Bibles for Porn?

 Posted by on 6 December 2005 at 5:29 pm  Uncategorized
Dec 062005

After reading this story about an atheist group trading Bibles (and other religious texts) for pornography on campus, I wondered: Why not trade them for something actually valuable, like copies of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged? And how about trading Marxist texts for We the Living and Anthem?

I was pretty appalled by the atheist’s answers to questions about the origins of morality without God:

CARLSON: The bottom of this, on your web site, you have a statement: “We find that morality should not be derived from religious texts.” What should morality be … what should it be derived from?

JACKSON: Well, morality is not derived from religious texts. Religious texts actually contradict each other. If you read the Bible, it contradicts itself on nearly every page. And the fact that people can decide which one to go with shows that they are getting their morality from somewhere else.

Morality is actually based off of empathy, and failing empathy, it’s based off of fear of reprisal from the law. That is where morality comes from.

CARLSON: Yes. But the law, it’s a circular argument. You need to think through it a little bit more, Thomas, because the law itself is based on at least a notion of abstract right and wrong, and that is not rooted in empathy or any emotion, but … you know, an abstract belief that this is right and this is wrong because someone larger, in control, says so.

JACKSON: Well, no, that’s not true. It’s based off of things that are good for society. If citizens murder each other, this is bad for society. And you see this across the board in many nations.

Several religions have stumbled upon this, but it’s not the religious text that’s bringing this to people. They are finding this on their own, and societies that don’t find this don’t survive.

The interviewer rightly noted that the appeal to law is a circular argument, and I would add that the appeal to empathy is just as circular, since all such moral sentiments are grounded in prior moral judgments. His appeal to “things that are good for society” is just as vacuous. As Ayn Rand said in “The Objectivist Ethics”:

The avowed mystics held the arbitrary, unaccountable “will of God” as the standard of the good and as the validation of their ethics. The neomystics replaced it with “the good of society,” thus collapsing into the circularity of a definition such as “the standard of the good is that which is good for society.” This meant, in logic–and, today, in worldwide practice–that “society” stands above any principles of ethics, since it is the source, standard and criterion of ethics, since “the good” is whatever it wills, whatever it happens to assert as its own welfare and pleasure. This meant that “society” may do anything it pleases, since “the good” is whatever it chooses to do because it chooses to do it. And–since there is no such entity as “society,” since society is only a number of individual men–this meant that some men (the majority or any gang that claims to be its spokesman) are ethically entitled to pursue any whims (or any atrocities) they desire to pursue, while other men are ethically obliged to spend their lives in the service of that gang’s desires.

A great many people cite something like “the good of society” as the guiding principle of ethics — and almost everyone else accepts it as a legitimate answer. That fact is disturbing on a psycho-epistemological level, for it suggests that most people are content to think of ethics solely by means of floating abstractions. The notion of the “good of society” cannot be concretized — and thus cannot be genuinely understood — without obviously appealing to some substantive conception of that good. Whenever anyone appeals to such an empty standard of morality, the very next question ought to be, “But what is good for society? Racial purity? Equality? Prosperity? Suffering through Christ?” Yet that question is so rarely asked. (Note to self: Ask it!)

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