My trip to Cape coast last November was unusually refreshing. In many ways, this young lady who sat next to me typified your average millennial. Sporting headphones she later confessed was “my mechanism to avoid distraction and unnecessary conversations,” she wore a fitting pair of jeans, a colorful shirt and a pair of Nike sneakers, which was about as casual as it gets on a Friday afternoon.
“Hi” I said, making a five finger-wagging gesture to get her attention in my brief moment of courage.
“Hey! Chummy,” she responded, pulling back the earphone over the ear closer to me in a bid to hear what it was I saying.
“What’s up?” I asked with a bit more intent this time. “Nothing much” pretty much qualifies as an apt response to the question in these parts.
“Sam Harris’ The End of Faith?” I asked with an edge of challenge in my voice. “I am curious! Why are you reading this particular volume?” “Are you a skeptic?”
Anita bookmarked the page she was reading, looked at me intently. “The answer is yes!” she said with conviction.
“Really?” I asked, betraying my surprise (for what’s worth) in my voice. “Interesting!”
“You see!” she continued triumphantly. “I used to be a believer but I have lost all my belief and I no longer buy into whatever it is that is spewed from the pulpits and daises by those conmen who arrange themselves as ‘godly’ men and end up fleecing the gullible of their meagre resources to fund their extravagant lifestyles.”
Even so, I wanted to understand what it was I was dealing with further. “Excuse my curiosity,” I said, “but how did you come to this conclusion?”
That opened a can of worms and the next few sentences opened up the conversation and broadened the scope of the discussion.
“Losing faith was not a linear or sequential process for me.” She replied. “The contours of my journey to unbelief take on a slightly different shape each time I look back with the benefit of hindsight.”
“For instance” she continued, “tell me this, is it really possible to be an intelligent, critically thinking person and still believe that the god of the bible – an openly jealous, petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty bully – is capable of any love?”
“What is it with you Christians and your huge appetite for disturbing people’s peace with the ‘God loves you’ BS you keep peddling?” “Okay” she said, trying desperately to suppress the anger in her voice which was getting beyond normal levels. “Let us assume without admitting your god loves me.”
“What does it matter if he does?
“Do I need that love from him?
“Does it make any difference?
“Why can’t I find the love of fellow humans enough?”
The questions, as poignant as they were, kept unfolding as the journey wore on.
That set the tone for a great conversation that spanned the nearly two hours we rode in the bus.
Some three months later, the questions have assumed an even greater relevance in this season of love (Val’s day) and the treatment of the subject has never been more needful.
Love in its truest sense of the word, is, when you treat a person with intrinsic worth not only when they serve your purpose. Of course, the English is quite narrow in its definition but the Greek, for example lends itself to four different ‘levels’ of definition: Storge (Parental love), Phileo (friendly Love), Eros (Romantic love) an Agape (Godly love).
On the face of it, it is true an atheist can be a good and loving person (most of my self-professed atheist friends are) but the trouble is, there is no rationally justifiable bases to mandate that for anyone who chooses a different route. Arriving at the conclusion to love is purely an autonomous choice. A person who is good and loving in the non-theistic worldview is just living above the resources that they can legitimately bring to the table. The reasoning to love is only self-driven.
There is no intrinsic worth in the naturalistic framework. For instance, the Australian Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, Peter Singer is on record to have said “when a baby is born with downs syndrome or whatever it is, that child is of no value more than a Pig.” So in essence, “wipe these creatures off the surface of the earth.” Can you see where is going? In the naturalistic Darwinian worldview, there will always be free-loaders in the system; the strong must devour the week to survive – natural selection becomes natural rejection. That is, I suppose, where the scourge of racism and morally superior cultures stem from.
The only way to be treated with intrinsic worth is when we come to the realization that we were made in the Imago Dei (Image of God) and that is the bequest of God. That is where all the four ‘branches’ converge. So if your choice to love legitimate, the reasoning should be legitimate as well or else, somebody will redefine the whole paradigm and ultimately what is love for one, could become hate for another. We are all made of essential worth.
The ultimate ethic is love and if there ever was a definition for a supererogatory act, it is in God fulfilling the human need for love and meaning. You love even when you’re not morally bound to do so because of the relationship we have with God, and that equality we could draw with our relationship with fellow human beings.