More and more as I’m on-line, Facebook, Twitter, reading news and opinion pieces, I’ve noticed that people seem to suffer from a lot of moral outrage. Recently it’s been over a law passed in Arizona that would allow businesses, because of a sincerely held religious belief, to refuse service to gay couples. For example, if you’re a baker, you don’t have to make a wedding cake for a gay couple if your religious beliefs conflict with it.
Without getting into that law specifically I have to ask, what moral code is this outrage based on? It can’t be religious. I base this on two factors. First, generally speaking, the individuals who are outraged (at least the ones I’m talking about here) are at best agnostic, but generally consider themselves atheists. Secondly, the reason laws like Arizona’s are “bad” in these arguments is partially due to the idea you can’t force your religion on someone else, which you’d be doing if your outrage was based on religion. So it’s not a religious thing. So where does the moral outrage come from?
Better yet, where does the morality come from in the first place?
For example, Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame said at the “Reason Rally in 2012, “Rules do not make us moral. Loving each other makes us moral.” Mr. Savage has stated he considers himself an atheist so I have to wonder what he means by morals. I don’t even necessarily disagree with the sentiment in his statement. I just wonder at what he bases that statement on. When he says moral, does he mean nice? Does he mean kind? Then it might be moral to kill a solitary millionaire (who has no relatives or friends) if you then steal his money and distribute it to those who need it. I doubt Mr. Savage would agree with that statement but why not? It does the most “good” in a temporal sense.
Who gets to define what moral is? Is it consensus? Should really smart people decide? How smart is smart enough? Really there is no good answer. Morality does not exist outside of religious systems. That’s not to say that atheists aren’t moral people. They are. However their adherence to moral standards (don’t lie, don’t steal, play fair) are inconsistent with their world view. To be consistent the atheist (or agnostic) must concede that there is nothing wrong with lying, stealing, even murdering outside of the undesirable consequences of getting caught. A lion isn’t immoral for killing an antelope. A spider isn’t immoral for eating her young. It would however be immoral for a woman to eat her baby. We all recognize this but it is inconsistent with atheism.
Now to my initial question, where does the outrage come from? It comes from the desire to feel superior. We want people to act immoral, or to do things that seem immoral to us. It makes us feel better about ourselves. You don’t want gay people to marry? Look at how bad of a person you are. I am so much better than you. It’s the same reason Jerry Springer and Maury Povich. It makes us feel like there are people worse than us. People we can look down our noses at. That’s why there is the moral outrage. It makes us feel better about ourselves. Which is exactly the opposite of what we need to do. We need to realize that we are broken creatures in need of a savior. That’s why Satan uses moral outrage in people, who logically, have no claim to a moral high ground. If they think they’re better than Christians, they won’t need to consider the message.