One of our regular
commenters, Steve Allen, recently wrote the following in response to Paddy’s post about buying the gender of your child:
To my way of thinking, we are EITHER
accidental accumulations of atoms, and our actions and experiences are without
moral weight, OR “faith” as you put it, (ie that we were created by
God) has a place, and our actions and experiences do matter.
I cannot see the logic of the person who
asserts both that we evolved from the primordial soup and that we have any
moral obligations to anyone at all.
Personally, I am of the latter view –
that we are ultimately accountable to the god who created us – and that means I
would always let him choose the gender of my children, and that I’m pro-life.
That’s because I believe he knows better than I do.
I just had to respond, as I think this is one of the biggest and best questions this blog can address. First, Steve, I thank
you for your thoughtful and ongoing contributions. Second, I heartily disagree.
I’ll explain my reasoning below, but first I’d like to encourage other readers
of this blog to weigh in, since this is such a central issue in the theory of ethics. I would
really like to hear some other thoughts on the topic.
For myself, I see
ethics as easily separable from religion. Steve argues, if I’m understanding him aright, that we are accountable
ultimately to God, and that that is the only true source of our morality and moral
obligations. Without a supreme being, our actions are meaningless: ‘without moral weight’. If we are accidental, we have no need to concern ourselves with ethics.
I would argue, on the contrary, that our accountability to our fellow humans quite
suffices to encourage our desire to behave in ways that ensure society functions
properly. But more than that, I believe it’s in our nature as humans to want to
do good (as well as bad).