To the Editor:
In the last issue of The Signal, Zac Goldstein wrote an article arguing that religion is not a prerequisite for leading a fulfilling life. I contend that all four of the points he uses in his argument are invalid.
First of all, one would hope that an article such as his would start with a definition of “religion,” so we know what we’re arguing about. Goldstein instead starts his article by putting words in his opposition’s mouths, with no definition of religion to be found. Next, he asserts that Isaac Asimov surely had a fulfilling life, despite not believing in God. He also says that, “I’m not here to extol the virtues of reason and deface religion …” Considering that religion need not entail belief in any god, as I showed with my last letter to the editor, and that religion and reason are by no means at odds, I must assume that the definition Goldstein is arguing under is too narrow, or just wrong.
As far as religion entails belief in something as having “absolute existence,” whether that something be matter, god, logic, justice, etc., it’s likely that Asimov and Ayn Rand did/do have religious beliefs. Even if they did not, Goldstein assumes to know that they both had “fulfilling lives.” Is it not possible for us to lack something in our lives and not realize that lack, before either help from those who care or serendipity cause us to realize that we could be living a happier, more “fulfilled” life? It’s possible that Asimov and Rand themselves don’t realize what it is they lack, and yet Goldstein assumes to know for them.
Goldstein’s second point asks, “… if God exists independently of man’s belief in Him, why do they find worship to be necessary?” I flat out do not see how this is relevant to Goldstein’s point at all. The quick explanation for worship is that believers in God feel that he is wonderful, and have a relationship with him such that they want to worship him. This has no bearing on God having absolute existence (if indeed he does).
Goldstein’s third point is that because man cannot become God, he cannot become like God, which is also bad reasoning. If I tried to become a person who loved everyone unconditionally, I would be taking steps to become more like God. Despite my flaws and limitations, I would be a better person – one more like God. Of course, this only helps me lead a fulfilling life if one assumes that acting as God would act is in fact the right thing to do, which is based entirely on one’s religion. Goldstein once again shows his argument to be too narrow, this time by pointing out alleged “holes” in the Christian viewpoint, while ignoring other religions.
Goldstein’s final point hinges on an incorrect definition of moral absolutism. Moral absolutism claims that actions are moral or immoral regardless of societal or situational influences. Goldstein is correct in that, given an absolute moral code that deems killing to be wrong, a serial murderer and a soldier fighting a war would both be considered morally wrong. However, moral absolutism does not consider two wrong actions to be equally “bad.” Therefore, while it is true that “a person who doesn’t uphold the Sabbath is just as guilty as a person who steals or murders and so on,” it is not true that both people are considered equally bad. With this definition, moral absolutism begins to make more sense.
It may seem harsh that, according to the Bible, stealing food is wrong even if one is starving. But think of the world as it would be if everyone followed the moral rules: No starving man would need to steal, as people would be happy to give what they had to help him. In fact, there probably wouldn’t be any people close to starvation, since humankind would be freed from concerning themselves with war, crime, greedy people and more, and this would allow us to concentrate on issues of quality of life and wellbeing. Thus, not only does absolutism allow for degree of wrongdoing, but it can make more sense than is obvious, depending on what precise absolute moral code one is following.
In conclusion, none of the writers in The Signal have shown religion or God to be a prerequisite for a fulfilling life, but nor has Goldstein shown the opposite – that religion is definitely not required. As far as the arguments in this newspaper are concerned, the jury is still out.