In the comment section of “Thunderfoot Channels Christopher Hitchens“, a correspondent who calls himself Drexus made a number of comments. Most of these comments were unsubstantiated claims that demonstrate an ignorance of everything I have written and I did not bother to respond. But Drexus did end with a comment that merits a response based on the ubiquity of the error it contains.
If you need moral guidance from something written, just follow the golden rule — it will get you most of the way there. If you need more, refer to Universal Rights — as not contingent of interpretation by language, ethnicity, or belief. -Drexus
The error here is the idea that when a Christian says that human beings need God in order to be moral we mean that we need the Bible to know right from wrong. This is an oversimplification. The first chapter of Romans tells us that God will judge the world based on the repudiation of what some Christians call “natural theology”, or the human knowledge of God that we have independent of revelation. Divine revelation can help us refine our views of right and wrong and correct us in various errors, but everyone has access to a basic knowledge for which that person is responsible. When a Christian says that we as human beings need God to be moral, therefore, we are not saying that divine revelation is necessary to know the basics of morality. Rather, we are speaking of a need of God to live moral lives. Let me use my own experience as a young atheist to illustrate the point.
When I was a younger man, I knew that it was wrong to sleep with women who were married. The problem wasn’t knowing that it was wrong to injure other people by having sex with a woman in a troubled marriage, but rather acting in accordance with this principle. I knew what was wrong, but I can remember one case when I wanted to do what was wrong very powerfully. Why not just give in to the temptation? What is so wrong with a little sex between consenting adults? If I am going to die in a few years, what difference does it make anyway? Why am I tormenting myself for the sake of some stupid principle? Paul acknowledges the power of these arguments
If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
(1 Corinthians 15:32)
Now some atheists will appeal to pride to answer this question. “Well, if you need to be rewarded for your morality, then that is amoral. You should do the right thing just so that you will have the pride of knowing that you are a good person.” Honestly, this kind of reasoning always seemed hollow to me. The pleasure of patting myself on the back for being a moral and upright person just pales in comparison to the thought of a weekend of sex with an attractive woman.
Many people respond to this dilemma by rejecting all morality with regard to sexual conduct. These people blame the person who is injured by infidelity for this dilemma and use shaming tactics to try and get these people to “grow up”. “Well if you are so immature that you can’t handle the person that you love having sex with someone else”, they might say, “you are just a loser who doesn’t deserve love or respect.” Such a response ignores our basic needs as human beings. Think of the studies that overwhelmingly indicate that children raised in stable two parent homes are more successful than children raised in any other environment, for example. Is it really possible to believe that it is more “mature” to prefer a lifestyle consisting of 15 minute sexual encounters with strangers to a lifestyle that seeks a lifelong relationship of trust and intimacy?
So what does a well-meaning person do? Do you settle for the dry pride of patting yourself on the back, think yourself better than others and pretend that you are not miserable? Or do you do what you know to be wrong and enjoy the moment? This is where God comes in for Christian believers.
Without a vision the people perish (Proverbs 29:18)
In Christianity, God offers us a vision of the world that would be possible if we trust Him and do what we know to be right despite the fact that it can be the “boring” choice. Do you want to be a member of God’s family? Do you want genuine love with other people? Do you want to live in a society of people who follow the example of Jesus Christ and die to themselves in order to love God and love others perfectly? You don’t have to be a chump and a loser who never gets to enjoy anything because you reluctantly choose to do the right thing. Instead, you can follow Jesus Christ and experience the heaven that He promised us. The vision offered to believers in Jesus Christ justifies the sacrifices that we make and enables us to grow in our ability to live in accordance with what we know to be right.