The dialogue structure herein is based on the idea that atheists are not moral since the concept of morality has its basis on faith in God. It explores the rationale for such arguments and ponders on the true meaning of morality and atheism.
Socrates: You are on record stating the atheists are immoral since they do not believe in God which is the basis of morality. Is this true according to your understanding?
Pastor: Definitely, atheists cannot be considered moral. Morality cannot exist in the absence of faith in God. The very nature of morality is that one must have faith in God first before they can achieve morality.
Socrates: Based on your premise, atheism is a very unfortunate state of living, right?
Pastor: True to your word, Socrates, atheists are really unfortunate.
Socrates: You will be surprised that I am much more unfortunate than the atheists because I do not understand morality and its nature. My wish is that you can offer to teach me on the valuable concept.
Pastor: Sure my friend. I am here to make sure that you understand the concept fully.
Socrates: I am much grateful for your kindness. It would be my pleasure if you answered this question: What is morality?
Pastor: Morality is an expression of behaviors based on an understanding of right and wrong.
Socrates: You also mean that one must have faith in the gods to attain that understanding, right?
Pastor: Absolutely true. The knowledge of God that is attained through faith is the sole provider of this understanding of right and wrong.
Socrates: I have noted that your description is based on the belief of one God. However, I want you to help me understand something.
Pastor: Put your question across, Socrates.
Socrates: You argue that a belief in God gives one an understanding of right and wrong.
Socrates: What exact area of one’s life is positively influenced by their faith in God?
Pastor: God’s knowledge extends to the very whole of ones being and affects all the aspects in their lives.
Socrates: Does the knowledge of God help one in understanding right or wrong in calculations?
Socrates: Does the same knowledge of God help one in understanding what is right or wrong in chemistry?
Pastor: No. Morality does not concern such aspects of right and wrong.
Socrates: It is therefore true that knowledge of God does not give an understanding of all right and wrong. Its understanding is only restricted to the knowledge of right and wrong that is referred to as moral.
Pastor: You are right.
Socrates: Essentially, morality is simply concerned with right and wrong in the treatment of humans.
Socrates: Does morality serve to inflict pain or benefit a person?
Pastor: Obviously, it serves the benefit of humanity.
Socrates: The knowledge from God is also expressed through human behavior benefiting people?
Socrates: in this case, who between a believer and a doctor would benefit from knowledge about treatment of humans?
Pastor: A doctor of course.
Socrates: Is the use of secular science in the treatment of human beings by a doctor moral or immoral?
Pastor: it is beneficial to the people and is therefore moral.
Socrates: Wonderful. But does the doctor learn about this knowledge from medical school or from their Godly beliefs?
Pastor: Medical School of course.
Socrates: I am surprised because you had implied that moral knowledge comes from believing in God.
Pastor: My earlier statements appear to be false based on the logic we have just explored.
Socrates: I would be honored to hear of one example where morality from knowledge gained from belief is used in positively benefiting other people.
Pastor: The love for each other as instructed by Jesus is a good example of morality being helpful to other people.
Socrates: Your assertions do not include Christian doctors who gain their medical knowledge through secular means. What better example do you have?
Pastor: An excellent example is where a Christian with faith in God helps his neighbor in fixing their cars.
Socrates: According to your understanding, is there a difference between the desire to be moral and actually being moral?
Pastor: Yes I do.
Socrates: And who among the two is moral?
Pastor: The one who actually helps their neighbor.
Socrates: And can a Christian even help their neighbors to fix their cars without having prior knowledge of cars?
Pastor: Obviously no.
Socrates: And where does one learn about cars?
Pastor: It has to be through secular knowledge.
Socrates: Based on your statement, a Christian can only be moral through the acquisition of secular knowledge on cars.
Pastor: That is true Socrates.
Socrates: In this sense, fulfillment of morality is expressed though behavior acquired through secular and not religious knowledge, right?
Pastor: This appears to be the case but it could be that we have missed something.
Socrates: (laughing) the only thing that I missed is the example I requested.
Pastor: Really Socrates?
Socrates: I failed to ask you of an example where secular knowledge was used in expressing morality because that would have proved atheists to be moral. Instead, I asked for an instance where religious knowledge fulfils morality. Do you have a particular example?
Pastor: Another example is when Christian helps their paralyzed neighbor to fix a light bulb.
Socrates: That would be true but what if the Christian has no knowledge of fixing bulbs.
Pastor: You are honestly not serious.
Socrates: I am. It is not guaranteed that everyone has knowledge of fixing a bulb. In fact, the knowledge is acquired through secular means and not religious experience.
Pastor: In this case, a lack of bulb fixing knowledge in the Christian would impede their fulfillment of morality.
Socrates: Do you agree that secular knowledge and not faith in God leads to fulfillment of morality?
Pastor: Yes I do.
Socrates: I want you to make me understand how faith is the basis of morality by giving me a specific example.
Pastor: That appears to be quite difficult.
Socrates: It is your argument that atheists are not moral. However, our search for an instance where religious knowledge has been applied in fulfilling morality has failed. It is true therefore that religious people are morally disadvantaged for relying on their faith in the absence of knowledge.
Pastor: Not at all since religious people still have secular knowledge.
Socrates: Indeed that is true but every fulfillment of morality depends on the expression of secular knowledge, right?
Pastor: Honestly, this appears to be the case.
Socrates: Now that secular knowledge helps in fulfilling morality, is it not true that religious people depend on the secular knowledge that they share with the atheists in fulfilling their religious responsibility of morality?
Pastor: That appears to be true.
Socrates: Following this realization, is it not also true that Christians lacking in secular knowledge also lack the capacity of fulfilling morality?
Pastor: That is true but only to the extent that they cannot fulfill their moral desires through actions.
Socrates: is there an example of a situation in which a Christian acts morally in the exclusion of secular knowledge?
Socrates: Is it not the case that it is secular knowledge and not faith in God that gives people the capacity to carry out moral deeds and be moral?
Pastor: The premises in this conversation point to that but it does not appear as right to me.
Socrates: What is the definition of a person with knowledge on morality but is incapable of acting in morally upright behavior.
Pastor: This is best defined as moral bankruptcy.
Socrates: Okay. Is it not true that religious faith is morally bankrupt because it relies on secular knowledge to fulfill morality?
Pastor: Such appears to be the case.
Socrates: Now, is it not right to admit that atheists have something that necessitates fulfillment of morality.
Pastor: That is absolutely true but the atheists lack the desire to be moral and the knowledge of what is right. All these two precedents emanate from religious faith.
Socrates: Are you implying that you have never at any given time come across an atheist who knows between right and wrong and has a desire to do that which is right?
Pastor: I cannot say that. What are you trying to say?
Socrates: Then, do atheists who have the knowledge of right and desire to do right get these from their belief in God?
Pastor: Absolutely no.
Socrates: Then, does it not occur to you that there is some basis of morality in atheists independent of their belief in God.
Socrates: You have also insisted that one should love their neighbor as they love themselves, right?
Pastor: Yes, that was Jesus’ teaching.
Socrates: Suppose I am suffering from cancer, should I share my medication with another person to cure his heart condition?
Pastor: No, that would be a bad idea.
Socrates: By observing Jesus’ law of loving my neighbors, how would I differentiate the helpful and the hurtful?
Pastor: That is not a question to ask. You only need to speak with your neighbors and get to know them.
Socrates: in that regard, I do not have to rely on the religious teachings to know what is helpful and what is hurtful, right?
Pastor: No, you don’t have to.
Socrates: Is it not true that the knowledge of helpful and harmful things comes from ordinary secular experiences and not through biblical revelation.
Pastor: Indeed that is true.
Socrates: It does appear that an attempt to love one’s neighbor may be harmful without using prior secular knowledge.
Pastor: I agree with you.
Socrates: Does it not appear to you that the use of secular knowledge is required in not only fulfilling morality but also interpreting the moral principle itself?
Pastor: Our premises seem to suggest so.
Socrates: Is it not true, therefore that faith without secular knowledge cannot be used in leading a person to morality.
Pastor: Yes, that seems to be the case.
Socrates: I love the path that this conversation has taken. We have moved from an assumption that faith in God is the basis of morality to the realization that no faith can replace secular knowledge in the understanding of moral imperatives.
Pastor: Yes, I could agree with that.
Socrates: And do atheists have a capacity to be moral now that knowledge is a prerequisite of morality?
Pastor: Only to the extent that this knowledge is to be used in the determination of the right and wrong thing.
Socrates: Apparently, I still harbor more questions regarding this question of morality. The conversation has been instrumental in raising questions on the concept of God as a moral authority. Such questions as God commanding something because it is right or something being right because God commands it still abound. It turns out I have more questions than answers.
Pastor: We could review the topic some other time when we are less busy.
Socrates: I can’t wait for that interaction.
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