I’ve made two videos now attempting to lay out this argument. While the audio quality of the first one is not ideal, I think it is the better video in terms of content, though the second one covers all the relevant points.
For those who aren’t inclined to listen, the gist of the argument is the following:
The best argument for God comes from what is known as the ontological argument, which points to the existence of objective good and evil (based on our moral intuitions), and notices that on the continuum of good and evil, there must be a highest possible moral good which exists. That highest possible good is called God.
St. Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, and even C.S. Lewis all variously utilize this argument. It is about as mainstream an argument as one can get.
The ontological argument holds that God is morally perfect. This means that if God appeared to be flagrantly immoral based on our moral intuitions, then it would challenge either (1) the interchangeability of the Christian God and the God of the ontological argument, or (2), the trustworthiness of our moral intuitions, which, thus contradicted, would be no basis to warrant belief in the ontological argument — we could not say that God is morally perfect, because we would have no reliable basis for judging moral perfection. The moral continuum and conception of a highest possible good on that continuum would simply fall apart.
While many atheists have tried to challenge the morality of the Christian God on the basis of liberal, Enlightenment theories of morality (namely, Hitchens, Harris, and Dawkins), I believe there is a stronger and more basic argument about the immorality of Christianity, one which is counter-intuitive, but surprisingly strong:
Christianity is anti-family.
Most people believe that Christianity supports the family, but this is a matter of culture, not religion. Europeans have been pro-family in spite of Jesus, not because of his teachings.
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to this earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
Contrast these with his words in the beatitudes about how we are to treat our enemies:
You have heard that it was said, ‘love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
In short, we are to love our enemies and hate our family.
This is, of course, not necessarily literal. Perhaps it is meant metaphorically, or relativistically — perhaps our feelings towards our family should be like hatred, relative to our love for God. Perhaps our feelings towards our enemies should be like love, in our attempt to emulate God’s magnanimity and mercy.
Even in this possibly mitigating interpretation, I fail to see the morality of the positions. We should not hate our family, even in a relativistic fashion. Nor should we love our enemies, if we have identified our enemies accurately; rather, it is moral to hate them.
To understand how this could be the case, and why other verses might not mitigate the message of these powerful and morally counter-intuitive passages, we have to understand the Christian theology from which loving one’s enemies and hating one’s family — through whatever interpretation one chooses — can make sense.
Christians believe that no one but God is worthy of worship (worship is actually etymologically derived from “worth-ship,” the quality of having worth). What does “worship” actually entail? Essentially, love. God is the only appropriate object of love.
However, God created humans in his own image. As “image bearers” of God, we can express love towards God vicariously through other people. When we do this, we are not exactly loving the other person as such, but loving the image of God by loving others.
The king will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
But this quality of being an “image-bearer” is universal and equal — none of us has more of the image of God than another. Thus, if we distinguish between people and love some people (such as family) more than others, than we are in fact not loving God, but are guilty of idolatry, of loving something other than God. Moreover, if we hate our enemies, than we are failing to apprehend the image of God in those whom we hate.
So hatred of our family can be thought of as a kind of corrective perspective, that we are not to hate them literally, but not to love them any more than we love others, because that would be a failure to recognize the equal divine spark in other people.
This, in my opinion, is morally absurd. Moreover, it is twisted and perverse. To put one’s family on a moral plane with strangers and enemies is an insult to the love one should have towards one’s family.
But this is not to condemn Christianity — that would miss the strength of the argument. What’s important is not that this is morally wrong, but that the moral wrongness makes Christianity false. At the very least, it renders the Christian God morally imperfect, which cuts a wide opening between the God of the ontological argument and the God of Christianity. If it were true that somehow, it actually is good to hate one’s family (in whatever sense) and to love one’s enemies (in whatever sense), it would render our moral judgment so unreliable that the basis for the ontological argument — that based upon our moral instincts, there appear to exist objective moral good and evil in this world — would be nullified.
More importantly, since the Christian God is held to be morally perfect, even if the proof for his existence is not the ontological argument, this dis-ontological argument of bad moral teaching still cuts against the truth of the Christian faith. If the Christian God exists, he is morally perfect. But he is not morally perfect. Therefore, the Christian God does not exist.
Again, this is not to say that Christianity is immoral on the whole. It’s emphasis on forgiveness, for example, is exceptionally wise (and I trust my moral instincts enough to say so). The moral imperfections may or may not render the whole belief system to be evil, but they do render it false, for the same reason and in the same way that the ontological argument attempts to prove the doctrine true.
And as Paul says, there is no point in being a Christian if it isn’t true:
And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
1 Corinthians 15:14
This Post Has 7 Comments
Jacob27 Jan 2019
I think your interpretation of Mathew is wrong. Christian thought acknowledges that the world is fallen – and therefore belongs to Satan. Therefore, there can be no peace (hence the sword) – and the only way ‘out’ would be through Christ. The whole ordeal about setting the man against his father, daughter against mother, and so on, is about renouncing the incorrect god/gods of ones family. This wouldn’t apply to (true) Christian families.
I can’t say I know anything about the Luke verse, so on that I’ll just say point taken. Seems troubling I’ll admit. I’d like to hear Vox’s take on it.
Still, any claims about the Bible being anti-family would have to take account of 1 Timothy 5:8
C.B. Robertson28 Jan 2019
I would absolutely love to hear Vox’s thoughts.
I think I reference 1 Timothy 5:8 in one of the videos (I know one of the hyperlinks references it), and the short answer is that a duty is not the same as love. What 5:8 expresses is a duty for financial and logistical support. The long answer is that Timothy opens with Paul calling Timothy his “true son” in the faith. Christianity is full of appropriating and repurposing the language of family to refer to non-family, “brothers and sisters in Christ,” “God the Father,” etc. Per the Matthew verse (and it’s parallel in Joshua), it also follows that one’s biological family may not be “true” family.
I actually understand your interpretation of Matthew and don’t believe i misinterpreted the passage. The greater context you refer to does not mitigate the moral seriousness of the idea, however. Hating one’s parents because they do not share your faith — even in a relativistic fashion — is harsh. The fact that it wouldn’t apply if your parents are Christian is morally irrelevant. You shouldn’t hate or reject or shun your family, just because they don’t believe in Jesus.
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Dan Hochberg27 Mar 2019
I already commented on the “hate your family and love your enemies” question on the “part 2” post of the dis-ontologIcal argument, so I want to spare readers redundancy – but on the “I have come to bring not peace but a sword” paragraph, Jesus is warning potential followers that choosing to follow him may bring discord in the family and to be prepared for that. This is often dramatically played out in Muslim families when one or more family members converts; the converts can face violence, expulsion, even death from the other family members or the community, not to mention Muslim authorities.
C.B. Robertson7 Dec 2019
Apologies for the delayed response. I think you are correct, but the emphatic language of the passage nevertheless identifies the idolatry of placing family as a value alongside God. Any love of the family is merely an extension of one’s love for God… and if “merely” seems undercutting (aren’t they still loving their family?), remember that the believer is to love ALL members of Gods family, for their identity is not first and foremost, but first and *solely* in Christ. Family is no longer family, but merely an extension of the family of believers. The sword cuts the very substance of biological family ties.
Joseph Corry20 Jan 2023
I fail to objectively see the moral wrongness in not loving your family. Sharing a womb or birthing/fathering a child does not in my mind require that you love them. If your critique of the morality or lack thereof of the Christian God comes from your own moral code then I think that is legitimate criticism but I don’t think that one morality can prove the falseness of another because in an amoral natural world no one morality can be superior to another.
C.B. Robertson20 Jan 2023
Sure, perhaps it doesn’t require it objectively. To me, the nature of the relationship itself implies a kind of duty to love (or at least appreciation), but it’s fair to assert this is an emotional intuition, not some kind of objective fact. But insofar as God *is* objective moral truth itself (among other things), our disagreement (and I do disagree with you) over the intrinsic rightness of loving one’s family speaks to the problem I am trying to illustrate with the ontology of God. If existence and the natural world is amoral, and not structured by a moral creator, then Christianity is false. We find ourselves in a world that objectively appears amoral, but which we insist is moral, and we insist upon this based upon our own moral feelings. However, our moral feelings don’t always agree with each other, nor with the text that claims to speak on behalf of the morally perfect creator. It’s from this foundation of the significance of moral feelings that I assert my own feeling about the importance of loving family — your disagreement might be correct, but the act of disagreement speaks to the incoherence of the moral law that is supposedly written on our hearts by our supremely moral creator.