Fightin’ Atheists

The Narrow Mind is a podcast/radio show about theology, apologetics, and the Christian worldview, which has developed something of a cult following since its inception. I’ve been a fan of The Narrow Mind for several years now, and although Gene has been exploring other interests lately, I still enjoy it when he picks up the microphone again to record another show. He’s got one of those rare personalities where you almost have to like him, even if he insults you.

This afternoon I listened through one of his most recent episodes, featuring a recorded podcast with Joe Rogan and Sam Harris (here’s the link). Joe had Sam Harris as a guest on his podcast, and Gene, in turn, is commentating on that podcast episode on The Narrow Mind.

The Combatants

Gene Cook is a former pastor and has invested a lot of time into debates and discussions with atheists, whether formal, moderated debates or less formal interviews on his radio show. He’s a strong proponent of presuppositional apologetics and the Transcendental Argument. Gene is well-versed in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Joe Rogan is a UFC commentator and entertainer. He has experience in acting and stand-up comedy, and has hosted several TV shows in addition to his own award-winning podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience. Joe Rogan is also a practitioner of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Sam Harris is one of the “Four Horsemen,” the so-called “new atheists” (with Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens) who pursue a strongly anti-religious and anti-theistic agenda. So far as I am able to discern, Sam Harris knows no Brazilian jiu-jitsu whatsoever.

Let the Fight Begin

Joe Rogan and Sam Harris began their discussion with Islam, a subject that Sam has gained some notoriety for opposing, and moved on to discuss religion in general. I’m not going to give a play-by-play of the whole show, but you can listen to it at the link above (profanity warning – Joe’s podcast was unedited, and he uses strong language). There is one point I’d like to pull out.

Sam Harris is a very moralistic atheist. He believes very strongly that there are rights and wrongs, and that religion falls squarely in the latter category. He argues that what is right is what’s good for the species, and what is wrong is what’s bad for the species.

There are two problems with this.

It’s not immediately clear what is good for the species and what is bad. We may believe it’s good for the species to maintain our natural freedom as persons; an alien race, looking down at our self-destructive tendencies, may believe it’s good for the species to be enslaved and controlled so as to prevent our species from destroying itself.

Saying “doing X is good for the species” is not the same thing as saying “I ought to do X.” This is also known as the “naturalistic fallacy” or the “is-ought problem.” It is impossible to derive a prescriptive statement (about what ought to be) from a descriptive statement (about what is).

Sam’s moral framework thus depends upon the subjective assignment of a) his own value of “good” for the species; and b) his own goal of doing what is good for the species. He has no objective grounds for defining what is “good” or “bad” for the species, and he has no objective grounds for saying that we ought to do what is good for the species in the first place.

Secular ethics inevitably reduces to subjective absurdity like this. For a law to have any binding moral value, it must be given by a Lawgiver, someone with authority. As Christians, we do have a Lawgiver, and an objective, absolute standard of right and wrong. God has revealed the laws of morality in the Bible. And as the Creator, He has the authority to lay down those moral laws for us to follow.

Christians have a cogent, rational explanation for the existence of moral laws. We also have a cogent, rational explanation for mankind’s innate sense of moral laws – we are created in God’s image, as moral creatures, and have His law written on our hearts. Atheists have no cogent, rational explanation for either.

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