Why atheists have no fixed moral points — and why that’s a problem (even if they’re really sweet people)

The Arizona legislature had an atheist “prayer”:

Arizona State Rep. Juan Mendez (D) turned a Tuesday afternoon prayer into something much more.

The Phoenix New Times reports that Mendez, who is an atheist, changed the course of the event held prior to the House of Representatives’ afternoon session. He asked lawmakers to refrain from bowing their heads and instead to view their surroundings.

“Most prayers in this room begin with a request to bow your heads,” Mendez said, according to the Phoenix New Times. “I would like to ask that you not bow your heads. I would like to ask that you take a moment to look around the room at all of the men and women here, in this moment, sharing together this extraordinary experience of being alive and of dedicating ourselves to working toward improving the lives of the people in our state.”

That’s all well and good — cute and “kum-bye-yah” — but it reveals that dangerous moral vacuum at atheism’s center.  Everyone in the room is a moral authority.

Okay, then, I’m a moral authority too.  And by the way, my morality says that I get to take everything in your house and put it in mine.  The reason?  I don’t need to give you a reason.  I’m an extraordinary person who is alive (isn’t that wonderful?) and it will improve my life to have your stuff.  Whoa!  Wait a minute there, buddy.  Are you telling me that your morality says that my life blights yours and that you can only experience the extraordinary wonderfulness of being alive if I’m dead?  Nooooo!

That’s what happens when you have no external fixed moral point.  The Ten Commandments work because they apply to everyone, at all times, in all cultures.  Nor are they ridiculously rigid, to the point that humans lose free will.  Heck, they’re so intelligently nuanced that the Hebrew word that’s mistranslated as “kill” is actually “murder,” because the Commandments recognize that sometimes, killing can be a morally appropriate act — or at least, not an immoral one.  They demand our intelligence, as well as our allegiance to a moral and just force greater than ourselves.  And they also threaten us with consequences that transcend whatever the people around us can mete out.  They matter.

Or we can all sit there staring at our navels and basking in our wonderfulness.

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  • Spartacus

    jj — I agree that complete, final, mathematical proof is not something we’re going to get, but it comes down to a question of the standards you choose in order to adopt a working hypothesis as you go through life.
    And I’m with jj… it’s been real, it’s been fun, and I’ll catch yall on another thread.

  • Mike Devx

    Spartacus, you said in #50: God hates sin, and this place was certified 100% sin-free until we came along and messed it all up.  This could have been prevented by making us all little automatons who would never sin, but apparently something else was important enough to go ahead and allow sin, and the obvious candidate is free will.
    Your argument supporting free will is so much simpler than mine, that Occam’s razor would compel me to grant it immense seriousness, thus leading me to faith in a Creator.  I must wonder why I resist that so?
    Which leads me to (probably) wrap up my involvement in this thread with the recollection of a joke.
    Jesus strode and stood in front of the fallen woman, and remonstrated with the angry townspeople.  “Whom among you can claim to be wholly pure in virtue?”, he concluded.  “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”  He stood there waiting, and for several seconds there was no response; but then a stone flew from the crowd and struck him soundly in the chest.  He turned in the direction of the thrower, and upon seeing, said in dismay, “Mother!”

  • Ron19

    A sidebar.
    While sending an email to some Catholic Friends using Windows Live Mail I found that after years and probably billions of emails and Word documents, Microsoft not only has not ever seen the acronym USCCB for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, but instead suggests Suck and Sucks for a suggested correct spelling.

  • Ron19

    Sidebar extension.
    It scares me to think what Microsoft thinks is the correct spelling of Vatican.

  • Charles Martel

    Ron, Va-Tay-Tay?