Note: This post began as a comment to respond to cyber kitten's comment to my last post. Due to the length I am posting it here. Please note that I am addressing the perspective shared as quoted and not suggesting it is representative of all atheists.
Cyber kitten: “I'm not sure if there is such a thing as a representative atheist just as there is no such thing as a representative theist. Personally I'm on the subjective end of the spectrum.”
I can certainly accept that there are differing perspectives within the broader atheists’ category. I try to address the main ones I have encountered. I was hoping to see what Kevin’s response was to your response before responding, but he has not weighed in yet. When I address subjectivism I am not saying that all atheists think this way, but I am addressing those who do. I am not trying to claim that all atheists think the same way. All theists are not the same. I hope everyone can understand that simply because I address a way of thinking that I am not trying to set up a straw man for all who claim to be atheists. Moreover as Quixote pointed out we may mean different things by our word choices and need to look at that before assuming what we mean.
Cyber Kitten: “I think he's right when he says that if you're not a Christian you can't really have Christian values - but of course many of the values claimed as Christian are pretty universal (the Golden rule for example).”
There are ethics that are specific to Christian teaching. I think though what I gathered from what Nietzsche was saying wasn’t simply a certain kind of morality, but the base for morality itself was nonexistent if there is no God. Again I am no authority on Nietzsche, so if anyone reading this is better acquainted with him please correct me if I err. I think he did indeed struggle with the conclusion for he saw that such a world without moral adherence would be unlivable. I think this bothered him greatly. I also see that “new atheists” do not agree with Nietzsche because morality is so widely adhered to regardless of belief in God. (see next paragraph for qualification)
However, I contend that it’s not ones belief in God or lack of belief in God which creates the need to be moral, but that we are designed by God with the moral knowledge irrespective of our environment or culture unless some stimuli robs us of our moral sense. Just the same, due to our fallen nature we often do the things we know we ought not to do even while we understand we “ought not to.” That moral awareness is a God given protection to keep us physically, emotionally, and spiritually from the consequences of living outside our created order and to draw us to Him who can supernaturally enable us to live life to the utmost – the fullest available to us which is beyond our imagination, but can be found in Him.
Cyber Kitten: “I think that largely Secular societies are 'going through the motions' where morality is concerned. Few people have any ethical training and I don't think that most people really give it much thought. Of course this doesn't mean that its either Christianity (or theism) or nothing (or nihilism). There's lots of ethical thinking out there that can be accessed by anyone with an interest in the subject.”
Small children know right from wrong even before they are taught. They will cry out “I had it first.” or “He can’t take it from
karla said: The only way to be certain is to find a stable eternal foundation for all knowledge/truth. If such a foundation doesn't exist there can be no certainty.
cyber kitten said: That pretty much is my position.
What is the point of knowing anything if it is all unknowable if there is no firm foundation? If all that you know is uncertainly known then it seems pointless to gain more knowledge. How can you trust anything you know even that there is no God? You may say given the lack of evidence it’s the surest place to be in, but if there was evidence you couldn’t trust it without believing He exist and is the eternal stable firm foundation of all truth.
Cyber Kitten said: But nothing is "wrong for all people in all times" is it?
I don’t see right and wrong as being solely culturally determined. Sure cultures create morality at times – certain dress codes or city laws etc. But over all things like child abuse, murder, rape, etc. are wrong for all times in all cultures and in all places. Even if we don’t talk specifics we know that all people (except a few with physiological disorders) have a sense of right and wrong even if the specifics are disagreed about. That knowledge of not living up to a standard of good is in all of us, we all fall short of it, every one of us.
cyber kitten said: I find it difficult to understand how anyone can say that morality is objective. There is nowhere outside of culture that we can stand to say such a thing.
Only if an eternal good God exists do we have a place to stand to know that there is objective morality and at the same time love those who fall short of the standard (which is all of us). If there is no objective standard, there is no wrong doing that means anything beyond the cultural level. Yet we all have this feeling of failure to live as “good” as we feel we ought to and yet we have no foundation to posit an “ought” without an objective standard. Otherwise we have no reason to feel we have missed the mark or to see anything another does as wrong no matter who is harmed. We have no call to claim an “ought:” without the firm foundation of an eternal good God.
If you have a piece of cloth that appears to be white and you place it up next to a piece of paper that is perfectly white you will see that the cloth looks rather dirty in contrast. The only way one could say that cloth isn’t white is in comparison to a greater standard than itself. If we look at ourselves in light of the rest of humanity we can say we are doing pretty well. We haven’t killed anyone or hurt anybody and we try to treat people well. Then we look at ourselves compared to a perfect standard, the living God, who created us and we see we aren’t so clean after all and yet there is hope for He offers to freely clean us from all unrighteousness and to show us how to live in a way that frees us from all bondages of sin. He can show us this because He sent Jesus to live the life of a man stripped of His divinity yet still being God to show us how to live a life rightly related to God. Moreover, He doesn’t ask us to live that life on our own strength, but by His strength which enables us to live like never before. Jesus took upon himself our debt to sin so that we could live a heavenly reality.
I think atheists want a solution to the evil in the world just as much as everyone else. However, if God is denied, not only is the solution denied, but also the problem. For if there is no standard then all the “evil” in the world isn’t really evil for there is no standard to judge between good and evil.
Also I have heard some say that if God exist, He is to blame for the evil because He is all powerful and hasn’t ended it. G.K. Chesterton once responded to an editorial question “What is wrong with the world?” with two words, “I am.” He knew the evil starts in our hearts and minds before it is actualized in the world. If God eradicated evil from the planet, who would be left standing? Is any heart perfectly free from evil? Is any mind perfectly good? Is any person perfectly good? God doesn’t end evil the way we want Him to because He loves us and has a better way of bringing about our redemption. The Bible says that God isn’t slow in keeping his promises as some understand slowness, but he is patient wanting none to perish. He is working in this world through those who have joined Him in Christ and through His Holy Spirit. He doesn’t force us by His omnipotence to come to Him, but He does pursue us with His love.