Can Atheists be Good Without God?

Atheists are at it again. The Freedom From Religion Foundation traverses the nation looking for any religious morsel that they can chew on in order to further their atheistic cause. Here’s the organization’s latest:

The Freedom from Religion Foundation, an atheist group, recently sent a letter to the Shenendehowa Central School district in Clifton Park, New York, demanding the removal of songs from a music class because the tunes include the words “God” and “Lord.”

What if they actually got their way? What if God was no more? Are their consequences to a fully consistent atheism — a molecule-to-man theory of evolutionary origins?

When the late anti-theist Christopher Hitchens (1949–2011) was asked if there was only one believer in God alive in the world after atheists had made their case that God did not exist, would he work to covert this last theist to atheism? Here was his answer as recorded in the debate DVD Collision:

“If I could convince everyone to be non-believers, . . . and there is only one [believer] left, one more, and then it would be done and there would be no more religion in the world and no more deism and theism, I wouldn’t do it.”

Fellow unbeliever and atheist high priest Richard Dawkins was astonished at Hitchens’ answer:

“And Dawkins said, what do you mean you wouldn’t do it? And I said I don’t quite know why I wouldn’t do it. And it is not just because there would be nothing left to argue over and no one left to argue with, it is not just that, well, it would be then, somehow if I could drive it out of the world, I wouldn’t and the incredulity with which he looked stays with me still, I’ve got to say.”

I’ll tell you why Hitchens wouldn’t do it. Because living in a consistently atheistic world is impossible. Atheists talk about morality, goodness, and evil, but they can’t account for them given their materialistic assumptions. This is not to say that today’s atheists are not moral. They are and they aren’t. They are because they assume a worldview that includes morality and the distinctions between good and evil. But how do you get morality from molecules and atoms? They aren’t moral or immoral because atoms don’t behave in a moral way, and, according to most atheists, we are nothing but “a bag of meat and bones”1 animated by electricity.

While reading about the latest Freedom From Religion lawsuit, I was watching The Aviator (2004), a film about Howard Hughes (1905–1976). Hughes, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, was an eccentric genius. He produced and directed films (Scarface, Hell’s Angels, The Outlaw), owned Trans World Airlines (TWA) in the 1940s, was his own test pilot, and took on the Senate of the United States. He set multiple world air-speed records, built the Hughes H-1 Racer and H-4 “Hercules” (better known as the “Spruce Goose” because it was made out of wood (birch) and “spruce” and “goose” rhyme).

In addition to his business enterprises, Hughes was also known as something of a playboy. He kept company with numerous Hollywood stars: Katherine Hepburn, Ava Gardner, Ginger Rogers, Joan Fontaine, Linda Darnell, and Gene Tierney.

There’s a scene in The Aviator where he and Katherine Hepburn (played by Cate Blanchett) discuss the ways of men and women in a Darwinian context. Hepburn was an atheist. Here’s their conversion as they play a round of golf:

Hepburn: “Heard you were wooing Ginger Rogers. What about that?”

Hughes: “Ah, she’s, uh, just a friend.”

Hepburn: “Ha! Men can’t be friends with women, Howard. They must possess them or leave them be. It’s a primitive urge from caveman days. . . . It’s all in Darwin. Hunt the flesh, kill the flesh, eat the flesh. That’s the . . . male sex all over.”

Hunt . . . kill . . . eat. Are there any moral distinctions in what evolved “bags of meat and bones” can hunt, kill, and eat?

Later in the film, when Hepburn finds out that Hughes has been seeing other women, she turns on him. Hughes throws the earlier Darwin reference back at her.

“You’re the one that said that all men are predators. I mean, it’s all in Darwin, remember?”

Exactly! But Hepburn did not like the implications of her atheistic worldview when it was applied consistently to her.

Once a person goes down the atheist road, there is no way to account for goodness or to make distinctions between good and evil.

  1. “Kill Switch, X-Files (Season 5, Episode 11). []