There is a debate in my town about the town’s seal. There is a citizen’s petition to have the bible on the town seal removed. I am not going to debate whether or not the seal should be changed. However, I did have an interesting conversation with someone that brought up a good question.
In my conversation about the seal discussion, someone asked me, “What’s the Christian thing to do?”. Immediately a counter question came into my head: What’s the atheist thing to do?
Would anybody like to answer that question? Has anybody ever even considered that question? There is no answer to that question. Or, more accurately, there are an endless number of answers to that question. Since atheism has absolutely no moral standard, an atheist could make any moral claim they wanted, and that is a massive problem.
There are a number of atheistic or secular moral philosophies and they at times are at great odds to each other. For example, Objectivism is the philosophy created by Ayn Rand that teaches that productive achievement and the pursuit of one’s own happiness is the chief aim of man. Utilitarianism on the other hand teaches that it is not the individual’s happiness or well-being that is the most important aim, but the overall group’s. These two philosophies stand very much opposed to each other on several very important and foundational questions. So when atheists claim that Scripture is up to interpretation they fail to realize that their own worldview is chalked full of its own epistemological and interpretation problems.
There are some people who like to claim that Scripture is dogged with interpretation problems and could create a large number of varying positions. The people who usually say this tend not to be theologians and most likely have not read any part of Scripture for years, if at all. When it comes to moral issues Scripture is almost perfectly clear on what moral stances should or should not be held. People who disagree with that have probably not put in the effort of trying to understand Scripture.
Admittedly Scripture does take some interpretation work. However, there is a science to interpretation and it is called hermeneutics. In other words, interpretation is not up to the individual. When conducting proper interpretation there is a guideline that must be used in order to come to the correct interpretation. This honestly is not that difficult once someone understands the basics of hermeneutics.
Is it not humorous that someone could ask me, “What’s the Christian thing to do?” knowing full well what the answer to that question is? However, if I ask, “What’s the atheist thing to do?”, no one can give me one solid answer. The Christian thing to do is to pray for the people who would like to change the seal, continue to show love towards everyone, while presenting arguments either for or against changing the seal. Why do we know that this the Christian thing to do? Because God loves us and shows patience to us even in our sin and has commanded us to do the same. Believe it or not, Scripture does not command that the bible has to be on one’s town seal, so it ultimately does not matter what happens.
But what blank stares do you think you would get if you were to ask someone, “What’s the atheist thing to do?” Where in atheist lore is it written that one must love one’s enemies? It is not written anywhere. As far as I can tell, the atheist thing to do in this situation is to not care if you offend thousands of people in an effort to please hundreds. Most people in my town probably do not care about the fate of the seal, but of the people who do care, most of them would like to have the bible on the seal for a number of reasons. So what moral guideline is the group of people who want to remove the seal following? It certainly does not sound like they are following the Utilitarian guideline. So what is it? Apparently offending thousands of people (the current majority) is not much of a concern.
Again, I do not need to go into all the reasons as to why each side would either like to preserve the seal or change the seal to make my point. My point is that there is no moral guideline for the atheist. The atheist can come up with any moral claim one wants since there is no point of reference.
When trying to find an image to go along with this blog I found a meme that had a very attractive girl wearing very enticing clothing with a caption that read: Atheism means never feeling guilty for masturbating. See what atheism allows people to conclude? It allows people to conclude that objectifying women is not a bad thing. With atheism as your default worldview, why not conclude this? There is no atheist principle that would make said meme immoral. So what’s the atheist thing to do? Apparently a viable option for the atheist is to look up scantly clad women online and not feel one shred of guilt for doing so. (Here is where I will insert that the meme proves that atheism is much more than just the lack of belief in a deity. There are auxiliary beliefs that materialize from atheism. To claim that atheism is simply the lack of belief in a deity is at best an oversimplification and at worst a willfully ignorant claim.)
Please take a moment and look at the meme I ultimately decided upon. Notice how it ends with an atheist does not have to “apologize for being human.” You know, like cursing that rude person you just had an interaction with – that is just being human. Or gossiping about your friend’s stupid decision – that is just being human. Or cheating on your spouse or girl or boyfriend – that is just being human. Or getting drunk and making regrettable decisions – that is just being human. And the list goes on and on. After all, it’s the atheist thing to do.
If I were to ask, “What’s the atheist thing to do?”, I could receive multiple contradictory responses without any possible way to check the superiority of each response. If however I were to ask, “What’s the Christian thing to do?”, I could check the superiority of each response by an investigation of the Christian text. Which is not that difficult to do if one has a foundational understanding of hermeneutics.
While the majority of atheists may eventually come to an agreement on some moral issues, it does not mean that their conclusion is necessarily right. It simply means they have agreed on a path. Just because everyone in a car believes they should take a right at the intersection instead of a left, it does not mean that the right hand turn is the correct one to make. It is merely the agreed upon decision, not the correct decision. There is no correct moral decision in atheism.
One last point. Everyone knows that the answer to “What’s the Christian thing to do?” will lead to peace and love; that is why that question can be so confidently asked. But nobody has any idea where the answer to “What’s the atheist thing to do?” will lead.
So I ask you: “What’s the atheist thing to do?” I am going to start asking this question more often.