The article states:
After a several-month hiatus, Katherine Kersten’s lightning rod-conservatism is back at the Star Tribune, and her edgy, faith-tinged opinion hasn’t failed to disappoint those looking for controversy.
Her Sunday-only column this week took aim at atheism and what she perceives as its detrimental impact on society. She argues that without faith in God, people have no basis to form a moral framework. As a society we are embracing atheism, she writes, “[b]ut before we do, we would be wise to consider the potential consequences.”
Such as? Bloodshed. “The French Revolution, Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union — all sought to replace Judeo-Christian ethics with reason, and ended in massive bloodletting,” she wrote. “In ancient Rome, disabled babies were left on hilltops to die.”
Her column sparked outcry from many atheists who say that faith in a Judeo-Christian God does not form the basis for people’s compassion, sense of equality, ethics and morals. People do.
The argument appears to be misunderstood. Firstly, let us note that morals refers to a description of the mores and merely describe what is while ethics is in reference to the ethos and prescribes what should be.
Atheists can make any claim that they want about anything, that is not the issue. The issue is that it must be recognized that they are merely expressing personal preferences in the form of impotent assertions and oft expressed as arguments from outrage, arguments to ridicule, arguments to embarrassment, etc. If there is no God then everyone is doing just that and fittest will win.
The theist assertion, if you will, and let us now refer to Judeo-Christian theology, is that God is the ultimate ethos; the premise, the basis. Grounded in God’s very triune (and therefore, eternally relational) nature and character the ethos is neither arbitrary nor something to which God is subject but is a consequence of the very nature of His eternally relational being.
That being said, in this essay I am interested in considering the quotes that Andy Birkey provided on this issue by Craig James, George Francis and PZ Myers.
Craig A. James wrote:
Her [Katherine Kersten’s] argument presupposes that God exists and gave us our morality, and presupposes that without God there will be no morality. But if you drop the presupposition, that is, assume God does not exist, then the Bible itself proves that Kersten is wrong! The Bible (and many other supposedly God-inspired writings) is full of all sorts of great moral lessons (and some terrible ones, too), and since these were written by men and women, not God, it proves that humans can be moral without divine guidance.
Let us review: the Bible itself proves that Kersten is wrong in claiming that God has bequeathed ethics, even though the Bible states that God has bequeathed ethics, because if we presuppose atheism (and he must not understand atheism since he defined it as “God does not exist”—right?) then there is no God to inspire the Bible and thus no God to bequeathed ethics.
Well, there you have it; simply presuppose atheism and you have a one-stop-shop defeater for any and every theistic claim. Having said that, let us note that his response is actually just fine: he is presupposing atheism and is Kersten presupposing theism. They are both engaging in presuppositional apologetics as do we all since, au fond, we all come to a point at which we cannot prove or evidence our ultimate premise but we merely presuppose them.
As Greg Bahnsen notes,
The conflict between believers and unbelievers is ultimately over their differing worldviews — networks of presuppositions in terms of which all experience is interpreted and reasoning is guided…An argument asserts the truth of a proposition on the basis of others.
Craig A. James claims that this “proves that humans can be moral without divine guidance” but it does no such thing. Without divine guidance we would likely have much the same as we have today where people live, as if, we have no divine guidance. So what is the point of God giving guidance when we have the free will to ignore it? That is just the point: true ethics presupposes that you are not forced to be ethical. This touches upon one of atheism’s consoling delusions: the consoling delusion of absolute autonomy.
Moreover, it means that God has fulfilled His “responsibility” to express the ethos in order to, as it were, parse between all of the naturally occurring behaviors and prescribe which are we do and which we are not. This, again, touches upon one of atheism’s consoling delusions: the consoling delusion of lack of ultimate accountability. God has made us responsible by revealing His ethos via the written word in the Bible and having written it within us as it is administered via our consciences.
George Francis Kane (public relations officer for the Minnesota Atheists) wrote:
Atheists base their moral judgments on the actual effects of actions on peoples’ lives, rather than principles religion claims to know with certainty. The religious conception of equality that Kersten touts is equality before the god of the Bible, and is not realized until the afterlife. Equality before the law is a secular concept that could only arise when the legitimacy of government is based in the consent of the governed, rather than divine election. Atheists demonstrate compassion no less than that of Christians, but based upon quality of life rather than unbending absolutes.
This statement is a monkey fist of fallacies and misunderstandings. Let us review and correct:
Atheists base their moral judgments on the actual effects of actions on peoples’ lives, rather than principles religion claims to know with certainty.
I am not certain who has bequeathed upon George Francis Kane the authority to declare dogmatheism: to speak, ex cathedra, for all atheists but let us go with it. Thus, atheists base their moral judgments on the actual effects of actions on people’s lives, because they claim to know with certainty that we should base our moral judgments on the actual effects of actions on people’s lives. Moreover, this is a false dichotomy which juxtaposes principles of “religion” over against the actual effects of actions on people’s lives. Yet, the Golden Rule makes particular and specific reference to the actual effects of actions on people’s lives: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Also, the Bible describes one of the two premises upon which the whole of the of the Law is based as “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The religious conception of equality that Kersten touts is equality before the god of the Bible, and is not realized until the afterlife.
This is certainly false and demonstrates a lack of knowledge of the Bible’s contents, concepts and contexts as the Bible states the following of the here and now:
there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him (Romans 10:12).
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).
there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all (Colossians 3:11).
Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God (1st Corinthians 10:32).
Equality before the law is a secular concept that could only arise when the legitimacy of government is based in the consent of the governed, rather than divine election.
Again, this is simply false and demonstrates a lack of knowledge of the Bible’s contents, concepts and contexts as the Israelite “divine election” system, or theocratic government, contained a very careful judicious system whereby Jews, Gentiles, males, females, etc. were equal and could seek justice. For example, regardless of nationality, religion or gender at least two witnesses were required before even considering someone to be found guilty of a crime.
Atheists demonstrate compassion no less than that of Christians, but based upon quality of life rather than unbending absolutes.
This, again, is a misunderstanding of both Christianity and the Bible. Firstly, no one claims that atheists demonstrate less compassion than Christians (although, the studies are against them). Secondly, Christianity, being based on the Bible (or when it is, as it should be, based on the Bible) does contain absolutes but not unbending absolutes—in a matter of speaking. This is because the ethos is absolute but the application is not. One of the ways that Christians love the LORD their God with all their minds is to apply the absolute ethos via reasoning about the actual effects of actions on people’s lives, etc. “‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ Says the LORD” (Isaiah 1:18).
PZ Myers wrote:
I always like how these doctrinaire promoters of “Judeo-Christianity” primly declare that they have such moral authority, when their faith has such a poor track record of promoting morality. Christians have advocated slavery, have murdered people for the awful crime of miscegenation, have decreed that people who don’t have the kind of sex they prefer are second-class citizens.
Christians are thieves, murderers, rapists, and jay-walkers; it seems that having a belief in a transcendent authority actually doesn’t equate to being necessarily law-abiding and ethical or even, shocking as that may be, immune from the temptations of their natures.
If we had to wait until a morally perfect or superior person appeared before that person could promote morality (or ethics) I am afraid that, that day would never come. Then again, when Jesus came, lived that life and made those promotions, He was hated, mocked, beaten and killed and has been cursed for two millennia. He is also incorrect in claiming that “‘Judeo-Christianity’…has such a poor track record of promoting morality.” Judeo-Christianity has a great track record of promoting morality but has a poorer track record of exampling morality. Then again, PZ Myers, being an atheist activist, can only see one side of the picture and utterly disregards the millions of ethical lives lived for millennia according to the Judeo-Christian ethos. This includes the founding principles of the very country in which he lives that protects his freedom to besmirch Judeo-Christianity.
I am certain that the statement that “it seems that having a belief in a transcendent authority actually doesn’t equate to being necessarily law-abiding and ethical or even, shocking as that may be, immune from the temptations of their natures” is supposed to mean something—but alas. Now, of course, this is merely more emotive generalizing. However, let us note that no one, not even the Bible, has ever claimed that it logically follows that “belief in a transcendent authority” concludes in being “law-abiding and ethical or even…immune from the temptations of their natures.” Again, for millions of people through millennia this has been the case. Yet, overall, free will still reigns and so since those who hold to a “belief in a transcendent authority” are, shocking as that may be, mere human beings after all they may fail to live up to that transcendent authority.
I wonder if we could revamp the statement and apply it to atheists:
I always like how these doctrinaire promoters of “Atheism” primly declare that they have such moral authority, when their lack of faith has such a poor track record of promoting morality. Atheists have advocated slavery, have murdered people for the awful crime of miscegenation, have decreed that people who don’t have the kind of sex they prefer are second-class citizens.
Atheists are thieves, murderers, rapists, and jay-walkers; it seems that having no belief in a transcendent authority actually doesn’t equate to being necessarily law-abiding and ethical or even, shocking as that may be, immune from the temptations of their natures.
Just consider, at the very least, the history of the 20th century; the most secular and bloodiest century in human history (see the essay From Zeitgeist to Poltergeist, Part 11 of 13 for example).
God chose not to create automatons since true love requires choice as does true ethics. We have a conscience as a guide and must exercise our minds in the application.
Perhaps God should have created a perfect world but also allow for the free will that would make that world meaningful. Perhaps we would choose to do evil things. Perhaps He could condemn the evil while also providing a way of forgiveness. Perhaps He should come to Earth as a human and go what we go through; see how He likes it. Perhaps we could have a go at Him and belittle Him, curse Him, spit on Him, beat Him and murder Him. Perhaps He would eventually restore the perfect world—this is the Bible’s message.
 This, in counter distinction to the claim by Dan Barker, “Darwin has bequeathed what is good.”
 The other premise is “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”