I recently received an email from a Christian who is experiencing doubts about his Christian worldview. He asked me to respond to a number of his questions. I will respond to each question in a separate post here on the blog. His identity will remain anonymous unless he chooses to identify himself.
Question: I have the impression all morality would become subjective [if I deconvert] and I would end up in some kind of infinite loop of contradicting ideas. Everyone’s reality or idea of morality would be just as valid as everyone else’s. My personality type is ISTP-A, and with that, I have a tendency to want to make an appeal to something outside of humanity on which to define morality, and good social order and all that jazz. The idea of a God keeps me grounded, in that, when people start advocating whatever is the flavor of the week, I have an objective measuring stick to look at and see if their idea is nonsense or not. Good example, if there is not a higher authority, and therefore no real longstanding consequences for behavior, what makes a psychopath who likes to eat people an invalid lifestyle juxtaposed to a nun. Intuitively you and I would both say it is wrong, but I would ask why? Big picture, why is it objectively wrong to munch on someone for the fun of it? If we came from nowhere and are essentially a cosmic accident, then who can really say anything about it.
Gary: This was also a concern for me when I deconverted from Christianity. Without a God, is there any such thing as “right” and “wrong”?
I have come to the conclusion that human beings possess an innate set of “conduct guidelines”. I personally believe that these rules of conduct come from our evolutionary development. Humans are a herd animal, or to be more specific, a “pack” animal. We are typically not loners. Herds must have rules to survive. Herds that have rules of behavior which increase the survival chances of individual members of the herd are more likely to survive. Herds that are dysfunctional; in which members simply look out for themselves tend not to survive. Therefore the DNA of members of the species which display “herd behavior” and not “loner (selfish) behavior” are more likely to be passed on to future generations and that altruism will be an innate characteristic of that species.
I therefore do not believe that a “god” is necessary to explain our altruistic behavior to other members of our “herd”.
And our herd (humanity) has a very strict prohibition against gratuitous killing of other members of the herd. So, no, even without a god, you will not be allowed to eat your neighbor.
I do not believe that an objective, absolute moral standard (morality) exists. The rules of the herd change with changes in our environment. However, some rules are pretty close to being “absolute”: Human herds do not allow gratuitous killing of other members of the herd. Human herds do not allow indiscriminate stealing from other members of the herd. And there are others.
I would also suggest that you investigate “secular humanism” and its principles related to how humans relate to one another. I believe that secular humanism is the next step in the advancement/sophistication/refinement of human (herd) interaction. Below is a link to an article that discusses the principles of secular humanism. Here is the introduction to the article:
“Many of my friends who are still somewhat religious despite being freethinkers see the benefits of rejecting ideologies that are untrue, but they wonder what will fill the void. They wonder what you’re supposed to…believe in once you truly shed all superstition.
How do you go on? What do you base your life on? What gives you meaning? Why even get up in the morning? Because they lack answers to these questions they cling to a nerfed and sanitized version of the faith they were injected with as children.”