I hold that questions of God’s existence – whether you believe in a god or not – are irrelevant to questions of morality. I look at the proposition that it is almost certainly the case that no god exists in the same way that I look at the proposition that it is almost certainly the case that the earth orbits the sun. It is a claim about what is true or false in the universe, but it tells me almost nothing about how we should behave.
For a moment, let’s pretend that we were locked in a dispute between those who believe that the Earth is the center of the universe, and those who believe that the Earth orbits the sun. Let us imagine the possibility that some people thought that this view had moral implications.
We could imagine somebody saying how important it is to teach geocentrism – the theory that the earth is the center of the universe – in our schools. I can well imagine somebody making the following argument:
Heliocentrism – or the sun-centered theory – threatens to drown civilization in a sea of immorality and chaos.
If we teach students that humans are infinitesimal specks on a piece of dust orbiting an average star lost in a sea of stars in an average galaxy lost in a sea of galaxies – they are going to view themselves and their neighbors as trivial and insignificant. This, in turn, can only be expected to lead to moral degeneration and chaos and, ultimately, the destruction of society.
Furthermore, we have proof of this. All we need to do is to compare the numbers of people who have been killed in human history by those who believed that the Earth was the center of the universe, compared to those who believed that the Earth orbits the sun.
We see that all of the great wars – the great atrocities of the 20th century were committed by people who believed the Earth orbited the Sun. Hitler. Stalin, Mao. Pol Pot. Every one of them believed in the earth-orbit theory. Every one of them believed that humans were specks circling an insignificant star.
On the other hand, if we returned geocentrism to our schools – if we once again filled our children with the sense of importance that comes from believing that they are the most important characters on the most important piece of real estate in the universe – the one place that the whole rest of the universe revolves around – we can have a return to morality and then, and only then, can we have a civilization that flourishes, free from the likes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and other heliocentrists.
We can imagine that argument. But, unfortunately, the earth still orbits an average main-sequence star in one of hundreds of billions of galaxies, and we are just going to have to learn to live with that fact. None of these arguments about how heliocentrism will lead to the immorality and the end of civilization, even if those claims are true, has anything to do with whether the Earth is, in fact, the center of the universe, or whether it orbits the sun is true.
And, of course, the argument is bogus anyway. Heliocentrism did not lead to Hitler and Stalin and Mao. A great many heliocentrists were opposed to these systems – and were a part of the armies that fought against those tyrannies. And they had good reason to do so. The fact that they were heliocentrists did not change the fact that they had no reason to live in a brutal dictatorship.
The fact that one is an atheist does not imply that one suddenly acquires a taste for living in a brutal and violent dictatorship. Atheists, have exactly the same reason to oppose those types of regimes – for their own sake, for the sake of their family, for the sake of their friends – as theists do. Perhaps more . . . because this life is the only life we have, and who wants to live this life under the heals of a brutal and violent dictator, or starving to death in a system that cannot feed its own people?
In fact, this proposition is so obvious it then raises the following question: What type of person is it who would make the absurd claim that atheists (or evolutionists) somehow lose their reasons to avoid subjecting themselves and their loved ones to tyrannical oppression, brutal violence, wonton imprisonment, and starvation?
Actually, it would be somebody who wants you to hate and fear those who disagree with him.
It’s a very common tactic – using hatred and fear as rhetorical tools. History is filled with examples of people asserting that “we” are the noble and good people and “that tribe over there” is filled with sin and evil who want nothing more than to rape your women and slaughter your children unless you take up arms – political arms, if not military arms - against them.
These people . . . those who want you to learn the history of the 20th century as being a conflict between the angelic Christians against the demonic atheists – are people who have learned to use unprincipled hatred and fear as political tools. Though they claim that their access to God gives them direct access to virtue somehow missed the part about how virtue is not found in using fear and hatred as a weapon.
The next time somebody uses the name of Hitler and Stalin as reasons for you to hate and fear atheists or evolutionists, think of what you would say if they were using the names Hitler and Stalin to teach you to hate heliocentrists. Think of the reasons that heliocentrists still have to oppose tyranny, brutality, and starvation, and you will see the argument as the piece of hate-mongering bigotry it is in fact.