For instance, he [her successor] might take offence at the charge that without God, unbelievers have no moral compass. Hitler and Stalin were atheists, that's where it leads. We can ripost with religious atrocities, Godly genocides or the Inquisition, but that's futile. Wise atheists make no moral claims, seeing good and bad randomly spread among humanity regardless of faith. Humans do have a hardwired moral sense, every child born with an instinct for justice that makes us by nature social animals, not needing revelations from ancient texts. The idea that morality can only be frightened into us artificially, by divine edict, is degrading.Ms Toynbee packs a great deal of confusion into just a few sentences. let's examine her claims. She writes:
For instance, he might take offence at the charge that without God, unbelievers have no moral compass. Hitler and Stalin were atheists, that's where it leads. We can ripost with religious atrocities, Godly genocides or the Inquisition, but that's futile.When a Christian kills innocent people he is profoundly betraying the truth and the God he professes to believe in. When an atheist of the Hitler/Stalin variety slaughters innocent people he's not betraying anything. There's nothing in atheism, qua atheism, that imposes any objective moral sanction at all. If there's no God then whatever a person chooses to do is neither right nor wrong. It just is.
Wise atheists make no moral claims, seeing good and bad randomly spread among humanity regardless of faith.It is wise of atheists to make no moral claims, primarily because the atheist has no grounds for making such claims. If there's no transcendent, personal, moral authority then good and bad simply reduce to what we like and what we don't and that varies from person to person. Moreover, since good and bad are person-relative no one can say that anything any other person does is either good or bad in a moral sense. The most they can say is that I like it or I don't like it.
Humans do have a hardwired moral sense, every child born with an instinct for justice that makes us by nature social animals, not needing revelations from ancient texts.We are indeed hardwired for morality, we have a law written on our hearts, as Paul puts it in his letter to the Roman Christians, but the question is what is it that wired us this way? If it was simply blind impersonal forces then why should anyone feel obligated to follow the impulses that our wiring prod us toward.
Furthermore, we're also wired to be aggressive, violent, promiscuous, selfish and bigoted. If evolution has wired our behavior and desires why are these not as worthy of being followed as the impulse to charity and kindness? Why is one set of impulses more "moral" than the other? The humanist atheist is tacitly comparing both sets of behaviors to some higher standard in order to discriminate between them while at the same time denying that any higher standard actually exists.
The idea that morality can only be frightened into us artificially, by divine edict, is degrading.Why? Is a child degraded when the parent demands a certain behavior of the child on pain of punishment? Fear can be a good teacher. But, in any case, Ms Toynbee shows an unfortunate lack of understanding of what it is that motivates, or should motivate, Christian morality. The Christian believes four propositions about God that inform his or her moral behavior:
1. God created each of us. 2. God is perfectly good and knows what is right and best for us. 3. God's love for us is so great that he gave his human life so that we could live forever. 4. God asks in return only that we love him.Since Christians believe the first three of those propositions to be true they regard it as inconceivably ungrateful to refuse the fourth. The Christian gives himself or herself to God in love and when one loves God one seeks to live the way God desires us to live even if we're sometimes tempted to do otherwise. Moral behavior is not motivated by fear, it's motivated by love and gratitude. That makes all the difference in the world.