This past Friday CNN conducted an interview with Richard Dawkins, the British biologist most widely known for his polemics against religion and on behalf of atheism.
Asked "whether an absence of religion would leave us without a moral compass," Dawkins responded: "The very idea that we get a moral compass from religion is horrible."
This is the crux of the issue for Dawkins and other anti-religion activists -- that not only do we not need religion or God for morality, but we would have a considerably more moral world without them.
This argument is so wrong -- both rationally and empirically - that its appeal can only be explained by a) a desire to believe it and b) an ignorance of history.
First, the rational argument.
If there is no God, the labels "good" and "evil" are merely opinions. They are substitutes for "I like it" and "I don't like it." They are not objective realities.
Every atheist philosopher I have debated has acknowledged this. For example, at Oxford University I debated Professor Jonathan Glover, the British philosopher and ethicist, who said: "Dennis started by saying that I hadn't denied his central contention that if there isn't a God, there is only subjective morality. And that's absolutely true."
And the eminent Princeton philosopher Richard Rorty admitted that for secular liberals such as himself, "there is no answer to the question, 'Why not be cruel?'"
Atheists like Dawkins who refuse to acknowledge that without God there are only opinions about good and evil are not being intellectually honest.
None of this means that only believers in God can be good or that atheists cannot be good. There are bad believers and there are good atheists. But this fact is irrelevant to whether good and evil are real.
To put this as clearly as possible: If there is no God who says, "Do not murder," murder is not wrong.
Many people or societies may agree that it is wrong. But so what? Morality does not derive from the opinion of the masses. If it did, then apartheid was right; murdering Jews in Nazi Germany was right; the history of slavery throughout the world was right; and clitoridectomies and honor killings are right in various Muslims societies.
So, then, without God, why is murder wrong?
Is it, as Dawkins argues, because reason says so?
My reason says murder is wrong, just as Dawkins's reason does. But, again, so what? The pre-Christian Germanic tribes of Europe regarded the Church's teaching that murder was wrong as preposterous. They reasoned that killing innocent people was acceptable and normal because the strong should do whatever they wanted.
In addition, reason alone without God is pretty weak in leading to moral behavior. When self-interest and reason collide, reason usually loses. That's why we have the word "rationalize" -- to use reason to argue for what is wrong....
But if that isn't enough, how about the record of the godless 20th century, the cruelest, bloodiest, most murderous century on record? Every genocide of the last century -- except for the Turkish mass murder of the Armenians and the Pakistani mass murder of Hindus in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) was committed by a secular anti-Jewish and anti-Christian regime. And as the two exceptions were Muslim, they are not relevant to my argument. I am arguing for the God and Bible of Judeo-Christian religions.
Perhaps the most powerful proof of the moral decay that follows the death of God is the Western university and its secular intellectuals. Their moral record has been loathsome. Nowhere were Stalin and Mao as venerated as they were at the most anti-religious and secular institutions in Western society, the universities.
Strong words. But the implications of failing to confront these atheist illusions are frightening. Just look at the 20th century gulags and killing fields.
Most people aren't atheists. People have the innate sense that there is a God who created them and the universe. The frightening thing is far too many people are functionally atheists. Meaning they live as if there is no God. They make up the rules as they go along (At least they think they can.) and believe they are the final arbiter of right and wrong. That's a frightening notion as well.