This is by Matt from Well Spent Journey blog.
Here’s a thought experiment.
Imagine that you’re a healthy, athletic, 20-year-old male. It’s the morning after a thunderstorm, and you’re standing on the banks of a flooded, violently churning river.
You notice an object floating downstream.
As it moves closer, you suddenly realize that this object is a person. The head breaks the surface, and you see a panic-stricken elderly woman gasping for air. You’ve never met her before, but vaguely recognize her as an impoverished widow from a neighboring village.
You look around for help, but there’s no one in sight. You have only seconds to decide whether or not to jump in after her – recognizing that doing so will put your own life in significant peril.
Is it rational for you to risk your life to save this stranger? Is it morally good to do so?
For the Christian, both of these questions can be answered with an emphatic “yes”.
The Christian is called to emulate the example set forth by Jesus, who not only risked, but sacrificed his life for the sake of others. The Christian believes that the soul is eternal, and that one’s existence doesn’t come to an abrupt end with death. Additionally, he can point to the examples of countless Christian martyrs who have willingly sacrificed their own lives.
For the secular humanist, the answers to these questions are much more subjective. When I previously asked 23 self-identifying atheists, “Is it rational for you to risk your life to save a stranger?” only 4 of them responded with an unqualified “yes”.
Biologically speaking, the young man in our scenario has nothing to gain by jumping after the drowning woman. Since she’s poor and elderly, there are no conceivable financial or reproductive advantages involved. Evolutionary biologists often speak of “benefit to the tribe” as a motivation for self-sacrifice…yet the young man’s community would certainly place greater practical value on his life than that of a widow from a neighboring village.
Secular humanists argue that people are capable of making ethical decisions without any deity to serve as Moral Lawgiver. On a day-to-day basis, this is undeniably true. We all have non-religious friends and neighbors who live extremely moral and admirable lives.
In the scenario above, however, secular ethics break down. The secular humanist might recognize, intuitively, that diving into the river is a morally good action. But he has no rational basis for saying so. The young man’s decision is between empathy for a stranger (on the one hand) and utilitarian self-interest & community-interest (on the other).
In the end, there can be no binding moral imperatives in the absence of a Moral Lawgiver. If the young man decides to sit back and watch the woman drown, the secular humanist cannot criticize him. He’s only acting rationally.
When I read this, I was of one of the questions from one of my earliest posts, where I list a dozen interview questions to ask atheists. His question is very much like one of my questions. You may like the others in my list, as well.
It seems to me that on atheism, the only answer you can give for why you would do the right thing is “because it makes me happy”. And as we see with abortion – 56 million unborn children dead – it very often doesn’t make atheists happy to save someone else’s life. Not if it means any infringement on their own happiness. Every time an atheist votes Democrat, they are voting to declare that people who get in their way should not be saved. And atheists (the “nones”, anyway) are one of the largest Democrat voting blocs. According to the 2012 Secular Census, 97% of secularists deny that unborn children have a right to life. And the 2013 Gallup poll found that “nones”, people with no religion, are most likely to be pro-abortion. (Note that “nones” are not necessarily atheists, they may have some beliefs, but they are not observant). It’s not rational to inconvenience yourself to save others on atheism. You have one life to live, be happy, survival of the fittest.
Atheists like to help themselves to a lot of beliefs that can only be grounded in a robust theistic worldview. Rationally-grounded morality is just one of those things. And I want to say to you that this is not morally neutral, or a simple failure of the intellect. It’s not just a failure to be intelligent. It’s not just simple ingratitude towards God. It’s the deliberate self-deception they engage in in order to preserve their autonomy to seek pleasure apart from any notion of objective moral values and duties. It’s very transparent if you know how to question them.
Atheists like to cash out their rejection of God as some sort of rational, cognitive process, but they typically choose atheism as a result of having their desires for pleasure or peer-approval thwarted, or maybe in university when they don’t want professors to think they are ignorant. It’s not a rational worldview, it’s just easier. Easier to pose as a “smart” person. Easier to indulge in sexual desires at college. Easier to put powerful amoral people at ease, by not judging them for their destructive views on social issues. Easier to not judge others, so that you won’t be judged yourself. Easier to speculate about untestable multiverses and unobservable aliens seeding the Earth with life, so that you don’t have to think about the judgement that comes after the self-delusion. It’s a worldview of speculate, speculate, speculate. Speculations are the way that they keep God away so they can do what they want, call that moral and feel good about themselves in the here and now. The goal is to get one more day where they can do as they please apart from God, and they’ll believe anything they have to believe in order to do that.