“Atheism stresses moral responsibility and the need to make moral decisions appropriate to the here and now, rather than just acting in accordance with religious scriptures and always with a view to a reward or punishment in some unproven after-life. Some of these ideas are addressed in more detail in the sections on the Moral Argument and the Argument from Justice.”
REPLY: What a lark! This is the weakest of all the arguments atheists put forth for the non-existence of God. Take note of the empty remark by Madalyn O’Hair: “An Atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An Atheist believes that deeds must be done instead of a prayer said. An Atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death.” This is nothing but a straw-man attempt to make fun of Christians. In truth, there is no argument in what she said, and neither is there any substance in her words, otherwise.
Since an atheist cannot not identify that which is intrinsically good or bad, I find this remark interesting: “Religion tends to give people bad reasons to behave well…because a god wants you to do it, or will reward you for doing it, or will punish you for not doing it…” Really? A bad reason? Then there is this: “when good reasons are actually available…out of concern for the suffering of others or for the need to tread lightly on the earth, because it is the ‘right thing to do’.” What makes what he said “good”? Remember, in an earlier piece he said, “In the atheist hypothesis, on the other hand, there is no expectation that the world should be a good place, or that evil should not exist.” If there is no expectation the world is a good place, or should be a good place, then how can “good” exist?
Yes, I know, there is a difference between the quality “good” existing and whether the world is a good place or not. But, in the case of the atheistic argument, there is no standard available to determine whether anything can be ascribed as “good” or not. Remember, it’s nothing but a human construct, thus, it does not really exist. “There is no fixed and unchanging Platonic form or essence of evil. Like good, evil is merely a human construct, and to call something “evil” does not lead us to a greater understanding of evil behaviour.”
Jesus made this same point when He asked of a young man, “Why do you call me good?” He followed up with the clear observation from heaven, “No one is good but One, that is, God.” (Matthew 19:17, NKJV). “Good” as a human construct? If so, then there is no such quality existing in life. The sheer number of people living on earth at one time, allows for the word to be defined however one wants. “Good” as a construct from heaven, allows one to understand the word “good” in relation to God’s holiness. There is no “good” outside the will of a being. Man’s only two options.
One’s ethical behavior is motivated by something. It may be motivated by affection, judgment, love, pressure or something else. It is fool-hardy to say it is not motivated by some response one gains from another. Should a person not steal only because there is fear is getting caught? “No, you should not steal because you take for yourself what belongs to another, and that is wrong.” An atheist can’t tell you why this is the wrong course of action to take (stealing from others), except to say, “This is what I think about the matter.” “So!” another might reply, “What does it matter to me why you think this? Your opinion is of no more value than my own; I think differently!”
This is illustrated well by Bertrand Russell’s daughter, in her book, My Father Bertrand Russell (Katherine Russell Tait, Harcourt, NY, 1975). “In the last volume of his Autobiography, written toward the end of his life, my father wrote: ‘We feel that the man who brings widespread happiness at the expense of misery to himself is a better man than the man who brings unhappiness to others and happiness to himself. I do not know of any rational ground for this view, or, perhaps, for the somewhat more rational view that whatever the majority desires is preferable to what the minority desires” (p. 182).
Thus, the so-called argument put forth by atheists is based on the foundation of moral responsibility (for which there is not rational ground (foundation) is nothing but “mid-air-hanging.” To the atheistic way, a non-prudent person is just as moral as a prudent person. There is no real, substantive distinction between either. If moral values do not derive their existence from “divine edict”, then their existence is derived from the fluidity of man’s thinking. Is adultery wrong? Why? Because society says so? What difference does it make if society says it’s wrong? Society can just as easily say it is right some time in the future! Real substance in that!
Katherine Tait saw the emptiness of atheism, and knew it was not for her – at all. She left the empty philosophy and moved to a moral philosophy that is not of this world.