Joel Marks, professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of New Haven and a scholar at the Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics at Yale University, recounts his loss of faith in a recent New York Times article. Don’t misunderstand, he’s always been an atheist, but now he’s lost his faith in morality.
I had thought I was a secularist because I conceived of right and wrong as standing on their own two feet, without prop or crutch from God. We should do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, period. But this was a God too. It was the Godless God of secular morality, which commanded without commander – whose ways were thus even more mysterious than the God I did not believe in, who at least had the intelligible motive of rewarding us for doing what He wanted.
The honest atheist makes the point that so many Christian apologists have been making for so long, that atheism has no grounds for moral absolutes. And Marks seems to be okay with that. Since he doesn’t want an authoritative God over him, why in the world would he want such claustrophobic morals?
But there’s a dark side to Marks’ conclusion and he’s not quick to hide it:
[I]f there was one thing I knew in this entire universe, it was that some things are morally wrong. It is wrong to toss male chicks, alive and conscious, into a meat grinder, as happens in the egg industry. It is wrong to scorn homosexuals and deny them civil rights. It is wrong to massacre people in death camps.
But suddenly I knew it no more. I was not merely skeptical or agnostic about it; I had come to believe, and do still, that these things are not wrong (emphasis mine).
While Dr. Marks plays intellectual dodgeball in the halls of New Haven, we can only hope that he, and others like him, continue to brake for small children who run into the street. But this doesn’t keep Marks from persuading others towards his desires:
My outlook has therefore become more practical: I desire to influence the world in such a way that my desires have a greater likelihood of being realized.
Yikes! It’s very convenient that Marks uses Mother Teresa as an example of one influencing the world toward her desires, but with no moral foundations, Hitler and Pol Pot become a more likely consequence.
But the rest of the world can’t live this way and, I’m assuming, neither can Marks. For throughout his essay, he still uses words like “victim” and “perpetrators.” Without assuming some sort of moral framework, these words are meaningless and empty, yet he uses them with much conviction.
As Christians we know that the presence and authority of God is everywhere, even on the lips of atheists (Ps. 139:7). And most certainly there is evil. We see it played out on our TV’s, in the newspaper, and in our own hearts. And we know it’s a most hideous and costly evil, one that would cost God his only Son to make right.