God Given Morality = Hell Insurance = Hypocracy and Inhumanity

So I was listening to NPR on my way to work today, and they had an interview with Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum (http://santorum.senate.gov/public/).

At one point he says that Intelligent Design SHOULD be taught in schools (*Nurk!*) but…not in the arena of the science classroom. (*Gasp!*)
Wow, OK, I can support that. Very surprising comment from a very outspoken conservative Christian politician. But then he goes on to expose why he’s a politician and not a scientist by saying the holes in the Theory of Evolution must also be examined. Well, duh! That’s the point of the scientific method: to find and identify the problems, errors, mistakes, fallacies in what we know about the natural world and the hypotheses we come up with to explain and predict them and then solve and correct those holes. That’s science.

I can tell you this, though: The theory of evolution is so well verified that what little bits and pieces we don’t have fully grokked yet, their examination and understanding will not in the least erode the validity of evolution as an established scientific theory any less than say the Theory of Gravity. (I don’t know any fundies that try to shout down gravity as non-existant and invalid simply because it too is labeled a “theory.”)

OK, that bit of over-Wikipediaed statement aside, I’m beside my point of this blog. And that’s this: Santorum also stated that if it IS true that there is no God or Plan and we’re all here as accidents of nature and evolution, then there is no foundation for morality.

What?! Wha…I mean, what??!! GAH! I HATE that argument and get hives every time I hear it! It makes no sense. No sense. No sense no sense no sense. It Makes. No. Sense.

Why? I mean…WHY?! does it follow that if there is no God there’s no need to be moral?! I read on a Christian blog just yesterday a quip of “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die” as a satirical statement.

OK, fundamental Christians, let me ask you this: (There’s a LOT of colons in this blog today…) If there was suddenly incontrovertible, irrefutable, absolute proof of no God and no Plan for us, would you suddenly no longer love your loved ones? Your family, friends, and neighbors? Would you suddenly decide lying and cheating would be OK ways to live your life? If “yes”, then I pity and fear for you. Afraid OF you as well. And I’ll bet you, if there IS a Heaven, you’re not going there anyway because you’re obviously being “moral” for the wrong reasons. Oh sure most Christians I’d ask would SAY they live moral lives because it simply makes God happy or keeps baby Jesus from crying or something, but there are only a VERY few people I would believe it of. Most religious people are moral because of fear of hell/greed for treasures of paradise. (To digress, exactly how merciful and fatherly and loving is a God that would send someone to eternal torment for a smattering of unholy living for a few/several decades, unholy living which God himself gave us the capacity of living and then blames and punishes us for, literally, an infinite times worse punishment than the crime? Seems pretty petty and cruel and mean and evil in my book. Anyway….)

Despite my debating here and on the NewSojourn blog, I actually do believe in some absolute truths of sort (to digress again, I find that debating vehemently for a point-of-view different from my own not only helps raise important questions and awareness and examinations for the people I’m debating with or those unlucky enough to observe, but for myself as well. I’ve often times come to believe in something different from what I was arguing for BECAUSE of what I came to understand about what I was arguing for. I would like to challenge all staunch believers in something to study and argue deeply FOR the opposing belief for one month. Fundies should study and defend the atheist belief and atheists should study and argue, sincerely, for fundamental Christianity. I think both would learn a lot about themselves and each other…and everyone would become Deists!! glee!)

Anyway…one of the absolutes I believe in is the value of certain morality and treating others as you would want to be treated. Of loving your fellow man and doing what you can to help and not harm others either physically or mentally or emotionally or spiritually even. You yourself as well as that other person as well as humanity as a whole all benefit from The Golden Rule and doing no harm, and valuing love “above all else”. Regardless of any deities.

And the idea that no God = no need for morality is horrible and fundamentally flawed not just because of the above, but also the evidence! I know several atheists, agnostics, “pagans”, and other people who do not believe in God, Heaven, or divinely given morality. And, at least outwardly, they do not live amoral lives. Most every one lives in observable moderation and with care toward other people. They (I feel like I’m discussing some lab experiment animals here) feel guilt and grief and shame for mistakes and when they wrong someone, and feel compassion and strive to aid people. I would even hazard to say that half of the people I can count as friends of mine who are exceptionally generous and helpful and concerned about others, do not believe in the Christian God. On average, I know more self-proclaimed Christians who behave un-Christianly than I do non-Christians. Most of the non-Christians and non-theists I know tend to have a much more socially liberal outlook, in that they are involved in social organizations like Habitat for Humanity and Walk-a-Thons and Amnesty International.

So, how exactly can this be explained in the context of morality must come from the God of Christ? People who care about other people, who show generosity and kindness and live in moderation, who do that not because it’s simply the right way to live in a society and world of other humans but because God told them to, are sad and pathetic people, I believe. They have no contemplation of the actual value and worth of love and kindness and care more about their own “soul” and what they’ll get as an afterlife than the real effects of what living a “moral” life can have on them and those around them in the here and now.

5 thoughts on “God Given Morality = Hell Insurance = Hypocracy and Inhumanity”

  1. Liam,

    Cool post. As a “fundamental Christian” I wanted to respond to some of those colons! 😉

    Your question: “If there was suddenly incontrovertible, irrefutable, absolute proof of no God and no Plan for us, would you suddenly…[abandon morality]?”

    It is impossible for me to answer this question because I have encountered Christ personally. Thus, I know he exists. However, if I may submit this answer: (colons can be fun you know) Living a moral life is the best way to live. It fosters a peaceful environment and helps build a stable society.

    Christians do not try to live morally because it gets them into heaven. It is critical that you understand this. Christians acquire their citizenship in heaven through faith in Jesus Christ alone. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:8-10.

    Doing good, is a response to God, much in the same way you would do good (or be good) in a romantic manner with a lover. Further, for the Christian, living a moral life is a life of freedom…escaping the chains of a life of rebellion against God. Understand, though, that this is process, not some whacky pixie dust which anoints us perfect. Indeed, perfection will only be achieved in heaven. The striving for, growing toward, and yearning for better behavior is the lifelong journey for the Christian.

    Furthermore, the relationship of morals and the existence of God is a separate and very different discussion. You are referring to the idea which suggests because Objective Morality exists, so does God. This argument is made because there is significant evidence that there is an “independent” idea of what is right and wrong, which exists outside of humanity. Thus, the argument asks where this objective morality came from and tries to answer that it came from God.

    The argument, agree or disagree, is just an argument. It is an apologetic only, not a theological prescriptive manner for living.

    For the Christian, the prescription comes from the Scriptures. And there we find that any attempt at earning our way to heaven by attempting to live a moral life will fail, because our nature is to rebel against God. Instead, we find that God himself is our advocate, paying the price for our rebellion himself, and then providing a manner by which we can change our nature to become more like him—which results in acting more like him.

    Christians, however, vary in their success in this process. It is very analogous to a Husband/Wife relationship…some are more committed to their spouse than others. As such, their life reflects that commitment (or lack there of) and it becomes pretty clear to those around them.

    In my own walk with God, I have failed miserably in my commitment to him, on many occasions. But this does not disqualify his power, or his presence. All it reveals is my own weakness. However, when I am honest with both myself and him about my weakness, he creates an incredible strength that allows me to try again. And again.

    Just like in a marriage, where your spouse will certainly fail you from time to time (and we them), the process of forgiveness and restoration will also happen again and again. The question always comes down to our level of commitment.

    That is how morality is with Christians…a response out of love for the purpose of freedom…freedom to be with God instead of against him. When morality is put forth as a requirement for Salvation, you are not talking about Christianity…you are talking about superstitious, dark, oppressive religion.

  2. Ah, that’s a kind of reply I was hoping for. I was a little too superficial, brazen with my description of the Christian view of morality in hopes of getting a response that goes deeper into the cause/effect of God within the faithful compelling them to act morally.

    Remember, I was pretty devout teen and contemplated and debated the whole “works get you closer to God which gets you closer to spiritual perfection” vs. “Spirit compells you to works which is a reflection of the perfect Spirit with you” and various similar ideas.

    But, one question does remain: How valid is the concept that without God then humans would digress into amorality? Viz a vis, the atheist who is without God has no consideration for acting morally, viz a vis, “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die?”

    Here’s a reasoning I’d expect, which you lay the foundation for in your reply: Given the existance of God and thus the existance of Objective Morality, one’s BELIEF in God does not effect the fact that Objective Morality exists and that individual has the capacity to act and live morally regardless of his belief in the giver of morality.

    If this is the case, then agreed, the only thing that separates the heaven-bound from the non-heaven bound is not the morally lived life and good works, but what is found in the person’s heart/soul. The moral life is irrelevant. To Salvation that is. The heaven-bound will live a moral life because the Spirit compells him to, the moral atheist is living morally because he is simply enjoying the benefit of Objective Morality given to him by a God he denies.

    But then I must ask, in light of ” for the Christian, living a moral life is a life of freedom…escaping the chains of a life of rebellion against God,” how does the atheist living the moral life fit in the rebellion against God aspect? How does my friend Nameless here, who is generous, humble, always has a kind word, and participates in activities that help the less fortunate, how is he rebelling against God? Is it simply because he rejects the very existance of God? If so, how is that rebellion reflected in his doing the same moral living as the “saved” Christian?

    There are arguements that can be made that works DO matter regardless of faith:
    http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/faithalone.html
    That’s a list of quotes taken from the Bible (and completely out of context) that compares and contrasts scripture that says Salvation is by faith alone vs. Salvation or damnation that comes based on works.
    (Of course, this goes back to the whole debate of the validity of taking Scritpural quotes willynilly. I include this not to prove anything but just as something interesting, and to raise some questions for personal evaluation.)

    I’m not saying there is no Plan. The fact that I believe in a Creator God does not mean he/she/it may not have had some goal or plan in “mind” upon the instigation of the Big Bang. We may be an important part, we may just be a small step toward something beyond our comprehension. I don’t know. It’d be foolish of me to deny the possibility, as much as I believe atheists are foolish for staunchly refusing to believe in the possibility of God altogether. This Plan may in some way involve Objective Morality, or an Objective Morality may simply be part of our biological development and not in the least supernaturally involved. If it can be believed that some supernatural creature resembling a mammalian male who passes eternal judgements upon humans and can create the universe in illogical ways in 6 days and can be pleased by the “sweet smell of burning flesh” at one point and intentionally “harden hearts” of people so that they can be justifiably murdered by the Hebrews or people can be made to fail to understand The Word so that they can be intentionally damned, then why is it imposible to believe that humanity may simply have evolved the biological imperative to behave in ways we label as “Objective Morality” because it’s favorable to our species and the idea of devolving into amorality without God is foolish?

  3. Wow, excellent comments. Let me dive right into answering your questions and thoughts…

    “Here’s a reasoning I’d expect, which you lay the foundation for in your reply: Given the existance of God and thus the existance of Objective Morality, one’s BELIEF in God does not effect the fact that Objective Morality exists and that individual has the capacity to act and live morally regardless of his belief in the giver of morality.”

    Yep, that is pretty much exactly what I would say. You continue: “…the only thing that separates the heaven-bound from the non-heaven bound is not the morally lived life and good works, but what is found in the person’s heart/soul.” You almost quoted Jesus here…so I’m right there with ya.

    “…how does the atheist living the moral life fit in the rebellion against God aspect? How does my friend Nameless here, who is generous, humble, always has a kind word, and participates in activities that help the less fortunate, how is he rebelling against God? Is it simply because he rejects the very existence of God? If so, how is that rebellion reflected in his doing the same moral living as the ‘saved’ Christian?”

    This is an outstanding question. The answer—from a Christian perspective—must come from Scripture, which is clear in stating that all people rebel against God. Romans 3:23-24 is one such reference, although there are dozens more.

    You are absolutely correct in suggesting that there are many non-Christian people in this world which have outstanding behavior. Indeed, some Christians would do well to learn from their example.

    And you are right to lead into the question of the tension which exists within the Bible between “works” and “faith” (although I would suggest that “SAB” addresses the issue with the depth of a cookie sheet, revealing their fallacious approach quite clearly for all to see).

    Instead, there is a richness to this truth which is, for me, the most convincing truth of the entire Bible. The Law (which would require good works for salvation) shows us our rebellion, and also demonstrates we cannot achieve salvation through works. It is contradictory to our very nature.

    The Gospel (the idea that we are saved by faith alone) is the only solution for this quandary. It is important to note, as James does in the list of scriptures you referred to over on SAB, that while faith alone saves us, faith that is alone is not the real deal.

    It goes right back to the analogy of marriage I used earlier. If I say to my wife “I love you” but I never actually love (verb) her, then my words are meaningless. This is the same type of relationship we have with God: our works do not save us, the condition of our heart does (just as you worded so well in your comment). However, the other scriptures referred to from SAB point out that it must be real, and if it is real, then we will see some evidence of it.

    You conclude with this paragraph:

    “If it can be believed that some supernatural creature resembling a mammalian male who passes eternal judgments upon humans and can create the universe in illogical ways in 6 days and can be pleased by the ‘sweet smell of burning flesh’ at one point and intentionally ‘harden hearts’ of people so that they can be justifiably murdered by the Hebrews or people can be made to fail to understand The Word so that they can be intentionally damned, then why is it impossible to believe that humanity may simply have evolved the biological imperative to behave in ways we label as ‘Objective Morality’ because it’s favorable to our species and the idea of devolving into amorality without God is foolish?”

    I understand where you are coming from…but I would respectfully submit that that your view of God as you suggest it here may be skewed by another factor (unknown to me).

    God was never pleased by burning flesh, but he was pleased that people of Israel believed a sacrifice could redeem their sins. The book of Hebrews shows that God was always looking forward to his own sacrifice on each of those occasions. He looked forward to the time when all people would have access to him.

    The Bible teaches that man has a built in need for fellowship with God (that is what is meant by “made in his image”). God hardens the hearts of those who hate him, because that is what they want. They want to fully reject God and be done with him and he gives them the freedom to do so. He desires, however, that all people would be saved.

    I would argue, Liam, that the morality within you, the very morality which causes you to question and even demand explanations for what you perceive to be immoral acts of God as displayed in the Bible…this is what drives your passion for justice. You should continue to explore this passion, even, if I may be extremely bold, offer a prayer to God (even if he is the God of Deism) and ask for an explanation, even demand one!

  4. Well, Scripturally speaking, taking things literally, God did enjoy simply the smell of burnt offerings: Several places in Numbers chapter 15, (NRSV is the most non-obvious translation and it still indicates the “smell” is important), Genesis chapter 8, etc. But that’s neither here nor there. Even back when I was a devout Christian I accepted the non-literalness of the Bible. Of course, back THEN when it was written they meant that as literal, but we can’t today. For example, when they wrote that God would not want to be offended by improperly disposed of waste when he “walked into camp” they meant it, but we interpret that symbolically, or figuratively. If we took the Bible literally, word for word, we couldn’t make sense of Romans 3 and Galatians 3 when Paul says faith is what you will be saved by and not the law, yet Jesus says in Matthew 15 that the knowledge of the Law is what will get you into Heaven. The Bible HAS to be taken symbolically, figuratively. And in that light of course God wouldn’t really be pleased by the smell of sacrifices suspiciously similar to other ancient deities worshiped by peoples which the early Hebrews, Canaanites, and Ugarits associated with….

    Anyway. Perhaps, and this was a revolutionary thought for me a few years ago, “made in God’s image” meant not the literal meaning of appearance, or this meaning of need for fellowship (which I don’t fully grasp,) but in similar power unique in all the world. By which I mean, of all the creatures of the world, man is the only one with the capability to create life (cloning), destroy all life (nuclear war, pollution,) create art and architecture, be self-aware, consider questions regarding the nature of the universe and human purpose, create religions, etc. That’s pretty powerful stuff! Very God-like, no? Even our closest genetic relatives in the chimp world aren’t capable of a bare fraction of the power and ability humans have.

    Which is why a) I believe in God, and b) I believe God is incomprehensible and so is his Plan (if he has one.)
    Consider humans and ants. We’re both mortal, with lifespans that are the same (on a geologic time scale,) we are both limited to this planet (for the most part) or at least to the needs of air, water, and food. On a cosmic scale, humans and ants are extremely similar. But how different are our minds? Incomprehensibly dissimilar. An ant, if it were even capable of something closely resembling thought, could not even begin to grasp “human.”

    Now, consider how different we humans are from whatever created the universe, is capable of living not a few months like an ant or several decades like a human, but rather billions of years but more likely immortal as we understand it (being that God has to exist outside our understanding of time/space,) and powerful enough not to just create buildings out of steel and wood, but entire galaxies and dark matter explode it into existance from presumeably nothing.

    Now, consider how similar ants and humans are biologically yet how dissimilar our minds are, and consider how dissimilar humans and God are biologically and then contemplate how dissimilar our minds and conciousness must be.

    That is why I simply cannot comprehend of a God that we have made in our image. We have created the idea of God as best we can using human minds, creating religions with laws and rules that fit our comprehension, write scrolls and books with explanations of the natural world as best as we humans comprehend it at the time, and create emotions and plans and goals God must have based on human experience and comprehension. How is it even remotely possible that the creator of the universe could possibly have a conciousness even one iota similar to humans’? A being that exists outside the time/space continuum, that is capable of creating the universe…how can anyone who contemplates this believe in a God is so human as to desire companionship and feel jealousy?

    We are so well made in God’s image that we have created Gods in OUR image.
    That’s my explanation for what I see as the “flaws” and injustices of the Bible. They are a reflection of our own flaws and injustices as it is a book written by humans.

    God is so much bigger than any book.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *