When we check the word “apology,” we find this less frequently used definition.
a defense, excuse, or justification in speech or writing, as for a cause or doctrine.
Why a defense? In my last post, GOD-GIVEN RIGHTS AS OPPOSED TO “THERE IS NO GOD”, Keith commented, complaining that I was tarring all atheists.
Keith DeHavelle says:
Dear Citizen Tom,
It seems to me that you are tarring all atheists by claiming that they hold beliefs that I think apply to a vanishingly small percentage of them. I cannot say “none of them,” not in a country that has high single-digit percentages of believers in Elvis alive, 9/11 was a Bush plot, the moon landing was faked, and so on.
But your assertions in every one of your “If there is no God” paragraphs is simply incorrect, it seems to me. It reads a bit like arguments you’ve seen made or implied elsewhere: “Since they are not loving, tolerant leftist liberals, all conservatives are racists.” (continued here)
I am not surprised by Keith’s comment; just a little disappointed. I very much enjoy Keith’s blog and his comments here. He has a sharp mind, and he strikes me as thoroughly honorable.
The “If there is no God” paragraphs in GOD-GIVEN RIGHTS AS OPPOSED TO “THERE IS NO GOD” may seem harsh, but if we believe there is no God that belief will affect our behavior. Otherwise, why believe such a thing? And if there is — as I believe — a God, what good would it do to sugarcoat that Truth?
However, note what I said about Keith. Because some atheists are hostile to Christianity, Keith calls himself a non-theist. That is, Keith does not believe God exists, but he is quite willing to live peaceably with those who do believe God exists. So how do I explain Keith?
In GOD-GIVEN RIGHTS AS OPPOSED TO “THERE IS NO GOD”, I included this paragraph.
So what would ameliorate our behavior? Why are most men usually willing to respect the rights of others? Is it the fact most people believe in God, or is each one of us the embodiment of reason? Have we logically deduced the problem that arises when we harm the interests of our neighbor? If we don’t respect our neighbors rights, no one will respect our own? Or is it the moral law, that sense of right and wrong that each of us carries in his heart? Do we recognize in each other a being akin to our self? Don’t we know how we would feel if someone abused us?
Whatever we are, almost none of us come close to being the embodiment of reason. Catch any of us by surprise, especially when we are tired, and almost all us will react angrily if someone irritates us. Who hasn’t cursed a driver who cut him off? Who hasn’t burst out in anger at a friend just to realize a moment later that his or her friend didn’t mean what we for a moment thought he meant. Even when we knew it was wrong, who has never done anything that latter caused them to feel ashamed? Who hasn’t….., but that’s not the point. So let’s get back to it.
As Keith observed latter in his comment, the simple fact we believe in God is not alone sufficient to control our behavior. So what does control our behavior? To react appropriately and choose good over evil, don’t we need a well-formed conscience? How we form our conscience is something Adam Smith explained in The Theory of Moral Sentiments. For an appropriate excerpt from Smith’s book, please read FOR THOSE WHO EXALT THEMSELVES WILL BE HUMBLED.
You are back from that diversion? Good. So what was the point? Why the adamant condemnation of the behavioral implications of Atheism in GOD-GIVEN RIGHTS AS OPPOSED TO “THERE IS NO GOD”? What we believe about God makes a difference in how we form our conscience. As Adam Smith observed, we each first began to form our own conscience by copying and reacting to our perceptions of others. Eventually, unless we chose to be hypocrites, our conscience matured, and our behavior in private began to match our public behavior. That’s especially true if we believe God is watching.
On the other hand, if we were raised by and among people who think nothing of God, we may not worry whether God is watching. Instead, we have to base our code of conduct on something else, probably human reason, and human reason doesn’t have a good track record.
In America, we still have what remains of our Christian heritage. That includes a moral code derived from what forebears understood about the Bible. Because of a decadent mass media and a secularized education system, many of us are replacing a Christian moral code with something that does not include God. If that trend continues, then over time the consequences for our society are predictable. Too many of us will replace God with idols, behave hypocritically, and determine right and wrong based upon what we think we can get away with.
So does that mean that we get to judge someone just because he calls himself an atheist or a non-theist? No. To determine how well another person’s conscience works takes more than just a label.
Matthew 7:1-6 New King James Version (NKJV)
Do Not Judge
7 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
6 “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.
Behavior matters more than a label. If we can see that someone behaves like rabid dog or feral pig, there is no point in giving them our love and friendship. It doesn’t matter what they call themselves. On the other hand, if someone behaves as a friend, then we should treat them as friends.