Value, Morality, and a Higher Calling Than Merely Voting Conservatively

It is far from a secret ((, that I believe the sec­u­lar human­is­tic / athe­is­tic world­views have only one log­i­cal con­clu­sion: If they are true, then the Preach­er was right: “Van­i­ty ((Or, “worth­less.”)) of van­i­ties, … van­i­ty of van­i­ties! All is van­i­ty.” ((Eccle­si­astes 1:2.))

In oth­er words, if you and I are here as a result of the big bang, cos­mic evo­lu­tion, and sub­squent­ly bio­log­i­cal evo­lu­tion, then there is noth­ing upon which mean­ing­ful­ness can be built. A speck of dust float­ing in a galaxy a bil­lion light years away… It is as valu­able as you or I, for it has the same ulti­mate ori­gin and the same ulti­mate fate as we do.

From where I stand, the life of the athe­ist seems inef­fa­bly trag­ic — day after day know­ing that any moment may bring a ces­sa­tion of the life which makes them dif­fer­ent from the dust sur­round­ing them. They may argue — as some have to me — that they live to enjoy life as much as pos­si­ble, but why? There’s no rea­son to, for hap­pi­ness itself has no ulti­mate value.

And like­wise it would seem from an athe­is­tic per­spec­tive unspeak­ably cru­el to bring chil­dren into the world only to expe­ri­ence life ever so briefly believ­ing that when they too die they will cease to exist. The “high­er cause” of per­pet­u­at­ing the species may pro­vide a scape­goat for repro­duc­tion, but even it is van­i­ty, for accord­ing to nat­u­ral­is­tic teach­ing all that is must some day per­ish, either in a big crunch or by freez­ing as the uni­verse expands and all stars die.

I was read­ing some Fran­cis Scha­ef­fer ear­li­er, ((I high­ly rec­om­mend his works. Every time I read any­thing of his, I find myself both chal­lenged and enriched.)) and I was sur­prised to find a pas­sage which argues for the same thing as I have con­cern­ing athe­is­tic world­views. Here’s a portion:

The sec­ond pos­si­ble answer in the area of exis­tence is that all that now is had an imper­son­al begin­ning. This imper­son­al­i­ty may be mass, ener­gy, or motion, but they are all imper­son­al, and all equal­ly imper­son­al. So it makes no basic philo­soph­ic dif­fer­ence which of them you begin with. Many mod­ern men have implied that because they are begin­ning with ener­gy par­ti­cles rather than old-fash­ioned mass, they have a bet­ter answer. Sal­vador Dali did this as he moved from his sur­re­al­is­tic peri­od into his new mys­ti­cism. But such men do not have a bet­ter answer. It is still imper­son­al. Ener­gy is just as imper­son­al as mass or motion. As soon as you accept the imper­son­al begin­ning of all things, you are faced with some form of reduc­tion­ism. Reduc­tion­ism argues that every­thing which exists, from the starts to man him­self, is final­ly to be under­stood by reduc­ing it to the orig­i­nal, imper­son­al fac­tor or factors.

The great prob­lem with begin­ning with the imper­son­al is to find any mean­ing for the par­tic­u­lars. A par­tic­u­lar is any indi­vid­ual fac­tor, any indi­vid­ual thing — the sep­a­rate parts of the whole. A drop of water is a par­tic­u­lar, and so is a man. If we begin with the imper­son­al, then how do any of the par­tic­u­lars that now exist — includ­ing man — have any mean­ing, any sig­nif­i­cance? Nobody has giv­en us an answer to that. In all the his­to­ry of philo­soph­i­cal thought, whether from the East or the West, no one has giv­en us an ade­quate answer.

Begin­ning with the imper­son­al, every­thing, includ­ing man, must be explained in terms of the imper­son­al plus time plus chance. Do not let any­one divert your mind at this point. There are no oth­er fac­tors in the for­mu­la, because there are no oth­er fac­tors that exist. If we begin with an imper­son­al, we can­not then have some form of tele­o­log­i­cal con­cept. No one has ever demon­strat­ed how time plus chance, begin­ning with an imper­son­al, can pro­duce the need­ed com­plex­i­ty of the uni­verse, let alone the per­son­al­i­ty of man. No one has giv­en us a clue to this. He Is There and He Is Not Silent, chap­ter 1

Scha­ef­fer is absolute­ly right. If you begin with noth­ing but mass, motion, and ener­gy and add to it noth­ing but time and chance, then nowhere along the line does any­thing have val­ue. Every­thing is equal. A dia­mond. A sil­i­con wafer. A gui­tar string. Your spouse. Your chil­dren. You.

All is mass + motion + ener­gy, and ulti­mate­ly, that is all that will remain. Ash­es to ash­es, dust to dust. All is vanity.

Any “morals” in an imper­son­al uni­verse are noth­ing more than sit­u­a­tion­al ethics, as Scha­ef­fer explains a bit lat­er in the pas­sage. There is no ulti­mate basis for call­ing war wrong, or adul­tery or rape or school shoot­ings or molesta­tion or any­thing else. There’s also no ulti­mate basis for call­ing any­thing right. Every­thing is mat­ter, motion, and ener­gy and noth­ing more.

Big name athe­ists like Richard Dawkins spend their time attempt­ing to per­suade peo­ple away from the­ism in any form so that they may embrace athe­ism, that they may embrace free­dom from absolutes. It’s hard to say why they do this — in their world­view, the­ism and athe­ism are equal, two dif­fer­ent world­views held by ugly giant bags of most­ly water ((A descrip­tion of humans giv­en by an alien in “Home Soil,” an episode of Star Trek: The Next Gen­er­a­tion)) — yet they con­tin­ue on in their snipe hunt bliss­ful­ly unaware of or oth­er­wise unwill­ing to accept the empti­ness of their efforts.

Pre­sup­pos­ing as an axiom the exis­tence of a per­son­al God ((Just as athe­ists pre­sup­pose as an axiom the nonex­is­tence of a god or gods.)) imbues the uni­verse with untold val­ue and mean­ing, and as Cre­ator He is the source of per­son­al­i­ty, of moral­i­ty, of truth.

I’m post­ing this not to bash athe­ists. Far from it. I feel for them. I per­son­al­ly could­n’t fath­om a uni­verse with­out mean­ing, with­out pur­pose, and I sym­pa­thize with those who believe that mat­ter, ener­gy, and motion are all that is or ever has been.

To my Chris­t­ian read­ers… You too should sym­pa­thize with them. We as believ­ers in the risen Christ are ves­sels of truth, ambas­sadors of the Cre­ator Jesus Christ.

Going into the Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion this fall, there will be a lot of talk con­cern­ing things like war and abor­tion. Our stance on such things should go much deep­er than par­ty pol­i­tics. Are you against abor­tion because your par­ty is? because it is the con­ser­v­a­tive thing to do?

Or are you against abor­tion because you know the truth and the val­ue of every human life on the basis of bear­ing God’s image? Is it more impor­tant to out­law the prac­tice or to con­vey to oth­ers the truth which begins with Jesus Christ cru­ci­fied for our sins, that He has risen from the dead for all who believe in Him?

As I sit here watch­ing elec­tion cov­er­age on tele­vi­sion and pon­der­ing the dif­fer­ence between mean­ing­ful and mean­ing­less world­views, I find myself think­ing about the futil­i­ty of leg­is­lat­ing morality.

By no means do I think abor­tion should remain legal; I firm­ly believe it is a gov­ern­men­t’s respon­si­bil­i­ty to pun­ish the wicked and to reward the good.

Leg­is­lat­ing moral­i­ty is futile or pow­er­less, though, to change a soul, and we must not be con­tent to rest on the lau­rels of flesh and blood victories.






7 responses to “Value, Morality, and a Higher Calling Than Merely Voting Conservatively”

  1. Bruce Keener Avatar

    Inter­est­ing, Rick.

    I per­son­al­ly have not found Scha­ef­fer­’s works to be all that sat­is­fy­ing. He does have many good points, of course, and presents them well. But, he nev­er real­ly con­vinc­ing­ly makes an argu­ment that God does indeed exist. He is big on the ques­tion “Why is there some­thing rather than noth­ing?” and Stenger in his God: The Failed Hypoth­e­sis address­es that fair­ly well. Scha­ef­fer does make one think that life can­not have mean­ing with­out God (some­thing I once thought, but am no longer con­vinced of), but that of course does not mean that there is one.

    I have the works of John Polk­ing­horne to be more sat­is­fy­ing. FRS Polk­ing­horne is both a gift­ed sci­en­tist and the­olo­gian (and Angli­can Priest) and does a bet­ter job in my view of address­ing the sen­si­bil­i­ty of the Chris­t­ian faith. His Sci­ence and the Trin­i­ty is very read­able and I some­times have to refer to it to quell my doubts.

    Any­way, it’s good of you to share your thoughts.

  2. Rich Beckman Avatar
    Rich Beckman

    “In oth­er words, if you and I are here as a result of the big bang, cos­mic evo­lu­tion, and sub­squent­ly bio­log­i­cal evo­lu­tion, then there is noth­ing upon which mean­ing­ful­ness can be built.”

    Sure there is. Mil­lions do it. One just accepts a fairy tale as true. Voila!! Meaning!!


  3. Rick Beckman Avatar

    Rich Beck­man: Now, now, I know the beliefs (or lack there­of) of the athe­ist is a incred­u­lous at best, but “fairy tale” is just mean. ;)

    I’m a bit sur­prised in the argu­men­ta­tion or lack there­of of your com­ment, Dad. From a human­ist per­spec­tive, it makes no dif­fer­ence one way or anoth­er what the Chris­t­ian or the Hin­du believes, yet far too often it seems that the vocal human­ists believe their world­view to be of more val­ue or is oth­er­wise more wor­thy of accep­ta­tion. If their world­view is right, then every­thing is mat­ter, mass, and ener­gy, has the same ulti­mate ori­gin, and has the same ulti­mate fate.

  4. Senior Avatar

    Sor­ry about post­ing as Rich Beck­man. I’ve been using Senior to help avoid con­fu­sion (my own if no one else’s). I’ll try not to screw that up again.

    “it seems that the vocal human­ists believe their world­view to be of more val­ue or is oth­er­wise more wor­thy of acceptation.”

    Sure. They think is is more wor­thy because they believe it has the virtue of being true.

    “If you begin with noth­ing but mass, motion, and ener­gy and add to it noth­ing but time and chance, then nowhere along the line does any­thing have value.”

    That may well be true, but we can’t real­ly KNOW that it is.

    Even if we came to under­stand true ulti­mate real­i­ty, there will be no way of know­ing that we have done so.

    I would also just like to point out that even in your world mil­lions find mean­ing by accept­ing a fairy tale as true. Plen­ty of reli­gions out there.

  5. Rick Beckman Avatar

    Senior: Well quite right. For every 1 truth, there are count­less lies.

    “The virtue of being true” … That would pre­sup­pose that truth is of more val­ue than untruth, which is not a deter­mi­na­tion which, well, can be made with any sure­ty with­in the frame­work pro­vid­ed by athe­ism, a frame work which does pre­sup­pose that ulti­mate ori­gins and fate of man are lit­tle dif­fer­ent, if at all, from the ori­gins and fate of any­thing else which is.

  6. Rick Beckman Avatar

    Samuel Skin­ner: I’m not deny­ing that with­in an athe­is­tic frame­work peo­ple cer­tain­ly are free to choose their pur­pose and var­i­ous oth­er things.

    How­ev­er, I also con­tend that with­in an athe­is­tic frame­work such pur­pose, mean­ing, or val­ue is utter­ly imag­ined and is not intrin­sic to any athe­ist’s exis­tence. Fif­teen bil­lion years from now, if not much soon­er, what­ev­er imag­ined pur­pose, mean­ing, or val­ue will be as nonex­is­tent as it was at the big bang.

    Athe­ist’s can’t help but make up mean­ing, pur­pose, and val­ue in their lives — how else do they feel the void left by their world­view? — but they have absolute­ly no rea­son or sure basis to do so.

  7. Samuel Skinner Avatar
    Samuel Skinner

    Only a slave is give pur­pose. Those who are free choose theirs. After all, what is more total­i­tar­i­an than hav­ing your entire life being decid­ed by anoth­er the moment you were born?

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Rick Beckman