What are mere mortals that you should think of them?

Some time ago during a conversation with a Christian friend we discussed some of the “violent texts” in the Bible. You know, the ones where God commanded his people to slaughter all the inhabitants of various towns, or God praised someone for engaging in deadly violence. I had questions, I said, of how to place this picture of God alongside his most complete revelation of himself in Jesus Christ. Oh, that’s no problem, he responded, for we place too much value on human life. (I think he meant that if life is eternal, as Christians believe, then this life is of little consequence.)

We overestimate the worth of human life!! It concerns me that Christians too often accept the valuations pronounced by our secular culture. The new atheists and transhumanists would have us believe that we are merely animals, no different in kind from earthworms or pigs, or even machines. The problem is not that they want to raise animals to the level of human beings, but that their agenda is to devalue and lower human beings to that of merely biological life or mechanical organisms. It is consistent with their worldview. A few days ago Richard Dawkins provocatively tweeted:

“With respect to those meanings of ‘human’ that are relevant to the morality of abortion, any fetus is less human than an adult pig”

Wesley Smith responded to that silly tweet and concluded, “Dawkins is no more human today than when he was a one-celled organism in his mother’s Fallopian tube. Perhaps no more morally astute, either.”

In the absence of a God who bestows moral worth upon every human being, many in our culture would have us place little to no moral worth on human life. And too many Christians believe that lie. Because there is a God who created human beings in his own image, we are exceptional beings of high moral worth. Wesley Smith is one who refuses to give in to that lie. I encourage you to read his blog.

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2 Responses to What are mere mortals that you should think of them?

  1. Paul Buller says:

    I have two competing responses rattling around in my mind. On the one hand I would have to agree that human life is certainly not something to be brushed aside so non-chalantly as though wiping us out is, really, no big deal. The Bible’s record of God shows that he is reluctant to knock off large swathes of human beings and that speaks to the value inherent in humanity on this side of the Pearly Gates.

    However, there is another side to this discussion. As humans we ought to recognize that there are limits to the value of our lives. We have plenty of examples of people who have laid down their earthly lives for something bigger than self-preservation. Protection of others. Fighting for a cause. Even Jesus laid down his life for the salvation of others. Human life on this earth has value, but it is not the be all and end all! We see these examples and we lift them up as heros to be emulated, an honour that only makes sense if we accept the underlying assumption that some things are more important than looking out for number one!

    With respect to Atheism I find it conveniently ambiguous on the value of human life. Per your other recent blog Atheism, followed to its logical conclusion, entails absolutely no ultimate value of human life. On the flip side, however, because this life is all we have, Atheism would seem to suggest life is of ultimate importance. Under that second paradigm God could never possibly be justified in killing a human because life is more important than anything else. When it’s gone it’s gone and it doesn’t matter if it ended for some noble cause. What reward is there for self-scrifice of the greatest form, on Atheism?

  2. hertzsprung2012 says:

    First, if human life did not have high moral worth, then there would be no heroism to giving up your life. Nor would there be much point in protecting others or fighting for a cause. Inherent to your argument is an acknowledgement of the high moral worth of human beings. We don’t erect statues or write poems to ants that have died to protect the colony through some instinctive urge, and if someone does we recognize that such adulation is misplaced.

    Recognizing limits to the value of something has little to say about its actual value. Of course we can value our lives too much. According to the biblical way of thinking, that’s called idolatry, making ourselves to be gods. What I’m worried about is the creeping (very quickly) idea that the very old, the very sick, and the very young do not have lives worth living, and so we should either kill them or allow them to kill themselves. Belgium is a country going off the rails in that direction. Self-love is not the same as an acknowledgement of the high moral worth of human beings, just of one human being in particular.

    Second, do atheists suggest life is of ultimate importance, or that this life is all we have and so carpe diem? Do atheists embrace human life broadly speaking or do they value a particular kind of human life, one that meets certain qualifications: healthy, rational, happy, productive. Human beings who don’t meet those qualifications are not worth keeping. Thus, why should miserable people keep living? Or fetuses? Or those with Alzheimers? Etc, etc. I maintain we should value them as human beings because of their high moral worth.

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