Wednesday, August 11, 2010

There is No God: Part IV

In this post I'll finish up my reply to my friends theory that because there is evil, then there is no God. I just don't think the existence of evil makes a very strong argument against the existence of God. Consider this: If there is no creator, if everything that is, is merely the product of time plus chance via natural selection, then there is no evil......or good for that matter. There is only that which is. There is no objective basis upon which anything could be considered "good" or "evil". In evolutionary terms, those are meaningless concepts. Viewing behaviors in terms of the survival of the fittest does not lead to the conclusion that something is right or wrong. Who's to say? It may very well be that rape helps to further the genetic line of the strongest, fittest, males. It may be that murder helps to weed out the weak and prevent them from passing on their genes. Taking something that belongs to someone else, like their property or their wife, may just show that one person is more fit than the other (at least if they are smart enough and strong enough to get away with it). If something benefits one to the detriment of another, who's to say that's wrong? It's just natural selection at work.

The most you might be able to say from an atheistic perspective is that something is likely or unlikely to propagate fit progeny, but even then your progeny have no particular right to live and may or may not represent the absolute fittest of the species. In a Darwinian sense, there is nothing to say that humans should survive over some other species, but if I were Darwinian interested in pushing humanity to evolve to a higher level I might start by putting the weak, infirm, and mentally deficient in concentration camps then exterminating them, or at least forcefully sterilizing them. There is absolutely no basis to say this is wrong from a purely evolutionary perspective.

To be sure, some who deny there is a God discuss morality and ethics, but those that are honest admit they have no hard, fast, objective basis for ethics. They would say that morality and ethics are merely what a majority of the population in a given time and place agree upon. That consensus can change at any time and no one can say the new ethics are "good" or "bad", they just are what they are. However, it could be argued that the majority has no objective basis by which to enforce any moral standard whatsoever on any individual. Ted Bundy said this well. Here is what Bundy claimed to have said to one of his victims. It's actually quite lucid from a purely atheistic point of view: 

"Then I learned that all moral judgments are ‘value judgments,’ that all value judgments are subjective, and that none can be proved to be either ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ I even read somewhere that the Chief Justice of the United States had written that the American Constitution expressed nothing more than collective value judgments. Believe it or not, I figured out for myself–what apparently the Chief Justice couldn’t figure out for himself–that if the rationality of one value judgment was zero, multiplying it by millions would not make it one whit more rational. Nor is there any ‘reason’ to obey the law for anyone, like myself, who has the boldness and daring–the strength of character–to throw off its shackles…I discovered that to become truly free, truly unfettered, I had to become truly uninhibited. And I quickly discovered that the greatest obstacle to my freedom, the greatest block and limitation to it, consists in the insupportable ‘value judgment’ that I was bound to respect the rights of others. I asked myself, who were these ‘others?’ Other human beings, with human rights? Why is it more wrong to kill a human animal than any other animal, a pig or a sheep or a steer? Is your life more than a hog’s life to a hog? Why should I be willing to sacrifice my pleasure more for the one than for the other? Surely, you would not, in this age of scientific enlightenment, declare that God or nature has marked some pleasures as ‘moral’ or ‘good’ and others as ‘immoral’ or ‘bad’? In any case, let me assure you, my dear young lady, that there is absolutely no comparison between the pleasure that I might take in eating ham and the pleasure I anticipate in raping and murdering you. That is the honest conclusion to which my education has led me–after the most conscientious examination of my spontaneous and uninhibited self." - Ted Bundy (quoted by Louis P. Pojman in Ethics: Discovering Right & Wrong)

Interestingly, with perhaps a few aberrant exceptions, nearly all people in all times and all places would naturally want to dispute Bundy's conclusions and would call what he did "evil". Nearly everyone agrees that certain things are just "wrong". Even the most died-in-the-wool relativist will protest that it's wrong if you steal his wallet, cheat with his wife, punch him in the face, lie about him, or try to kill him. If you do some of these things in masse, such as murder, even staunch atheists will label your actions as "evil". But, upon what basis can a thing be called "wrong" or "evil" if there is no objective source of morality, only a constant fight for survival of the fittest?

There is no evolutionary way to explain the universal perception that some things are "wrong" or "evil". However, Christianity has no problem explaining the existence of evil. The world is not as it should be. It is a world in rebellion, laden with sin, pain, and suffering. Much of the suffering is produced through evil behavior. We perceive this behavior to be right and wrong, good and evil, because we are created in the image of God. This means we reflect God's communicable attributes (although imperfectly and to a lesser degree). When we see the murder or sexual abuse of a child we do not think in evolutionary terms. When we read accounts of genocide we do not think about natural selection. When someone wrongs us we do not shrug it off as survival of the fittest. Rather we feel wrath against evil and all that is wrong with this world and we long for justice. Our anger against evil and our longing for justice is a reflection of the holy and just God who created us to reflect His attributes. We can't explain our perception of evil in evolutionary terms, but we can explain it as creatures who possess the imago dei.

God has an ultimate solution for the problem of evil, it will one day be quarantined. It's nearly unimaginable to think of being part of that quarantine. Imagine being separated from all love, all purpose, all meaning, all light, all life, all mercy, all comfort, all truth, and all peace eternally. The Good News is that we need not be part of the quarantine of evil. God loves you and me so much that rather than pour out His natural wrath and justice on us for our sin, He has instead chosen to turn it back upon Himself and bear it fully in the person of Jesus. When we agree with God that the problem of evil is real, it is deeply rooted in us, and we desire to turn away from it and towards Jesus, then His payment settles our debt and His righteousness is credited to our account as if it were our own. That's love and justice in perfect balance. Through Jesus' perfect life and atoning sacrifice we may be declared legally right with God and spend eternity with Him in the earth made new where no evil exists. 

The 80 or so difficult years we spend in this life are nothing in comparison to the joy and peace we will experience for countless eons. And yet this life is so eternally significant. It is in this life that we are able to receive the gifts of forgiveness and eternal life. It is in this life that we are adopted eternally into the family of God. It is in this life that our outrage against all the pain and evil seen in a fallen world drives us to our Savior, the only real solution. 

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