Atheism cannot account for morality. I am not accusing atheists of being immoral, but I do accuse them of borrowing their choice of moral living from concepts derived from the Christian worldview, the very worldview they denounce. They express moral outrage on several fronts, but they cannot account for any type of moral living given their atheistic assumptions. At death, if the anti-worldview of atheism is true, there is no moral difference between what happens to Adolf Hitler and what happens to Corrie Ten Boom’s family that hid Jews from the Nazis, so why should there be any moral difference between the same two types of individuals this side of the grave today? At death, we are no more than dust in the wind. In life, we are nothing more than a bag of meat and bones.
On February 28, 1944, Corrie Ten Boom (1892-1983) and her family were arrested by the Gestapo and taken to prison for harboring refugees in a secret room in their home. The rest of her family died in prison or in the concentration camp. Corrie was released because of a clerical error, and lived to write a powerful best-selling book, The Hiding Place.
Atheism is a worldview driven by faith in a system of thought whose adherents believe the human brain mysteriously came into being from a lifeless soup of chemicals. How can a materialist know that an evolved three-pound mass of tissue can be trusted to give its owner the correct information about anything and claim that certain behaviors are morally right or wrong? C.S. Lewis puts it this way:
If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our thought processes are mere accidents—the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the materialists’ and astronomers’ as well as for anyone else’s [thought processes]. But if their thoughts—i.e., of Materialism and Astronomy—are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident would be able to give correct account of all the other accidents. ((C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970), 52–53.))
How can our conception of reason be trusted to account for anything given its evolutionary origin and elusive matter-based origin and functionality? Darwin understood the dilemma. “But then arises the doubt,” he argued, “can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animals, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions? I cannot pretend to throw the least light on such abstruse problems. The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic.” ((Francis Darwin, ed., Charles Darwin Life and Letters, 2 vols. (London: John Murray, 1887), 1:313.))
Of course, given theistic assumptions, the ability to reason and the reality of morality are accounted for in the proposition that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” and “created man in His own image” (Gen. 1:1). The atheist recoils at such talk, but he needs this premise to account for all the tools he uses to denounce the God he claims he does not need.
An atheist is an “interloper on God’s territory. Everything he uses to construct his system has been stolen from God’s ‘construction site.’ The unbeliever is like the little girl who must climb on her father’s lap to slap his face…. [T]he unbeliever must use the world as it has been created by God to try to throw God off His throne.” ((John A. Fielding III, “The Brute Facts: An Introduction of the Theology and Apologetics of Cornelius Van Til,” The Christian Statesman 146:2 (March-April 2003), 30.))
Consider accounting for evil. This is a favorite “gotcha” question of the atheists: “How there be a loving God when there is evil in the world?” C.S. Lewis, an atheist who became a Christian, understood the argument and answered it like this:
My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? … Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too–for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist—in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless—I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality–namely my idea of justice—was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. ((C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan,1956), 31.))
An atheist writes, “Atheists are not soulless people without morals. One does not need to have faith in order to know right from wrong—it’s called common humanity.” ((Michael Andrew Spieles, Letter to the Editor in the August 6, 2007 issue of Time magazine (page 12) in response to the July 23, 2007 Time article “How the Democrats Got Religion.”)) Again, this is a favorite claim of atheists. It’s even been applied to the Boy Scouts whose oath is as follows:
On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.
An article in USA Today states, “Good Boy Scouts Don’t Need God.” ((Tom Krattenmaker, “Good Boy Scouts Don’t Need God,” USA Today (May 13, 2013), 6A.)) Then how does a Scout know how to be “morally straight”? It’s easy—just change the definition of what constitutes being “morally straight.” And the Boy Scouts did redefine morality because of pressure from supporters of inclusion by allowing homosexuals as Scouts and Scout leaders to join the organization.
I thought atheists, who are strict materialists, deny the existence of the soul? If this atheist has a soul, where is it? What is it? Where did it come from? Can he show it to me?
There are many atheists who contend that humans don’t have a mind. Your thinking is nothing more than your brain reacting to who knows what.
Atheists say they don’t believe in God because they can’t see Him, so how can they believe in an invisible soul or in invisible moral principles? Theists don’t accuse atheists of not knowing right from wrong; they only want to know how atheists account for right and wrong given evolutionary origins and matter-only assumptions. Does a “common animality” foster a discernable moral code among non-humans? Why is it “part of nature” when a mother eagle cannibalizes one of her young and feeds it to the stronger chick, but it would be morally reprehensible for a human mother to do the same to one of her own children?
We’ve moved from protecting the unborn to defining their humanness out of existence. And if a botched abortion fails, too bad, the born baby can be left to die. The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (S.311—116th Congress, 2019–2020) would “prohibit a health care practitioner from failing to exercise the proper degree of care in the case of a child who survives an abortion or attempted abortion.” When this piece of legislation came up for a vote, there were more than 40 Democrats that did not vote to support it. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), wrote:
I never thought I would see the day America had government officials who openly support legal infanticide.
In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo recently signed legislation that legalizes abortion not just at the point a fetus is viable outside the womb, but right up until delivery. As egregious as this law is, it pales in comparison to efforts in Virginia that sparked outrage across the country.
[Virginia House members] recently proposed barbaric legislation that would repeal all restrictions on third-trimester abortions. … Appallingly, the legislation would allow abortion even at the very end of pregnancy just as a woman is going into labor.
Here’s the stark difference that atheists can’t reconcile with their evolved-from-animals-and-still-animals claim:
Human beings are not like animals, or birds, or insects, and fish. All of these, including us, have senses, circulatory and digestive systems, appetites, a will to live, and the need for rest. But there is something unique about the human race. We are moral beings. Fish don’t have court systems. Neither do animals, insects, or birds. If one of their kind transgresses some moral law, the rest don’t seek retribution. They don’t have a judge and jury, and they don’t punish a guilty comrade. ((Ray Comfort, The Beatles, God, and the Bible (Washington, DC: WND Books, 2012), 38–39.))
But we humans are becoming just like evolved animals. Actually, worse than animals by purposely killing off our offspring and claiming that males can become females and females can become males.
How did our DNA figure out these moral distinctions that atheists claim are part of the evolutionary process? There’s a more fundamental question that is rarely asked. How does the purely material generate the immaterial (wisdom, joy, love, hope, logic, reason, morality)? In a word, how does the physical naturalist account for a “straight moral ruler”? And when they think they have accounted for it, please demonstrate it empirically.
Atheists need to offer an answer beyond the following: “[Cannibalism] is wrong because we have defined it to be wrong, based on our morals. If you’re going to ask where those morals come from, there is evidence that most morals are written in our DNA.” And what if we define cannibalism to be right, based on a new set of morals? I would like to see these DNA-etched morals. Since we evolve, could these morals evolve as well? Is our DNA the same yesterday, today, and forever? During the evolutionary process, it’s likely that a species ate its own to survive. Was this action morally right?
Those who believe there is some middle ground in this debate do not understand the evangelistic zeal of the matter-only religionists. Dewayne Wickham, who writes a column for USA Today, believes that the middle-ground approach is that “divine creation and evolution can coexist.” I suggest that Mr. Wickham tell that to the atheists and see where it gets him. ((Dewayne Wickham, “Do Positions on evolution really matter in 2008?, USA Today (June 12, 2007), 13A.))
Atheists in Great Britain posted advertisements on buses promoting atheism. An article on the subject was revealing: “Atheists believe this is the only life we have, and we should enjoy it…. This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think—and thinking is anathema to religion…. [Richard] Dawkins said that as an atheist he ‘wasn’t wild’ about the ad’s assertion that there was ‘probably’ no God.” ((“Atheists Plan Anti-God Ad Campaign on Buses” (October 23, 2008): http://tinyurl.com/5ct8g7))
If atheism is right, can anything be wrong? Of course, if atheism is right, then nothing does matter since “right” and “wrong” are simply words, just sounds coming out of someone’s mouth or lines scribbled on a piece of paper. Am I exaggerating? Consider this:
The story is told of a visit of the behaviourist psychologist Professor Burrhus Skinner to lecture at Keele University. After Skinner had given his formal lecture, in which he emphasized an objective, mechanistic description as a total explanation of man’s behaviour, he was invited to have an informal chat with the professor who had chaired the meeting. Skinner was asked whether in fact he was at all interested in who he, the chairman, and others were. Implacable, Skinner replied: ‘I am interested in the noises that come from your mouth.’ ((Denis Alexander, Beyond Science (Philadelphia: A.J. Holman Co., 1972), 45.))
For B. F. Skinner, trying to be a consistent materialist, “words” are nothing more than noises, and, of course, that’s all they can be since there is no “mind” behind their origin. Words (sounds) have no more meaning than the whistling noise that steam makes when it escapes from a kettle at full boil.