Friday, July 29, 2011

Dr. Sam Harris: Atheist Morality - Part 3

Early in his lecture on morality Harris chides theists for arguing against atheism based on the utility of theism in providing a basis for morality.  I could agree with that.  The main point for theists should be that God exists.  But Harris is in the same trap - and has perhaps misrepresented the theists' arguments.

I believe - based on what I consider to be the best evidence (and despite Harris' and Dawkins' and Hitchens' disbelief) - that God exists and has revealed Himself to mankind in general and to me in particular.  I know God and have a relationship with Him.  I believe there is a universal moral framework that is based on the reality of God's existence.  That moral framework shows up in written revelation, in the historical life of Jesus Christ and even in Sam Harris' gut reaction against man's inhumanity to man around the world.  I am not arguing for the existence of God based on morality - I am pointing out that true morality is based on the existence and character of God.

But utility is all Sam Harris has for the basis of his universal moral framework.  There is no objective  moral standard for Harris - everything is relative.  He doesn't have an ought.  He cannot say, "you OUGHT NOT to torture, murder or oppress each other."  He cannot say, "you OUGHT to live in peace and harmony and love and kindness."

At best he can say, "there is greater utility in doing A instead of B."   Utilitarianism holds that the guiding principle of conduct ought to be the greatest happiness or benefit of the greatest number.  This is all Harris has to work with in coming to a universal moral framework and it is not a new idea.

One of the side effects of that is that Harris is inconsistent in his application of his (so called) moral standards.  For example, he would support a woman's right to abort her unborn baby, but oppose a Muslim father's right to kill his daughter.  These views have nothing to do with some objective reality like the inherent value of human life.  (Harris is promoting the deaths of far more people than he is worried about saving.)  It is simply Harris' opinion that one is right and the other is wrong.

Instead of an objective morality based on the existence and character of God, we are left with a relative morality based on the existence and character of Sam Harris.  If utility is not a good basis for an argument for theism (and it is not), then it is no better as an argument for morality.
(Romans 1:28–32 NKJV) 28 ¶ And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;
29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers,
30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful;
32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dr. Sam Harris: Atheist Morality - Part 2

Dr. Sam Harris thinks that secularists and atheists should be able to establish a "universal moral framework" - based on consensus that "the worst possible misery for everyone is bad."  This moral framework would work for the "greatest possible well being of conscious creatures."

At first blush this sounds reasonable.  And that is exactly what Harris thinks it should be... a product of reason and not religion.  But take a second look at this objective and see that it doesn't really have any foundation.  There is no hook to hang it on.  There is no fulcrum to give leverage to his rationality.

Harris is an atheist who espouses naturalism (no supernatural) and materialism (the material universe is all there is.)  According to these presuppositions, everything that exists is a meaningless accident of natural laws at work.  Laws of chemistry and physics governed the contraction and expansion of the materials of the universe that over the course of time resulted in the present order of things.  Life is an accident of nature - not designed - without purpose or meaning.

In such an accidental, meaningless and purposeless world, nothing is bad or good - it just IS.  Every event, every action, every reaction is simply the continuation of the laws of chemistry and physics as the purely material world moves through time.  Gravity pulls one or another galaxy into the vortex of a black hole.  The chemical reactions of one person's brain results in rape and murder.  The chemical reactions in another person's brain results in healing and nurture.  Life and behavior are random.  Nothing is good or bad - it just is.

In that philosophical context, what is the basis for considering anything - life, death, pain, pleasure, etc. - as morally good or bad?  Why would the well being of conscious creatures be good, but the suffering of conscious creatures be bad?  What if the well being of some conscious creatures was improved by the suffering or destruction of other conscious creatures?  What if Sam Harris decides that it is good to end the "suffering" of conscious creatures who don't share his view of the universe?

Although Harris claims he wants right and wrong to really mean something, he has no objective purpose or value in the universe on which to base that meaning.  He is left with his purely subjective feelings which (according to his worldview) are accidents of nature and are in no way superior to the worst examples he cites of child rapists, radical Islamists, etc.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Home Again, Home Again

We have been home again for a full week now.  It was good to be back in my pulpit after three weeks away.  Little by little we are catching up on the things that got away from us while we were on the road.

But we had a WONDERFUL time.  God blessed us with safety and good weather over 6107 miles of traveling.  We praise His name!

Sunrise Over Vishnu Temple at the Grand Canyon - June 17, 2011