UnPhiltered Moral Philosophy: Phil Robertson Speaks Out Again

About 15 months ago, Duck Dynasty star, Christian media mogul, entrepreneur, and popular preaching circuit speaker Phil Robertson took some flack in the press for his candid and biblical description of homosexual behavior as recorded in an interview with GQ.  In the midst of a controversy over his comments, Robertson was suspended from his own A&E Network Reality show.  The outcry over his comments, as well as his suspension, was short.   In little time, Phil’s legions of supportive, evangelical Christian fans demanded that he be returned to A&E’s airwaves.  He was.  Consumers demanded and the market supplied.  This week, Robertson has once again come under fire for candid and graphic comments.  In a recent speaking engagement at the Vero Beach Prayer Breakfast Robertson said:

I’ll make a bet with you. Two guys break into an atheist’s home. He has a little atheist wife and two little atheist daughters. Two guys break into his home and tie him up in a chair and gag him. And then they take his two daughters in front of him and rape both of them and then shoot them and they take his wife and then decapitate her head off in front of him. And then they can look at him and say, ‘Isn’t it great that I don’t have to worry about being judged? Isn’t it great that there’s nothing wrong with this? There’s no right or wrong, now is it dude?’

Then you take a sharp knife and take his manhood and hold it in front of him and say, ‘Wouldn’t it be something if this [sic] was something wrong with this? But you’re the one who says there is no God, there’s no right, there’s no wrong, so we’re just having fun. We’re sick in the head, have a nice day.’

If it happened to them, they probably would say ‘something about this just ain’t right.’”

There is no shortage of outrage over Robertson’s latest candid comments.  Even in the Christian community, some have complained that Robertson’s comments were too graphic.  Others have complained that Roberston’s comments did not fairly represent the atheistic worldview.  Dustin Chalker of the Mobile (Alabama) Atheist Community reacted to Robertson’s comments by saying, “Robertson has made a mistake so old and so worn out that it can only be a deliberate lie or a result of sheer ignorance.  Atheism is not, and never has been, a synonym for moral nihilism… Rather than obedience to a mystical authority that probably doesn’t exist, atheist morality is based on things that we can prove: other humans exist and behavioral self-regulation is necessary for peaceful coexistence.”  Is Chalker correct?[1]

Notice that Robertson did not argue that atheists can’t act morally.  It’s a misunderstanding of his argument (a common one) to state otherwise.  Rather Robertson’s argument was that atheists have no objective justification to declare actions moral or immoral.  As Chalker noted, Robertson’s argument is an “old” one, but it’s hardly “worn out”.  As Christian Philosopher William Lane Craig has noted, z moral argument like the one used by Robertson is perhaps the most powerful argument against the atheistic worldview.  It’s not hard to image that Robertson, who has a master’s degree in education, knows that Fyodor Dostoevsky’s wrote through his character Ivan Karamazov that “everything is permitted” in a world without God.  There is hardly any outrage to be had over the classic writing of Dostoevsky.  Yet, Robertson is roundly condemned. Robertson, in his straightforward manner, has put forth a classic argument that Christian theists commonly level against atheism.

  1. If God does not exist, Objective moral values and duties do not exist.
  2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
  3. Therefore, God exists.

Atheists and theists alike generally agree on premise 1.  Where they differ is on premise #2.  Robertson’s comments were clearly meant to engender an emotional and intellectual reaction that would cause his hearers to affirm premise #2.  Using rape an example of an objective moral evil is a common tactic, not just of for frank country boys like Robertson, but for intellectuals and academics.   The following story was republished in Jeremy Evans’ The Problem of Evil: The Challenge to Essential Christian Beliefs in order to demonstrate the moral evil of rape:

“[Consider] a little girl in Flint, Michigan who was severely beaten, raped, and then strangled by her mother’s boyfriend on New Year’s Day of 1986. The girl’s mother was living with her boyfriend, another man who was unemployed, her two children, and her nine-month old infant fathered by the boyfriend. On New Year’s Eve all three adults were drinking at a bar near the woman’s home. The boyfriend had been taking drugs and drinking heavily. He was asked to leave the bar at 8: 00 p.m. After several reappearances he finally stayed away for good about 9: 30 p.m. The woman and the unemployed man remained at the bar until 2: 00 a.m. at which time the woman went home and the man to a party at a neighbor’s home. Perhaps out of jealousy, the boyfriend attacked the woman when she walked in the house. Her brother was there and broke up the fight by hitting the boyfriend who was passed out and slumped over a table when the brother left. Later the boyfriend attacked the woman again, and this time she knocked him unconscious. After checking the children, she went to bed. Later the woman’s five-year-old girl went downstairs to go to the bathroom. The unemployed man returned from the party at 3: 45 a.m. and found the five-year-old girl dead. She had been raped, severely beaten over most of her body, and strangled to death by the boyfriend.”[2]

The graphic story above is about the brutal rape of a little girl and it was printed in a philosophy book published by an academic press.  No one is criticizing Professor Jeremy Evans in the Huffington Post. Robertson’s words are hardly shocking to Christians apologists regularly engaged in defense of a Christian worldview.  The question, “Is it always wrong to murder a child for fun?” is the stock question asked by Christian apologists to atheists to support premise 2 of the moral argument.

Despite to the rhetoric of Dustin Chalker, atheists cannot prove that is objectively wrong to rape and murder children…even though they know it is.  Phil Robertson is right.  Evangelical Christians should support these statements rather than decry them.

*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.

[1] Atheist Philosopher Fredrick Nietzsche would almost certainly disagree with Chalker.

[2] Evans, Jeremy A. (2013-03-01). The Problem of Evil: The Challenge to Essential Christian Beliefs (NONE) (p. 24). B&H Academic. Kindle Edition.

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