Tag Archives: Freedom

Have you heard of Kristen Waggoner and the Alliance Defending Freedom?

Kristen Waggoner of Alliance Defending Freedom argued Jack Phillips’ case before the Supreme Court. (Photo: Jeff Malet/The Heritage Foundation)
Kristen Waggoner of Alliance Defending Freedom argued Jack Phillips’ case before the Supreme Court. (Photo: Jeff Malet/The Heritage Foundation)

I was very surprised to see the far-left Washington Post post a balanced article on Alliance Defending Freedom. The ADF is a group of lawyers who do battle in defense of religious liberty and conscience in the Supreme Court. They have won 9 cases at the Supreme Court in the last 7 years, despite having to argue in front of a court that had a 5-4 liberal majority.

Here’s some of the article:

Two days before the announcement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s retirement, a woman who stood to gain from it was on the steps of the Supreme Court once again. Kristen Waggoner’s blond bob was perfectly styled with humidity-fighting paste she’d slicked onto it that morning at the Trump hotel. Her 5-foot frame was heightened by a pair of nude pumps, despite a months-old ankle fracture in need of surgery. On her wrist was a silver bracelet she’d worn nonstop since Dec. 5, 2017, the day she marched up these iconic steps, stood before the justices and argued that a Christian baker could legally refuse to create a cake for a gay couple’s wedding.

Her job was to be the legal mind and public face of Alliance Defending Freedom., an Arizona-based Christian conservative legal nonprofit better known as ADF. Though far from a household name, the results of ADF’s work are well known. Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission was just one of ADF’s cases at the Supreme Court this term. The organization has had nine successful cases before the court in the past seven years, including Burwell v. Hobby Lobby…

I follow very few people on Twitter, only about 27-30. One of those people is Kristen Waggoner. She is the lead counsel in many of these Supreme Court cases. She is the best at what she does.

Her silver bracelet is engraved with a famous passage that I think has inspired many Christian women of courage. It’s from the book of Esther. The bracelet says “For Such A Time As This”. It’s a phrase that is taken from Mordecai’s warning to Esther that God is sovereign over her life, and that he has put her into a position to defend her whole nation from threats.

Here’s the passage in context from Esther 4:6-17:

6 So Hathak went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate.

7 Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews.

8 He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation, which had been published in Susa, to show to Esther and explain it to her, and he told him to instruct her to go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people.

9 Hathak went back and reported to Esther what Mordecai had said.

10 Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai,

11 “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.”

12 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai,

13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape.

14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai:

16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

17 So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther’s instructions.

Kristen Waggoner is our Esther. She actually has much better character and abilities than the real Esther .

Her biography is here on the ADF web site.

It says, in part:

Kristen K. Waggoner serves as senior vice president of U.S. legal division and communications with Alliance Defending Freedom. In this role, Waggoner oversees the U.S. legal division, a team of 100 attorneys and staff who engage in litigation, public advocacy, and legislative support. Since she assumed this role, ADF has prevailed as lead counsel in eight U.S. Supreme Court victories, including Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which she argued at the Supreme Court and won. She continues as lead counsel in Arlene’s Flowers v. State of Washington, which the Supreme Court remanded to the lower courts. She also served as counsel for the free speech victory that the Supreme Court handed down in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra.

I consider it amazing that more Christians don’t know who she is. Christians tend to admire famous celebrities, athletes, artists. And prosperity gospel preachers. But these people merely entertain us. Kristen Waggoner is not an entertainer, she is a warrior. She goes into the most dangerous places and fights for the liberty of every one of us. She’s become a sheep dog in order to protect the sheep. Right now, we are facing challenges from people who are trying to use the law like a weapon to bully and silence anyone who tries to live out an authentic Christian life. Powerful people are trying to say that when a Christian’s liberty makes them FEEL BAD, that means that the Christian’s liberty needs to be suppressed. The ADF is there to make sure that they don’t succeed.

Whenever the ADF goes out to battle, I make sure to write about their cases on this blog. We should all be informed and give respect to Kristen Waggoner and everyone who works for the ADF. They are some of the most effective and influential Christians, and they deserve our gratitude and our respect.

More about her background

One of the other groups I like a lot is the Heritage Foundation, my favorite think tank. I have similar admiration and respect for the people who work there, such as Genevieve Wood and Jennifer Marshall. The Daily Signal, a news site operated by the Heritage Foundation, has posted a story about Kristen Waggoner’s background.

It says:

Waggoner grew up as Kristen Kellie Behrends in Longview, Washington, about two hours south of Seattle and an hour north of Portland.

What she treasures most about her upbringing, Waggoner says, is that she was steeped in consistent values at home, church, and school that shaped her worldview without sheltering her.

Her father taught her from Scripture about “being an Esther, being a Deborah, used by God,” she says, and that “joy and fulfillment come from having a purpose that’s bigger than ourselves.”

“It’s not about us, we’re a part of a bigger story that has to do with helping human flourishing. And that just shaped my whole life, even now.”

[…]Once a teacher in public schools, today her father is a licensed minister in the Assemblies of God denomination. He is associate pastor of Cedar Park Church in Bothell, Washington, and superintendent of an affiliated school system.

Young Kristen would go to the principal’s office to visit her father three or four times a day, sometimes because she got into trouble. In these encounters, he urged her to find and develop her talents, and apply them in a way that would honor God.

And one day, Waggoner recalls, she saw clearly that defending ministries and religious freedom should be her path.

[…]“The right of conscience is critical to the existence of the country and is the first freedom that our other civil liberties are directly connected with,” Waggoner says. “I wanted to be a part of that—that fight to preserve it for my children and my grandchildren.”

On this blog, I put a lot of emphasis on Christians being careful about what they study in school, what jobs they take, how they manage their money, and who they choose to marry. The goal of all this is to make sure that young Christians are thoughtful about having a vision for their lives, and pursuing that vision in a way that minimizes wildness, fun and thrills. Becoming a hero doesn’t happen by accident, it takes planning and execution. There is no path to success that involves doing whatever feels good moment-by-moment. In order to make a difference, we need to be careful about doing what works, not pursuing fun and thrills in the moment.

Did Australia’s ban on guns lower violent crime rates and lower suicide rates?

Gun ownership up, gun violence down
Gun ownership up, gun violence down

Someone asked me about what I thought of Australia’s experience banning the use of handguns for self-defense against criminals, and so I thought I would link to an article from The Federalist, then explain what peer-reviewed studies say about the issue.

Let’s start with The Federalist.

It says:

The argument, as Vox’s headline puts it, is “Australia confiscated 650,000 guns. Murders and suicides plummeted.”

The piece, along with many gun control advocates, cites a Harvard University study whose conclusion begins with this line: “It does not appear that the Australian experience with gun buybacks is fully replicable in the United States.” Not a great start for Vox’s angle, but I digress.

The study doesn’t conclude that “murders and suicides plummeted” in Australia after the 1996 gun ban, as Vox claims in its headline. Instead, it focuses solely on firearm-related murders and suicides.

After the gun ban, violent crime rates were up:

Yes, as with the gun-happy United States, the murder rate is down in Australia. It’s dropped 31 percent from a rate of 1.6 per 100,000 people in 1994 to 1.1 per 100,000 in 2012.But it’s the only serious crime that saw a consistent decline post-ban.

In fact, according to the Australian government’s own statistics, a number of serious crimes peaked in the years after the ban. Manslaughter, sexual assault, kidnapping, armed robbery, and unarmed robbery all saw peaks in the years following the ban, and most remain near or above pre-ban rates. The effects of the 1996 ban on violent crime are, frankly, unimpressive at best.

It’s even less impressive when again compared to America’s decrease in violent crime over the same period. According to data from the U.S. Justice Department, violent crime fell nearly 72 percent between 1993 and 2011. Again, this happened as guns were being manufactured and purchased at an ever-increasing rate.

So although you have fewer firearm-related deaths when you disarm law-abiding civilians, violent crime increases, because there is now NO deterrence to criminals. Even a criminal with a knife can rob, rape and murder someone who is unarmed.

What about suicide rates?

Look:

The Australian gun ban’s effect on suicide in the country isn’t any better. While Vox repeats the Harvard study’s claim that firearm-related suicides are down 57 percent in the aftermath of the ban, Lifeline Australia reports that overall suicides are at a ten-year high. The Australian suicide prevention organization claims suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians 15 to 44 years old. So, while Australians kill themselves with firearms less often, it seems they don’t actually take their own lives any less often than before the ban.

So, overall suicides are not down, people simply found other ways to kill themselves. So the gun ban had no effect on the overall suicide rate. But it did raise the violent crime rate. Should we be surprised by this? Actually, this is consistent with peer-reviewed research.

Gun crime also skyrocketed after the 1996 gun ban. The Washington Free Beacon reports.

Excerpt:

Australia has seen a rise in gun crime over the past decade despite imposing an outright ban on many firearms in the late 1990s.

Charges for crimes involving firearms have increased dramatically across the island nation’s localities in the past decade according to an analysis of government statistics conducted by The New Daily. It found that gun crimes have spiked dramatically in the Australian states of Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, and Tasmania. In Victoria, pistol-related offenses doubled over the last decade. In New South Wales, they tripled. The other states saw smaller but still significant increases.

Experts said that the country’s 1996 ban on most semi-automatic firearms has actually driven criminals to those guns. “The ban on semi-automatics created demand by criminals for other types of guns,” professor Philip Alpers of the University of Sydney told The New Daily. “The criminal’s gun of choice today is the semi-automatic pistol.”

[…]Regardless of the reasons for the jump in gun crime, the numbers reveal the true size of Australia’s illegal gun market. “Taken together, the data suggests that despite our tough anti-gun laws, thousands of weapons are either being stolen or entering the country illegally,” The New Daily said. “The fourfold rise in handgun-related charges in NSW in the past decade points to the existence of a big illegal market for concealable firearms that seems to have been underestimated in the past.”

If you take guns away from law-abiding people (which is what Australia did), then only criminals will have guns. And that means that the criminals will become bolder in the face of their disarmed victims.

The peer-reviewed research

Whenever I get into discussions about gun control, I always mention two academic books by John R. Lott and Joyce Lee Malcolm.

I think that peer-reviewed studies should be useful for assessing gun control vs gun rights policy. The book by economist John Lott, linked above,compares the crime rates of all U.S. states that have enacted concealed carry laws, and concludes that violent crime rates dropped after law-abiding citizens were allowed to carry legally-owned firearms. That’s the mirror image of Dr. Malcolm’s Harvard study, which shows that the 1997 UK gun ban caused violent crime rates to MORE THAN DOUBLE in the four years following the ban. But both studies affirm the same conclusion – more legal firearm ownership means less crime.

One of the common mistakes I see anti-gun advocates making is to use the metric of all “gun-related deaths”. First of all, this completely ignores the effects of hand gun ownership on violent crime, as we’ve seen. Take away the guns from law-abiding people and violent crime skyrockets. But using the “gun-related deaths” number is especially wrong, because it includes suicides committed with guns. This is the majority (about two thirds) of gun related deaths, even in a country like America that has a massive inner-city gun violence problem caused by the epidemic of single motherhood by choice. If you take out the gun-related SUICIDES, then the actual number of gun homicides has decreased as gun ownership has grown.

For a couple of useful graphs related to this point, check out this post over at the American Enterprise Institute.

Are evangelism and human responsibility for sin rational in Calvinism?

Bible study that hits the spot
Bible study that hits the spot

Here is a quote from Dr. Craig that seems to get Calvinists so angry:

“The counterfactuals of creaturely freedom which confront Him are outside His control. He has to play with the hand He has been dealt.”

(Source)

Calvinists have told me that this quotation from Dr. Craig is “heretical” or “borderline heretical”. They are claiming that Dr. Craig thinks that God is lacking in power somehow. But why is God’s power limited, according to this quote?

Well, it’s because God respects FREE WILL. That quote is simply Dr. Craig’s way of saying that God does not override the free will of his creatures.

So let’s make sense of Craig’s statement. Either there is determinism and God causes people to act, or humans have free will and they cause themselves to do things. If you do not cause yourself to act, then you are not responsible for what you do. Just think for a minute. If I push you into someone and you fall into them and then they fall off a cliff, then are you a murderer? No – I would be, because I am the cause. The Bible teaches that God has chosen to limit his power so that that people have genuine responsibility for their actions, and that means they have genuine free will. Humans can only be responsible for their sins if they have the ability to do other than they do, and this is the traditional Christian view.

It’s true that human beings are totally depraved as a result of the fall, and do not want God in their lives, but they are responsible because God wants them to be saved, and it is their free choice that prevents it. Rather than force humans to love him against their will, God lets them resist him, and so they are responsible for their sin.

Dr. Craig cites the famous Calvinist D. A. Carson (who I like) explaining some of the themes of the Bible that affirm robust free will and human responsibility:

The classical Reformed [scholars]… acknowledge that the reconciliation of Scriptural texts affirming human freedom and contingency with Scriptural texts affirming divine sovereignty is inscrutable. D. A. Carson identifies nine streams of texts affirming human freedom: (1) People face a multitude of divine exhortations and commands, (2) people are said to obey, believe, and choose God, (3) people sin and rebel against God, (4) people’s sins are judged by God, (5) people are tested by God, (6) people receive divine rewards, (7) the elect are responsible to respond to God’s initiative, (8) prayers are not mere showpieces scripted by God, and (9) God literally pleads with sinners to repent and be saved (Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspectives in Tension, pp. 18-22). These passages rule out a deterministic understanding of divine providence, which would preclude human freedom.

On Calvinism, however, all of these 9 features of reality, supported by dozens and dozens of Bible passages, are all false. On Calvinism, God is the sole causal agent. There is no free will. People go to Heaven or Hell as a choice of God. People can only perform good actions if God acts unilaterally to “regenerate” them, making obedience to God possible. Calvinism teaches that God and his agents are constantly exhorting and commanding things that they literally cannot do because they are unregenerate, and the only way to get regenerate is for God to regenerate them, against their will. And they can’t resist that.

So let’s make sense of D.A. Carson’s list of 9 items:

  1. On Calvinism, when God or his agents exhort or command people to perform good actions, it’s meaningless because God has to unilaterally regenerate them first, so that they can perform the good actions.
  2. On Calvinism, when God or his agents tell people to obey, believe and choose God, it’s meaningless because God has to unilaterally regenerate them first, so they can obey, believe and choose God.
  3. On Calvinism, when people sin and rebel against God, it’s like people are soda cans that God shakes up some of them, and then pops the tabs on all of them and the ones he shook up fizz.
  4. On Calvinism, when God judges people for sinning, it’s like God sends the cans who don’t fizz to Hell for eternity, even though he unilaterally chose not to shake them, which is the only way they could fizz.
  5. On Calvinism, when God tests people, it’s meaningless, because there is no way they can pass the tests unless God unilaterally regenerates them first, so they can pass the test.
  6. On Calvinism, when people receive divine rewards, it’s meaningless, because all the credit goes to God for regenerating them. They are just fizzing because God shook their can of soda.
  7. On Calvinism, when people respond to God’s initiative, it’s meaningless, because God’s regeneration is irresistible and irrevocable. They can do nothing other than fizz when he shakes the can.
  8. On Calvinism, when people pray, it’s meaningless, because God unilaterally decides whether to regenerate people or not, and all their fizzing comes solely from his decision to shake or not shake the can.
  9. On Calvinism, when God pleads with sinners to repent and be saved, it’s meaningless, because God has to unilaterally regenerate them before they can repent, and then that repentance cannot be resisted at any time after.

Here’s William Lane Craig to explain it further in an answer to a question of the week from Dr. Craig’s Reasonable Faith web site.

5 problems:

  1. Universal, divine, causal determinism cannot offer a coherent interpretation of Scripture.
  2. Universal causal determinism cannot be rationally affirmed.
  3. Universal, divine, determinism makes God the author of sin and precludes human responsibility.
  4. Universal, divine, determinism nullifies human agency.
  5. Universal, divine determinism makes reality into a farce.

If God’s choice, to regenerate or not, causally determines whether we can respond to him, or not, then that is determinism. And it makes our lives meaningless because we are not responsible for anything we do. Life is a puppet show, and there is only one person pulling the strings. Evangelism makes no sense, because God decides unilaterally and irrevocably who is saved. When I explain this to Calvinists, their response is that God commands us to evangelize, so we must even if it makes no sense on their view.

A Calvinist might respond to this defense of free will and human responsibility with passages from Romans 8 and 9, but those are best understood as speaking about corporate election, rather than unilaterally-determined selection. Membership in the elect group is based on people responding to God’s drawing of them to him. That interpretation fits with the rest of the Bible, which is uniformly affirmative of human free will and human responsibility. Concerns about diminished divine sovereignty are resolved by middle knowledge, in which God chooses to actualize exactly the world that achieves his sovereign will out of all the possible worlds, and he saves exactly the people he chooses to save – but without violating their free will. Yes, it’s cosmic entrapment, but at least the cosmic entrapment does not violate the free will of the creatures, which would render then irresponsible for their own sins.

Disclaimer: I don’t think that this is an issue that should divide Christians, and I do think that Calvinists are most definitely Christians. And that they are very devout and intelligent Christians, too. I think they just have a presupposition of theological determinism that colors the way they read the Bible, resulting in an unBiblical anthropology. This often leads them to a Mormon epistemology (“the Bible is true because I feel that it’s true”) and magic words evangelism (“the correct way to evangelize is not to use evidence but to invite unbelievers to presuppose the truth of the Bible because it causes them to have all the feels”).

If you are looking for a good book on this issue, I recommend Kenneth Keathley’s “Salvation and Sovereignty“, which is a thorough discussion of the problem of divine sovereignty and human freedom.

Should government get out of the marriage business?

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Here are three articles by Jennifer Roback Morse posted at The Public Discourse. The articles answer the charge from social liberals and libertarians that government should “get the government out of marriage”.

Here’s the first article which talks about how government will still be involved in marriage, even if we get rid of the traditional definition of marriage, because of the need for dispute resolution in private marriage contracts. She uses no-fault divorce as an example showing how it was sold as a way to get government out of the divorce business. But by making divorce easier by making it require no reason, it increased the number of disputes and the need for more government intervention to resolve these disputes.

Here’s the second article which talks about how the government will have to expand to resolve conflicts over decisions about who counts as a parent and who gets parental rights. With traditional marriage, identifying who the parents are is easy. But with private marriage contracts where the parties are not the biological parents, there is a need for the state to step in and assign parental rights. Again, this will require an expansion of government to resolve the disputes.

Here’s the third article which talks about how marriage is necessary in order to defend the needs and rights of the child at a time when they cannot enter into contracts and be parties to legal disputes.

The third article was my favorite, so here is an excerpt from it:

The fact of childhood dependence raises a whole series of questions. How do we get from a position of helpless dependence and complete self-centeredness, to a position of independence and respect for others? Are our views of the child somehow related to the foundations of a free society? And, to ask a question that may sound like heresy to libertarian ears: Do the needs of children place legitimate demands and limitations on the behavior of adults?

I came to the conclusion that a free society needs adults who can control themselves, and who have consciences. A free society needs people who can use their freedom, without bothering other people too much. We need to respect the rights of others, keep our promises, and restrain ourselves from taking advantage of others.

We learn to do these things inside the family, by being in a relationship with our parents. We can see this by looking at attachment- disordered children and failure-to-thrive children from orphanages and foster care. These children have their material needs met, for food, clothing, and medical care. But they are not held, or loved, or looked at. They simply do not develop properly, without mothers and fathers taking personal care of them. Some of them never develop consciences. But a child without a conscience becomes a real problem: this is exactly the type of child who does whatever he can get away with. A free society can’t handle very many people like that, and still function.

In other words I asked, “Do the needs of society place constraints on how we treat children?” But even this analysis still views the child from society’s perspective. It is about time we look at it from the child’s point of view, and ask a different kind of question. What is owed to the child?

Children are entitled to a relationship with both of their parents. They are entitled to know who they are and where they came from. Therefore children have a legitimate interest in the stability of their parents’ union, since that is ordinarily how kids have relationships with both parents. If Mom and Dad are quarreling, or if they live on opposite sides of the country, the child’s connection with one or both of them is seriously impaired.

But children cannot defend their rights themselves. Nor is it adequate to intervene after the fact, after harm already has been done. Children’s relational and identity rights must be protected proactively.

Marriage is society’s institutional structure for protecting these legitimate rights and interests of children.

I recommend taking a look at all three articles and becoming familiar with the arguments in case you have to explain why marriage matters and why we should not change it. I think it is important to read these articles and to be clear that to be a libertarian doctrine does not protect the right of a child to have a relationship with both his or her parents.  Nor does libertarianism promote the idea that parents ought to stick together for their children. Libertarianism means that adults get to do what they want, and no one speaks for the kids.

The purpose of marriage is to make adults make careful commitments, and restrain their desires and feelings, so that children will have a stable environment with their biological parents nearby. We do make exceptions, but we should not celebrate exceptions and we should not subsidize exceptions. It’s not fair to children to have to grow up without a mother or father just so that adults can pursue fun and thrills.

Atheist Jerry Coyne explains why morality is impossible for atheists

Sherlock Holmes and John Watson about to do philosophy
Sherlock Holmes and John Watson about to do philosophy

Let’s review what you need in your worldview in order to have a rationally grounded system of morality.

You need 5 things:

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.

Theism rationally grounds all 5 of these. Atheism cannot ground any of them.

Let’s take a look at #4: free will and see how atheism deals with that.

Atheism and free will?

Here’s prominent atheist Jerry Coyne’s editorial in USA Today to explain why atheists can’t ground free will.

Excerpt:

And that’s what neurobiology is telling us: Our brains are simply meat computers that, like real computers, are programmed by our genes and experiences to convert an array of inputs into a predetermined output. Recent experiments involving brain scans show that when a subject “decides” to push a button on the left or right side of a computer, the choice can be predicted by brain activity at least seven seconds before the subject is consciously aware of having made it. (These studies use crude imaging techniques based on blood flow, and I suspect that future understanding of the brain will allow us to predict many of our decisions far earlier than seven seconds in advance.) “Decisions” made like that aren’t conscious ones. And if our choices are unconscious, with some determined well before the moment we think we’ve made them, then we don’t have free will in any meaningful sense.

If you don’t have free will, then you can’t make moral choices, and you can’t be held morally responsible. No free will means no morality.

Here are some more atheists to explain how atheists view morality.

William Provine says atheists have no free will, no moral accountability and no moral significance:

Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear — and these are basically Darwin’s views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either.

Richard Dawkins says atheists have no objective moral standards:

In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, or any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference… DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music. (Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (1995))

When village atheists talk about how they can be moral without God, it’s important to ask them to justify the minimum requirements for rational morality. Atheists may act inconsistently with their worldview, believing in free will, expecting praise and blame for complying with the arbitrary standards of their peer group, etc. But there is nothing more to morality on atheism that imitating the herd – at least when the herd is around to watch them. And when the herd loses its Judeo-Christian foundation – watch out. That’s when the real atheism comes out – the atheism that we’ve seen before in countries that turned their backs on God, and the moral law. When God disappears from a society, anything is permissible.