Violet, my atheist blogging buddy, has a post up called “WHAT MORALITY MEANS” in which she engages in her first favorite pastime, telling everyone Christians are wrong about everything, but also wrestling with some issues around morality, empathy, and Absolute Truth.
I empathize somewhat, because I am the first one to argue against Absolute Truth, as in, “Dude, what you are saying is not objective, not truthful, and not absolute.” Oh yes, there are people in the world who claim to be in possession of absolute, objective truth, and they stand before me looking much more like a piece of swiss cheese full of holes, than anything else.
So I understand the skepticism over the nature of objective truth or Absolute Truth. I’m picky, I expect my truth to be objective, absolute, and truthful. As human beings, I think we’re somewhat limited there, because we are subjective creatures. So, we simply do the best we can and come up with something that resembles objectivity.
However, human flaws aside, objective truth and Absolute Truth are still real things in the world. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” -John 14:6. The truth is important in the Christian walk, and it is an objective, tangible thing, outside of and beyond ourselves, our feelings, and our sentimentality.
Violet says, “Our shared sense of morality as human beings is guided by our understanding of the impact of our actions, which is influenced by our naturally evolved empathy (understanding and caring about other people’s suffering) mixed with, among other things, the logic of the Golden Rule, the observation of which ensures a more pleasant society for everyone.”
As much as I would love to hold hands with her and just sing kumbaya, this begs the question, So how come that isn’t the world we are living in? If morality amounts to nothing more than evolved empathy, the golden rule, and our understanding of the impact of our actions, how come there is so much violence and suffering in the world? Wars, rumors of wars, beheadings, kids sold into sex slavery, politically created famines…..
Our so-called “naturally evolved empathy and logic” seems to have totally failed us.
I’ve written before about empathy being a really poor guide for morality. Don’t get me wrong, empathy is a beautiful thing, it is just that as humans we can’t really empathize in two different directions at the same time. We have to choose. If you empathize with a woman facing an abortion, then you are unable to empathize with the fetus she is carrying. Empathy always fails us when faced with a fork in the path and it simply demands that we choose our loyalties. There is no lukewarm here.
But what is really missing from Violet’s entire post is any awareness, acknowledgement, or recognition of evil. I get that, I did that for many years myself. I simply refused to even consider the existence of evil. If you cannot see evil, you may not grasp the desperate need for a Savior, the powerful insistence that Absolute Truth is a real thing in the world. If there is no evil, then what is it all the crazy people think they need to be saved from?
I hate to be such a wet blanket here, so jaded and cynical, but I know, I have learned, evil is real enough, terrifying, and it never seems to recognize itself for what it is. There is no lukewarm there, either. It is what it is. A harsh truth.
Violet concludes with yet another slam on Christians, “Be scared for the people who can’t see complex decisions in a rational light, be scared for people who don’t understand their basic empathy, and who can’t see the logic in working together to create societies with less suffering, societies where we all look out for each other. Because all too often these are the shallow, instinctive moral judgements that can lead people to burn heretics, to hang homosexuals or to deny women bodily autonomy.”
To which I can only say, Pol Pot. Stalin. Hitler. Mass graves, killing fields, communism wars, a whole bloody and violent history, not a single one the least bit interested in making “shallow moral Christian judgments,” about much of anything. Every single one was an evil convinced it was good, not unlike the same kind of “morality” that has now lead us to conclude that 51,888,303 aborted fetuses in the US were nothing but a clump of cells. Selling their organs for research is not evil either, it’s now good, just as conducting medical experiments on Jews was once seen as being for the common good.
And Joseph Stalin, well I suspect he and many of his followers were absolutely convinced they were making “a more pleasant society for everyone.” To this day we don’t even know how many he killed in the Great Purge, but it is estimated to have been millions.
The problem with evil Violet, is that it can not ever see the nature of its own self. It simply believes it’s good. In the absence of Absolute Truth guiding us, there is no place humankind won’t go. History has taught us that truth, time and time again.