Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Pizza with the Atheist Club

In typical college fashion, the pizzeria was crammed with people, food and loud music. I wormed my way to the back wall toward a booth with three young students. Surveying the young men arrayed in the small booth—one with his nose in a textbook, the other with a lopsided grin and the third with stereotypical long hair—I greeted each with a firm handshake.

Placing my pizza on the table, I started the meeting with proper appreciation: “I am glad you agreed to meet with me.”

“No prob man. We don’t do this with just anyone ya’ know,” drawled the grinner. “Our club v.p. here told us you were someone worth talking with---intelligent.”

“Well, I don’t claim mastery of logic or philosophy, but I have enough of a background that I was able to challenge your vice president here.” I grinned in reply.

Instead of reaching for the philosophical jugular, I decided to ask some personal questions: was he raised Christian? Did he have anything personal against Christianity? In short, he was raised a nominal Roman Catholic, yet had no related personal problems. He actually thanked me for asking him, as it was common for cross-examiners to assume the worse.

I then asked about their philosophical views: they were typical atheists (materialistic empiricists disagreeing over morals). However, they had one twist: they were mostly atheists—they were not willing to absolutely rule out the existence of God (as the older atheists would, ala Bertrand Russell).

Ignoring this idiosyncrasy, I spoke with the long-haired student for the next twenty-five minutes about his empiricist approach to morality. As with most empiricist, he was gung-ho for the morality bell-curve; that behavior in the curve was normal. Pointing out that using the bell-curve for the last fifty years on a global scale would lean “normal” morality toward totalitarianism, he replied that being an American he could not accept that. “Then you’ve changed the bell-curve referent,” I reminded him. He was silent. Then I noted that he did not have a large enough sample-size for human behavior over the last 10,000 years. This he conceded. After asking why the extremes of the curve should be ignored (like megalomaniac dictators), he partly conceded. Feeling the pressure he quietly replied: “Even if we cannot establish morality objectively, we can still live it intuitively as we all have human nature.”

“Do we?” I asked. “Materialism cannot speak of a human nature other than observable behavior—the bell-curve. Why does a dictator have to follow a hypothetical curve? What you have is pure subjectivism: every man doing what is right in his own eyes.”

He thoughtfully chewed on his pizza. He was none too happy.

But the day was not over yet.



Hobster said...

21st century college equivalent of Van Til's 'another cup of coffee,' eh? (and given prices of coffee today, gotta be much cheaper) :)

polymathis said...

Hey, I just like pizza and talk'n theology :-)

Benjamin P. Glaser said...

Sounds like a good combo there poly!!!