At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

As readers know, this series, “Thinking Clearly, Choosing Wisely,” was partially—but only partially—provoked by an exchange I had with a friend, a fellow Roman Catholic who has proceeded to put into question, if she hasn’t altogether rejected, some of the most fundamental teachings of the Christian faith.

The concerns that my friend expressed are the same that I’ve heard expressed by various people over the years.  My two decades’ worth of experience teaching philosophy, including philosophy of religion, has made me that much more exposed to the sorts of objections to traditional Christianity raised by my friend.

So she is more the most recent catalyst for this series than the sole inspiration for it.

One topic that she raised is that of the existence of other religions.  Many people, particularly self-identified Christians living in the contemporary Western world, seem to think that the existence of other religious and philosophical traditions undermines the unique claims made by their own faith.

This view is as popular as it is wrongheaded.

First, only an a priori—and patently false—assumption that religious belief is of the same magnitude as taste could issue in a logic as illicit as the logic that leads people from the observation that there are multiple religious views to the conclusion that no one view can be exclusively true, or that all are equally legitimate.

To be clear, though endemic today, the sophistry and rhetoric regarding the “relativity” of “truth,” whether in matters of religion or elsewhere, is just that.  Truth is intrinsically exclusive, and everyone, whether in the East or West, whether Christian or Taoist, knows this.  Everyone knows, in other words, that what thinkers in the Western tradition have long regarded as the most basic law of all thought, the Principle of Non-Contradiction (PNC)—the principle that a thing can’t be and not be at the same time and in the same respect—is indubitable:

Bob is a bachelor and Bob is married.

Cynthia is pregnant and Cynthia is not pregnant.

The object is square and the object is round.

These statements aren’t just false; they are necessarily false.  And they are necessarily false because they are self-contradictory. They violate the PNC.

It’s become fashionable today amongst Western intellectuals to depict this principle without which no coherent thought would be possible as a cultural peculiarity, an invention or construction of European peoples that, as such, is an artifact of which we can dispense.  In the East, we’re assured, the PNC, having given way to something like “the relativity of all values,” is not acknowledged.

Anyone familiar with the most rudimentary logic should be able to see this line for the trendy nonsense that it is. As Aristotle noted long ago, it’s impossible to reject the Principle of Non-Contradiction because, in rejecting it, we affirm it:

The PNC states that whatever the truth-value of a proposition, its contradictory must have exactly the opposite truth-value.  If A is true, then non-A must be false, and vice versa.

Those who reject the PNC actually accept it, for they recognize that the claim that the PNC is true is incompatible with their claim that it is false. They recognize that it cannot be the case that the PNC is both true and false.

But this just means that they recognize that the PNC is true.

However, in addition to the sheer illogic of supposing that the existence alone of other religions and philosophies undermines the exclusivity of one religion’s claims over others, there are other considerations that must be borne in mind.

Second, up until the advent of Judaism some 3,000 years ago, the world was mired in polytheism.  But, as I showed in the first installment of this series, the difference between polytheism and monotheism is most emphatically not, as many people seem to think, quantitative, a difference in degree or number.  The difference between these two vantages is a qualitative difference in kind.

The gods, though divine, are finite beings subject to many of the same limitations as are you and I.  They are temporal beings living within an eternal universe.  In fact, not infrequently, the gods are depicted as living lives of debauchery.  It for this reason that Plato had the artists who supplied the culture with its depictions of the gods ejected from his ideal Republic: The gods, through their bad example, threatened the promotion of virtue in the citizenry.

Yet whether the gods were portrayed favorably or not, the point is this: Polytheism is not an alternative to monotheism. It’s true that within the world’s great monotheistic traditions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—it is idolatrous to affirm the existence of any god other than God.  In theory, however, a belief in many gods is logically compatible with a belief in One, True, Ultimate God.  After all, the gods, being finite, are no less dependent upon others than are humans.  This being so, the gods too would depend, in the final analysis, upon something that itself is independent.

The only genuine alternative to monotheism is atheism: Either you believe that God exists or you do not.

Either you believe that there is a Ground of reality or you do not.

Either you believe that this cosmos of finite, dependent beings is dependent upon something that is not dependent or you do not.

Monotheism or atheism: these are our only logical options.

Third, as I argued in another installment of this series, it is the God hypothesis alone that “saves the appearances” of the world that everyone, irrespectively of whether they are theists or atheists, takes for granted.

It is the God hypothesis alone that can account for the belief in objective, or real, value, the belief in truth, beauty, justice, goodness, virtue, right, wrong, love, meaning, and so forth.  The world of the atheist’s imagination is one, gargantuan mass of matter.  Objective moral, spiritual, and aesthetic values can have no place in such a world.

Fourth, I also contended that within monotheism there is one version that best accounts for the belief that love is both objectively good and the highest of values, the value that unites all of the others.

And that version is Christianity.

Christianity alone conceives of God as a family or community of Persons, a Three-in-One, to be exact.

It is Christianity alone that explicitly identifies God as Love, and that identifies Him as such within the context of its unique doctrine of the Incarnation, the doctrine that God became flesh for the purpose of ultimately suffering, dying, and rising from the dead so as to reconcile humanity to Himself.

No other species of monotheism is adequate to the task of accounting for the position that love is both objectively real and the greatest of all objective values.  The Hindu version of monotheism is pantheism. For the pantheist, God, appearances be damned, is all that exists.  The God of the pantheist is not personal, and because it is not personal, love is not associated with it.

It’s difficult to see how the God of the deists—God as imagined by, say, Aristotle, or by any number of 18th century Enlightenment intellectuals—can love, to say nothing of being love.  A deistic God, after all, is a God that has long since decided to ignore the world that he (or it?) brought into being.

This leaves but three choices within monotheism: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Judaism and Islam can both definitively explain the objectivity of value.  And that they both reject pantheism and deism, choosing instead to affirm the existence of God as Creator, means that they can, potentially, account for our belief in the objectivity of love.  But not only do both Judaism and Islam repudiate the Christian conception of an intra-personal God, they view as blasphemous Christianity’s insistence that God so loved the world that He entered it and became one of us so as to save it.

While Christianity sees God as transcendent and immanent, as far as Judaism and Islam are concerned, God is too immanent by the Christian’s reckoning.

So God is not and cannot be Love for the Jew and the Muslim.

However, we must ask, if God is not Love, and if, as neither Jew nor Muslim would ever care to deny, love for and between persons is real, then from whence springs this most powerful and binding of human sensibilities?

The Christian submits that love is real only because it derives from Love.

Love is real only because it derives from God, Who is Love.

In the next installment, we will look more carefully at how a Christocentric worldview relates to the reality of other religious and philosophical perspectives.

In a previous essay, I argued that if there is no God, then there is no objective, or real, value, whether positive or negative: no goodness, no evil, no right or wrong, and no other values either.

Now, Christianity is unique among the world’s philosophical traditions in claiming that God is Love.

God is Love.  And this in turn means several things.

First, God is not, and cannot be, some abstract, impersonal force or entity.  God is not “the God of the Philosophers,” a pantheistic “substance” of the kind envisioned by Spinoza, say, or Hinduism.  God is not Lao Tzu’s “Tao,” Heraclitus’ “Logos,” Parmenides’ “the One,” Anaxagoras’ “Mind,” or Plato’s “the Good.”

Nor can God be the God of the deist’s imagination, like Aristotle’s “Unmoved Mover” or a Jeffersonian Watchmaker that created the world but has since turned His (Its?) back on it.

No, if God is Love, which He is, then God must be personal. He must be intensely, intimately, passionately personal.

Secondly, more specifically, God must be a family of Persons, for love is necessarily relational.  God, that is, cannot be Unitarian.

Thus, only if God is something like Three-in-One, as Christianity has uniquely asserted with its doctrine of the Holy Trinity, can God be Love.

Thirdly, it is Love that is the central organizing feature of the whole of creation.  This means that the cosmos is as ancient and medieval thinkers had always insisted it is: It is teleological.  There is a point and purpose to the universe.

It is inherently, objectively meaningful.

This in turn implies that, contrary to what modern science would have us think, the universe isn’t just a thing to be described.  Importantly, it is normative.

The universe is an “is.”  But it also is an “ought.” The world, nature, tells us what is and what we ought to do.

Ultimately, the meaning of the world is to know and love God, i.e. to know and love the Love Who endowed the world with being.  The norm of all norms and duty of all duties to derive from God’s creation is the norm or the duty to love, to love God by loving His creation, particularly persons.

It is Love that powers and pervades the world.

We can anticipate at least one objection to this:  There are other values, like truth, justice, compassion, beauty, honor, and many others.  Isn’t it arbitrary to select this one value, Love, as the cornerstone and engine of the universe?

This question, while reasonable, is nevertheless misplaced.  Note, although we often refer to God as if He were no different than you and I in possessing a plurality of attributes, in reality, and as theologians from other times and places have observed, God is a seamless unity; there is no division in God.

Indeed, there can’t be any division in God, for God is absolute perfection and absolute perfection is necessarily simple.  Perfection, in other words, precludes a composite or complex of parts. The reason for this is discernible enough:

Whatever is composed of a complex of parts is contingent upon those parts, as are the parts contingent upon one another.  Whatever is a complex of parts can lose or gain parts, can, therefore, progress or regress.  But whatever is capable of the latter is imperfect.

Granted, from our finite, temporal perspective, it may appear that there exists in God multiple properties.  This, though, cannot be.  Consider: Whereas we speak of God’s omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence as though they were literally distinct characteristics, this is only talk:

If God is unlimited in power, then He must be unlimited in what He can know, where He can be, and, because goodness is itself a power, God must be unlimited in His goodness.

God’s essence is God’s existence.  Just as it is the essence of a square to be four-sided, so too is it of the essence of God to be.  God, after all, is Being. This is what the Scriptures are getting at when God self-identifies simply as: “I AM.”  God is, He “bees.”

Uncreated, indestructible, immutable—God is, to put it another way, a being that must exist.  So, as Saint Anselm, the most notable defender of the so-called ontological “proof” for God’s existence, memorably tried to show, God is synonymous with “the Being that must exist,” the Being that cannot not exist.

So, when the atheist denies God’s existence, he is essentially saying that the Being that must exist, the being that cannot not exist, doesn’t exist.

The atheist claims that Being is non-being.

Atheism, that is, isn’t just false; it’s logically impossible because it is self-contradictory. It’s necessarily false.

God doesn’t just exist, He necessarily exists.

Love, then, necessarily exists.  Beauty, Truth, Justice, Goodness, and every other moral, ontological, and aesthetic value is what it is because of their inseparability from and unity in Love.

Plato regarded “the Good” as the highest of all “Forms” that united the other Forms into a One.  Augustine, an admirer of Plato’s but a Christian, grounded these values, not in some abstract universal to which Plato referred as “the Good,” but within the Mind of God. Yet Augustine believed, as it is written in John’s Gospel, that God is Love.

It is Love that unites the other values. There would be no Beauty, Truth, Justice, Goodness, Virtue, and the others if not for Love.  Or, perhaps it’s more to the point to say, God is Beauty, Truth, Justice, Goodness, and so forth because God is Love.

That it is Love that creates, pervades, and sustains the universe can be gotten readily enough from the following considerations.

First of all, what we call “the universe” or “the world” is not something distinct over and above the totality of its members.  Quite the contrary, “universe” and “the world” are but short-hand terms for all things. “Universe” or “world” basically have the same function as “everything.”

But here’s the thing: Irrespectively of the number of things of which the universe consists, there is a fundamental question that even the most sophistical of the atheist’s exhibitions of mental contortionism can’t evade:

Why is there something rather than nothing?

The atheist has no answer.  Since the universe is not something, but rather the totality of all finite or limited things, then even if it had no beginning, even if it is comprised of an infinitude of finite things, it would not, and could not, exist if the atheist is correct.  It wouldn’t just be physically impossible; it would be logically impossible for any finite being to exist unless there first exists something that is infinite.

Whatever is finite has a beginning. This means that whatever is finite at some point did not exist. But a finite being can begin to exist only through the agency of something that already exists (“From nothing, comes nothing,” or “Something can’t come from nothing”).  Thus, if the only things that exist or ever did exist are finite, then, as Thomas Aquinas and others showed long ago, at the present moment there would be nothing.

Therefore, there must exist something that is infinite and that is not dependent upon anything else.

So, God must exist.  Why, though, did He create anything else?

The universe is not, as peoples (particularly philosophers) from other times and places supposed, an emanation of God, that which is co-eternal with and which “flows” from God.  The universe is God’s creation.

All beings derive their being from Pure Being, from God.  It is because, and only because, this Being is Love, and love is self-giving, that there is a world.

The world, then, is a gift, a gift of pure Love.

My life and yours, are gifts that have been given to us by the Giver Himself.

The universe is a gratuity paid on our behalf out of sheer love by Love.

This is no mere abstract theorizing.  As one goes about one’s daily life, one need only pause and notice the world around oneself to recognize that the Love that brought the world into being is immanent within it.  The handprints of the Author of the cosmos are all over His handiwork:

The delight that friends experience in the company of one another; the love shared between lovers, as well as the experience of “love-making,” and the love of parents for their children—just as no finite being can bring himself into existence, so the love, often great love, experienced on the part of finite human lovers must derive its existence from something greater.

In my own case, this point really hit home when, upon putting my little boy down for the night, I was overwhelmed with love for him. I realized then that this love that swelled up within me for my son had to be something like the love God has for us.  And I realized that this powerful love was an indication of God’s Love because and only because it came from God, for left to my own limited resources, I was incapable of producing this love on my own.

Finite instances of love have to be dependent upon infinite Love.

Every time you behold a beautiful sight, whether a sunset, a landscape, a work of art, or another human being, you bear witness to Love in action.  Sights of beauty emancipate us, even if only momentarily, from the daily grind.  It is for this reason that one philosopher referred to them as “intimations of immortality,” hints in the here and now of space and time of the Eternal, of that which lies beyond space and time.

Finite instances of beauty can no more explain themselves than finite beings can cause themselves.  They, thus, depend for their existence upon absolute, infinite Beauty.

They wouldn’t exist if not for God, Who is Beauty Himself.  But God is Beauty because God is Love. God shares His Beauty because God is All-Loving.

Every time you discover a truth, whether it is to be found in an intuition, a proposition, an argument, a theory, or an experience, you can be rest assured that such instances of truth would be unthinkable, let alone real, unless there first existed Truth.  There first exists God.

And because God is Love, God is Truth.

Perfect love is honest.  The various instances of truth that we encounter on a regular basis are signs of God’s Love.

We could continue in this same vein with respect to every other value.

The gist of this line of reasoning is that whatever is finite and imperfect depends upon that which is infinite and perfect.

The universe, then, including, obviously, our very selves, is Love’s gift to us.  It is a gift that keeps on giving.

Love, through His creation and in innumerable ways, is incessantly beckoning us to follow His example and love.  We should do so.

But in order to choose wisely, we must first think clearly.









God is Love.

A recent conversation with a friend, a fellow Roman Catholic whose quest for Truth is evidently leading her in heterodox directions, as well as an email from an irate reader who took unequivocal exception to this uniquely Christian conception of God, provoked me to unpack this proposition.

In a future essay, I will do just that.  But before we can do this, we must first get something out of the way.

The reader alluded to above was clearly an atheist, or at least an agnostic-leaning atheist. He raised against belief in God a perennial objection, what is undoubtedly the most formidable of all such objections against theism.

It is known as “the Problem of Evil.” It goes like this:

(1)An all-powerful and all-good God exists.

(2)But if God is all-powerful, then He should be able to stop evil.

(3)And if God is all-good, then He should want to stop evil.

(4)But evil exists.

(5)Therefore, an all-powerful and all-good God does not exist.

The Problem of Evil is supposed to be a theological or philosophical problem for those who believe in God, a problem that allegedly undermines theism.

Sometimes this problem is referred to as “the Problem of Pain” or “Suffering.

This so-called problem, though, far from undermining theism, actually undermines atheism by affirming theism.

The reason for this is that if there is no God, then there is no evil, for evil is a moral concept, an objective moral concept, and in a world without God, there can be no objective morality.

To put it another way, it is the atheist who must reckon with his own problem—what we may call “the Problem of Goodness.”

First of all, confused indeed is the common tendency on the part of theists and atheists to alternate between, on the one hand, the terms “pain” or “suffering” and, on the other, that of “evil” in referring to this allegedly insuperable “problem” for the theist.  At least at a conceptual level, the phenomenon of pain or suffering is not necessarily of any moral or spiritual import.

Such, though, is most decidedly not the case with respect to evil.

Pain or suffering is an intrinsic feature of the world, specifically, the animal kingdom.  That a zebra suffers when it is being shredded to pieces by a ravenous lion no one would think to deny.  However, few people would be willing to conclude that the lion is evil, or even immoral, for attacking the zebra.

Pain and suffering are descriptive. They are not necessarily normative.

But evil, to repeat, is intrinsically a moral category.

Secondly, in a world without God—the materialist universe of the atheist—there is no objective morality.

To reiterate: If the world is as the atheist conceives it—a brute, cosmic, physical fact—then such moral values as, say, love, are not real.

To be sure, atheists, or at least those who, for practical purposes, are atheists, can and do experience love for their friends, relatives, etc.  But this feeling or sentiment of love can have no objective grounding for the atheist.  In the final analysis, it is no more objective, no more intrinsic to the fabric of reality, no more real, than is taste.  Taste is real in the sense that people experience it, but all will agree that taste is certainly not real insofar as deliciousness, say, or repulsiveness are not part of the furniture of the world, so to speak.  These are merely subjective characteristics that we impute to an inherently tasteless environment.

Similarly, love, for the atheist, can only be subjective, or inter-subjective, characteristics that we subconsciously project onto the universe.

The values and virtues, as well as the immorality, the wickedness, and the vices that human beings treat as the stuff of life cannot be objective real in a world devoid of God.

It isn’t just beauty, then, that is in the eye of the beholder, as the old saying goes, but every other value as well.

If the cosmos is essentially one giant material mass, just a brute, contingent fact, then there can be no room in it for that which is immaterial, intangible, or spiritual.

Reality, on this reading of it, would have to be devoid of value, real, objective value.

Now, if there is no God, then there is no objective evil because there is no objective goodness.

Friedrich Nietzsche, a 19th century German philosopher and an atheist, infamously declared that “God is dead.” Contrary to the impression—as common as it is false—that Nietzsche delighted in making this proclamation, his mood was actually the opposite of delight. The so-called death of God referred to a decline in theistic belief, specifically, Christian belief, that Nietzsche saw spreading throughout Europe.

And this, he was convinced, necessarily translated into a loss of the only justification for belief in objective morality that had been available for nearly two millennia.

Simply put, in denying God’s existence, European peoples, whether they liked it or not, denied objective morality, for without a transcendent moral lawgiver, there is no universal, objective moral law.  In divesting himself of his theism, European Man divested objective morality of its only ground.

For Nietzsche, though, the loss of belief in God means that not only is there no objective morality; there’s no objective truth in any sense of the word.  In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche wrote that every person, irrespective of his morality, is “a creator” or “determiner” of values.  The engine of life is not reason, much less divine revelation.

The engine of organic existence is “the Will to Power,” or “the Will to Life,” a primal desire to conquer.

Life, Nietzsche elaborates, is “essentially appropriation, injury, conquest of the strange and weak, suppression, severity, obtrusion of peculiar forms, incorporation, and at the least, putting it mildest, exploitation,” and exploitation is nothing more or less than “a consequence of the intrinsic Will to Power, which is precisely the Will to Life.”

The 20th century French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre is in complete agreement with not only fellow atheists like Nietzsche, but Christians, like Fyodor Dostoyevsky, who maintain that “if God didn’t exist, everything would be possible.” Dostoyevsky meant that unless God exists, standards of morality can only be as numerous and shifting as the grains of sand on a beach.

To put it another way, God guarantees the objectivity and immutability of moral standards.

For this reason, Sartre describes the human being’s condition as one of “abandonment.”  By abandonment, Sartre explains, existentialists “merely mean to say that God does not exist, and that we must bear the full consequences of that assertion.” As Sartre is quick to show, the consequences of atheism are far more momentous than most atheists are wont to concede.

Historically, atheists have thought it possible “to eliminate God as painlessly as possible.” They have thought that “nothing will have changed if God does not exist,” that they “will encounter the same standards of honesty, progress, and humanism, and we will have turned God into an obsolete hypothesis that will die quietly on its own.”

But such atheists couldn’t be more mistaken. If God does not exist, he says, gone, then, is “the possibility of finding values in an intelligible.”  Gone as well is “any a priori Good [absolute, objective moral constraints, like honesty, justice, etc.], since there would be no infinite and perfect consciousness to conceive of it.”

Sartre drives home this point: “Nowhere is it written that good exists, that we must be honest or must not lie, since we are on a plane shared only by men.”

God does not exist and “man” is abandoned, “for he cannot find anything to rely on…Neither within him nor without does he find anything [objective moral standards] to cling to.”

Some atheists (and theists) have tried rooting morality in human nature.  This, though, will not do, Sartre insists, for if there is no God, then neither can there be a human nature or essence.

Inasmuch as human nature is said to consist in a set of characteristics that are supposed to be essential to all human beings, it is conceived as a sort of model that precedes and transcends any and all individual humans.  “When we think of God the Creator, we usually conceive of him as a superlative artisan,” Sartre tells us.

So, “the concept of man, in the mind of God, is comparable to the concept of a paper knife in the mind of the manufacturer: God produces man following certain techniques and a conception, just as the craftsman, following a definition and a technique, produces a paper knife.”  The point here is that the general or universal concept, the essence, the blueprint in the mind of the artisan precedes the creation of the individual things that are based on it.

In other words, before there are individual human beings, there is the concept, essence, or nature of humanity within the “divine intelligence.”  But “since there is no God to conceive it,” Sartre concludes, “there is no human nature [.]”

In short, since there is no God, “we will encounter no values or orders” that can “legitimize our conduct.”

Thus, “in the luminous realm of values,” we find no “means of justification or excuse.” The prognosis is bleak: “We are left alone and without excuse.”

J.L. Mackie was a particularly renowned atheist and philosopher of religion of the last century.

Mackie was convinced that there can be “no doubt that some features of modern European moral concepts are traceable to the theological ethics of Christianity.”  He refers to “quasi-imperative notions, on what ought to be done or on what is wrong in a sense that is close to that of ‘forbidden’” as “relics of divine commands.”

Mackie alludes, approvingly, to the Catholic philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe, a one-time student of the famed philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, who made this very point.  Summarizing her position, Mackie writes that “modern…concepts of moral obligation, moral duty, of what is morally right and wrong, and of the moral sense of ‘ought’ are survivals outside the framework of thought that made them really intelligible, namely the belief in divine law.”

Since, being an atheist, Mackie disavows the existence of a Divine Lawgiver, he recognizes that it must follow that there cannot be any divine moral laws.

Mackie refers to his own position as “moral skepticism” or “subjectivism.”  He states it boldly: “There are no objective values.”

Elaborating, Mackie leaves the reader in no doubt that in denying that objective moral values are “part of the fabric of the world,” he denies not just “moral goodness…but also other things that could be more loosely called moral values or disvalues—rightness and wrongness, duty, obligation, an action’s being rotten and contemptible, and so on.”

Mackie anticipates the most common criticism of his view:  “How could anyone deny that there is a difference between a kind action and a cruel one, or that a coward and a brave man behave differently in the face of danger?”

Mackie’s response is to the point: The critics are correct that there most so certainly are fundamental differences between these kinds of actions.  But this observation is as irrelevant as it is accurate.  “The kinds of behavior to which moral values and disvalues are ascribed are indeed  part of the furniture of the world, and so are the natural, descriptive, differences between them; but not, perhaps, their differences in value.”

It’s obvious that “cruel actions differ from kind ones,” Mackie says, “but is it an equally hard fact that actions which are cruel in a descriptive sense are to be condemned?”  There is no question regarding the objectivity of “natural, factual differences” between actions. There most certainly is, however, a question regarding the objectivity of the values that are ascribed to these actions.

Mackie here distinguishes between “natural facts” and “moral facts.”  His goal is to show that the 18th century Scottish philosopher David Hume was correct in claiming that, logically, the former can never entail the latter.  “What is the connection between the natural fact that an action is a piece of deliberate cruelty—say, causing pain just for fun—and the moral fact that it is wrong?  It cannot be an entailment, a logical or semantic necessity.”

That these are, or appear to be, two fundamentally different sorts of things can be gotten easily enough when it is considered that while it is clearly with our senses that we perceive the infliction of wanton pain by one person upon another, this property of “wrongness” or “evil” or “badness” that supposedly inheres in the action does not appear to be sensuous.

At the very least, it is far from obvious that immorality is an object of sense perception. We can see Bob jab Chris in the face with a sharp instrument, and this sight followed by the sights and sounds of Chris’s flesh tearing, blood oozing out, and Chris screaming in pain.  But we can neither see nor hear the immorality of this action.  If there is some necessary link between the act and its value, it is, as Mackie says, “mysterious.”

Mackie proposes that we needn’t posit any mysterious entity or connection, for we can account for our moral judgments by looking no further than ourselves.  We can make sense of “the supposed objectivity of moral values as arising from what we can call the projection or objectification of moral attitudes,” of “wants and demands.”

In short, we have the moral attitudes that we do, attitudes that we imbibed from the societal environments within which we were reared, and so as to lend them an absolute authority that they would otherwise lack, we project them onto the world as if they inhered in the nature of things.  None of this need be done consciously, and most of it is done unconsciously.  But, as far as Mackie sees it, only a moral subjectivism of the sort for which he argues can surmount the paradoxes that arise from positing objective moral values.

Ultimately, the world of the atheist is and can only be a morally-neutral world.

While the atheist begins to come to terms with the Problem of Goodness, we will see, in the next installment of this series, that not only is the world infused from start to finish with real, objective value.  We will see that the cosmos, because it is the handiwork of God, is anything but the cold and indifferent place that the atheist would have us think it is.

Rather, the values that inhere in the world are ultimately inseparable from and depend upon the Love that created and sustains it and whose signature is as omnipresent as the Author Himself.




While on Hugh Hewitt’s nationally syndicated radio show recently, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg admitted that he favored removing Thomas Jefferson’s name from events.

Buttigieg was specifically asked about the removal of the names of Andrew Jackson and Thomas Jefferson from the Democratic Party’s annual dinner events.  He responded that it “was the right thing to do,” for both men were purveyors of “racism,” an evil that “isn’t some curiosity out of the past” but which is “alive,” “well,” and “hurting people [.]”

Buttigieg said that “one of the main reasons to be in politics today is to try to change or reverse harms” produced by racism and slavery.

There’s a few critical points that must be made.

First, it should come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying the least bit of attention to American politics and who has the will and ability to do just the slightest bit of critical thinking that mainstream Democrats are now objecting to monuments to such American Founders as Jefferson.

The 20th century conservative philosopher Michael Oakeshott wrote in his memorable essay, “Rationalism in Politics,” that, our self-delusions aside, political-morality does not consist of the “application” of eternal, immutable, premeditated “principles” to “problems” presented by ever-changing social circumstances.  Rather, it is tradition that always “intimates” possibilities for its development.

Consider it like this: The life of a society at any given moment is comprised of practices and modes of thinking—“trends,” we can call them for our purposes—that point more strongly in some directions than in others.

This being the case, we should now be able to discern that once Americans tolerated attacks on such American stalwarts as Robert E. Lee, they implicitly put the anti-American cultural cleansers on notice that they would tolerate as well attacks on America’s Founders.

If such white Southern secessionists as Robert E. Lee, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and Jefferson Davis deserve to be vilified for having promoted “racism,” then that much more deserving of vilification are such white Southern secessionists as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.  By any objective measure, these three American presidents—Washington, the Father of our country; Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence; and Madison, the author of the United States Constitution—were significantly more “racist” than Lee, Jackson, and Davis.

Washington owned well over 300 slaves by the time that he died.  Jefferson is speculated to have owned over 600 throughout his life, and he didn’t free any of his slaves even in his death.  Madison owned over 100 slaves.

The most vocal apologists for the Founders—who are almost always one and the same people as those who either tolerate or contribute to attacks on Confederate heroes—can be counted upon to defend the Founders by noting that they did in fact recognize slavery as an evil.  This, supposedly, essentially gets them off of the hook and renders them worthy as objects of reverence.

Yet the heroes of the Confederacy like Lee, Jackson, and Davis also condemned slavery in the harshest of terms.  They too blasted it as an evil.  However, they are treated with no such leniency.

The point is this: Americans, particularly self-proclaimed conservatives, who insist upon acquiescing to attacks on the Southern secessionists of the second half of the 19th century have no one but themselves to blame for the attacks that are now being launched against the Southern secessionists of the last quarter of the 18th century.

And because the attacks on the Confederacy never had anything to do with the Confederacy, because they have always been Ground Zero in the left’s larger campaign to “fundamentally transform”—to destroy—America, we should expect that once Confederate monuments were safely disposed of, the cultural cleansers would turn their attention to previously untouchable targets, like America’s Founders.

Second, to know exactly the mindset of the anti-American virtue-signaler we should pose to him the following question:

Which is more immoral, the enslavement of Africans in America, the conquest of the American Indian by the European settlers, or the Holocaust?

This question hurls the Buttigieges of the world onto the horns of a dilemma—and there is no slipping between these horns.

On the one hand, if the virtue-signaler attempts to identify one of these people’s experience as worse than that of the other two, he or she would run the very real risk of being depicted as racially insensitive or outright “racist” toward the other two.

On the other hand, in saying something to the effect that each of these events is equally horrible, etc. the Buttigieges reveal that, from their perspective, the men who settled and founded America are morally no different than Adolph Hitler and his Nazis.

And if the men and women who settled and founded America are no different than Hitler and his Nazis, then neither are Americans like you and I who continue to celebrate the men and women who settled and founded America any different from Nazis.

This, in turn, brings us to the final point.

Third, the American Flag is the moral equivalent (or worse) of the Swastika.  As such, it deserves to be treated with the contempt owed to the latter.

And consider: If the Stars and Bars needed to be removed from the public square because the Confederate Flag flew over the institution of slavery for four years, then the Stars and Stripes, which flew atop slave ships and over a country where slavery persisted for an exponentially longer period of time, should be set aflame.

Yet it isn’t just the flag that needs to be retired: The very name of America should be as well.

After all, America is named after the Italian explorer—the white, Italian explorer—Amerigo Vespucci, a contemporary of Christopher Columbus.  What’s worse, it was a German Christian cleric—a white, German Christian cleric—named Waldseemuller who honored Vespucci’s accomplishments by naming the New World after him.

Since, though, America is, as another Democratic presidential candidate put it, a “crime scene” inasmuch as it the place in which Africans were enslaved and those formerly known as American Indians were “exterminated,” it would seem that racial justice requires that the country relinquish its name, which can’t but serve as a perpetual reminder to blacks and reds of the unrelenting oppression to which they’ve been subjected for hundreds of years.

We could continue endlessly in this same vein. The point, ultimately, is that by the logic of the contemporary leftist, like Pete Buttigieg, there can be no principled justification for resisting the foregoing proposals.

It’s time that the self-styled enemies of monuments to the Confederacy be forced to reckon with the inescapable implications of their anti-American ideology.