If you’ve ever been told by an Atheist that you’re “hateful” or “bigoted” or wrong in any sense, I hope you replied, “What standard are you using to judge me?”
But, if you don’t spend much time in apologetics circles, that might sound like a mouthful of nonsense.
Perhaps you want to learn how to engage with a godless culture better, but you have trouble understanding the premises that Theists often use. That’s okay! I can explain the Moral Argument with a very simple visual. So simple, in fact, that I’m presenting it to my 8-year-old and 5-year-old, as we’re studying our solar system.
In order to grasp the moral argument, you only need to understand two things:
#1: Outerspace is a big, black emptiness where things like “up” and “down” don’t make sense–unless you invent some type of reference point.
#2: Once we put another object or body into space with us, we use those objects to talk about “up” and “down” relatively speaking.
Does that make sense?
Maybe the adults are tracking.
But, for the sake of polishing my lesson, I’m going to break it down as if I’m talking to a Kindergartener and 2nd-Grader.
If you imagine that you’re hovering out in the blackness of outerspace, how would you know which way was “up” and which was “down?” Maybe you would just point your finger over your head and say, “That way is up.” So, wherever your head is pointing you would call “up,” compared to where you are.
…But what if you started spinning?
First of all, how would you even know you were spinning, if you’re floating in blackness?
And second, would that mean that the meaning of the word “up” could change? (Or would “up” always be the same, even if your body was moving?)
Once we understand the challenge of discussing “directions” in a vacuum, we can see the Atheist’s problem in trying to define morality in a Universe that evolved for no reason or purpose.
Words like “right and wrong” are RELATIVE terms, which suggest that certain behaviors move us in a “good” direction and other behaviors move us toward a thing called “bad.”
But who determines which direction is “good” and “bad?”
Do we just point above our heads and say, “Let’s call ‘reducing harm’ a good thing, because it feels nice to us?”
…and, even if we agree about that, what if our culture starts spinning (so to speak)?
Can the definition of “good” change, as our cultures move and reposition themselves?
What happens if one group of people floating in the blackness wants to call THIS thing good, but another group of people floating in another part of the blackness wants to call THE OPPOSITE thing “good?”
Then what happens?
Imagine two astronauts are hovering in the abyss, and they’re both trying to use their individual bodies as starting points, until they realize that there’s too much conflict and confusion. Eventually, they agree to use their spaceship to define “up” and “down”–since it’s bigger than both of them.
Maybe that works for their tiny community of two people. But, deep down, they still know they haven’t solved their problem in an objective way. Just because the ship is bigger than the two astronauts doesn’t mean it’s more correct than a system that uses the Astronaut’s helmet to define “up” and “down.” Both methods are arbitrary (and ultimately meaningless) ways of creating concepts out of–literally–nothing.
Again, for a mental picture of this issue, just envision ANOTHER set of two astonauts who have ALSO agreed that their spaceship determines what is “up” and what is “down.” But, unfortunately for everyone, the two spaceships are pointing in opposite directions.
Now who’s “right?”
Well, neither of them. Or all of them. There IS NO “right” when all of the directions were made-up in the first place. And this idea that we (humans) can build a moral framework in outerspace is called “Moral Relativism.” It’s the mistaken belief that when you pile together enough spaceships and astronauts (and rocks and ice and other bits and bobs), then you can make yourself big enough to have Authority… but, underneath all of that rubble, we know there’s not REALLY anything directing us.
It’s up to humans to craft meaning for themselves.
Unfortunately for the Moral Relativists, it’s very hard to live out their own beliefs… because all of us feel so very strongly that THIS WAY is up and THAT WAY is down.
Moral Relativists are often the quickest to accuse Christians of being “judgmental” or “bigoted”–which makes them astronauts screaming at other astronauts to turn around because they’re facing the wrong way.
That’s when someone like you, or my young children, will ask them, “By what standard are you judging me?” And then wait for the rest of your life for an answer, because you’ll never get one. 🙂
The point is: in order to judge things as right/wrong, we need to have a standard that is much bigger than a single person…
…it needs to be bigger than a spaceship…
…in fact, the standard needs to be bigger than a whole PLANET full of astronauts and spaceships and teachers and bloggers and Atheists and Christians.
The Thing which determines right/wrong must be outside the Universe itself, so that it can properly see which way is “up” and which is “down,” relative to ITSELF.
If it’s up to humans to decide for ourselves, we’re only hovering out here in the blackness, bickering about which way to point until we die.