Archive for February 2013
Dr. William Lane Craig is well known for his debates with many prominent atheists, and as a fierce Evangelical Christian apologist. One of his more common line of arguments is on the subject of objective morality. In November 1996, Dr. Craig presented The Indispensability of Theological Meta-Ethical Foundations for Morality to the Christian Theological Research Fellowship meeting at the American Academy of Religion. In the essay, he states:
Consider, then, the hypothesis that God exists. First, if God exists, objective moral values exist. To say that there are objective moral values is to say that something is right or wrong independently of whether anybody believes it to be so. It is to say, for example, that Nazi anti-Semitism was morally wrong, even though the Nazis who carried out the Holocaust thought that it was good; and it would still be wrong even if the Nazis had won World War II and succeeded in exterminating or brainwashing everybody who disagreed with them….
Contrast this with the atheistic hypothesis. First, if atheism is true, objective moral values do not exist. If God does not exist, then what is the foundation for moral values? More particularly, what is the basis for the value of human beings? If God does not exist, then it is difficult to see any reason to think that human beings are special or that their morality is objectively true. Moreover, why think that we have any moral obligations to do anything? Who or what imposes any moral duties upon us?…
Distilled to a logical form, the argument looks like this:
- If atheism is true, then objective morals do not exist.
- Objective morals exist.
- Therefore, atheism is false.
Theism and atheism (as conventionally understood) are two sides of the same coin: namely, an emphasis on beliefs. Conventional theism — the faith of the typical American Christian, for example — entails mandatory affirmation of a set of dogmas (derived from scripture) regarding the origins of the universe, of life, the nature of good and evil, miracles and divine intervention, the afterlife, and usually something about the final fate of the universe and the inhabitants therein. Conventional atheism, on the other hand, is the lack of such beliefs.
Atheism does not prescribe any particular set of beliefs. Instead, it proscribes a belief in a God or gods and the doctrines and scriptures derived from such belief. Outside of that, atheists are free to believe whatever they wish. It’s important to note that atheism says nothing about supernatural forces or beings, otherwise. While atheism is often coupled with an insistence on skeptical, rational inquiry, they are not one and the same. There are atheists who embrace New Age spirituality and a form of “sympathetic magic” (e.g. — tarot, astrology, and other sorts of magical thinking). And there are rational skeptics who embrace a sort of pantheism/panentheism or deism and consider themselves religious (though they are quick to distance themselves from dogmatic faith or belief).
In fact, outside the circles of the naively religious, fundamentalists, and religious conservatives, God beliefs are more important to atheism than they are to theism. One simply cannot believe in God and call one’s self an atheist — they are mutually exclusive. But the same is not true of theism. There is a long tradition of religious thought and practice that doesn’t concern itself with God beliefs. And theologians have argued that this form of theism may actually be more fundamental than those that insist on particular doctrines.