Moral argument for God in the news
What do Afghan rapists and a 14-year-old Texas “clockmaker” have in common? Well, the young American boy who got into some trouble for bringing to school what he said was a homemade clock but looked like a bomb identifies as a Muslim, and the Afghan police officers who sexually abuse young Afghan boys probably are also. But that’s not the common thread that caught my attention as I read two news stories yesterday morning. The first chronicles moral atrocities and the second moral questionability, but they both involve moral conclusions that are evidence for the existence of God.
On Monday The New York Times reported on continuing criticism of US military policy in Afghanistan which instructs soldiers “to ignore child sexual abuse by their Afghan allies.” So Afghan commanders who were armed and trained by the US are routinely molesting young boys, often within the US compound, and our men are told to “look the other way because it’s their culture.” But the objective immorality of rape which transcends culture, though clear enough to many of our soldiers to make them angry and “sickened,” was so obvious to some that they chose to disregard US policy and strongly confront the perpetrators. For which they were disciplined by US military command.
How on atheism could a practice “among powerful men, for whom being surrounded by young teenagers can be a mark of social status,” where boys as young as 11 are enslaved and molested, be rightfully judged? If morality simply evolved as socio-cultural norms, then on what basis do we have the right to condemn actions of those in another culture that we happen to find objectionable? We have none. We have pious platitudes; we have meek moralizing; we have laws and landscapes. But without a transcendent moral lawgiver we have no transcendent moral foundation or standard.
The second news item referenced recent criticism of the Texas teenager who brought to school a clock that he claimed to have built and which garnered him an invitation to the principal’s office as well as one to the White House. While the President and Hillary Clinton and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg were all tweeting “atta boys” to young Ahmed Mohamed, others were carefully examining photos of the clock in question and charging the young man with deception. It seems likely, they say, that instead of assembling a new device as he had boasted, he disassembled a manufactured clock and presented it as his own design.
What struck me in this story was the mention of a response to the controversy by famed atheist Richard Dawkins who tweeted, “Assembling clock from bought components is fine. Taking clock out of its case to make it look as if he built it is not fine. Which is true?” As someone who claims that there is “no evil, no good,”1 Dawkins does quite a lot of moralizing, judging between the evil and good (or the fine and not fine) that he says don’t exist. And this latest tweet is a case in point.
Apart from the existence of God, the culture in Afghanistan that perpetuates and condones rape and enslavement cannot be rightfully judged. These practices, though frowned upon by us, are not objectively wrong. And if “blind physical forces and genetic replication” are what produced Ahmed and you and me, who are any of us to say that it’s immoral to deceive? We have nothing to stand on in order to hold ourselves up as somehow more righteous and moral.
Atheists cannot live consistently within their worldview, as Dawkins so often demonstrates. And the secularization of Western culture has led to the pitiful predicament of men trained to protect and defend being ordered not to interfere when a child is being attacked.
As Richard Dawkins might put it, there’s something very not fine with the world.
1 “In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, 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 any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (New York: HarperCollins/BasicBooks, 1995), 133