Bewildered by Secularists

My blogging software allows me to see how many people are reading this blog, but not who they are.  I’d be thrilled to learn that some are secularists because one of my goals as a blogger is to help people who are uninformed about religion generally and Mormonism specifically to understand my perspective.  I also want to learn from such people because I don’t understand their thinking.  From my viewpoint, secularism seems unreasonable, and so I would love to hear a secularist explain his or her reasoning.  Here are some of my questions:

To atheists:

Religious people believe in a God who created us and has expectations for us.  We have ideas about what is right and wrong, and we believe those ideas came from God.  But the atheists I have known also seem to have a sense of right and wrong.  Where does this sense come from, if not from God?  If we believe people are only a part of nature, not accountable to anything above nature, then are people only subject to natural laws, not moral laws?  What about people who do despicable things like murder, steal or rape?  Are they not violating a moral law?  If they are violating a moral law, why not call that law “God?”

To agnostics:

If God might exist but isn’t knowable, is morality knowable?  Assuming we cannot discover God, can we still discover morality?

To people who believe in God and/or absolute morality but are opposed to organized religion:

I’ve known people who believe God exists but churches aren’t good because they divide people and cause them to be narrow-minded.  I can sympathize with this thinking because history is full of religious wars and churches that thwart scientific discovery.  But history is also full of governments, political parties, universities, businesses, associations and clubs that are divisive and oppressive. 

As an example, when my husband was a missionary in Russia, now and then people he approached would tell him they weren’t interested in his message because they were “communists,” which meant they were atheists.  During Russia’s Soviet era, God was pushed out of the picture, but it certainly wasn’t the end of divisions or oppression.  So how can a secularist believe that avoiding organized religion will prevent divisiveness and oppression?  Aren’t institutions such as governments and universities necessary?  And aren’t birds of a feather going to flock together whether they do so in the name of God or in the name of something else?    

Furthermore, if we believe God exists and right and wrong exist, isn’t it important to talk about that?  Isn’t it important to promote right and fight against wrong?  And aren’t we going to be more effective at discovering and committing to right if we meet up with other people who want to be moral too?  This is all that religious groups are: birds of a feather that meet together in order to better understand and apply what is good and true, to work together to accomplish moral projects.  Sure, they can be wrong in their ideas and goals, but so can anybody.

In my observation, people who are “non-religious” still have moral leaders and moral teams.  They may have the illusion of being independent, but really they are following cultural leaders such as artists, politicians, journalists, marketers and friends.  The example that’s on my mind lately is pro-choice advocates, many of whom are secularists.  Pro-choice advocates believe each woman has a moral right to choose whether or not to carry a child in her womb, even if the child was conceived through consensual sex.  In my mind, this is contrary to nature; if a woman chooses to have sex, she is choosing to risk getting pregnant, and I find it unnatural for her to end the life of her unborn child.  For pro-choice advocates, though, the right of a woman to control her body trumps the rights of the unborn child and even the right of a father to protect his offspring.  This thinking may not be a religion, per se, but it’s a moral philosophy that other people of various backgrounds disagree with.

I’m not trying to begin a debate about whether abortion should be legal. I’m only contending that people who are pro-choice have a specific idea about what’s moral and that they group together with others who share their ideas in order to promote them.  Is this not just another form of religion?

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2 Responses to Bewildered by Secularists

  1. Drew says:

    What about religious people who make wrong choices (namely Catholic priests)? Certainly they of all people should be provided the sort of “Moral Compass” the you say God provides.

    The view of what society has accepted as right or wrong is constantly evolving. For example, polygamy in the early Mormon Church. Modern Mormons denounce this version of marriage, correct? Wouldn’t your view (is this your view?) that polygamy is immoral be disputed by the fundamentalists?

    Of course basic understanding of right and wrong doesn’t have to come through religion. Being an empathetic human raised by loving parents who have taught be so much, I know that stealing, raping etc is wrong. And being an atheist, I don’t need to give God credit for this. There just isn’t any evidence that God exists; just folk stories from a time when people weren’t free to question.

    • Lara says:

      Everyone has a conscience, but not everyone obeys his or her conscience. In fact, I believe all people deny and/or violate their conscience to some degree or another. This is why we Christians believe in repentance, which is acknowledging one’s moral violation, seeking to fix whatever one broke or harmed, and asking others, including God, for forgiveness. The priest who abuses children is especially despicable because he has presented himself as an advocate for Jesus and used that position of power to hurt children. Jesus preached that whoever harms a child deserves to be drowned and that it would be better for that person if he had never been born.

      As for polygamy, my church’s practice has changed, but not our doctrine. We actually don’t think it was wrong what our early prophets did. I’m going to write about this as soon as I can because it’s an interesting topic, and I have some insights I’d like to share. First, though, I have to crawl around in my attic and find the journal where I kept notes when I was reading the diaries of these polygamous people.

      What I’m trying to ask in this post is: If there is an enduring truth about what is right and wrong, does this not point to a higher power that could be termed “god?” We might not believe God is a personal, intelligent being; we might think God is an immaterial force. But I don’t understand how anyone can say that God doesn’t exist without denying the existence of good and evil.

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