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From the Editor
Universally Preferable Behavior
By: David Deschesne
Editor/Publisher, Fort Fairfield Journal
...Dream of better lives the kind which never hate;
Wrapped in a state of imaginary grace.
I made a pilgrimage to save this
And I'm comprehending a race that’s long gone by…
excerpted from I Melt With You
by Modern English
Social mores and folkways, morals and virtues, what it means to be good and ethical have traditionally had their root in Biblical writ. However, atheists and others who choose not to believe there is a God of the Bible or Supreme sovereign of the universe, must seek another source to explain what is good, moral, decent and acceptable without acknowledging any authority higher than themselves.
Rather than citing a code written by a supreme sovereign, many atheists place themselves in that position and claim that by using philosophy, they can somehow determine what is right and wrong, good and bad, evil or not evil simply by thinking it through using logic and reason, thus creating the perfect, Utopian society.
“Be moral and virtuous through philosophy which equals consistency which equals integrity which equals Universally Preferable Behavior,” claimed one philosophical atheist to me a while back. While atheists claim to be anti-religious, they do have their prophets (Greek philosophers); their “holy” writings (the philosophies of those ancient philosophers); and religious practices (worship of self as a supreme, omniscient being). But, using philosophy—or a simple thinking through and belief system—to determine what is in fact right or wrong, good or bad, has many pitfalls due to the frailty of human nature.
The philosophical atheist is quite comfortable keeping God out of the equation when it comes to social morals and customs and substituting in His place, man’s own decisions and beliefs. The problem with that position is man’s free will dictates that there will be diverse beliefs, opinions and styles that cannot be reconciled to a common standard - a “Universally Preferable Behavior.”
For example, most in society today would agree that having sex with children under twelve years of age is abhorrent behavior that is to be shunned and prohibited at all costs. Not only is the young child not developed enough psychologically to be able to mentally process the act, in many cases it may cause physical harm to their underdeveloped bodies. But, in the philosophy of the atheist’s world view, a society of pedophiles who all share the same philosophy on child sex would consider those acts perfectly normal and acceptable. So, which belief is correct? Which view is good or bad? Which should be considered “Universally Preferable Behavior?” To the young child victim it would not be universally preferable to be raped, but to the pedophile society it would. The atheist has a problem when he places man at the moral center of the universe.
In the late 19th century, the Hmong tribesmen of Laos in southeast Asia had a unique custom when courting a lady for marriage. When a young man decided to marry a particular woman, he would—with the consent of her parents—forcibly abduct her with the help of friends and bundle her off to a makeshift forest cabin until the marriage was consummated. (see the Politics of Heroin; CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, ©1992 Alfred W. McCoy, p. 117)
In that society, what others would call kidnapping and rape was considered part of the normal marriage ritual. So whose philosophy is right or wrong? Which is good or bad? With man as the moral center, the atheist has a problem—good and bad are all relative and change with the ideals of the society in which they are established.
What about murder? Most atheists can use philosophy to conclude murder is as socially unacceptable as rape or kidnapping since all are a form of theft. However, enter a society of mafia henchmen and murder is simply another impersonal tool that is used to ply their trade. Murder among organized crime syndicates (and governments) is not personal, “it’s just business.” So who is right? With a society of criminals large enough, all endorsing the philosophy that murder is acceptable, their “Universally Preferable Behavior” will not reconcile with the “Universally Preferable Behavior” of those whose philosophy is to not murder. Ergo, the preferable behavior will not be universal.
Among those who do not believe in God, or the moral center which He has established, distractions appear on all sides. Atheists and philosophers desiring to piece together a coherent view of the universe, and of life’s meaning, face apparent chaos.
Establishing a “Universally Preferable Behavior” using philosophy will result in as many different beliefs in what is good or bad behavior as there are behaviors among mankind. The mere task of trying to get men and women together to all agree on which flavor tastes the best—chocolate or vanilla—is of course an impossible feat to be sure. Because of the difference in human tastes, there will never be a final decision among large societies on which taste is better, or “Universally Preferable.” One can no more use philosophy to judge what is the best standard flavor for a society than he can use it to determine what type of behavior is good or moral.
With that said, I do admit that society can develop mores and folkways on its own, like holding the door for ladies and the elderly, removing your hat while in a building, not talking during the playing of the national anthem, and not picking your nose in public. But, like all human-contrived social customs, there will be those in society who do not agree or comply and such etiquette tends to change or go out of style over time. Hence, it won’t be “universal.”
On the fundamental points of man dealing with his fellow man, the Holy Bible lays out God’s divine will. He, as the designer of creation, has the knowledge and authority to determine what is right or what is wrong. That is the unwavering standard. To allow the creation to make up its own mind would be as pointless as plotting a standard course for ships whose respective captains have opted to drift aimlessly on the waves.