the myth of secular chaos

interesting article, from sam harris:

One cannot criticize religious dogmatism for long without encountering the following claim, advanced as though it were a self-evident fact of nature: there is no secular basis for morality. Raping and killing children can only really be wrong, the thinking goes, if there is a God who says it is. Otherwise, right and wrong would be mere matters of social construction, and any society would be at liberty to decide that raping and killing children is actually a wholesome form of family fun. In the absence of God, John Wayne Gacy could be a better person than Albert Schweitzer, if only more people agreed with him.

It is simply amazing how widespread this fear of secular moral chaos is, given how many misconceptions about morality and human nature are required to set it whirling in a person’s brain. There is undoubtedly much to be said against the spurious linkage between faith and morality, but the following three points should suffice.

1. If a book like the Bible were the only reliable blueprint for human decency that we had, it would be impossible (both practically and logically) to criticize it in moral terms. But it is extraordinarily easy to criticize the morality one finds in the Bible, as most of it is simply odious and incompatible with a civil society.

The notion that the Bible is a perfect guide to morality is really quite amazing, given the contents of the book. Human sacrifice, genocide, slaveholding, and misogyny are consistently celebrated. Of course, God’s counsel to parents is refreshingly straightforward: whenever children get out of line, we should beat them with a rod (Proverbs 13:24, 20:30, and 23:13–14). If they are shameless enough to talk back to us, we should kill them (Exodus 21:15, Leviticus 20:9, Deuteronomy 21:18–21, Mark 7:9–13, and Matthew 15:4–7). We must also stone people to death for heresy, adultery, homosexuality, working on the Sabbath, worshiping graven images, practicing sorcery, and a wide variety of other imaginary crimes.

Most Christians imagine that Jesus did away with all this barbarism and delivered a doctrine of pure love and toleration. He didn’t. (See Matthew 5:18–19, Luke 16:17, 2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 20–21, John 7:19.) Anyone who believes that Jesus only taught the Golden Rule and love of one’s neighbor should go back and read the New Testament. And he or she should pay particular attention to the morality that will be on display if Jesus ever returns to earth trailing clouds of glory (e.g., 2 Thessalonians 1:7–9, 2:8; Hebrews 10:28–29; 2 Peter 3:7; and all of Revelation).

It is important to point out that we decide what is good in the Good Book. We read the Golden Rule and judge it to be a brilliant distillation of many of our ethical impulses; we read that a woman found not to be a virgin on her wedding night should be stoned to death, and we (if we are civilized) decide that this is the most vile lunacy imaginable. Our own ethical intuitions are, therefore, primary. So the choice before us is simple: we can either have a twenty-first-century conversation about ethics—availing ourselves of all the arguments and scientific insights that have accumulated in the last two thousand years of human discourse—or we can confine ourselves to a first-century conversation as it is preserved in the Bible.

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(heads up from kyle, via IM)

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2 thoughts on “the myth of secular chaos

  1. This isn’t an interesting article. It’s just another liberal atheist trying to justify that he/she is morally superior to other people, particularly Christians. The fact that liberals, progressives, homosexuals and atheists at large fight standard Christian morality should be enough to make you wonder about the basis for liberal progressive morality.

    Here’s the correct answer: There isn’t a basis–they make up whatever they want, and then use control of the media to call it superior and brainwash the great unwashed masses. Want examples? try Hitler, Stalin, Tojo, Mao, Ho Chi Mihn, Clinton, etc. Then they bash the Bible. They use a template, and follow it with great success to initiate vulnerable people…like you.

    Drop your political and social blinders and look at reality. Liberalism is a religion, just like Christianity. Liberalism is a way of life–a sub-culture–with it’s own pseudo-religious morals and values. Compare those with your average Christian values and you’ll see they are NOT the same.

    I sometimes call modern liberalism “The Western Church of Liberalism”–it wholeheartedly encourages homosexuality, drug use, abortion, gambling, pornography, elitism, intolerance, racism, plural relationships, large government socialism/communism, dependence, and many other DESTRUCTIVE behaviors. Liberalism is also anti-women (because Feminism does nothing but turn women into men, and men into women), anti-Christian (this is obvious), and anti-American (explains why liberals all root against America and American values in the media). Liberalism is self-destructive, and embraces self-destuctive values. Liberalism is also very much into self-worship (Humanism), which is against the First Commandment.

    And now…some preaching. Christians aren’t perfect. We’re sinners, and we know it. Are there goofy Christians out there? You bet. But we’re all trying to find the light, the truth, and peace and justice and liberty and strength and happiness and meaning. It will NEVER be found in Liberalism. Never! Why? Because at the very center of Liberalism is Atheism. The truth and light and peace and the secret to the universe can only be found in Jesus. Only in Jesus.

    Jesus is your friend, and he’s waiting for you. Drop your politics and surrender to Jesus. He is the Way, the Light, the Truth you have been seraching for.

  2. ah, anon commentor, you make me sad.

    why don’t you let me know who you are so we can have an actual conversation about this?

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