Atheism and Morality

Atheists like Christopher Hitchens (RIP) and others who think in the same vein will often say their disdain for the God hypothesis is that it posits a celestial dictator that quenches freedom and forces people to love Him or face fiery torments forever in hell. In other words the concept of God is a freedom killer.

I appreciate the value of freedom just as much as an atheist would. So does God–so much so that he endowed created man with autonomy and refuses to run rough-shod over people’s will and coerce them into loving him. In fact God has gone to great lengths to extend love that is free to be rejected. God knew there can be no true love and obedience unless there is the freedom to spurn love and disobey. Hell is ultimately God honoring people’s freedom and giving them what they want–i.e. not God. (BTW Hell is not a perpetual burning inferno of God’s revenge. We shouldn’t let medieval theology turn us off too much).

But getting back to freedom Dostoevsky’s famous skeptic character rightly concludes: “If God does not exist, then everything is permitted.” In that sense the absence of God would truly result in unlimited freedom–if we understand freedom to mean unrestrained actions in which all things are permissible, nothing is prohibited and nothing is condemned as objectively wrong. But is that a free world you would enjoy? Probably not.

Yet an inescapable philosophical problem for atheism is that it can’t provide a foundation for objective moral values or moral obligation. You can’t go from an IS to an OUGHT without introducing an authority from the outside. But in atheism the world just IS what it happened to evolve into and you can’t get to the OUGHT of objective morality from molecules colliding together in a purposeless, amoral, materialistic soup of bio-genesis.

At most a person in an atheistic universe who rapes and steals is merely flaunting his evolved social customs and threatening the cohesive harmony of his society. But that would only push the question back further to “why is it morally wrong to threaten the cohesive harmony of one’s society?” It may be stupid but we can’t say it is evil. At most he is acting unfashionably and has bad manners in respect to the rest of his human “herd” but we couldn’t say he is doing anything objectively wrong. And it is the “oughts” of this world that gives freedom its only true haven–but the atheist has to borrow from the theist to live there philosophically.

About StriderMTB

Hi, I'm Matt. "Strider" from Lord of the Rings is my favorite literary character of all time and for various reasons I write under the pseudonym "StriderMTB. As my blog suggests I seek to live out both the excitement and tension of a Christian walk with Christ in the 3rd world context of Asia. I started my blog as an unmarried man who was blessed to oversee an orphanage of amazing children in South-East Asia. As of 2022, I am a happily married man to an amazing missionary wife serving together on the mission field. I hate lima beans and love to pour milk over my ice-cream. I try to stay active in both reading and writing and this blog is a smattering of my many thoughts. I see the Kingdom of God as Jesus preached it and lived to be the only hope for a broken world and an apathetic church.
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