Explaining Christianity to an Intellectual Atheist
There was a discussion between two scientists in New York City back in 1996. The topic they discussed was the evolution of human beings. Richard Dawkins, one of the scientists, is a zoologist who published a book call The Selfish Gene. In this book he describes life as a conveyor belt for this selfish gene that is struggling to survive. He says in this book that everything we hold most dear acts of love, the beauty of a peacock's tail, the birth of a newborn could be explained by the selfish gene's struggle to survive. Also Dawkins once stated, "Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist."
The other scientist in the discussion was Jaron Lanier. He is a computer scientist, musician, and a provocative thinker on evolution, morality, and ideas. He has no basic quarrels with the theory of evolution, but does not believe it's the most apt metaphor for our lives. According to Lanier natural section is only a part of the human story, and we more than just the accidental result of evolution. He says what's best about us and civilization may be our ability to thwart evolution.
Lanier argued that it is hard to find a basis for our morality in nature from where we evolved and some people feel that if they accept evolution it would lead to a moral vacuum. He says nature is evil and every time we help a needy person or make it possible for a handicapped person to live and pass on their genes, we've succeeded in defying the process that created us.
Dawkins says that nature is simply indifferent to human concerns and that we are unique in the animal kingdom. We have brains big enough not to follow the dictates of the selfish gene.
He says if it leads to a moral vacuum that's just tough. We must face up to the truth.
Sigmund Freud depicts personality as shaped by an ongoing conflict between people's primary drives, particularly sex and aggression, and the social pressures of the civilized society. According to Freud, we are born with a vast reservoir of instinctual drives called life instincts (such as hunger, thirst, and sex) and death instincts (such as aggression and destruction). These biological drives are instinctual and largely unconscious. Also the biological drives are very selfish and seek immediate gratification. As we grow older we realize that immediate gratification is not always possible so we learn to cope with the real world. Freud called this the reality principle. He theorized that we composite our morality from the standards of parents and society. According to Freud moral inhibition or "should nots" of behavior stem from punishment and "shoulds" of behavior we receive approval and/or reinforcement.
Kohlberg's theory of moral development has 6 stages. In the 1st stage children behave in certain ways to avoid punishment. In the 2nd stage they behave in certain ways to obtain rewards. At this low level children have no morality. In stage 3 moral behaviors are the desire to help others or gain their approval. Stage 4 is to help maintain the social order. Stage 5 of morality is to affirm the values agreed on by society, including individual rights and the need for democratically determined rules. In stage 6 individuals are guided by universal ethical principles even if their act's conflict with society's rules. Kohlberg suggests that people are encouraged to advance to higher morality by exposure to the more advance moral reasoning of others.
One theory states that our parents and society teach morality to us with punishment for bad behavior and rewards for good behavior. This seems like a very weak foundation for our morality to be based on. With this basis for morality a person may steal if they thought they would not get caught. A very powerful nation may invade a weaker one, steal it resources and enslave its people if it thought that no other country could stop it. Kohlberg says there is no morality in society if people obey laws simply to avoid punishment. He says our morality advances as we observe higher morality in others. When we are first born we are basically immoral. Richard Dawkins refers to this as the selfish gene that we are all born with. Freud calls it the instinctual drives. So how do we be come moral?
Well the first step in becoming moral individuals started at the beginning of human civilization. The first thing a society had to do was to establish rules to live by. For example, at the beginning of the Israeli Nation they receive the Ten Commandments, which they believed, came directly from God. With these laws society had written rules that defined what was moral and what was immoral. But written rules are enough to help us advance to higher levels of morality. We need to observe higher morality in someone else and this is what Jesus Christ has done. Jesus Christ was born without the self-gene and the instinctual drives that we were born with and that is why when we look at the life of Christ it seems so radically unselfish. By simply believing in Christ and studying his life it increases the morality of the individual. This is the mission of Christ, to advance mankind to the final stage of morality by guiding individuals to universal principles even if those principles conflict with society's rules.
Matthew 4:16 & Isaiah 9:2
The people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.