Nietzsche Would Laugh – Morality without God

A Breakpoint article by Charles Colson.

October 9, 2007

One of the biggest obstacles facing what’s called the “New Atheism” is the issue of morality. Writers like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens have to convince people that morals and values are possible in a society that does not believe in God.

It’s important to understand what is not in doubt: whether an individual atheist or agnostic can be a “good” person. Of course they can, just as a professing Christian can do bad things.

The issue is whether the secular worldview can provide a basis for a good society. Can it motivate and inspire people to be virtuous and generous?

Not surprisingly, Richard Dawkins offers a “yes” — grounded in Darwinism. According to him, natural selection has produced a moral sense that is shared by all people. While our genes may be, in his words “selfish,” there are times when cooperation with others is the selfish gene’s best interest. Thus, according to him, natural selection has produced what we call altruism.

Except, of course, that it is not altruism at all: It is, at most, enlightened self-interest. It might explain why “survival of the fittest” is not an endless war of all against all, but it offers no reason as to why someone might give up their lives or even their lifestyle for the benefit of others, especially those whom they do not even know.

Darwinist accounts of human morality bear such little resemblance to the way real people live their lives that the late philosopher Michael Stove, an atheist himself, called them a “slander against human beings.”

Being unable to account for human altruism is not enough for Sam Harris, author of LETTER TO A CHRISTIAN NATION. In a recent debate with Rick Warren, he complained about Christians “contaminating” their altruistic deeds in places like Africa with “religious ideas” like “the divinity of Jesus.” Instead of rejoicing at the alleviation of suffering, he frets over someone hearing the Gospel.

In response, Warren pointed out the inconvenient (for Harris, that is) truth: You won’t find many atheists feeding the hungry and ministering to the sick in places like Africa or Mother Teresa’s Calcutta. It is precisely because people believe in the divinity of Jesus that they are willing to give up their lives (sometimes literally) in service to those whom Jesus calls “His brothers.” And that’s why my colleagues and I spend our lives ministering in prisons.

In contrast, the record of avowedly atheistic regimes is, shall we say, less than inspiring. Atheist regimes like the Soviet Union, Red China, and Cambodia killed tens of millions of people in an effort to establish an atheistic alternative to the City of God. For men like Stalin and Mao, people were expendable precisely because they were not created in the image of a personal God. Instead, they were objects being manipulated by impersonal historical forces.

One atheist understood the moral consequences of his unbelief: That was Nietzsche, who argued that God is dead, but acknowledged that without God there could be no binding and objective moral order.

Of course, the “New Atheists” deny this. Instead, they unconvincingly argue that you can have the benefits of an altruistic, Christian-like morality without God.

Nietzsche would laugh — and wonder why they don’t make atheists like they used to.

(This is part two in a five-part series.)

Get links to further information on today’s topic
http://www.breakpoint.org/listingarticle.asp?ID=1806

Living As If People Matter

By Dr. George Grant

The Gospel calls us to live as if people matter. It calls us to live lives of selfless concern. We are to pay attention to the needs of others (Deuteronomy 22:4). We are to demonstrate concern for the poor (Psalm 41:1). We are to show pity toward the weak (Psalm 72:13). We are to rescue the afflicted from violence (Psalm 72:14). We are to familiarize ourselves with the case of the helpless (Proverbs 29:7), give of our wealth (Deuteronomy 26:12-13), and share of our sustenance (Proverbs 22:9). We are to “put on tender mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, and longsuffering” (Colossians 3:12). We are to become “a father to the poor,” and are to “search out the case of the stranger” (Job 29:16). We are to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31) thus fulfilling the law (Romans 13:10). It is only as we do these things that we are able to earn the right to speak authoritatively into people’s lives.

In writing to Titus, the young pastor of the pioneer church on the island of Crete, the Apostle Paul pressed home this basic truth with persistence and urgency. In the midst of a culture marked by deceit, ungodliness, sloth, and gluttony (Titus 1:12), Titus was not only to preach grace and judgment, he was also to make good deeds a central priority in his ministry. He was to exercise charity. Paul wrote, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14).

This was a very familiar theme for Paul. It wasn’t aimed exclusively aimed at the troublesome Cretan culture. For instance, he had earlier written to the Ephesian church with essentially the same message, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

God saves us by grace. There is nothing we can do to merit His favor. Because of our sin, we stand utterly condemned. Thus, salvation is completely unearned and undeserved. But, we are not saved capriciously, for no reason and no purpose. On the contrary, we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works. We are His own possession, set apart and purified to be zealous for good works.

Our concern for others begins right in church pew—as we greet one another, extend hospitality to one another, and meet the needs of one another. As the Westminster Confession asserts, “Saints by profession are bound to maintain an holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God, and in performing such other spiritual services as tend to their mutual edification; as also in relieving each other in outward things, according to their several abilities and necessities. Which communion, as God offers opportunity, is to be extended unto all those who, in every place, call upon the name of the Lord Jesus.”

In addition though, we are to extend the love and care of Christ to others as well. We are to love as Christ loves, sacrificially, substantially, and sincerely. In other words, we are to live as if people really do matter.

May God grant us this kind of love. May this, the final apologetic (John 13:35), be the hallmark of our lives, our families, and our churches.

Dr. George Grant is the president of King’s Meadow Study Center in Franklin, Tennessee, as well as an accomplished author and lecturer. You can find out more about the ministry of George Grant at KingsMeadow.com.

Reprinted with permission from the author.