Controversial billboard raise questions about morality in atheism


I saw a link to this article on Facebook this afternoon.

A nationwide atheist organization called the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has been posting billboards that focus on individual atheist’s own personal statements pertaining to how they can be moral without the belief in a higher power. The signs have been posted in a handful of cities throughout the country, including my hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

Over the past couple of weeks, there has been controversy about a billboard that has been removed from two locations.

The billboard (pictured at the top of this post) was originally removed last week, after a local church complained and insisted that it be taken down. The billboard was posted on property owned by the church.

The sign was reposted in another Columbus location, and was removed on July 5, after a local business complained, according to FRFF.

Supporters of the billboards are pointing to societal intolerance of the atheistic viewpoint. Dan Barker is the co-chairman of FRFF and stated through the organization’s website:

“Probably the number-one myth we need to dispel about atheism is that people can’t be good without supernatural beliefs, rewards and punishments, that people who don’t believe in a god are incapable of morality. Nonbelievers know that it isn’t what you believe, but how you act, that makes you an ethical or unethical person.”

Certainly an atheist can decide what he or she thinks is moral and virtuous and act in accordance with those beliefs. And, an atheist can act in ways that would be viewed as ethical by the much of our society; I think that very few Christians would disagree on that level.

But the problem is that the atheists are doing this out of a Judeo-Christian ethic, and simply removing God. For people to try to say they don’t believe in God and that they are moral is appealing to a standard that exists with mankind because there is religion.

Without a God, I think it is nearly impossible to establish an actually working ethical theory.

Here are some questions to think about pertaining to morality in a world without God:

• What makes something good? Maybe you could argue that things are good because they cause happiness, and are enjoyed, but why are those things good? What about the things that cause happiness and which are enjoyed but which society deems to be bad? Why are those things bad if they produce happiness and are enjoyed?

• Why do we have rights? I think most of us like to believe we have certain rights, but why do we have them? According to whom? In America, are the rights that we have established as rights rights just because we’ve established them? What if the founders had judged differently? Then would we not have those rights?

• For instance, why is murder wrong? Because it deprives someone of life? But then why is that wrong?

• In some parts of the world, people don’t enjoy the same rights that we do, is that right or wrong? When people are mistreated in other countries what is it that makes the mistreatment wrong? Is there an intrinsic belief that they have some type of value because they are humans? But that’s just an opinion, some would disagree. Perhaps someone like Kim Jong Il would disagree with you. Who would be right, you or him? Who wins? How do you decide? What is ultimately moral?

• Why are people like Hitler considered evil? Without a divine giver or objective morality and purpose, how were his actions bad? Was it because he was depriving people of basic human rights? In the grand scheme of things, how do those actions or those people even matter?

I think Ravi Zacharias puts it very interestingly:

“When you accept the existence of goodness, you must affirm a moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil. But when you admit a moral law, you must posit a moral lawgiver. That, however, is who you are trying to disprove and not prove. For if there is no moral law giver, there is no moral law.”

jrb