The Moral Bankruptcy of Faith

(A Modern Example of Socratic Dialogue)

by Max Maxwell


Socrates: Then could we say that when morality is fulfilled because religious people actually behave in moral ways, this behavior is possible because of secular knowledge and not because of their faith in God?

Preacher: Based on what we have just said that seems to be true, but we must have missed something.

Socrates: I know what I missed. I missed getting the example I requested.

Preacher: What do you mean?

Socrates: I did not ask for an example in which secular knowledge could fulfill morality. Such examples only show that an atheist could in fact be moral. Instead, I asked for an example in which religious knowledge that is gained from faith in God fulfills morality by empowering people to carry out moral deeds. Can you give me one example?

Preacher: I guess we could say that a person who helps his paralyzed neighbor by changing his living room light bulb is an example. In this case, it is the religious desire to bless the neighbor that fulfills morality.

Socrates: And if the Christian does not know how to change a light bulb?

Preacher: You have got to be kidding.

Socrates: Not at all. Nobody is born knowing how to change a light bulb. We learn it. Do we learn it from divine revelation received through our faith in the gods or through reading the bible? Or is this another example of secular knowledge that we learn from our experience in the world?

Preacher: It is an example of secular knowledge.

Socrates: So, if the Christian does not know how to change a light bulb, isn't it true that this Christian cannot fulfill his desire to be moral and help his neighbor?

Preacher: Yes.

Socrates: In this case, is it faith in the gods or simple, secular knowledge that leads to the fulfillment of morality?

Preacher: It is secular knowledge.

Socrates: In order for me to understand how faith in God is the basis of morality, all I need is one example where the knowledge gained by faith and not secular knowledge leads to the fulfillment of morality.

Preacher: I think that is going to be difficult.

Socrates: You say the atheist cannot be moral. Yet, if we continue to fail in our search to find even one example in which religious faith is able to actually fulfill morality in the absence of secular knowledge, then I must say that it is not the atheist but religious people who rely on faith without regard to knowledge that are morally disadvantaged.

Preacher: But religious people do have secular knowledge.

Socrates: Yes they do, and does it not seem to you that every example of moral behavior we can come up with involves some secular knowledge that is necessary to perform that behavior?

Preacher: I must admit that this seems to be true.

Socrates: Since we have seen it is secular knowledge that fulfills morality by empowering the carrying out of moral deeds, isn't it true that religious people are capable of fulfilling morality only to the extent that they possess the secular knowledge that they share in common with atheists?

Preacher: It appears so.

Socrates: Then to the extent that a Christian is lacking in secular knowledge, are they not also lacking in the capacity to be moral?

Preacher: Only to the extent that they cannot act to fulfill their moral desires.