June 16, 2009

This is Christian Morality?

Painting of Moravian spiritual leader...
Painting of Moravian spiritual leader Christian Renatus von Zinzendorf, 1727-1752. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the most pervasive myths about atheism is that atheists are immoral because gods are somehow required for good behavior. Of course, the person making such an accusation tends to have a particular god in mind and is willing to disqualify all other gods without providing any justification for doing so. I think I'll steer clear of that tangent for now. Instead, I'd like to stick with the idea that a particular god - or at least belief in a particular god - is the only thing standing between a person and bad behavior. This appears to be a core tenet of the sort of Christian "morality" practiced by fundamentalists and extremists.

When a Christian makes the claim that atheists are necessarily immoral because of our lack of belief in the Christian's preferred god, the atheist typically retorts by asking if god-belief is the only thing preventing the Christian from running wild in the streets. Some Christians will answer in the affirmative, and I'd recommend steering clear of such Christians. Others will recognize the worrisome implications of this and activate their reality-distortion field and engage in a variety of mental gymnastics (i.e., apologetics) in a desperate attempt to escape the question.

Once in a while, a Christian making such a claim might experience a moment of terrifying honesty. Back in 2009, Austin Cline (update: link no longer active) reported on an interesting interaction with Jeff Allen who tweeted the following (including the spelling error):

Dear liberals and athiests, My religion is the only thing that keeps me from killing you, are you sure you want me to give it up? #tcot

If you believe Mr. Allen, it appears that he would be a murderer without his god-belief. I agreed with Austin when he said:

If the only thing preventing Jeff Allen from going on a psychotic killing spree is his religion, then perhaps everyone else is better off if he keeps his religion. Contrary to what Allen might imagine, though, he's hardly offering a positive argument in defense of religion.

I should also note that Jeff left the following comment on Austin's blog:

I am only commenting to say that whoever tweeted that is not me. I am a Christ follower who couldn’t disagree with the tweeter in this article more. May God have mercy on his soul. Blessings to all you skeptics.

Maybe someone did hijack his Twitter account. It isn't like that has never happened. Then again, maybe he was temporarily possessed by demons. In the world of fundamentalist Christians, one never knows for sure.

This post from 2009 was updated in 2020 to fix broken links, improve clarity, and correct a few typos.