidency, and Clinton was like Churchill or Thatcher, compared to the Obama.

IBD had this editorial by economist Thomas Sowell regarding Obama’s national security performance:

In 1938, with Hitler preparing to unleash a war in which tens of millions of men, women and children would be slaughtered, the play that was the biggest hit on the Paris stage was a play about French and German reconciliation, and a French pacifist that year dedicated his book to Adolf Hitler.

When historians of the future look back on our era, what will they think of our time? Our media too squeamish to call murderous and sadistic terrorists anything worse than “militants” or “insurgents”? Our president going abroad to denigrate the country that elected him, pandering to feckless allies and outright enemies, and literally bowing to a foreign tyrant ruling a country from which most of the 9/11 terrorists came?

There was a time when American elected Presidents like Reagan and Bush. Those presidents believed in and fought for the cause of liberty. But that time is gone.

ONE of the world’s most courageous women is locked away in a miserable rat-hole in Rangoon. Her “crime”? Demanding freedom for her people.

…Of course, with an “election” coming up next year, Burma’s kooky generals have every reason to keep their country’s most beloved democrat under lock and key — and most of the world sees through the sham. Voices from Congress to the European Union have demanded Suu Kyi’s release.

And the Leader of the Free World? Silence.

What a change from the previous White House, which had two champions of Burmese freedom in President George and, especially, Laura Bush. Their backing of Suu Kyi was part of a much broader campaign for freedom fighters around the world. Bush sent a clear message to those risking everything for their freedom: If you stand up for liberty, the president will stand with you.

Now, that message is muffled. In recent weeks, some of the worst human-rights violators have seized and detained US citizens — from journalists Roxana Saberi in Iran and Laura Ling and Euna Lee in North Korea, to prisoner John William Yettaw in Burma — with nary a word from President Obama in reply.

Not to mention the forced conversion of Christian children in Egypt to Islam, or the actual torture that goes on in North Korea. (H/T Half Done)

God help us all if the President of the United States is more concerned with scoring political points than improving liberty, prosperity and security, at home and abroad. There is a price to pay for the moral decay that results from rejecting objective morality. When threats arise, the secular left blames America and praises the enemies of liberty and prosperity, as Evan Sayet has argued.

UPDATE: The Heritage Foundation linked to a couple more national security stories.

Is Obama a pro-life or pro-choice President?

From NewsBusters, we get a nice list of things Obama has done for the unborn.

  • January 23, 2009 – Forces taxpayers to fund pro-abortion groups that either promote or perform abortions in other nations. Decison to overturn Mexico City Policy sends part of $457 million to pro-abortion organizations.
  • February 27, 2009 – Starts the process of overturning pro-life conscience protections President Bush put in place to make sure medical staff and centers are not forced to do abortions.
  • March 9, 2009 – Obama signed an executive order forcing taxpayer funding of embryonic stem cell research.
  • March 11, 2009 – Obama signed an executive order establishing a new agency within his administration known as the White House Council on Women and Girls. Obama’s director of public liaison at the White House, Tina Tchen, an abortion advocate, became director of it.
  • March 11, 2009 – Obama administration promotes an unlimited right to abortion at a United Nations meeting.
  • March 17, 2009 – Obama makes his first judicial appointment and names pro-abortion federal Judge David Hamilton to serve on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • March 26 – President Obama announced $50 million for the UNFPA, the UN population agency that has been criticized for promoting abortion and working closely with Chinese population control officials who use forced abortions and involuntary sterilizations.
  • April 23 – Refused to appeal a ruling requiring the FDA to allow 17-year-old girls to purchase the morning after pill without either a doctor visit or parental involvement beforehand.
  • May 5 – Details emerge about a terrorism dictionary the administration of President Barack Obama put together in March. The Domestic Extremism Lexicon calls pro-life advocates violent and claims they employ racist overtones in engaging in criminal actions.
  • May 8 – President Obama releases a new budget that allows the Legal Services Corporation to use tax dollars to pay for pro-abortion litigation.
  • May 8 – President Obama’s new budget calls for taxpayer funded abortions in the nation’s capital, and eliminates all federal funding for abstinence-only education.

And we shouldn’t be surprised at his record on social issues in office, because those of us who can inform ourselves, using means other than television commercials during sports telecasts, knew about Obama’s record before he started to run for office:

  • Obama expressed support for legislation that would repeal the Hyde Amendment, which protects pro-life citizens from having to pay for abortions, and which has been credited with saving over a million lives.
  • Obama, unlike even many allegedly “pro-choice” legislators, opposed the ban on partial-birth abortions when he served in the Illinois legislature and condemned the Supreme Court decision that upheld legislation banning this heinous practice.
  • On the campaign trail, Obama referred to a baby conceived inadvertently by a young woman as a “punishment” that she should not have to endure.
  • Obama has stated that women’s equality requires access to abortion on demand.
  • Obama, despite the urging of pro-life members of his own party, did not and has not endorsed or offered support for the Pregnant Women Support Act, the signature bill of Democrats for Life, meant to reduce abortions by providing assistance for women facing crisis pregnancies.
  • Obama, as an Illinois state senator, opposed legislation to protect children who are born alive, either as a result of an abortionist’s unsuccessful effort to kill them in the womb, or by the deliberate delivery of the baby prior to viability. The Obama campaign lied about his vote until critics produced documentary proof of what he had done. In fact, Obama continued to lie about his inhuman voting record in regard to the Illinois Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, and even stooped so low as to run a disgusting television ad attacking the disabled survivor of a botched abortion.

And don’t forget his plans to enact the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which denies Christian doctors and nurses the freedom to choose not to perform abortions, in violation of their consciences:

But Obama the presidential candidate also promised that “the first thing I’d do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA),” which would create a federally guaranteed “fundamental right” to abortion through all nine months of pregnancy, including “a right to abort a fully developed child in the final weeks for undefined ‘health’ reasons”, and would abolish virtually every existing state and federal limitation on abortion, including parental consent and notification laws for minors, state and federal funding restrictions on abortion, and conscience protections for pro-life citizens working in the health-care industry.

A lot of pro-lifers say that abortion is the new slavery – you pick a group of people and dehumanize them because they are weaker than you are, for your own financial gain. At least the slave owners didn’t kill the slaves, though.

Other blogs writing on abortion:

  • Hot Air: Obama’s speech at Notre Dame
  • Nice Deb: Audio of Obama arguing in favor of infanticide in the Illinois legislature
  • Heritage Foundation: Contrasting the Notre Dame speech with Obama’s actual policies
  • Western Experience: Pro-life protesters arrested at Notre Dame

The full story of nurse Jill Stanek, who blew the whistle on infanticide in Illinois hospitals, in case you missed it.

UPDATE: Hot Air has video of John Piper speaking about what Obama’s pro-abortion stance really means: 1,000,000 dead babies every year. (H/T Gateway Pundit)

Ironic, because I was just listening to John Piper’s sermon on William Wilberforce, who abolished the “abortion” of his day: slavery.


What are the minimal requirements for rational morality?

UPDATE: Welcome readers from the the Western Experience! Thanks for the link, Jason!

Last week, I posted a list of 13 questions that Christians could use to get discussions going with their atheist friends. Basically, you ask your atheist friend out to lunch, ask them the questions. We got 10 responses to the questions, which I summarized here. And I had lunch with another one of my friends, another Jewish atheist, who goes to a Reformed synagogue, as well.

Basically, the questionnaire’s purpose is to establish whether atheism provides a rational foundation for moral behavior. Specifically, can atheism account for the minimal requirements for rational moral behavior (see below).

1) Objective moral values

There needs to be a way to distinguish what is good from what is bad. For example, the moral standard might specify that being kind to children is good, but torturing them for fun is bad. If the standard is purely subjective, then people could believe anything and each person would be justified in doing right in their own eyes. Even a “social contract” is just based on people’s opinions. So we need a standard that applies regardless of what people’s individual and collective opinions are.

2) Objective moral duties

Moral duties (moral obligations) refer to the actions that are obligatory based on the moral values defined in 1). Suppose we spot you 1) as an atheist. Why are you obligated to do the good thing, rather than the bad thing? To whom is this obligation owed? Why is rational for you to limit your actions based upon this obligation when it is against your self-interest? Why let other people’s expectations decide what is good for you, especially if you can avoid the consequences of their disapproval?

3) Moral accountability

Suppose we spot you 1) and 2) as an atheist. What difference does it make to you if you just go ahead and disregard your moral obligations to whomever? Is there any reward or punishment for your choice to do right or do wrong? What’s in it for you?

4) Free will

In order for agents to make free moral choices, they must be able to act or abstain from acting by exercising their free will. If there is no free will, then moral choices are impossible. If there are no moral choices, then no one can be held responsible for anything they do. If there is no moral responsibility, then there can be no praise and blame. But then it becomes impossible to praise any action as good or evil.

5) Ultimate significance

Finally, beyond the concept of reward and punishment in 3), we can also ask the question “what does it matter?”. Suppose you do live a good life and you get a reward: 1000 chocolate sundaes. And when you’ve finished eating them, you die for real and that’s the end. In other words, the reward is satisfying, but not really meaningful, ultimately. It’s hard to see how moral actions can be meaningful, ultimately, unless their consequences last on into the future.

Tomorrow, I will explain why the answers given by the atheists show that the worldview of atheism offers none of these 5 requirements, and that therefore morality is really, really, really irrational on atheism. Atheist can look over their shoulders at their neighbors, and act like them in order to feel happy that they are acting consistently with the arbitrary fashions of their herd, but that’s all they can do, on atheism.

Further study

You can get the full story on the requirements for rational morality in a published, peer-reviewed paper written by William Lane Craig here. You can also hear and see him present the paper to an audience of students and faculty at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2008. The audio is clipped at 67 minutes, the video is the full 84 minutes. There is 45 minutes of Q&A, with many atheist challengers.

The video of this lecture is the best material you can get on this issue, and the Q&A from the hostile audience is vital to the lesson. More debates on atheism and morality can be found on the debate and lecture page.

You can find a post contrasting the morality of an authentic, consistent Christian with an authentic, consistent non-Christian here. A post examining how atheism is responsible for the deaths of 100 million innocent people in the 20th century alone is here. A post analyzing the tiny number of deaths that religion was responsible for is here.

Featured blog: Muddling Toward Maturity

I just discovered this blog “Muddling Toward Maturity“. The blog links to a lot of interesting stories I haven’t seen anywhere else!

Here are a couple:

A review of Mark Levin’s new book “Liberty and Tyranny” by Andrew C. McCarthy in the New Criterion

Excerpt from the review:

[Levin] is especially trenchant on the animating role of faith in the American founding, and, consequently, its place atop the statist hit-list. The Framers understood “that liberty and religious liberty are inseparable.” But Christianity, unapologetically, was and is America’s dominant religion and it is undeniable that Judeo-Christian values heavily influenced our founding law. The point of religious liberty was to forfend the establishment of a theocracy of the type Tocqueville discerned in the Islamic world, where the Qur’an imposed not merely religious tenets but control over every aspect of life. The Supreme Court’s fabrication of a “wall of separation” in its 1947 Everson decision (authored by one-time Klansman Hugo Black, the first justice appointed by FDR), installing official hostility to religion, was “a wretched betrayal of America’s founding.” As a result, “American courts sit today as supreme secular councils, which, like Islam’s supreme religious councils, dictate all manner of approved behavior respecting religion.”

A strong proponent of constitutional originalism, Levin particularly laments FDR’s “Second Bill of Rights,” the initiative Obama has thrown into high gear. These “positive rights”—economic and social welfare benefits, not rights but redistributions—are “tyranny’s disguise”: the statist’s “false promises of utopianism … to justify all trespasses on the individual’s private property.” Like freedom of conscience, property is part of liberty’s irreducible core, and is thus exalted in our founding law. So, like religion, it is forever in the statist’s cross-hairs as he seeks to micromanage every vestige of autonomy from employment to healthcare to the type of cars we drive.

Deep thinking on big ideas. That’s what we can expect from Mark Levin. And I love it when Jewish people are supportive Christians! My favorite three radio shows are Dennis Prager, Michael Medved and Mark Levin. All three are Jewish!

Now the next link is special to me, because I have a copy of the book Rare Earth in my overhead shelf at work. It’s written by atheist Peter Ward and agnostic Donald Brownlee, and it documents all the characteristics that are needed to create a habitable planet. The book kicks butt.

Why We Need Earthquakes by Dinesh D’Souza, writing in Christianity Today.

Excerpt from the article:

Ward and Brownlee ask: Why do natural disasters such as earthquakes, seaquakes, and tsunamis occur? All three are the consequence of plate tectonics, the giant plates that move under the surface of the earth and the ocean floor. Apparently our planet is unique in having plate tectonics. Ward and Brownlee show that without this geological feature, there would be no large mountain ranges or continents.

While natural disasters occasionally wreak havoc, our planet needs plate tectonics to produce the biodiversity that enables complex life to flourish on earth. Without plate tectonics, earth’s land would be submerged to a depth of several thousand feet. Fish might survive in such an environment, but not humans.

Plate tectonics also help regulate the earth’s climate, preventing the onset of scorching or freezing temperatures that would make mammalian life impossible. In sum, plate tectonics are a necessary prerequisite to human survival on the only planet known to sustain life.

Muddling Toward Maturity also links to some other similar articles, that go into more detail.

Check them out!

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

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