On talking about the issue of suffering, Professor John Lennox pointed out that most people never get justice in the world. He referenced Adolph Hitler and spoke of how Hitler simply put a bullet to his own head after he had committed the atrocity of killing so many millions of people. If atheism is correct, that is the end of the story for Hitler. No reflecting, no recompense, no justice, no anything, tough! Hitler did what he thought he had to do because he was convinced that it was necessary to achieve his purposes. Who is anyone to say that what he did was wrong?
It definitely was not good for the people who suffered under his hand, but…wrong?… Who makes that call about right and wrong? Something can be painful. Something can be distressful. A person can find it inconvenient, annoying, hurtful, offensive, or anger inducing when they are personally affected by the inconsiderate actions of others, but in a world where there is no absolute standard by which we judge right and wrong, nothing is right or wrong. If it is all up to human beings to determine what is wrong, then anything goes.
Some people would be sophisticated enough to come to a common understanding and agree on set rules to govern the society in which they live, but for those who chose to not live by those rules, is that not their choice? If the rule breakers are prepared to deal with the consequences of their actions, whatever those consequences may be, in pursuit of their own desires, why should they not do that?
One of the most repulsive acts that anyone can commit is the sexual abuse of a child. Nothing stirs the emotions like this act of savage depravity. It certainly evokes raw emotions that make people recoil in absolute horror, and a desire to punish the offenders, but why is it wrong for those who choose not to follow the rules?
If as some say, human beings are just sophisticated animals, then maybe it really does not matter that some people treat others like animals. They think it does not matter. After all, look at how human beings use animals. We kill animals for meat. We use them to entertain us in zoos. We use them as beasts of burden etc. So what’s the big deal if humans treat other humans like they really are just animals, sophisticated as they may be?
Some people say that because humans are more cognizant, and they have the ability to reflect and consider their behavior, they have an obligation to behave morally. Is that true though, in a world that has no absolute point of reference to determine right and wrong? Is human cognizance really a good point of reference for morality? What about if one feels compelled to overcome whatever reservations he or she feels about certain behaviors in order to achieve whatever goals that person sets out to accomplish? A person may consider his goals to be so lofty that overcoming conscience may be a price he is willing to pay. If there is no absolute standard or reference to determine right or wrong, one is at liberty to do whatever one pleases.
So lets go back to animals for a minute…in Germany, it only became illegal to have sex with animals about eight years ago. There were actual brothels where people entertained their sexual fantasies with animals. In Northern Columbia, it’s a right of passage for young pubescent boys to have sex with donkeys. Many of the people there talk about it like it is the most natural thing in the world. In an interview, one man even talked about the cultural aspect of the practice, and he stressed that no one should try to impose their beliefs on their community. In a world where human beings are the be all and end all, then these matters really do boil down to what societies are willing to accept at any given time.
Let’s ask the question again. Is it really wrong when those who do not agree with society’s rules break them? Back to the issue of child sex molestation. There is a whole underground industry dedicated to providing children for sexual exploitation. The people who provide these children to fulfill the sexual desires and fantasies of those willing to pay for them see themselves as simply providing a service. They cater to an elite clientele who does not agree with society’s rules, and are willing to break those rules to fulfill their desires. Sure, it is distressing and traumatizing for the children who are abused, but just like Hitler, those predators too will die, and in the end it really would not matter. The end is the same for all in other words, abusers and the abused. When it is all over, consciousness ceases and there is no memory of anything that has ever transpired during a lifetime. What does it really matter?
Apart from that innate sense from deep down inside of us that says that these things are wrong, some argue that nothing is objectively wrong. Many are willing to bury that sense of right and wrong in the pursuit of fulflling their desires. Then there are those who, for whatever reason do not have a sense of right or wrong at all. They are fascinated by the idea of breaking the rules. Some experience a high from it. Others get ecstatic joy. Who ultimately decides on what is wrong?
In a universe where world famous atheist Richard Dawking says we are just random molecules, dancing to our DNA, shouldn’t it be that anything goes? May the fittest survive. Human beings have shown throughout history, that left to their own devices there is no depth to which they are not willing to sink in pursuit of fulfilling their darkest inclinations. Kim Jeong Un feels justified committing the actis of inhumanity that he executes against his people. Isis, the Taliban, Boko Haram and the Mexican Drug Cartel can all give you their justification for the atrocities that they commit. Many of them have seared their consciences, and they feel no remorse for their actions. Most of them will go to their graves without ever facing justice. To reference Dawkins again, he said “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” If Dawkins is right, who can blame anyone for living an individual life however one sees fit, consequences be damned?
On the other hand Lennox and others like him believe that there is a superior being to whom human beings are accountable. This being is the ultimate point of reference for morality. If he does not exist then Dawkins is right. We are just molecules without purpose, passing through our universe with no ultimate purpose. For all the acts of injustice, inhumanity, and evil that exist in the world, that is just the way it is. There is no hope for anything better when at death’s door for the pitiful soul who lived a life of suffering, misery and distress. For those who endured the brutality of tyrants, and the cruelty of evil men, there is nothing to look forward to beyond their existence on this earth. But if John Lennox is right, and this superior being that we call God does exist; there is reason for people to hope. Is that true though?
Does the mere existence of God give reason to hope? There are so many more issues to address on that thought. It is not as simple as it seems. Acknowledging that God exists, if it is true does not answer a lot of questions. What does this God have to say about everything taking place in our world? How do we reach him. Is he him or is he her? David Hume once said “Epicurus’s old questions are still unanswered: Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then again, perhaps God is exactly as the Bible describes him in the Hebrew scriptures that say “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways.
Maybe human beings are expected to place their faith in God and trust that he is working everything out with a grand ending in store for those who trust him and have faith in him. Taking that on it’s face leads to other issues. Why the Bible, why the Christian God? Others could make similar claims about Vishnu, Lakshmi, Mohammed, Zeuss or some other deity. Well Christianity makes several truth claims. The people who hold to belief in these other deities also make truth claims. They all have their sacred texts. They have their disciples. They have their messengers. They have their prophets. They all make claims of metaphysical truth. How do we know which God to look to for the true revelation of truth. How do we know what this God is saying to the world. What is his message? how does he expect us to behave to towards one another, and how are human beings supposed to respond to him.
Bible believers claim that they do not simply proclaim metaphysical truth. They say that anyone can claim to have truth gotten from God, without having any proof to verify their claims. Bible believers say that the Judaeo scriptures contain many verifiable truths. They say that many of the Bible prophets have prophesied world events with a stunning rate of precision and accuracy. This is unlike any other figure who has ever claimed to prophesy in the name of God or otherwise. One of the prophets from the Bible has been so on point with the prophecies that he foretold, scholars and historians have sought to discredit that he actually made those prophecies. Skeptics now claim that he really did not make these prophesies. They say that after many of the world events believers had already happened when he wrote about them, but wrote about them in a way that made it look as though he foretold them. That is how accurate these Bible prophecies are, if indeed they are prophecies.
Bible believers also claim that archaeology backs up many of the things, places, and events the Bible talks about. If fact they say that the Bible is so accurate when it comes to archaeological findings archaeologists use the Bible as a major tool when conducting many of their digs. Many claims that the Bible make, which people once laughed at, have now been verified by archaeologists. Voddie Baucham, a Christian apologist claims that thousands of archaeological digs have confirmed names, places, and events in the Bible. He say that not one of these archaeological findings has ever contradicted the Biblical account on the things to which they pertain.
Bible believers say that the historicity of the Bible and the characters featured in it are accurate. It is not a history book they say, but the history that it does record is accurate, and much of it can be verified. There are many other claims of veracity that Bible believes make, but perhaps the most audacious one is the claim about the central character in all of scripture, Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ was a real historical figure who was also mentioned by extra biblical sources like Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny the younger and other ancient historians. Followers of Christ say that he was brutally, mercilessly beaten and crucified, but raised himself to life again, and promised to return to the earth one day to judge all of humanity, past and present.
Let us go back to the original point about suffering, right and wrong, what the standard, and ultimate reference point of morality is. If there is a God who does exist, if he is the standard and ultimate reference point for morality; human beings would do well to find out what this God has to say to them. The God of the Bible invites everyone who wants to know about him to seek after him. The says God will reveal himself to them. He promises that those who suffer injustice will receive justice, those who committed injustice will pay. Those who followed him in faith will be rewarded. So what exactly is the point of highlighting all of this?
In the search to discover what God is saying, the search must be real. It cannot be half hearted. It must be sincere. As in any other search for truth, the search for metaphysical truth, must involve a careful consideration of all the evidence, the faith to believe that God indeed can be found, and the willingness to go wherever the evidence leads.