The Moral Atheist

Posted on May 26, 2017


The argument that morality cannot exist apart from religion smacks of rationalism. We religious are not rationalists. We are reasonable, yes, but not rationalists. The logic goes like this: morality must have a foundation. A foundation cannot exist within this world (it would be like trying to lock your fingers together and sit on them as you would a swing). Since the foundation for morality exists, then, outside of this world, those who dismiss any reality beyond the empirical here and now are incapable of a coherent morality.

But, fact is, morality is not preceded by belief. Reality doesn’t care what we believe. It is a natural part of our make-up, the substance of our being. God made us in his image and became man, descending to the depths of our humanity, even to hell. Then, he brought our humanity from hell to the Godhead. Our life is hid with Christ in God, and every life (I must insist) is hid with Christ in God–the Hindu, the Muslim, the agnostic, and the atheist. Christ brought human nature, the nature we all share as persons, from the depths of Hades to the eternal light. The atheist, even without believing in God, benefits from his participation with God.

Now, before anyone gets his panties in a twist, let me acknowledge that our nature has yet to be realized in our persons. Some of the saints, the saints whose relics are incorruptible, were brought into the divine energies as fully as might be expected within this life. This theosis, accomplished synergistically, is apparent to all and marked by the fruit of the spirit. Our natural state, the state wherein our life is hid in God, however, is apparent to no one apart from our realization of it through the kenosis of the Holy Spirit. That topic, the kenosis of the Holy Spirit, will have to be for another post, but suffice it to say that we do not fully partake of our natures in our persons at this point. Further, some persons are so far from their nature that they are named Hitler or Stalin.

So, belief or even theosis is not a prerequisite for a moral sense. Paul speaks of the conscience which condemns us all. Certainly, this conscience leaves much to be desired. We see through a glass darkly. We see shadows on the wall. And the shadows spell commands, such as “Thou shalt not kill,” and “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” To be released from the cave and to come the knowledge of what already exists within us is to know love. This love is not just not hating. It is active love of one’s neighbor. It is not just not lusting. It is the active love of one’s neighbor’s wife–a love that finds its end not in her pants, but in God.

The atheist, as a human, has access to the morality by which we begin to empty ourselves. Undoubtedly there comes a point along the road of kenosis where the truth of Jesus Christ cannot be denied. But to follow along the narrow road is only human; it is the descent into Hades and the ascent into Heaven. This is not the domain of the religious. It is the domain of the Son of Man and we who are his heirs.

Posted in: Culture, Faith