Apologetics for the Masses #339 - The Case for God (Part 5)

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For What It's Worth - The Case for God (Part 5)

 

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Introduction

Is the belief in God solely a religious belief?  Is it based only on faith?  Or is there evidence, apart from religious faith, for the existence of God? (Part 5)

 

Challenge/Response/Strategy

For What It's Worth

     What then, is the value of man?  Or what is a human life worth?  In Terminator 2, Arnold Schwarzenegger reprises his role as a killer robot from the future.  But, this time around, he is a good killer robot.  He has been sent back in time not to kill Sarah Connor, but to protect her teenage son, John Connor.  And, in order to protect him, Arnold's programming allows him to do whatever is necessary, including kill anyone who he perceives as a threat.  That leads to a point in the movie where the following conversation takes place:

     John Connor: "You can't just go around killing people!" 

Terminator: "Why?"

     John Connor: "Whaddya mean why?! 'Cuz you can't!"

Terminator: "Why?"

     John Connor: "Because you just can't, okay?!"

 

     John Connor didn't really have much of an answer for the Terminator, did he?  "Why?"  "Because."  The question of "Why?" is a question that atheists have a lot of trouble with.  Why?  Why can't you just go around killing people?  Yeah, yeah, it's against the law and you would be arrested.  But, I'm talking about from a moral standpoint: Why can't you just go around killing people?  Atheists cannot give you an objective moral standard to answer the question of why.  Just as they have trouble with the answer to the question: Why is there something instead of nothing?  They have trouble with the answer to the question: Why is it wrong to kill people? 

     Now, any atheist reading this is probably screaming about what an idiot I am right now and cussing me because of my ignorance and imbecility. And that's because they don't believe they have any problem with the question of why it is wrong to kill people.  Generally, the atheist (as well as the theist), would say that you can't go around killing people because people have value.  But, that brings us back to that little bitty question again: Why?  Why do people have value?  The answer of the atheist is, essentially, the same as that which John Connor gave to the Terminator: "Because." 

     Of course, they won't say it just like that.  They'll throw in a lot of fancy words and some "humanist philosophy" based on Immanuel Kant's "categorical imperative" and such, but when you wade through all the high-falutin' verbiage, their answer basically comes down to: "Because."  For example - there is a Professor of Neurology at the Yale University School of Medicine whose name is Dr. Steven Novella.  Dr. Novella is an atheist and the co-founder of the New England Skeptical Society.  He once wrote a response to one of these newsletters of mine.  In that particular newsletter I had stated that, without God, all valuation of human life is purely subjective.  Dr. Novella's response was as follows:

     "...the entire premise of the [newsletter] is...one that either ignores or is ignorant of a vast tradition of humanist philosophy and secular law. We do not need to simply accept on faith that human life has value, we can arrive at that conclusion by careful and systematic thought. The humanist argument for the value of human life is not based upon utility or IQ, but rather on ethical first principles that derive from common human experience and basic logic.  We all share the common experience of wanting to be alive, which logically translates into the desire not to be killed. It also makes sense that we cannot expect from others that which we are unwilling to give (a principle called reciprocity, which seems to be something humans innately understand). Therefore it is in everyone’s self interest to have a civilization with rules and for those rules to protect the individual’s right not to be killed. In other words, as humans it is in all our self interest to value human life. If you devalue human life in one context, that threatens the value of your own life."

     What is Dr. Novella saying here?  Well, he's trying to claim that there is some "vast tradition of humanist philosophy" through which we can derive - by "careful and systematic thought" - an objective answer to the question of why human life has value.  But then he goes on to describe a purely subjective basis for valuing human life.  The whole foundation of his "vast tradition of humanist philosophy" can be summed up as: “I want to save my ass [please excuse the French] so I’m going to agree not to kill you if you agree not to kill me.” Gee, that’s a completely objective standard, don’t you think? Golden rule for theists: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Golden rule for atheists: Don't kill me and I won't kill you.  How could I have ever ignored a vast tradition of humanist thought that gives us such a noble and selfless philosophy as that? Shame on me.

     The thing is, Dr. Novella is making my argument for me. Placing value on another person’s life in the hope that they will reciprocate and thus place value on your life, is an inherently subjective means of valuing human life.  There is nothing objective about it.  The other guy's life has value only because you value your own life.  I will value you, if, and only if, you value me. It is not a case of recognizing a human being’s inherent value and thus not killing them. It is simply: I’ll value you and won’t try to kill you, if you value me and don’t try to kill me.  It's a social contract.  Where is the objective standard in that?  We have value insofar as we participate in this social contract which will hopefully save our hide from extermination.

     He also mentions “secular law,” but fails to point out that our secular law traditions are based, not on secular humanist values, but on Judeo-Christian values and mores. Has he ever heard of the Ten Commandments? Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness (purgery, liable, slander). Thou shalt not commit adultery (which used to be illegal). Thou shalt keep holy the Lord’s Day (ever heard of blue laws?). The Ten Commandments were foundational in the development of the legal system of the Western world, and many of the other principles of justice found in the Pentateuch are incorporated into our laws. Also, is he not aware that the Declaration of Independence, the founding document of our country, just happens to mention a Creator Who endows us with our unalienable rights?

       And, he makes several statements that are, with all due respect to Dr. Novella, merely his subjective opinion – they are not based on facts or on history or on lived human experience. One such statement: “Therefore it is in everyone’s self interest to have a civilization with rules and for those rules to protect the individual’s right not to be killed.” Is it? Says who? That is an opinion, not a fact born out by history and human experience.

     Was it in Hitler’s self interest to value the Jews lives, or was it in his self interest to devalue the Jews lives? One of the reasons Hitler rose to power was his scapegoating of the Jews for all of the woes of Germany in the 20’s and early 30’s. In other words, it was indeed in his self interest to devalue their lives and eventually kill six million of them. It was in Stalin’s self interest to allow 10-20 million Ukrainians to starve to death in the 1920’s. The Ukrainians were resisting Stalin’s plan of agriculture collectives, so it was in his self interest to let millions of them starve so that he could implement his plans and consolidate his power. It was in Mao Tse Tung’s self interest to have 30-40 million of his countrymen killed in order to consolidate his power. It was in Pol Pot’s self interest to slaughter 2 million or so of his countrymen to consolidate his power. In today’s world, it is in ISIS' self interest to kill the infidels.  Killing serves their self interest.

     In other words, the reasoning developed by Dr. Novella’s vast tradition of humanist philosophy has a huge flaw in it. There are many instances throughout history, throughout human experience, and even in today’s society, where devaluing someone else’s life is indeed in a person’s self interest. One very obvious example of that: abortion. It is in the self interest of the women wanting abortions, and the people making money from the abortions, to devalue the life of the unborn human being.  

     And, speaking of abortion, I would be willing to bet that Dr. Novella, as an atheist, in spite of his statement that, “As humans it is in all our self interest to value human life,” finds it in his self-interest not to value unborn human life.  Which just shows his valuation of human life is based on self-interest - specifically, self-preservation – is that objective?  Not in the least.

     So, how does the theist answer the question of: "Why do people have value?"  Why do our lives have value?  Can we claim to have value - inherent, objective value? All of you have heard about the mass extermination of the Jews that the Nazis carried out in the 30's and 40's that we now refer to as the Holocaust.  Would you believe me, then, if I said that not a single human being died in the concentration camps? That’s right...I’m asserting that not one single human being died in the concentration camps!
     How can I assert that not a single human being died in the concentration camps, the death camps, of Aucshwitz, Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen and elsewhere?  Well, I can assert it because by German law that existed at the time, Jews were legally considered “not fully human.” They were classified as a “sub-human” species. Legally speaking, they were “non-persons.” One group of people, passed laws, that said another group of people were not really human beings.  Sound familiar? 

     So, I say again, no human beings died in the concentration camps.  Would anyone reading this agree with that statement?  Of course not!  So, okay, let’s say they were human beings. So what? Why should we care? Why should I care?  What value are they to us? Did the Jews’ lives have any value?  Again, the question I am trying to get at here is, how is it that our lives have value? How do we determine whether or not any given human life has value?
     Do we have value only if we can be productive, if we have a job, or if we serve some useful purpose? Do we have value only if someone else thinks we have value?  Do we have value only if we have an IQ of 100 or higher?  Do we have value only if someone else loves us?  Do we have value only if our “quality of life” meets some arbitrary standard set by others?  Do our lives have value?  And, if they do, what gives them value?
     Well, I maintain, and I think most of you will agree with me, that we have value simply because we are alive...that human life has inherent value. In other words, simply because it is human life, it has value. But, what is my basis for saying that?  My basis for saying that is this: we have value as human beings because God gives us value...He gives us value by His love for us.
     We don’t have value because we are productive. We don’t have value because we are useful. We don’t have value because someone else thinks we have value. We don’t have value because we have an IQ of 100 or higher. We don’t have value because another human being loves us. We don’t have value because we have some arbitrary level of “quality of life.”  We have value, because God loves us. Any other line of reasoning leaves an opening for someone, somewhere, at some point in time, to declare somebody else as having no value...which is exactly what happened to the Jews in Europe 70 years ago, which is exactly what is happening to the unborn in our country today.
     This is why people who do not believe in God cannot offer any objective reason for saying that they themselves have value as human beings. Without God, everything becomes subjective...merely one person’s opinion versus another person’s opinion...and the strongest person’s opinon prevails. Without God, might, in essence, makes right. I’ve talked to atheists before and I’ve asked them if what Hitler did to the Jews was wrong. And they answered that of course it was! Then I asked them the same question the Terminator asked John Connor, "Why?" Why was it wrong for Hitler to kill six million Jews? Essentially, all they could answer me with was, “Well, it just was.”
     All they had to back their viewpoint was their own subjective opinion. They could not give me one objective reason, for why the Holocaust was wrong. And I have asked that question of some of my friends who have described themselves as “liberals.” What answer did I get? None. Even though I’ve asked the question several times, I have never had a self-described “liberal” even attempt to provide me with an answer. I believe they recognize that if they give me an answer to my question, it can and will be used against them to show that they are moral hypocrites in their support of abortion and stem cell research and euthanasia and so on.
    Without God, you can’t make the case that the Holocaust was wrong. In fact, without God, you can’t make the case that any killing is wrong. Without God, you can’t make the case that 911 was wrong. After all, without God, we are just animals, and no one says that one animal killing another animal is morally wrong.
    Hitler was wrong if, and only if, God exists. If God does not exist, then might makes right and Hitler was the mightiest in Germany at the time, so he had every right to do what he did. This causes problems for any self-proclaimed atheists (and those who side with them) who wish to remove God from everything.
    Hitler was objectively morally wrong...only if God exists.

 

Closing Comments

Probably no newsletter for the next couple of weeks or so, so I hope all of you have a very happy and holy Christmas Day and Christmas Season!

 

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Apologetics for the Masses