The list pictured above is an anti-Christian meme making its way around the internet. It is one that is typical of the evangelistic new atheism movement. The list is credited to the “We F**king Love Atheism” Facebook page. The lists’ authors seek to discredit the biblical text with numerous specious assertions that paint The Bible in a barbaric light. A philosophical analysis of “murder” on an atheistic worldview and a hermetically faithful examination of the texts presented show that this list is rather a weak one that exhibits either a remarkable ignorance of the biblical text or an egregious intentional misrepresentations of what Christians believe. An analysis of the biblical texts has already been done by Theologians in the Field. Here I will provide a philosophical analysis of the message the list attempts to communicate.
A Philosophical Analysis of Murder on an Atheistic Worldview
The title of this list is “How to Murder Children: Bible Style” not “How to Kill Children: Bible Style”. This is an important distinction because the term “murder” carries a moral connotation that the term “kill” does not. For example, when a whale eats a seal, no one accuses the whale of “murdering” the seal. Rather people simply observe that whale “kills” the seal because moral standards are not assigned to animals. No injustice is implied. However, if a man kills another human being in the course of a robbery, he is rightly considered a murderer because he has killed someone unjustly. Moral standards are applied to humans by other humans.
However, on an atheistic worldview, humans are just one more species of animal, albeit a highly involved one. On this worldview, morality is grounded either in the evolutionary process or in the standards of societies and governments. Where it is grounded on an atheistic worldview, morality is ultimately subjective. Objective moral values and duties do not exist. As evolutionary scientist Richard Dawkins has observed, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” Since there is no objective good and evil, killing acts are arbitrarily designated as “murder” by societies. In the eyes of the modern American, Nazi Germany murdered 6,000,000 Jewish human beings during the holocaust. In the eyes a German from the Nazi era, Nazi Germany “exterminated” 6,000,000 Jews who were considered “life unworthy of life” Both the American and the German would agree that killing was done, however, they would disagree on whether or not the Jews were murdered.
Since there are no such things as objective moral values and duties on an atheistic worldview, it becomes impossible to universally define and condemn murder. The definition of “murder” is grounded in a given culture; murder is culturally relative. Thus, it makes no sense on atheistic worldview to call Old Testament stonings “murder” given that such stonings were killings sanctioned by the government and society at large.
Without addressing a single biblical citation in the list above in any depth, the “How to Murder Children: Bible Style” list is proven self-refuting on atheistic worldview.
On a Christian worldview, objective moral values and duties can exist given that God exists and is a sufficient source in Whom to ground them. The atheist should examine the following syllogism:
- If God does not exist then objective moral values and duties do not exist.
- Objective moral values and duties do exist.
- Therefore, God Exists.
In consideration of proposition #2, the atheist should ask herself, “Do objective moral values and duties exist? Is it always morally impermissible to torture little children for fun? Is it always morally impermissible to systematically exterminate unfavored ethnic groups?” If the atheist answers these questions, “Yes” then she is intellectually bound to abandon her atheism. Of course, abandoning atheism in this manner does not equate to accepting the truth value of Christianity.
The Christian God condemns murder and is rich in mercy. It is wise to consider the word of this God as revealed in the Bible. Forgiveness of sin and fellowship with God awaits any person who repents of her sin and places her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
For more on Old Testament Ethics and Christian Apologetics see: Is God a Moral Monster and When God Goes to Starbucks by Paul Copan.
*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.
Your first premise is flawed. If God does not exist that does not mean that we do not have moral values, we still have natural morality and do not need a God to tell us what is right and wrong.
That’s not my first premise. We would still have moral values.
If God does not exist, subjective moral values can exist but not objective moral values.
Can you explain what you mean by “natural morality”?
Objective moral values have not been proven to exist anyway; there are no universal laws of morality.
Humans developed a natural, primitive morality as they evolved. In order to function as a group humans learnt to share their resources and not kill each other, and if humans worked as a group they were all more likely to survive, so natural selection favored those with more compassionate and empathetic instincts. And morality grew as we developed.
I didn’t argue that objective moral values had been proven to exist.
But now we are talking about premise #2. You are certainly free to deny it. Some people do but many find it hard to do so.
The post was written in support of premise #2 but to examine if Phil’s approach was normative.
Keep in mind that you can’t prove the morality, which would still be subjective, is the result of natural selection.
Furthermore, science can tell us what is but not what ought. A blind watchmaker like natural selection can’t say X is right or wrong. The best it can do is explain why people think something can be right or wrong. That’s really outside of the scope of this article, though, wouldn’t you agree?