Christians Do Not Have a Superior Foundation for Morality!

Christians claim that atheists have no foundation for morality, and that they do. Christians claim atheists have no motivation for being good people, and that they do. Christians claim they have moral superiority because of these two beliefs..

What can we make of this? It’s difficult to convince them otherwise, and I’ve tried here, and I’ve tried there. At the risk of beating my head against the wall, let me try one more time.

Statistics show that atheists make up the lowest number of people in prison per percentage of the population. Statistics also show that atheists have the lowest divorce rate per percentage of the population, especially when compared to conservative Christians. Moreover, it cannot be shown that Christians are more charitable than atheists when we look closely at the data.

Ddisregarding this data Christians think they live better lives because they alone have the Holy Spirit living in them. If this claim were true we should expect then to live better lives. But I believe Christians are deluded about this, since the evidence doesn’t show their claim to be true. It’s no different than the Christians who visit us here at DC who cannot bring themselves to believe we are former Christians. What gives? They reject ordinary evidence and personal testimonies to the contrary even though they turn around and accept extraordinary ancient personal testimonies of miracles in the Bible. They need to come to grips with the fact that these ancient Biblical testimonies are reported through the poor medium of history, which must cross over Lessing’s broad ugly ditch.

Christians always have an out. They claim that the above statistics do not represent true Christians. But when I ask them who the true Christians are, they are all divided into denominational groups which are intellectually supported by scholars who claim their particular group represents true Christianity. If you look at the above link on divorce rates it’s all broken down into denominations. Which one represents yours? None of them are significantly better than atheists with regard to divorce rates.

Conservative Christians will claim that it’s not denominational standing but whether or not someone believes the Bible. But I still find people who believe the Bible is inerrant who disagree with each other. Come on now!? Even Jehovah’s Witnesses claim the Bible is inerrant.

The truth is that it was Bible believing Christians who defended slavery in the South! This is a historical fact! The issue of slavery in the South was clearly the easiest moral question for the Christian God to condemn, if he exists and if he truly is the author of the Bible!

Furthermore, if Christians really believed the Bible they wouldn’t let women speak in their churches (I Cor, 14:34), for the man would be the domineering patriarchal head of the house in which a wife is to “obey” her husband just like Sarah obeyed Abraham (I Peter 3: 6), even to the point of lying to save his life by having sex with another man (Genesis 12: 10-16) and by letting him sleep with another woman so he could have a child (Genesis 16). [I am old enough to remember when women had to say the words “to love and to obey” at their weddings!]

Christians have just learned to interpret these kinds of things differently down through the ages, that’s all. According to Sam Harris they cherry-pick their morals from the Bible, and I think that’s true. They claim they wouldn’t do what previous generations of Christians did. Take for instance the great Angelic Doctor, Thomas Aquinas, who taught that heretics should be killed because they are a leavening influence in society. So Christians did that in the Spanish Inquisition and witch trials. Today's Christians think that past Christians got it wrong. Christians today claim they wouldn’t have done that. But this is what I call chronological snobbery. We are all children of our times, as Voltaire said…all of us. And our morals have all developed together over time with the advancement of a better understanding of who we are as human beings in a society.

Christians will retreat to the claim that the whole reason atheists and skeptics are not mass murderers is because they don't live consistently with their beliefs. Christians will claim that the morality of atheists is a borrowed one from the Christian society they were all raised in that taught them what is right and what is wrong. But this is the most ridiculous claim of all.

Michael Shermer asks the Christian one simple question: “What would you do if there were no God? Would you commit robbery, rape, and murder, or would you continue being a good and moral person? Either way the question is a debate stopper. If the answer is that you would soon turn to robbery, rape, or murder, then this is a moral indictment of your character, indicating you are not to be trusted because if, for any reason, you were to turn away from your belief in God, your true immoral nature would emerge…If the answer is that you would continue being good and moral, then apparently you can be good without God. QED.” [Michael Shermer, The Science of Good and Evil, pp. 154-155].

Let me say that anyone who tries to show that no society can be a good society without Christianity needs a history lesson. Such a person needs to study some of the great societies of the past, like Greece during the golden ages, or the Roman Empire, or several of the dynasties in ancient China, or the Islamic Empire under Muhammad, or the historic Japanese culture. None of these societies were Christian ones, but they were great societies by all standards of history. It won't prove anything to argue that there was corruption in every one of these societies to some degree, for this is true of any ancient or modern society, even Biblical Judaism and Christian America.

If Christians want to maintain that a Christian society is a better society, then just let them volunteer to go back in time to medieval Christianity and see if they like it. Probably all Christians today would be branded as heretics and persecuted or burned to death. And if today’s Christians will say that medieval Christianity doesn’t represent true Christianity, which Christian society does truly represent true Christianity? Even in the first few years of the early church there was corruption. There was sin in the camp (Acts 5); grumbling about food (Acts 6); and a major dispute that threatened to split the church (Acts 10-11, 15; Galatians 2). Then there were the constant disputes among these Christians over a very wide assortment of issues (I & II Corinthians). I could go on and talk of Calvin’s Geneva, the Crusades, or any period in the history of America too, including black slavery, the Salem witchcraft trials, Manifest Destiny, and our treatment of women and minorities, to mention just a few.

Christian inclusivist scholar, Charles Kimball, argues that certain tendencies within religions cause evil. “Religious structures and doctrines can be used almost like weapons.” (p. 32). Religion becomes evil, according to Kimball, whenever religion: 1) has absolute truth claims; 2) demands blind obedience; 3) tries to establish the ideal society; 4) utilizes the end justifies any means when defending their group identity; or 5) when they see themselves in a holy war. He says, “A strong case can be made that the history of Christianity contains considerably more violence and destruction than that of most other major religions.” (p. 27) [When Religion Becomes Evil (Harper, 2002)].

I just don’t see where a Christian society is a better one. And even if Christianity was the main motivator in starting most all early American universities, most all of our hospitals and many food kitchens, and the like, these things still would have been started anyway, if for no reason other than necessity. It just so happened to be that Christianity is the dominant religion in America for a couple of centuries, that’s all. Besides, these things were probably not started by Christian churches out of altruism, or any desire for a better society, but as a way for those churches to convert people. After all, who are most vulnerable to the Christian message? They are the sick (hospitals), the poor (food kitchens) and young people leaving home for the first time to enter universities, which were mostly started to train preachers.

Christians will retort that atheists have their Lenin's and Stalin's. Yes that's correct. But what point does that prove? It doesn't prove anything to me. Why? Because I don't believe it was their atheism which caused them to kill millions of people. Most dictators who fear for their lives will kill people in order to make their subjects fearful of them. Besides, there are power hungry people and killers out there no matter what a person believes. The history of the church proves this.

The real question is whether Christians have a superior foundation for morality and I've just briefly shown they don't. I mean, really now, what good does it do for Christians to claim they have a foundation for morality when they cannot tell us how we should behave and they cannot live better lives than the rest of us? What good does it mean to claim they have a superior foundation for morality when they don't actually follow the Bible as was originally intended by the writers of the Bible? It means nothing at all. Such a claim as theirs is completely empty.

Christians will finally retort that atheists cannot say anything is evil. They will claim that whatever happens is part of the evolutionary process of things where the fittest survive, and as such skeptics have no right to denounce any evil behavior. But this is a separate question from the one I've just dealt with. It's a red herring from this particular discussion. What does this have to do with whether Christians have a superior foundation for morality? If they don't have a superior morality, then they don't. And until they accept this fact we cannot go forward to discuss the next question about the nature of good and evil in our society and how we actually determine good and evil. I've already argued that today's Christians don't get their morality from the Bible. That's my major point here. Do they or don't they? That is the question. And the answer is that they do not. They gain their moral notions just like the rest of us do, except that they are hamstrung by having to fit that morality inside the pages of the Bible, and they have an ill-founded confidence in what they think is moral that can lead them to do great harm to others in the name of their God.

But if the answer is that Christians don't get their morality from the Bible and that their moral foundations are not superior ones, then the very next question is to understand where we actually get our moral notions from, and at that point I'd just recommend to them Michael Shermer's book. The short answer to this specific question is that since we are part of nature we have a right to say what kind of society we want live in, and it's a better society when people get along and treat one another with dignity and respect in a democratic form of government where eveyone has the right to speak their mind and to work toward goals that produce a better social environment for our familes and for our future children. It's better for us. It's better for our children. It's better for our nation. It's better financially. It's better socially. It's better for people as a whole. This is obvious! What other reasons are needed?