Atheist Myers misses the point

PZ Myers, a biologist toiling away at a small public liberal arts college in rural Minnesota, takes pity on us Hoosiers because our governor professes to be a humble Christian:

The core of Christianity has never been humility, but arrogance. This is a faith that claims its followers have privileged contact with an immortal, omniscient being, that claims that believers are especially loved by the most powerful intelligence in the universe, and that those who believe most devoutly will be rewarded after death with cushy lives in paradise, while the rest of us burn in torment for eternity.

No, not privileged contact. It’s there for anyone who opens a Bible. Sadly, it appears that God fails to live up to Myers’ high standards.

While Myers is correct in pointing out that too many professing Christians cop a holier-than-thou attitude, a careful reading of the gospels turns up no justification for it. Christians, as Daniels points out in his interview, are, like all humans, fallen. There are none righteous in God’s eyes.

Setting aside the question of whether Gov. Daniels is a genuine Christian, how is a believer who acknowledges his hopeless spiritual condition more arrogant than an atheist who denies any need for divine intervention?

And then there is this logical incoherence:

There is no eternal standard of right and wrong.
[…]
In the absence of a god-given absolute morality, all that matters is how we treat one another in this one life we have.

No eternal, absolute standard of right and wrong. Yet the bulk of Myers’ writing is devoted to telling the world how absolutely, dangerously wrong Christians are.

And if all we have are these few brief decades, with no eternal judge of right and wrong to whom we must answer someday, how does Myers’ vague love-thy-neighbor philosophy make any sense? What makes that the ultimate standard of a life lived well? Who decided, and on what criteria? What gain to me if I love my neighbor when my eternal reward is nothing, and my punishment for hating my neighbor is…nothing?

While Myers is correct in pointing out that Hitler, contrary to Gov. Daniels’ claim, was not an atheist (Hitler was actually an occultist with beliefs disturbingly similar to those of many prominent New Age gurus), the governor’s point stands: if all that matters is what we get out of this life, then the only logically consistent morality is naked self-interest.

There is no rational basis for atheistic altruism. It’s illogical in the absence of an omnipotent supernatural judge, and it’s anti-Darwinian.

In other words, “morality built on reason” for an atheist means the only limiting factor on behavior is the risk of getting caught.

Whether Daniels is truly a Christian or not, I feel better living in a state headed by a man who claims to be guided by Christian morality.

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