Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Idea of Human Dignity Presupposes God

If you turn on the news today, you won't have to wait long to see chaos abounding in the world. In some parts of the world we see hunger and disease destroying lives. Other parts of the world are ruled and bullied by evil tyrants and dictators. There are wars and threats of war. In America we have the long-standing debates of abortion, racism, same-sex marriage, immigration, and the state of the economy. At the root of all these issues is one common factor: human dignity. 

The concept of human dignity is the idea that every human being has intrinsic worth and has the right to be valued and receive ethical treatment. The reason we care about wars, dictators oppressing people, abortion, racism, or any number of issues we see on the news, is the common thread of human dignity. We want human beings to be treated with value and worth. This is right. This is good. 

A Question that Puzzles Me

However, I want to raise a question that puzzles me. Many of the loudest supporters in the fight for human dignity around the world are those who deny God's existence or claim we can't know if there is god (atheist/agnostics). This is a head-scratcher. I would like to know where the philosophical basis for human dignity comes from if God does not exist. Let me explain. 

In a worldview that denies God's existence, that only leaves the material world. In a materialistic world, the universe only consists of matter. In a materialistic worldview, the human being is nothing more than a collection of atoms. We are a pile of cells, nothing more. So when we see a beautiful painting, hear a symphonic masterpiece, witness an amazing act of love and kindness, see two intellectuals discuss complex problems and concepts of math, philosophy, astronomy, theology, or anything else, we are not really experiencing anything different than a dog barking or a coke can fizzing. It is nothing but matter acting on matter. No inherent value. No intrinsic worth. No innate beauty. Just a clump of cells experiencing a chemical reaction. Nothing more.  

The Inconsistent Atheist

The atheist and agnostic will not agree with this; however, they can't support why humans should matter any more than a blade of grass that gets mowed down. Why should we care when we see a starving child? Why should it bother us that children are getting sexually molested? Why do we care about the rights of those not in power or in the majority? The atheist and agnostic has no answer that comports with their worldview. If they were consistent with their worldview they would have to agree a human being is nothing but a bunch of protons and neutrons. Who cares about the plight of a big clump of cells? What makes a human being any different than the banana peel we discard in the trash? If the atheist was consistent to his claimed worldview, he would have to say "nothing." 

But most atheists and agnostics I know do care about people. Most all of them do believe in human dignity. I do not deny their concern for people and their dignity. My argument is, in their caring, they are inconsistent with their own worldview. Thank God they are inconsistent! If they were not, it would lead to a nasty fatalism and nihilism. 

Human Dignity Presupposes God

The reason the atheist and agnostic are able to fight for human rights and dignity is they borrow the Christian worldview. They don't even realize they are doing it. They don't realize that if they were true to their claimed worldview they have no grounds for supporting human dignity. So they borrow the Christian worldview. Christians believe in human dignity because we believe humans, unlike every other created thing, are made in the image of God. In Genesis 1:26 the Triune God says, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." The reason human beings have inherent worth is because they are made in God's image. God gives us worth and dignity. 

When you remove God from your worldview, and you reduce human beings down to clumps of atoms and biochemical reactions, you stripe human beings of their inherent dignity. Human dignity presupposes God. Atheists and agnostics will not want to admit it, but they do not have a sufficient answer for why they give a rip about humans. They cannot account for caring about people. There is no doubting that they do care for people, they just can't account for it with their worldview.


Next time you hear an atheist or agnostic ranting about the evils of this world and using that to dismiss God, just ask them why they care. After all, there is nothing good or evil, right or wrong in a world where matter is acting on matter. To care about people and the plight of this world, you presuppose the God of the Bible.  

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  1. Great let them chew on this for a while.

  2. I happen to have great passion for life and know to better myself I need to also work with those around me. Humans have learned over time that working together is for the betterment of all of us, each individually, and as a whole. We can enjoy life and have passion and purpose without a supernatural imagined presence. If some all-present, non-seen being were watching over everything, how would that make anything more significant than it already is?

    Atheists can love and empathize and care and have passion and purpose in the here and now and look forward to the future and be excited for the future of humankind even knowing we will not be here to witness all of it.