Note: I was recently at Ontario Christian H.S. in Ontario, CA giving a talk to a few dozen upperclass men and women in a comparative religion class. I’ve been representing secular humanists and atheists in this class twice a year for at least the last decade.
Just to set the stage, these kids are basically young-earth creationists and biblical literalists. Here are a few of the questions they raised… and my actual answers…
Are you worried about going to hell? (Laughter) I mean, what would you say if you died and ended up in hell?
I’m not worried because I don’t think hell exists. But if I died and actually did end up in hell, I’d be surprised. You gotta be kidding me, I’d say. All indications were that this is a myth!
You said our moral code – the differentiation between right and wrong comes from instincts. Where does that moral code come from?
It starts with instincts and starts with the idea that when we cooperate with each other our chance of survival is better. If it’s every man for himself – like it is with some animals – our individual chance of survival is lessened. It’s come over hundreds of thousands of years –arguably millions of years – that those groups of our ancestors who cooperated survived and procreated better into the next generation.
So wouldn’t we see that with other animal species?
We do. Whales, apes, wolves, orcas – they are all more successful because they cooperate with each other. I saw this directly in an elephant group we saw in a game park in South Africa. There was a group of like 15 elephants and one of them – his name was Norman — was kicked out of the group because of some (aberrant) behavior. Norman’s chances of survival and procreating went down when he broke the group’s code. Of course humans’ morals and ethics are much more sophisticated and developed because of our better brains, but codes of conduct can be seen in other animals. And it doesn’t come from the bible or any sacred text.
Do you believe in absolutes when it comes to morality? Like God’s authority is absolute?
There are general agreements among humans that lying, cheating, murder, rape and stealing are wrong. This is basically true among all peoples no matter what religion they practice – or don’t practice. But I guess a lot depends on circumstances, not absolutes.
My question to you is, why do you think your God is moral? Where is the justice and compassion in a God that would drown all the week-old babies and little old ladies in the world?
They were sinful.
I’m sorry, but a week-old baby is incapable of sin. There is nothing a week-old baby could possibly think or do to deserve death by drowning, yet that’s exactly what God did to them. He drown them.
Ah, but God loves you… some of you….