July 28, 2009

Is Cheese Ever Morally Justified?

Vacherin du haut Doubs.Image via Wikipedia
What an absurd question! Cheese has nothing whatsoever to do with morality, so the question doesn't even make sense. And yet, it is no more absurd than the title of a recent article at the Christian Post blog, "Is atheism ever morally justified?" I'll briefly explain why and then point out something even more nonsensical about the post.

Atheism refers to a lack of belief in god(s). It is morally irrelevant in the same way your lack of belief in unicorns is morally irrelevant. If you want to ask whether certain things are morally justified, focus on actions and not beliefs.

What about the even more nonsensical part?
I think here of a well-known academic who avowed disbelief in the Christian God because he was told -- with a notable absence of pastoral sensitivity -- that a childhood Jewish friend who died in a car accident was burning in hell. As a result this academic came to believe that the Christian God is arbitrary, capricious, and unjust. So when he says that he disbelieves in God, he is saying he disbelieves in a god who is arbitrary, capricious and unjust. But I don't believe in such a god either.
Perhaps the "well known academic" was in error. Then again, if you are an atheist, you've heard some variation of this claim thousands of times. The author is essentially accusing the atheist of the straw man fallacy. But here is what Christians who are so fond of this do not seem to realize, a straw man built from the Christian bible is no straw man at all.

When confronted with the words in their own bible, the Christian has two choices: acceptance or mental gymnastics. Obviously, the first option is rarely utilized. But the second choice contains a trap for those Christians who insist that their bible is the inerrant word of their particular god: if it is really inerrant, then the words matter. One does not get to reinterpret them.

But what about the Christians who are not committed to the claim that their bible is the word of their god? Usually, they argue that we are misinterpreting their bible. Evidently, their god is so deceptive that the true meaning of their bible is only revealed to those who already believe in it. Yep, the Christian bible is magic! And best of all, the "real meaning" of any passage selected at random just so happens to coincide with the Christian's own beliefs and values.