Thursday, September 25, 2008

Imagine Freedom From Religion


“Imagine no religion”, so reads a billboard in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania sponsored by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The Patriot-News reports that the message is inspired by John Lennon’s song, “Imagine”.

Lennon’s vision was as follows--

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one…


I’ll share a few brief reflections on this notion but for a more complete reflection see the article by Greg Koukl at Stand to Reason.

The notion that the world would be better off if there were no God and no religious followers of God certainly has a sympathetic ear from me. I concede that there have been some awful things done in the name of religion or God and extremists in any religion are often dangerous.

That said the so-called new atheists (Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, etc.) seem to most often direct their disdain for Christianity rather than the other religions of the world. They sound more anti-Christian than anti-religion to me.

Anyway…the matter of good and evil seems to me to totally undermine the utopia that is “imagined” when our world is free of religion. Evil is based upon morality. The only reason we say Mother Teresa is good and Hitler is evil is because there is an agreed upon morality. Morality must come from a “morality-giver”. Without a “morality-giver” then we’re left to relativism where one can call rape, incest, or murder good while declaring patience, generosity and forgiveness as evil.

If there is a “morality-giver” then Who is that if not God? Freedom from religion would be separation from God and the morality that God declares to be absolute.

Do human followers of God misinterpret and misappropriate the ways of God? All the time. As has often been said, “One can’t hold Christianity responsible when so-called Christians violate the written instructions. The problem is not with God or Christ but with the people who follow Him."

A world free of God and free of followers of God would rapidly become chaotic, sick, destructive, dark and deadly. You say, “It’s already that way.” I agree. But the world is already that way in proportion to the exclusion of God we’ve already implemented. Complete eradication of God is not a dream to imagine but a nightmare to be avoided at all costs.

4 comments:

Kris said...

We also have one here in Seattle...

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2008140844_billboard27m0.html

Scott Brewer said...

Kris,

Thanks for pointing out the Seattle Times article. I had missed that story and with a Redmond connection at that.

tzink said...

> Evil is based upon morality. The
> only reason we say Mother Teresa
> is good and Hitler is evil is
> because there is an agreed upon
> morality. Morality must come
> from a “morality-giver”. Without
> a “morality-giver” then we’re
> left to relativism...
> If there is a “morality-giver”
> then Who is that if not God?

A couple of comments.

1. The question of morality without a divine being has been addressed by some philosophers. Some say that morality is an evolutionary trait that has survived because it is a survival instinct. You can't go around pillaging and plundering for too long before others stop you out of their own self-interest.

Another writer, Ayn Rand, defines it this way: Morality is a code of values to guide man’s choices and actions—the choices and actions that determine the purpose and the course of his life.

The standard of value of the Objectivist ethics—the standard by which one judges what is good or evil—is man’s life, or: that which is required for man’s survival qua man.

One of objectivism's tenets is man exists as an end in himself, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself (which basically means you cannot harm others in order to better your own life -- which relates to ethics).

I don't post these theories in order to say one is right or another is wrong, only to state that the question of morality has been addressed outside of God.

Food for thought.

tzink said...

> Freedom from religion would be
> separation from God and the
> morality that God declares to be > absolute.

2. The question of absolute morality coming from God is one that seriously confuses me because it requires a lot of creative thinking in order to justify itself without the "it's a mystery" argument.

We say that God's moral laws are absolute, but then we see God ordering the destruction of men, women, children and infants in 1 Sam 15:3.

There are various justifications for this, of course. They deserved it, they would have become wicked later on, God was punishing the ancestors for the sins of an earlier generation (which would contradict what is later said in either Ezekiel or Jeremiah -- can't remember the reference -- where God only holds the sinner accountable, not future generations).

My point is that the common fallback arguments are the following:

1. God can do whatever he wishes because he is God. But if God can truly do this, then morality is not absolute because He can change the rules whenever he wishes.

2. It's a mystery/God works in mysterious ways/His ways are higher than our ways. I've never found this satisfying. If God has revealed Himself to us, then why are his ways so contradictory and mysterious? If morality is absolute, then why is it such a mystery?