An honest atheist would admit he believes that the Holocaust is not absolutely immoral, because without a Primary Source for morality there is no universal standard we can use to compare competing moral standards. This is a useful perspective to consider when evaluating a claim in a letter to the editor last week:
As an atheist, he will know when he gives the order to unleash the power of our nuclear arsenal, he is performing the final act for our species.
The author argues that since atheists do not have a hope for a life after this one, they will do everything they can to preserve life on this planet – unlike people who believe in life after death. But this is a simplistic comparison. Examine Christian theology, for example.
The Bible forbids us from committing murder. While Christians certainly believe in God’s wrath and the lawful use of force, no Christian denomination endorses whole-scale slaughter of hundreds of millions, especially when those killed are noncombatants. This is based on the Biblical truth that we are created in the image of God, and exterminating human life unjustly is an attack on God’s image. Some Christian friends of mine believe nuclear weapons themselves are intrinsically immoral because of the massive collateral damage a nuke would cause.
Our lives on this beautiful planet are not a dress rehearsal for some infinite fairy tale in the sky.
Our lives are what we make of them and this is the only life we will have.
This is another simplistic argument. In Christian theology, our lives – and how we live here – matter very much for our eternal life. Because Christians do not want to displease God (and because man is made in the image of God) sincere Christians would not support nuclear Armageddon. Assuming Christians would “push the button” for a nuclear war is not just simplistic – it is arrogant and bigoted.
The author would have us believe that atheism is somehow morally superior to religion (primarily to Christianity) because atheists focus only on this life. But from a truly atheistic standpoint, that is not a judgment that can be made because atheism is incompatible with universal moral standards. I would rather elect someone accountable to a higher power than someone who submits to nothing greater than humanity – because humanity has proven itself to be barbaric.