When faced with any two propositions, and how they work together, there are only four basic possibilities:
1) A + B
2) A not B
3) B not A
4) Neither A nor B
Now, in regard to the question of the human body and soul, this could be applies as
1) Body and Soul are coequal
2) Body but no spiritual soul
3) Soul but no body
4) Neither soul nor body
If there’s a radical Skeptic who advocates position 4, let me know. We’ll just disregard it.
Similarly, I doubt there are many radical idealists in the mode of Berkeley out there, but there are a great many people who believe that the soul is superior to the body, and that the body is merely a shell. Whether this qualifies as Idealism or Dualism depends upon the exact relationship described, but it is, as Chesterton points out, the predominant heresy of human nature. It is the basis of a great many belief systems including, but not limited to, Platonism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Gnosticism, and Manicheeism, as well as the practical attitudes of many Christians.
Given my recent themes, Proposition 2 is the one I would like to focus on in this post as that is the one atheists ostensibly believe in.
Pro-abortionists often fall under proposition 3. They try to say abortion is OK because the soul isn’t there yet, or even that the soul will be reincarnated, or some such argument. Feminists, when they content “It’s my body,” are implying that their souls are separate entities from their bodies, and their bodies are merely material possessions of their souls. Indeed, Idealism is fundamental to radical feminism in general, because feminists ironically create a disjoint with their own womanhood. While they proclaim themselves “feminists,” they do not exalt womanhood, per se, but rather attempt to negate womanhood and achieve a superficial equality with men (there is a difference between equality of respect and equality in fact, which I will address another time).
Whether feminists overtly *think* they believe that, they definitely imply it with their rhetoric of ownership.
This creates an interesting paradox for atheist feminists. If there is no immortal soul, and if the soul as life-principle or consciousness is coterminous with the body, how can a person rightly speak of the body as “property.” The body is not something external to the self. In this respect, atheists should really be more in keeping with Catholic understanding of Natural Law.
Catholicism is one of the only belief systems that teaches proposition 1. Since we believe in the resurrection of the body, we believe that body and soul are equally coterminous with human nature. For a Catholic, like a true atheist, you can’t speak of the soul without speaking of the body.
In The Theology of the Body, John Paul II points out that, while we take the external characteristics of men and women as being what identify them as such, our internal differences are much greater than our external ones (hence, anthropologists and paleontologists can tell a male from a female by the bones). And while the external superficial differences of men and women are primarily associated with sexual attraction and intercourse, the *internal* differences that identify women have to do with motherhood. A woman’s entire body is designed for motherhood.
The atheist feminist cannot say “it’s my body,” because her purported metaphysical beliefs recognize no distinction between herself and her body.
That’s not to say that an atheist cannot be pro-abortion. It’s just to say that the defense of the position is self-contradictory.
The real question, as I keep trying to bring home, is how an atheist can justify *any* moral code without reference to an immortal soul and/or a higher power. C. S. Lewis begins Mere Christianity by arguing that even the most basic moral principles we can agree upon cannot be justified by animal instinct. He uses the example of saving a stranger’s life. It is understandable why we’d want to save the lives of those we love, but there is nothing in biology that really explains why we’d overcome our instinct of self-preservation to jump in the water for another person.
If there is no immortal soul, why does human life matter at all? Atheists have to be either completely pro-life or completely pro-death. They can’t have it both ways. C. S. Lewis makes this case in many ways; so does Flannery O’Connor. Ultimately, “the Misfit” in “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is right; Christianity is an absolute proposition, and so is atheism. If this life is all there is, you might as well get as much as you can out of it.
Atheists would try to say that we can develop new moral or ethical codes based upon evolution or biological imperative. This still carries with it several problems:
1. Again, as Lewis argues in Miracles, how can a person claim intelligence and insist that our thoughts are determined by genetics and brain chemistry? Atheists will insist that those who disagree with them are mentally deficient, mentally ill, etc.,. but they don’t consider the possibility that, by their own reasoning, they might be the ones who are out of touch with reality. They profess determinism in terms of genetics but apply it inconsistently: here insisting that homosexuals have no free will because they are compelled by nature; there insisting women need “freedom of choice.” But there really can be no such thing as free will if atheism is true.
2. Evolution, like all scientific data, can tell us many things, depending upon what we want to learn from it, and it has no inherent ethical meaning. Compare to the famous paradox of the alternate Spock in “Mirror, Mirror”: Spock always believed logic made Vulcans good, but his alternate self used perfect logic to justify evil.
A eugenicist can argue from evolution that it’s necessary to reduce the population, while a right to lifer can argue that those who survive are those who produce the most offspring.
If we’re arguing from evolution, why feed starving children in Africa? Why not let the natural course of evolution wipe them out?
Wouldn’t it benefit evolution to let people with genetic defects reproduce, in order to help other traits flourish.
In short, if behavior is all deterministic, and if everything can be traced to evolutionary impulses for survival of the species, then why have a moral code at all? Why judge anyone? Why not just let evolution run its course. If the Duggars are having more children than the Myers’s, so what? Aren’t they engaging in survival?
Why not just let people be what they want to be, and let evolution run its natural course? Why complain when Christians try to influence society, because we’re just following what evolution compels us to do.
Indeed, the way some atheists talk about evolution, it begins to start sounding rather like a god.
Positivism and utilitarianism, as I’ve noted before, beg the question. Pragmatism and utilitarianism base ethics on how something works in practice. “What promotes the greatest good for the greatest number of people?” But the response I’d make to that is, “What is the greatest good? Why should that be my standard?’
Atheists want an abstract moral code but they’re unable to make one without referring to some religious principle ultimately.
Positivism bases is morality on the laws as they exist, but why should I follow those laws?
If one chooses to be an atheist, what stops one from becoming a mass murderer? Maybe the evolutionary imperative compels you to wipe out those who are inferior, like Megatron or Sylar?
Why should I obey laws and conventions (positivism) if I can justify my own behaviors?
Atheists gladly apply this principle when it’s convenient to them (abortion, contraception, homosexuality, etc.), but they balk at its suggestion when it comes to principles they would like to force on other people (e.g,. “tolerance” or the need to “help the poor”).