ATHEISM AND THE PROBLEM OF FAIRNESS

I have always been intrigued by the atheistic German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) and what made him tick. Nietzsche popularized the phrase “God is dead.” While possessing a brilliant mind, his philosophical writings reveal a man whose hand penned such venomous thoughts it leaves a rational person scratching their head how one can be filled with such rage and contempt against Christianity and the existence of God. Sadly, his rantings found him spending his last years alone and in a state of insanity.

Nietzsche believed that objective morality did not exist, stating that “good and evil were only images” and all  “moral systems are immoral.” Yet I recently read a quote of his in which he appealed to an objective standard of fairness. In an essay he wrote in 1874 entitled On the Use and Abuse of History he wrote, “Very few serve the truth, for only a few possess the pure will to be just/fair, a very few of whom possess the power to be able to be just.”

What struck me as odd in the quote above, is Nietzsche’s use of the words “truth, fair, just.” My question is, if truth is relative, which atheism contends; if there is no objective standard of right and wrong; if there is no Moral Law Giver; then how can one appeal to a standard of fairness or just(ice)? On what basis does one appeal to fairness? If there is no objective standard of right and wrong, fairness, or what is just, where is anyone’s value judgment regarding what is fair and just any better than another? If that is the case, then who determines what is fair and just? Where did the idea of fairness come from? Who determines what is fair and just? How is it that man instinctively knows when something is unfair and unjust? How did Nietzsche and those who follow in his steps know when they are confronted with fairness or unfairness? How can one appeal to any sort of standard of what is fair and just if an objective standard doesn’t exist?

It seems logical that Nietzsche’s very appeal to what is “fair” and “just” points to the fact that there is a universal, objective standard of fairness and justice that exists beyond ourselves. Those who embrace the thought of Nietzsche that “God is dead” and that truth is relative and there is no objective moral standard, then why appeal for man to act in a way that is fair and just? After all, if truth is relative then whose standard of fairness and justice is one going to appeal? And then if what is fair and just is subjective, then what is fair and just today may not be tomorrow. One may contend there is no Universal Law Giver regarding what is fair and just, but as soon as a person begins to argue and judge their value system as being better than another, one is giving nod to the fact that an objective standard of what is fair and just does exist!

Yes, the very appeal to what is fair and just reveals there is an objective standard of what is fair and just; it reveals there is a standard  beyond ourselves and our rational minds. If there is a Universal Law of what is just and fair then Nietzsche’s contention that “God is dead” becomes a mute argument. For the question arises, where did the objective standard of what is fair and just come from? For this writer the answer is self-explanatory….the existence of God becomes the best possible answer for the existence of such a standard.

In his book, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis, a former atheist, argued that the concept of fairness is so universal to human societies that it is evidence of the existence a Divine Law Giver. Lewis once argued that there was no God because “the universe seemed so cruel and unjust.” However, in reflection he continues, “But how had I gotten this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?” He concluded, “Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist — in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless — I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality — namely my idea of justice — was full of sense. Consequently, atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (Harper Collins, 1952), 38-39).

The Source of our sense of fairness and justice has to lie outside ourselves. There is a moral sense built into our nature whereby we judge the rightness or wrongness of our actions. The innate moral sense exists within us in one of two ways: either because God put it there or it is “nothing but a private idea of my own” (Lewis). Lewis poses the question, “How did I get this idea of just and unjust?” Our sense of fairness and justice comes from a transcendent God who is the Ground of all Being of all that is fair and just.

So, anytime an atheist appeals to “truth, fairness or justice” they are using language that violates their own “creed” and are appealing to an objective standard beyond themselves. Their very appeal is evidence of an Intelligent Law Giver, fairness and justice being characteristics of His holy nature.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s