The Shape of Reality: Identifying Evil
by Anthony Weber
“Your worldview has to have the same shape that reality does.” – J. Budziszewski
As noted in the opening post in this series, I believe Christianity offers compelling reasons to believe that truth is found most fully and consistently within the framework of a Christian worldview. Considering some recent front page headlines, it seems appropriate to begin by looking specifically at ethics and morality.
In the aftermath of the Penn State scandal, everyone agreed that a long-standing taboo ought to remain: child molestation is not good. The recent case involving Dr. Gossnell’s butchery of newborn children, as well as the bombings at the Boston Marathon, have engendered an additional outcry against the presence of moral evil in the world.
People from all walks of life have found common ground in their stand against this type of injustice. However, it is increasingly difficult to find a consistent explanation for why these are examples of objectively bad things – that is, actions that are wrong regardless of individual feelings and preferences.
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- Michael Ruse has stated, “Morality is a collective illusion of humankind put in place by our genes in order to make us good cooperators.”
- Richard Dawkins wrote in The Blind Watchmaker: “In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect of there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”
- In an interview with Skeptic, Frank Miele asked Mr. Dawkins, “How do you determine whether something is good or not, other than by just your personal choice?” Dawkins responded, “I don’t even try.”
- The late Paul Kurtz wrote in The Humanist Alternative, “The humanist is faced with a crucial ethical problem: insofar as he has defended an ethic of freedom, can he develop a basis for moral responsibility? Regretfully, merely to liberate individuals from authoritarian social institutions, whether church or state, is no guarantee that they will be aware of their moral responsibility to others. The contrary is often the case…we may end up with [a man] concerned with his own personal lust for pleasure, ambition, and power, and impervious to moral constraints.”
In a naturalistic or atheistic worldview, there is no grounding for objectively evaluating good or evil, no claim of objective moral certainty, no ultimate right or wrong other than what we decide by personal choice or tribal agreement. This is not to say atheists have no sense of morality – that is clearly not the case. But if atheism is true, our apparently intuitive revulsion at child molestation, infanticide, and terrorist bombing seems to be no more than humanity’s collectively chosen illusion in a universe devoid of objective good, evil, and justice.
Perhaps this inability to define terms helps to explain why formerly taboo issues like infanticide are starting to gain a foothold in mainstream conversation…
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