Atheists have a moral problem on their hands. Can anything be moral or immoral when there is no God? How can matter-only entities require anything to be moral?
How can anything be ultimately moral or immoral given the following operating assumption by atheist and evolutionist Carl Sagan?
“My fundamental premise about the brain is that its workings—what we sometimes call ‘mind’—are a consequence of its anatomy and physiology, and nothing more. ‘Mind’ may be a consequence of the action of the components of the brain severally or collectively.”1
If the mind is “nothing more” than the interaction of physical entities, then how does one derive morality from the interaction of atoms, molecules, chemicals, and an electrical charge?
The “components of the brain” aren’t something to be obeyed. What if the components of my brain are in disagreement over the “components” of your brain? Who makes the final determination, and who says that determination is absolutely moral?
This is a huge dilemma for atheistic materialists. In an attempt to resolve what they realize is a problem, a group of atheists have developed the “10 ‘Non-Commandments’ Contest”
“in which atheists were asked to offer modern alternatives to the famous Decalogue. And, to sweeten the pot, the contest offered $10,000 in moolah to the winning would-be Moses. . . .
“A team of 13 judges selected 10 of the more sober and serious submissions, and announced the winners [on December 19, 2014].
“There’s nary a ‘thou shalt’ among them — nothing specifically about murder, stealing or adultery, although there is a version of the Golden Rule, which presumably would cover those crimes.”
There is nothing earth shattering in the atheist Decalogue of suggestions. But what is evident is a big “who are you tell me what I should or shouldn’t do, or even to suggest, in a world where there is no lord, master, or god over me?”
And these atheists make clear, these aren’t real commandments. There is no one to say “these are universal laws that must be followed.” If somebody doesn’t like the Sixth “Non-Commandment” – “Be mindful of the consequences of all your actions and recognize that you must take responsibility for them” – there’s no one ultimately to object. To whom does the objector appeal? Don’t you think that Adolf Hitler was mindful of the consequences of his actions? He knew exactly what he was doing and why he was doing it.
The only reason any of the ten suggestions work is because those who suggested them borrowed the premise of commandments from an already operating theistic worldview and the fact that “they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them” (Rom 2:15) because they are created in the image of God and not the result of the randomness of the evolutionary process.
If evolution is true, as atheists maintain, then there is no way to account for even the premise of morality
What I would like to see is some consistency. Why not develop a set of real atheistic commandments. The first one could be, “There is no God, and I can do anything I want, and who are you to say I can’t?”
There’s no way an atheist can fundamentally rebut the claim without first presupposing an ultimate lawgiver.
Ted Turner tried his hand at commandment making. Turner had this to say about the Ten Commandments when he addressed the National Press Association in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1988:
“We’re living with outmoded rules. The rules we’re living under [are] the Ten Commandments, and I bet nobody here even pays much attention to ’em, because they are too old. When Moses went up on the mountain, there were no nuclear weapons, there was no poverty. Today, the Ten Commandments wouldn’t go over. Nobody around likes to be commanded.”
Turner’s dismissal of the Ten Commandments led him to develop his own set of “new” commandments that he called “Voluntary Initiatives.” They are nothing more than one person’s personal preferences:
- I promise to have love and respect for the planet earth and living things thereon, especially my fellow species — humankind.
- I promise to treat all persons everywhere with dignity, respect, and friendliness.
- I promise to have no more than two children, or no more than my nation suggests.
- I promise to use my best efforts to save what is left of our natural world in its untouched state and to restore damaged or destroyed areas where practical.
- I pledge to use as little nonrenewable resources as possible.
- I pledge to use as little toxic chemicals, pesticides, and other poisons as possible and to work for their reduction by others.
- I promise to contribute to those less fortunate than myself, to help them become self-sufficient and enjoy the benefits of a decent life, including clean air and water, adequate food and health care, housing, education, and individual rights.
- I reject the use of force, in particular military force, and back United Nations arbitration of international disputes.
- I support the total elimination of all nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons of mass destruction.
- I support the United Nations and its efforts to collectively improve the conditions of the planet.
And if you and I don’t “voluntarily” follow these “initiatives,” what will happen to us? Who will enforce them, and by whose authority?
- Carl Sagan, Introduction, The Dragons of Eden (New York, Random House, 1977. [↩]