There’s this weird convergence on this topic on this blog such that it makes sense to clarify what I’m trying to say here because it’s foundational to what I’m saying elsewhere.
So, what do I mean when I say that Atheism has no basis for a moral code?
Let’s start with what I’m not saying and go from there.
What I’m not saying
I’m not saying that Atheists cannot be good people or do good things. Neither am I saying that they should be looked at with derision, or considered lesser people. That is apart from my point entirely because my point is less of a practical one (in one manner) than it is a philosophical one.
What I am saying
Simply put, morality seeks to declare a given action, activity or thought either right or wrong. It does not, directly, address consequences or rewards. It may be perceived in levels, though at its foundation it is either right or wrong (perhaps neutral, but that’s beside the point).
In the case of the Bible (and other moral codes derived from other religion’s books), morality is defined by a higher power, a Creator– one whose right it is to set rules. To bring this concept home better, think about the contract that you sign when you go to work for an employer. You agree to do a certain set of things and they agree to pay you for them. The employer then has the right to tell you what’s right or wrong in terms of your contract (ex. It’s right for you to work on project X, and wrong to work on project Y).
Same thing with a Creator God– He has the right because we are His creation to declare right and wrong, and regardless of whether we can meet the standard, the standard has been set.
When you take away a “holy book” or a set of standards by a higher power, what are you left with? You are left with a group of equals that must decide morality based on personal preference, conscience, etc. The problem with this is two fold.
- The obvious– God created a moral standard, and regardless of whatever standard man comes up with, if it does not match God’s it is flawed.
- The less obvious– Since it’s man that can come up with a moral standard arbitrarily, something that is right for one man maybe wrong for another man. This leads to chaos.
You lost me
Ok, a plain example. In some countries where missionaries have gone in, the native tribes accept and consider right the theft of another person’s property. We here in America believe theft to be wrong, but these people believe it to be right. Who is right?
Naturally, our American perspective says we are. Taking someone else’s property must be innately wrong because we know it to be so. But the problem is that if there’s no higher power or higher morality, why should any one person’s opinion of morality (or people group for that matter) be above any other person’s opinion of morality.
This is exactly the point. It’s not that Atheists won’t be moral, it’s that the definition of morality is worthless apart from a higher power because morality can mean whatever anyone wants it to mean– logically and rationally.
This is why we can now have discussions where we can say that discrimination is a higher wrong than infringing on a right to property, association and liberty. Because morality is whatever a group thinks it should be. But it’s irrational to have this thought, and conversations will go nowhere with this as a basis, because there can never be a winner.