I've read a couple of interesting blogs this morning, both of which address the problems of morality in an athiest world, as opposed to a Christian world. The first, titled "Deconstructing the Purpose Driven Life - Chapter 23" is by The Athiest Missionary
The athiest missionary poses the question what would Jesus do in two highly charged moral dilemmas: 1) Sophie's choice — choose one or the other of two children to die, or they both will be killed; 2) Captain's choice — a storm is on the horizon, the lifeboat is overloaded, choose the people to be tossed overboard to certain death so that some might survive. His conclusion is that an athiest would, after careful moral examination arrive at the choice of the lesser of two evils, allowing some to survive the ordeal. He suggests Jesus would be more concerned with saving souls than flesh-and-blood lives.
One commenter (jdp) suggests in the case of the Captain's choice that Jesus would toss the Christians overboard, since their place in heaven is already assured, while there is hope for the pagans that they might still have their souls saved during the course of continued life. Another (dzyns) says Jesus would cheat and calm the storm, and thus avoid the moral dilemma altogether, which I suspect, most Christians would find satisfactory, and one to which they would not question the possibility within the realms of the supernatural.
I say the whole question of the Sophie's / the Captain's (Jesus') choice is moot. If there are true Christians aboard the lifeboat, they would never permit Jesus to be placed in such a position to have to make the choice. As true Christians, according to Rick Warren, the author of The Purpose Driven Life, they should be making individual choices based on thinking of others with love and compassion in imitation of Christ (living out the 'purpose driven life'), or alternatively, they could follow their God's previously given laws. Either choice would be morallly correct. They would as compassionate, already-saved Christians choose for themselves self-sacrifice and jump overboard in order that Jesus might work with the pagans to save their souls. Or, they could follow older scripture literally, and follow God the Father's direction, which would be to kill all the heathens, leaving no man, woman or child amongst them alive. After all, as Sam Harris makes the point in his book The End of Faith, a religious world has no place for heathens under any circumstances, no matter Jesus' teachings. Quite the dichotomy for an atheist, but a win-win situation for a Christian who has taken Jesus as his personal saviour and reads and practices his bible's scriptures faithfully and literally.
The bible and Warren's lessons would almost have us believe the question of moral dilemma has vanished, if one will only accept Jesus into one's life, applying the scriptures to direct one's life, that is, to kill them all, or save the lost souls by sacrificing oneself, thus rendering, as I said above, the fact of Jesus having to choose quite moot. The same thinking can be applied to Sophie's choice.
The second blog, title "The New Atheist Dream Come True: Let's Pretend that Religion, and Religious Taboos, Have Vanished from the Earth, Then Ask Ourselves "Whence the Future of Eugenic Research?"", is based on that tired old Christian arrogance that without Christianity, there would be no morality, much of which (if not all) comes down to us from the laws and scriptures of a Christian god and manifest themselves in the form of what she calls 'taboos'. This blog is located at Prometheus Unbound
Before Christians wrote down their God's will and proceded to impose their version of saving souls on their neighbours, the world and it's people were evil, had no morality to speak of, and it was only God's compassion and love that taught human beings to be just and moral. That was a problem for St. Patrick and his monks in trying to convert the Celts in Ireland. They posed the question if they accepted Jesus and God through baptism and conversion, their ancestors would be left in a vacuum of hell and immorality. But I digress.
Okay, back to the question of Christian morality. It is based upon the premise of original sin, which is another whole ball of wax, as they say. In this particular blog, Tafarella is concerned with the potentially horrific abuses of eugenics, the practice of 'tinkering with the human genome to make better, smarter, faster people', to use her words. She implies that without Christianity's taboos, eugenics would run amok.
She uses the lack of McDonald's Fast Food chain's presence in India as an analogy. I don't believe McDonald's has secret labs practicing genetic manipulation for their food to make it fattier, saltier or more irresistible to the hungry patron, so her analogy to McDonald's because of India's predominent religious taboos, as opposed to China, or the United States, its native land, is just plain silly.
Tafarella has forgotten that many genetics research projects are driven by one of two things: 1) profit; 2) the hope of finding cures to insidious and pervasive birth defects and diseases, which may or may not be tied to profit. The United States, home to many industries, multi- and trans-national companies, is the most profit-driven economy the world has ever known. Unless she is against a profit motivated economy, she seems to put herself in conflict with herself. If she supports a healthy profit-making economy, then she needs to rethink her position on eugenics, taboos or not.
Secondly, she seems to forget all the advances made by research in the fields of medicine and science in eugenics, the human genome and so many other areas of investigation. Would Santi have a child die or suffer life-long debilitation because her taboos would prevent the development of in-vitro surgeries, or genetic therapies, a sort of 'Sophie's choice'?
Tafarella's interpretation of Christian taboos presents the world in a simple black and white, 2-dimensional state, 'you're either with us or agin us'. No grey areas permitted here, please. But that's the problem, isn't it? The real world is multi-dimensional, not all good, not all bad, filled with shadows and bright spots, and myriad shades of grey.
I supect that there are very few moderates in all religions, agnostics, or atheists, who would want eugenics to take the direction of 'The Boys from Brazil', to develop some sort of perfect superhuman speciman, preferably white and male, as a soldier, or a leader of the free world. She proposes that atheists lack the ability to restrict the investigation and application of eugenics if it appears harmful. Morality and ethics begin and end with Christianity and its taboos in her worldview.
Does Tafarella wear makeup? Then she endorses eugenics. Does she purchase fresh produce or pre-packaged food stuffs, bread, milk? She supports eugenics. Are there any wood products in her home, furniture for example, or a conventional stud-structure shell? Eugenics again. What kind of clothes does she wear? Does she take her children to see a medical professional when they are ill? Hardly the stuff of black ops, but she suggests we are foolish if we belive there isn't such a thing in China or elsewhere. Why not do the Christian thing and finger the United States too? After all, only Christians are equipped with the appropriate taboos to discover and root out such evil, and that evil will be defined according to Christian doctrine, since there isn't any other in her lovely world.
By why not resolve the issue of eugentics altogether? Let's kill all those nasty eugenics researchers, they can't possibly be Christians can they? After all, its not taboo to kill the heathens, to mutilate them, rape their daughters, impale their infants, plunder or burn or salt their crops, annihilate their livestock and raze their cities. The bible tells us so, and it is, after all, God's word.
While we're at it, why not get rid of Blacks, Asians, women, aboriginals, and anybody else that doesn't fit the bible's white male 'in-god's-image' human being. Or at the very least, let's enslave them all so they can do the dirty work, leaving us to achieve our heavenly goals. None of those mentioned, and I'm sure millions of others, could possibly know anything about taboos or Christian morals and ethics, since by biblical definition (with a little help from organized religion) they are heathens without souls, and apparently, not worth saving.
I get very annoyed, but more importantly, concerned about the justifications those of the Christian right believe they have to impose themselves and their will upon the rest of us. The world of the bible can be read as a sexist, racial, brutal, war-mongering heirarchy with a side-dish of love thy neighbout and respect thy parents, thou shalt not kill (exceptions noted elsewhere) who believe they are morally justified to do just about anything they please, as long as it's in God's name. They would destroy science, disgard the poor and ill, and punish anyone who opposes them in the most horrific way, as these actions and attitudes are not taboo in this worldview of a perfect Christian right world. And in fact, they have done all of these things, along with other orthodox organized religious extremists, practicing their merry 'ends justify the means' to impose their God's will on everyone. They have done and continue to, reduce the world to rubble, piling bodies into mass graves and consigning them to hell, the one of their making.
Pretty frightening, isn't it? If anything, we are desparately in need of fewer Christian 'taboos', and more honesty, reality, compassion and debate, which if you adopt a more rational, reality-based attitude, allows the discovery that most people are all of these things by nature. Oh, I know there are those who are psychopaths, racists, narcissists, driven by avarice, etc., but these are the exceptions, the minority in a world which has seen billions of decent moral human beings live out their lives as honest, fruitful members of their communities, and most of them, by the way, without the Christian right and their set of taboos.