Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Does God poison everything?

What’s moral? That’s a question that philosophers have pondered over for centuries, going back to the days of Plato. Good thing we don’t need philosophers anymore, according to Stephen Hawking (I guess he’s smart enough to solve every ethical dilemma by scribbling out a formula). Joking aside, morality is a question of what constitutes good and evil, the basis of society. Historically, for western civilization at least, our morality has been Christian. No one seriously disputes that, and even atheist philosophers like Nietzsche admit this only to say how rotten it is to be so, and how a Ubermensch “master morality” is to be preferred over a Christian “slave morality.”

Yet, the “new atheists” seem to naively believe that people just “know” what the right thing is, and that thousands of years on the quest for God have been a waste of time. The problem, of course, is that even “common sense” moral issues like feeding and clothing the poor is not an inherently good act. In fact, Ayn Rand, the devoutly atheistic apostle of Objectivism, coined the term “the virtue of selfishness.” Why help others? Why not just help yourself? God’s dead, right?

The late Christopher Hitchens subtitled his New York Times bestseller, God Is Not Great, with the words “how religion poisons everything.” I know it might sound corny, but I really do believe that Christianity is a relationship and not a religion. That being said, I’ll accept the label of religion for the sake of argument. Still, with a book so bold, you’d expect that atheism has a great track record with morality. Too bad that isn’t the case.

Maybe you could’ve been like H.G. Wells at the turn of the 20th century and hoped for a utopia based on secular ideals. After two world wars and a holocaust, however, I don’t think anyone can take this seriously. Especially when nations like the old Soviet Union actually attempted a godless utopia and failed miserably. Communism, as formulated by Karl Marx, is a wonderful idea in theory. It’s just completely ignorant of human nature. Every murdering communist despot, from Stalin to Pol Pot, has been an atheist. That’s a fact. It’s ironic that the proudly identified “militant atheists” of today once shared their name with the state backed League of Militant Atheists of the Soviet Union.

Then you have statistics. Ah yes, numbers never lie. According to Harvard University, which is hardly a bastion of Christian thinking, “forty percent of worship attending Americans volunteer regularly to help the poor and elderly, compared with 15% of Americans who never attend services.” Then you have the non-partisan organization, Statistics Canada, release data showing that “the average annual donation from a churchgoer is $1,038. For the rest of the population, $295.” Doesn’t look too good for the atheist utopia, huh?

So maybe religion isn’t so bad. Maybe the crusade against people of faith is misplaced. Maybe God doesn’t poison everything.

1 comment:

  1. Good thoughts Alex. Let's not pretend humanity has more to offer morally than it does