One of the things that really pisses me off is when religious people tell me I can't be truly ethical without believing in God. Evangelical Christians take it even further and claim that if you don't believe in their particular vengeful God, you're doomed to be evil. In my local paper, I answered one such moron, and he responded with a long, rambling, disjointed letter that you will get the gist of by reading my response:
In Wayne Moore's response to my letter to him via the Signal, he says that I still don't get it. I don't think he ever has.
Moore claims that atheists have no logical basis for understanding right and wrong. What a crock. He suggests that my understanding of right and wrong "seeped in" from a society that already had a Christian ethos. His certainty that I got that framework from his God is a scary thing. How does he know I didn't get my ethical framework from Jews or Buddhists? To assume that I got it from his "God" is the kind of presumptive evangelical certitude that President Bush used to get us into Iraq. How's that working out, Wayne?
The assumption that an intelligent human being can't logically deduce that ethical behavior is better for society is preposterous. I don't need the fear of hell or the promise of heaven to do what's right. I do it because I have deduced that society benefits from ethical behavior. And, unlike Moore and his right wing friends, who don't seem to mind survival of the fittest when it comes to economic policy, I believe society, and government, should help people. That might very well be a Christian ethic (one which Republicans conveniently ignore when it doesn't suit their purposes), but it is not exclusively Christian. Many other religions and philosophies had come to the same logical conclusion well before Christ.
People who believe in evolution are not doomed, as Moore suggests, to finding that Hitler was cool or that slavery was OK. Moore fails to give a source for his "recent survey of college freshmen," but the fact that he suggests that their uneducated views lead to the conclusion that, without God, morals are determined by a vote couldn't be more wrong. If this "survey" is real, I'd sure like to see what those freshmen think after four years of college, in which, I presume, they are still required to take a philosophy class. In fact, I think Moore should take one, because he really doesn't understand philosophy at all. If there is no God, right and wrong are not determined by a vote. Atheism does not require moral relativism. I can believe there are moral absolutes that should be followed, regardless of who invented them, because they are good for all people. Ideas like the Golden Rule or the Harm Principal (I don't care what you do as long as it doesn't harm me) have been around a lot longer than Wayne Moore's vision of God.
As for evolution, it's ironic that I am writing this letter on the day that scientists announced the discovery of the missing link. For years, people like Moore have been using the missing link as an argument against evolution, and now, they have lost that point. However, people like Moore conveniently dismiss the fossil record as having been put there by God to test our faith. How can a logical person who respects science argue with that? It's impossible. They believe that dinosaurs didn't exist, that things are the same as they were initially created, and all those fossils are creations of God, not life forms that evolved, then became extinct. This literal translation of Genesis is a dangerous mindset in a world beset by problems that only science can solve.
I can point out to Moore that he should have paid closer attention during biology class. Changes in genetic information, called mutations, happen naturally. When an organism mutates into something that's helpful to the species, those with the mutation thrive, and those without it don't. That is natural selection. Over billions of years, this produces the process known as evolution, which Moore states is not "observable." This is because he throws out the fossil record as evidence. But what about viruses? President Bush, a noted creation scientist, recently said that viruses like the bird flu "evolve." What the President was reading was a statement of fact from government scientists that virus mutations have caused observable evolution in different species of viruses. The mutation and evolution of viruses has been observed for quite some time now. The genetic structure of any organism, even a small one like a virus, offers trillions of possible combinations. There doesn't have to be "added information," only a recombination of existing information.
I'm sure Moore will have more nonsensical rebuttal to this fact, all based on something other that scientific reason. It's no coincidence that the vast majority of scientists, even religious ones, believe in evolution. The only people running scared in this country are evangelicals whose hateful treatment of those who don't believe like them is being exposed everywhere. But, hey, don't worry, Wayne. If you and your buddies keep hoping for the Rapture, you'll cause a bloody end to the world you seem determined to destroy, and none of this will matter.
No one will ever convince Wayne Moore, or those like him and President Bush, that life didn't start all at once 5000 years ago. So why do I try? Because I hope that other people reading these letters will realize that just because some of us don't believe in God, it doesn't mean we're bad people. And others, including the Catholic Church, believe that evolution and religion are not mutually exclusive. The big bang had to happen somehow. Maybe that was God. I have no proof of it, and I don't do leaps of faith. I'll wait for the theories to be tested, and for new theories to evolve. Maybe, as our studies of quantum mechanics and the intricate workings of the universe get better, science will actually discover a kind of underlying "spirituality" to the universe. I doubt very much that it will look like the vengeful, closed-minded, hateful God that Wayne Moore wants me to be afraid of, or that George Bush uses to justify his cruelty, crusades, and war mongering. I look forward to a day when science is free from religion, when the EPA and the FDA make decisions based on science and not the religious views of political appointees, and when schools aren't forced to teach, or even mention, religion in science class. In short, I look forward to the day when Wayne Moore and his ilk spew their backwards views to smaller and smaller groups of believers while the rest of the world gets on with its evolution.