Atheism and human worth
As far as atheism and human worth, Ken Hensley wrote:
|“|| It’s clear that we share a universal intuition and strong belief in the unique value of human life. We speak very naturally of people possessing “inherent” value, “high” and “equal” value. We talk about the “dignity” each person “deserves.” We use words like “priceless” to describe human lives. This is simply how we very naturally think and speak.
And of course the biblical worldview makes sense of our experience in this regard. If God exists and we have been created in his image and likeness, then we do possess unique value among created beings. In other words, the Christian worldview provides a metaphysical basis and foundation for what we seem to intuitively know to be true...
In accord with the Christian worldview, the truth of our value and dignity as human persons is something God has written on our hearts and etched into our very beings. It’s something we simply know to be true....
But what if the worldview of the modern garden-variety atheist is true? What if you and I really are nothing more than very complicated biochemical machines that appear for a moment, gears spinning, and then disappear forever? What if we really have come from nowhere and are going nowhere? What if we really are nothing more than the product of an entirely impersonal material universe, that we don’t have souls, that we aren’t spiritual beings at all?
What becomes of inherent value and dignity, then? Well, it would be an illusion. It would not be true.
Objectively speaking, in a naturalist universe we would have no more inherent value than any other aspect of nature. The only “value” we would possess would be what others were willing to grant us in our few moments on this earth.
Author Randy Alcorn wrote about atheism and human worth:
|“|| In the secular-atheist account: You are the descendant of a tiny cell of primordial protoplasm that washed up on an ocean beach ten billion years ago. You are the blind and arbitrary product of time, chance, and natural forces. Your closest living relatives swing from trees and eat crackers at the zoo.
You are a mere grab-bag of atomic particles, a conglomeration of genetic substance. You exist on a tiny planet in a minute solar system in an obscure galaxy in a remote and empty corner of a vast, cold, and meaningless universe. You are flying through lifeless space with no purpose, no direction, no control, and no destiny but final destruction.
You are a purely biological entity, different only in degree but not in kind from a microbe, virus or amoeba. You have no essence beyond your body, and at death you will cease to exist entirely.
What little life you do have is confined to a fragile body aimlessly moving through a world plagued by war, famine and disease. The only question is whether the world will manage to blow itself up before your brief and pointless life ends on its own.
In short, you came from nothing, you are going nowhere, and you will end your brief cosmic journey beneath six feet of dirt, where all that you will become is food for bacteria and rot with worms.
Now, why don't you feel good about yourself? And why don't you show more respect for human life?
In the Christian account: From the moment of conception, you and all other human beings are the special creation of a good and all powerful God. You are the climax of His creation, the magnum opus of the greatest artist in the universe.
You are created in His image, with capacities to think, feel, and worship that set you above all other life forms. You differ from the animals not simply in degree, but in kind, in your very essence.
The ex-atheist Sarah Irving-Stonebrearker noted:
|“|| After Cambridge, I was elected to a Junior Research Fellowship at Oxford. There, I attended three guest lectures by world-class philosopher and atheist public intellectual, Peter Singer. Singer recognised that philosophy faces a vexing problem in relation to the issue of human worth. The natural world yields no egalitarian picture of human capacities. What about the child whose disabilities or illness compromises her abilities to reason? Yet, without reference to some set of capacities as the basis of human worth, the intrinsic value of all human beings becomes an ungrounded assertion; a premise which needs to be agreed upon before any conversation can take place.
I remember leaving Singer’s lectures with a strange intellectual vertigo; I was committed to believing that universal human value was more than just a well-meaning conceit of liberalism.
I remember leaving Singer’s lectures with a strange intellectual vertigo; I was committed to believing that universal human value was more than just a well-meaning conceit of liberalism. But I knew from my own research in the history of European empires and their encounters with indigenous cultures, that societies have always had different conceptions of human worth, or lack thereof. The premise of human equality is not a self-evident truth: it is profoundly historically contingent. I began to realise that the implications of my atheism were incompatible with almost every value I held dear.</ref>
|“|| At least three ingredients are critical to the validity of human rights. First, human rights require universal moral norms, since they are claims that every human makes upon every other human being. No person, non-state group, or political regime may torture another person or deliberately take the life of a civilian, for instance. These claims must be true for everyone, or they are not human rights.
The second ingredient is human dignity—the inestimable worth of each and every person. It is because human beings have this worth that they can justifiably demand that certain kinds of actions never be performed against them.
The third ingredient, which philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff describes brilliantly in his book, Justice, is what might be called the “trump card” status of human rights. To say that a person has a right is to say that her claim cannot be overridden by simply balancing it against a competing basket of goods. Even if governments can realize great gains in war by targeting civilians or torturing suspects, they must refrain from these actions if they are respectful of human rights...
What traditions of thought, then, assert universal norms, human dignity, and trump card status? Religions holding that God revealed certain commandments to be binding on everyone, essential for human flourishing and dignity, and admitting little room for violation or exception are strong candidates...
- The Problem of Human Worth: How I Evangelize Those Who Doubt or Deny the Existence of God, Part III by Ken Hensley
- Atheism and Christianity: Two Views on the Value of Life by Randy Alcorn
- Philpott, Daniel, Professor of Political Science and Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, (May 28, 2014). "No human rights without God" Open Global Rights