If you walk around Washington, D.C., on a regular basis, youre likely to see some rather peculiar posters. But you wont see any more peculiar than the ads put out by the American Humanist Association. Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness sake, say the signs, in Christmas-colored red and green.
Sounds great, doesnt it? Just be good for goodness sake. You dont need some Big Man in the Sky telling you what to do. You can be a wonderful person simply by doing the right thing.
Theres only one problem: without God, there can be no moral choice. Without God, there is no capacity for free will.
Thats because a Godless world is a soulless world. Virtually all faiths hold that God endows human beings with the unique ability to choose their actions -- the ability to transcend biology and environment in order to do good. Transcending biology and our environment requires a higher power -- a spark of the supernatural. As philosopher Rene Descartes, put it, Although I possess a body with which I am very intimately conjoined [my soul] is entirely and absolutely distinct from my body and can exist without it.
Gilbert Pyle, the atheistic philosopher, derogatorily labeled the idea of soul/body dualism, the ghost in the machine. Nonetheless, our entire legal and moral system is based on the ghost in the machine -- the presupposition that we can choose to do otherwise. We can only condemn or praise individuals if they are responsible for their actions. We dont jail squirrels for garden theft or dogs for assaulting cats -- they arent responsible for their actions. But we routinely lock up kleptomaniacs and violent felons.
Its not only our criminal justice system that presupposes a Creator. Its our entire notion of freedom and equality. We hold these truths to be self-evident, wrote Thomas Jefferson, supposed atheist, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Human equality must spring from a Creator, because the presence of a soul is all that makes man human and equal. Biology suggests inherent inequality -- who would call Arnold Schwarzenegger and Stephen Hawking equal in any way? Biology suggests the sort of Hegelian social Darwinism embraced by totalitarian dictators, not the principles of equality articulated by the Founding Fathers.