Codex Per·Fidem - Says Who? – The Need for an Absolute Source

Says Who?
The Need for an Absolute Source

As an experiment, I started a discussion thread on an online atheist forum. I began the discussion with this question: “How does atheism define morality?” I was told that morality is defined by a consensus of society in order to maintain a functioning society. So, then I asked if government should promote morality, for example, punishing those who violate society’s moral consensus. The response was no. I was told there is a difference between what is immoral and what is criminal. While society may have an idea of what is right and what is wrong, government should only be concerned with preventing someone from hurting others. So, is morality not important to a functioning society? No, it is. Is morality defined as “do whatever you want so long as you don’t hurt anybody else?” Yes, I’m told. Even if society would like to add more to it? Yes. So then, society doesn’t define morality. Our idea of morality must come from something else. But who? or what?

There is what I call a need for perfection. This need for perfection is broad. One way it can be defined is the need to improve oneself and one’s society. In short, increase what is good and eliminate what is bad. Human societies need some way to declare what is right and what is wrong. Without a moral code, society crumbles. Every human culture has developed a rule that defines morality. Even the atheist/agnostic recognizes the authority of this rule. In our culture, we call it the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That’s how we can tell right from wrong. Every other human culture has a similar rule. But just having this rule is not enough. This rule is essential to the function of society. So, people must be made to obey it, even if they disagree. But, on whose authority do we enforce this rule?

If it is by society’s authority then the violator could say society is wrong, therefore he doesn’t have to obey. Take for example, Nazi Germany. At that time, the consensus in society was that Jews were inferior, and so they were exterminated. In the antebellum South, society believed slavery was justified. Were these beliefs moral? No, of course not. Therefore, anyone who disobeyed the law in these societies could rightfully argue that society was wrong. Society’s authority is too fallible to be compelling.

The source of this rule’s authority, if it is to have any authority at all, must be absolute and beyond question. Without such an Absolute Source, morality becomes a matter of personal taste. What is right and what is wrong? And how can we compel others to do what is right?

That’s the problem that many theists like myself have with atheism/agnosticism. We have not been given an adequate answer to this question. It seems to us that the only answer is found in the theist belief in the Absolute Good. Theism declares that certain things are always right or always wrong, regardless of the situation. For example, loving your neighbor is always right, regardless of who your neighbor is. This is absolute. This truth is always true, and its validity cannot be questioned. It is, as the Framers would say, self-evident. It requires no proof and no support from society. Theism declares the source for this Truth must also be absolute.

Now the question comes, how can we know this source? A source which is absolute cannot exist solely in a universe that is finite. Therefore, human logic, which is chained to this finite universe, is useless in understanding it. Reason is simply too faulty. So, to discover the answer to the most basic questions in life, we must abandon reason in favor of faith. Is that such a bad thing? Consider the soldier who believes, “leave no man behind.” Is that always a logical belief? No. But is it always right? Yes, absolutely. The theist values Truth over logic because he believes logic is useless in discovering Truth.

As long as the Absolute Good is believed on faith alone, it remains absolute. There are no exceptions to the Golden Rule. We go wrong when we eliminate faith and introduce our own faulty logic. From that point on we construct for ourselves logical exceptions to the rule. We say, “This is right, except in this case.” or “except when we’re dealing with these people.” That is what happened in Nazi Germany and in pre-Civil War America.

So, theism satisfies, by faith, this universal need for an Absolute Good. While atheism/agnosticism, through logic, corrupts it. This leads one to wonder if there is something inherently wrong with a philosophy that fails to fulfill a basic and universal need of humanity.

Reason underlies all our vices and is the seed of injustice, intemperance and cowardice.

-Marcus Tullius Cicero
De Natura Deorum Book III

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