The Wright Perspective: Why Christianity is More Logical Than Atheism

My latest is up at Every Joe:

I was taught my whole life that the Christian Church was a bastion of unreason, not just a nursery where men believed in superstitions as rank as a belief in Santa Claus, but also a lunatic asylum where men believed three equaled one and dead men could live again. Hence, no surprise was greater to me than to discover that not only was the Church not illogical, but that atheism had a weaker claim to logic and reason than she did.

I am not here claiming the atheist model is illogical. Rather, I claim that the Christian story of the universe is a better story than any atheist story. More to the point, I claim it is also a better model than any atheist model, in that it explains more with more parsimony of assumption.

There are many brands of atheism, but they all have some points in common. First, one common point is that none have a rational explanation of the objectivity of moral rules.

Not all cultures agree on what priority to place on various moral rules, but one thing that is so obvious about moral rules is that they are objective. When guilt pricks us, it does not say we betray a matter of taste or opinion; the feeling of guilt is the feeling of having offended a law. When injustice rankles, we do not accuse those who trespass against us of having breached a matter of taste or opinion; we refer to a standard we expect the other to know and acknowledge. We cannot help it.

In all human experience, everything is open to doubt but this. No man with a working conscience can escape the knowledge. It is the one thing we cannot not know. And yet atheists are at a loss to explain it.

I do not call atheists immoral, but I note they cannot give a rational reason to account for morality.


  1. Comment by jtherry:

    I am afraid I had no patience for the troll who immediately showed up.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      It does require patience to refute the raw sewage of modern ‘angry atheist’ gobbledegook. But Our Lord said that the world would hate us as it hated Him.

    • Comment by Mariana Baca:

      I am impressed at how all trolly atheist commenters have all of a single mind switched from “BUT GALILEO!@@12!@@!” to “BUT [email protected]” recently, since Galileo is easily refuted by the fact that a) nobody killed him and b) he is an exception not the rule to the treatment of heliocentrists of the time.

      I think it is part of the rerelease of Cosmos that is to blame for Bruno being the new “token persecuted scientist” du jour, with his cause being … “aliens”. Seriously? Aliens? Who cares? Scientific progress won’t stop in its tracks if we don’t believe in them, no more so than if we stop funding SETI.

      • Comment by Mary:

        The irony is that one of Bruno’s beliefs was that blacks are not of the same species as whites.

      • Comment by John C Wright:

        Giordano Bruno was a ‘scientist’ in exactly the same way John Dee was. I find it ironic that the Left will side with witches and magicians and against scientists in order to promote the myth that the Catholic Church was the enemy of science. But none of them list the French or Russian Revolutions as enemies of science or progress, even though both killed more scientists for their opinions in their brief span than the Church has in her two millennia.

      • Comment by Cambias:

        It’s incredibly frustrating if one actually is an unbeliever. Watching these dimwit ignorami putting themselves forward as the self-appointed Voice of Atheism is cringe-inducing. Like being in public with a drunk friend who insists on bellowing insults at strangers.

        My own academic degree is in the history of science, and seeing Bruno adopted as a martyr of science makes me alternate between hilarity and despair. The man was a mystic. His beef with the Church was that the Church wasn’t irrationally mystical enough for him. Making him a symbol of Oppressed Science indicates either profound ignorance or really contemptible dishonesty.

      • Comment by ConceptJunkie:

        Despite being a serious science junkie, I was skeptical of what kind of agenda the “Cosmos” reboot would betray. Now I’m glad I skipped it.

        It’s nice to see they’ve abandoned the dead-horse pudding that the Galileo issue has become, but to adopt Bruno as a poster child of Church oppression of science is really weak sauce.

        I always figured a good strategy to counter “BUT GALILEO!!1!” was, (in addition to actually looking at the facts and recognizing that Galileo’s situation was driven as much as anything by politics and his ego), to say, “OK, name another”. If the new response is “BUT BRUNO!!!1!!eleven”, the appropriate response should be, “No, really. Name another.”

  2. Comment by Mrmandias:

    Atheism is unlikely on empirical grounds. First, it has no good explanation for morality as we experience it. Second, it has no good explanation for consciousness and qualia as we experience it.

    • Comment by Mariana Baca:

      No good explanation for the First Cause, either, but I guess people latch on to some bad ones, like probabilistic causes in quantum mechanics (that don’t happen without potential energy states, anyway), a denial of thermodynamics (eternal universe) or magical belief that it could reverse itself (universal contraction), or multiverse theory (which ignores the question and adds more unexplained universes).

    • Comment by Cambias:

      I’m going to raise the flag for unbelief here: what explanation is needed for morality? It’s a code of behavior developed by human societies, and refined over millennia (remember, human society goes back a LONG way before written history). One can scarcely claim that morality is innate in humans, given how many humans are cheerfully immoral. Why does it need any more explanation than that? We still abandon those time-tested “best practices” at our peril.

      As to consciousness . . . well, you got me there. I don’t know. I won’t say you’re wrong, but I’m not convinced you’re right, either. Right now both scientists and philosophers are still fumbling about trying to define what consciousness is, which means a bunch of autodidacts arguing about its nature and origin aren’t going to do anything but come up with new names to call each other.

      • Comment by Jump the Shark:

        One can, indeed, claim that morality is innate in humans, even given how many humans are cheerfully immoral.

        Those who are cheerfully immoral tend to have devised or located a justification for their immorality. ‘True love’ for unchastity, and so forth. If you tell a man he is willfully cruel, he will either deny the charge, or else give (to you or to himself) reasons why his cruelty is not immoral, usually by appealing to some virtue. “I just face up to the facts of this hard world,” or, “you say that because I’m strong, and you are weak.” I.e. Cruelty is really fortitude and/or justice.

        The pure hedonist sees his intemperance as good stewardship — it would be wasteful to deny oneself pleasures unless one had some larger goal in mind. The ‘Bad Boy’ does not, in his head, flaunt society’s rules just because he enjoys it (though that is usually his real reason). Instead, he is a freedom fighter, breaking free of the shackles of unjust and arbitrary authorities.

        • Comment by Tom Simon:

          This is a very wise observation. People do not commonly do evil for the sake of doing evil, or even because they do not care about doing good. They do evil because, either because of poor judgement, or poor training, or obsession, or absence of mind, they become so obsessed with pursuing one particular good that they will trample on other goods to get it.

          Many people have an imperfect moral sense, but there are very few who have no moral sense at all.

      • Comment by Andrew Brew:

        The difficulty is not that morality exists, but that it is universally recognised, and universally regarded as binding. The local variations are of emphasis, not of content. Nobody, ever, has claimed that the moral law is a human invention except as an ad hoc support for the claim that the law is not really binding.

      • Comment by Paula:

        If the code is not innate then it is acquired. If acquired then it is local and particular, and not universal. If it is local and particular then one person’s morality, however expressed, is no better than another’s. If one person’s morality is no better than another’s, then there is no such thing as immorality. If there is no such thing as immorality then there is no such thing as morality. So therefore if morality exists then it is innate. But if it is innate then acting against it is acting against one’s own nature. But acting against one’s nature supposes some part of one which is not subject to nature, or in other words, free will. But if free will exists and is apart from nature, where does it come from? So the dilemma of the unbeliever, that is, the one who does not believe in free will as apart from nature, is that he has no claim on the conscience of others and no coherent way to claim credit (that is, good will) for his own moral choices. But if he can expect good from others, neither based on universal law nor based on good will, on what basis may he expect good from others? Pity him, for he is constantly at war, on guard against humanity and (so far as he knows) all existence, having divorced himself from recourse to the universal law that commands he be treated as precious in the eyes of God.

  3. Comment by MissJean:

    I was always put off by liberal atheists because the very idea of a social obligation to the ignorant and the indigent. Honestly, what logical reason is there to devote money and time to those who aren’t part of my family? Especially when they’re morons who detract from my quality of life? (I’m thinking of a neighbours who overdosed after a lifetime of free food, housing, and associate degrees. The only contribution he made was narking on his drug dealer.)

    When I was an atheist, I greeted “Someone ought to DO something” with “Why?” I had the same feeling about charities for humans as I (still) do about various “animal rights” groups: You’re highlighting problems you can’t ever solve.

    And don’t get me started on educating women and allowing them to own property! It doesn’t ensure the propagation of the species as much as “Give me some male heirs, babe, and they’ll take care of you when they inherit my stuff.” ;)

    • Comment by Zaklog the Great:

      It seems pretty clear that you’re sarcastically trolling, but for the life of me I can ‘t figure out the point you’re trying to make. Care to say it unsarcastically?

      • Comment by John C Wright:

        The comment is not sarcastic. Miss Jean is pointing out that an atheist materialist has no supernatural and no spiritual reason to help human beings who are in need, ergo no reason at all. She is mocking atheist ethics.

        • Comment by MissJean:

          Ah, I wish I’d seen this earlier, Mr. Wright. It would have saved me all that typing!

          • Comment by Zaklog the Great:

            Yes, it appeared to me that you were, in fact, a leftist satirizing the position of conservatives. It was the last paragraph that really threw me off, as I have a hard time imagining a genuine conservative in America today talking that way.

            (Yes, I’m aware, Mr. Wright, that some of your positions are not that far from what she said, but when addressing such matters, you would speak of them far differently. It was the verbiage, not the underlying ideas that threw me off.)

      • Comment by MissJean:

        Without sarcasm: Because I grew up around what we might call “People Who Would Die Off If There Weren’t a Social Safety Net,” one of the liberating aspects of atheism (it seemed to me) was that no one would be shamed into giving resources to self-destructive people. What I found was atheists who were worse than the begging Mother Waddles of the world: they weren’t just putting on guilt trips; they were pushing for more funding of people whose troubles were self-inflicted and often-recurring.

        Case in point from last week: An acquaintance talking about how her brother needed disability. Yes, he’s a human being whose children deserve better than living on the street.

        Except he’s disabled because he fell downstairs while drunk and broke his back and his hip. Both of his children (so far) are mentally impaired. So if this life is all there is, and my resources are best spent on my own family, why ask me to pay for his and his progeny’s housing and food? At best, I should offer an exchange: his upkeep for his castration (and possibly his children’s aka “one generation of morons is enough” as the black-robed non-priest wrote.)

        I met a few fellow atheists who recognized the problem of classic liberal ethics. During a history class, a classmate proposed that atheism could just have easily built a society with hospitals, co-ed universities, etc. The professor pointed out that we inhabit the “ruins of Christendom” and took for granted that the institutions would continue while the foundations rotted away.

        I think it was a gentler way of saying that we were mistaking our central-planning environment for naturally-occurring geography. The more natural model of ethics really seems to be utilitarianism.

    • Comment by Janie Mercer:

      And perhaps the reason liberal atheists see Republicans/conservatives/Christians as evil and depraved is because they are projecting their own feelings about the poor (“If I weren’t a good liberal, I’d…”) onto them.

  4. Comment by False_Keraptis:

    I’m both an atheist and a believer in objective morality. How is this possible? Well, I’d say objective mortality comes from two sources: reason and instinct.

    First, reason: by thinking logically and rigorously, we can determine the optimal way for rational agents to interact with each other. Game theory, and especially the iterated prisoner’s dilemma, are the best and most promising efforts I’ve seen in this area, and while they’re valuable and inspiring, I admit, they’re woefully incomplete. However, it’s not unreasonable to think that there exists a larger body of objective morality that we haven’t yet discovered or described, but which we intuitively grasp, just as someone ignorant of Euclid’s methods might still have good spatial intuition.

    Secondly, even though we have not fully described or discovered objective morality, the laboratory of evolution has given us instinctual insight into it through millennia of trial and error. If there does exist an optimal way for humans to interact with each other, and there seems to, then generation upon generation of life in social groups will have equipped us with a sense of morality that at least approximates it.

    Now, one might object that I haven’t explained morality, but rather some vague idea of optimal behavior to maximize an equally vague combination self-interest and the group’s interest. I would say that’s exactly what morality is. All humans feel and respect the same moral rules because we have the same instincts, honed to make us follow a standard of behavior that gave our ancestors success. Further, because natural selection is patient and powerful, I would argue that these instincts come ever closer to the objectively optimal way for us to interact with one another.

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