secular culture

Uncomfortable Questions We’re Not Meant to Ask About Our Secular Culture

19 July 2023

2.2 MINS

Our secular culture tells us that the secular (atheistic) view of life is rational and scientific.

Religions like Christianity, we’re told, are little more than myths that we need to scrap to become enlightened, logical and reasonable people. Christians need to ‘grow up’ and face the reality that Christianity is irrational and false (not to mention harmful).

But is that true? Is the secular view of life rational and logical?

Or does our culture’s secular view of life raise issues that are uncomfortable and difficult to answer?

Here are 5 questions that I’ve found our secular culture has difficulty answering — questions we’re not really meant to ask, because they raise the uncomfortable possibility that the secular view of life just doesn’t fit reality:

1) How does accidental, atheistic evolution give us universal morality and human rights?

A common secular belief is that evolution gave us morality: in this view, ‘love’ is right because it was a beneficial instinct for the survival of our ancestors, thus passed down genetically to us. And so, we hold to loving our neighbour today.

But this raises the question: if ‘love’ is just a chemical reaction that helped our ancestors survive, why would we be morally obligated to obey it today? Furthermore, we have other emotions like ‘selfishness’ (presumably, in this view, also something that helped our ancestors survive). Is selfishness, then, a desire we also should obey?

Another common belief is that human reason alone can give us morality, but this, too, is problematic.

If we’re nothing more than slightly more evolved animals, where do human rights and moral obligations come from?

2) If we get meaning from the things around us (e.g. family, health, money etc.), how does the secular view of life help us when we lose those things?

Our secular world no longer looks to God for meaning and purpose: instead, we make up our meaning and purpose. We look to things around us to give life meaning and purpose.

But how does the secular view of life help us if and when we lose those things, whether through ill circumstances, boredom, age, or death?

3) What resources does a secular view of life give for self-sacrifice or giving up your life for the benefit of others?

Western societies have traditionally valued self-sacrifice, even to the point of giving up your life for the good of others — and to a significant extent, we still value this.

But what resources does a secular view of life — that this life is all there is and that life is ultimately meaningless — give to encourage people to be self-sacrificial?

4) Is the secular view of life as ultimately meaningless ‘livable’?

Can you consistently believe that your life and everyone else’s is, in the ultimate scheme of things, meaningless?

Very few, if any, can live their lives embracing the view that their life is ultimately meaningless. They ignore or suppress that view.

And this leads to the final question:

5) If we need to suppress the secular view of reality to get by in life, is that a rational way to live?

If the implications of the secular view of life are too harsh to think about, such that we need to ignore rather than embrace it, is that a rational way to live? That is, if you need to ‘make up’ another view of life because reality is too harsh to contemplate, how is that rational?


Originally published at Photo by Liza Summer.

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  1. Kim Beazley 19 July 2023 at 10:28 am - Reply

    If a sixth, and in fact more fundamental, reason could be added, it is the very basic act of thought and reason. I came across this article just yesterday from three years ago, where Professor John Lennox quotes atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel and Christian physicist John Polkinghorne, both in agreement in relation to the inability of science to explain how natural causes can lead to our ability to reason.

    Another that I’ve found useful is this from C S Lewis:

    “Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

  2. Jim Twelves 19 July 2023 at 6:53 pm - Reply

    Akos, thank you for this debate with the atheist. It was so insightful and thank you Kim for your riders

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