Lunch With My Brother’s Killer

It’s a very odd feeling, staring into the eyes of the man responsible for killing your brother. It’s odd hearing him talk when my brother no longer can, but there I was, sitting across from an 86 year old man at Arbys, listening to him tell me about the accident.

I’d invited Donald out to lunch after much of the legal mess had settled in the wake of Phil’s death. I had a yearning to meet him. I didn’t want to berate him or yell at him. I just wanted some peace by meeting him. Some morsel of closure.

You see, Donald never reached out to me or my family after Phil died. He didn’t send a card or show up in person to apologize. He never gave the police any regards to send or called on the phone. Nothing. It was my longing to see if he’d gone through any pain that urged me to call him. I wanted to know if he felt remorse. Had he cried? Did he lose sleep?

He was already at a table when I showed up. He stood up to greet me and I gave him a big hug. I told him I loved him and appreciated his meeting me for lunch.

He told me how very sorry he was. How it was his fault. He asked me if Phil had any kids. He cried.

I told him about how funny Phil was. That he was my very best friend and was deeply loyal. I told him about Phil’s high intelligence and how much he truly loved serving people. I told him how happy I was that his death was instant. Surprisingly, I didn’t cry.

At the end of our lunch I thanked him again for meeting with me. He thanked me profusely for calling and inviting him out. We hugged and said goodbye and then I left.

I sat in my car in silence for about 30 minutes trying to digest what had just transpired. I felt no different. I didn’t feel any release or closure. All I felt was emptiness at what had just took place. I’m still glad I took the initiative to meet him, but I’m not really sure why.

I guess that Donald was probably the last person Phil ever saw and I felt I owed it to my brother to see him with my own eyes. To be someone to tell Donald how this earth is less of a place without Phil in it.

I guess I just miss my brother.

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Absolute and Objective Morality – My Response

Since becoming an atheist there’s been a handful of go to arguments for believers to try and show me how wrong I am. Far and away the one that’s most common, and that I’ve grown most weary of discussing, is absolute/objective morality. For the sake of my sanity I’m writing my response to that argument here.

Objective morality is the idea that certain systems of ethics or moral judgements are not just true according to subjective opinion, but factually true. People that think along this way would say that murder is wrong in the same way that 1 + 1 = 2.

The theist argument goes like this: If objective morality exists it has to come from a god. Objective morality does exist, therefore god exists.

Please note that the theist can’t do anything more than assert that objective morality exists. They can’t point to it or go to it for reference. It’s a feeling they have. A very subjective feeling as it seems that not everyone agrees that murder or rape is wrong.

They then almost always go on to tell me that if there’s no objective morality then what’s stopping us from raping and killing anyone and everyone? If there’s no absolute truths then why live morally at all?

What a sad way to view the value of human life.

So, you’re telling me the only thing keeping you from raping and killing people like Ted Bundy is because you believe in the god that authored an ancient text that damns people to hell? The same god that condones slavery and genocide and you dare to say you have a moral high ground? Do people not see a contradiction here?

Some non-believers argue for the existence of objective morality, but that it’s not given by a god. That science can tell us what is objectively moral. I don’t particularly agree with that point either, but my contention may be more of a case of semantics than anything else.

The only morality I believe in is subjective morality. I do believe that there can be an agreed upon “best fit” in terms of morality for a society. You could even argue that the best fit is objective morality, but I wouldn’t take it that far. Even a society where human sacrifice was common practice had a basic understanding of right and wrong.

Subjective morality is what’s allowed us to evaluate current moral standards and move away from them once we realize how immoral they are. Moving away from the barbarism of the bible, like stoning unruly children at the city gates, killing non virgins, killing rape victims, owning slaves and even killing people of different religions, has taken a subjective viewpoint.

Is god moral because he does things that are good or is he moral because he’s god and anything he commands, by nature, is good (Divine Command Theory)?

If god gives us the source of this objective morality then why would he himself allow something like child rape to happen? Does he let kids get raped so that we have a standard by which to say it’s wrong? If god does this then is he worthy of worship and why would you accept a moral code given by a provably immoral being?

If the world received proof tomorrow that god doesn’t exist would you then conclude that the rape of children is morally acceptable?

If god gives us morality how do we know this code is actually moral? If god tells you that child rape is wrong how do you know he’s correct? Or do you admit that you don’t know and that you’re just following what god says? If so, then by your own admission, god hasn’t given you moral standards by which to comprehend right from wrong. He’s just given you a list of rules to obey without any understanding being necessary. What’s so moral about obedience?

People will usually bring up how the Problem of Evil exists because god gave us free will to choose to love him or not. You can’t have free will without the potential of evil. I’ll save my problem of evil response for another post, but for now I’ll say that god has shown he’ll intervene in free will as he did when he hardened the pharaoh’s heart. So, to the god of christians at least, he’s proven to step in and change a man’s mind against the man’s will.

My point is that if christians argue for the existence and following of an objective moral code from their god, that they really don’t have a concept of what morality is.

If believers really think that if there’s no objective moral truths, that we should all just rape and kill then, by all means, give it a go! See how long you last in a world where people have decided that rape and murder deserves imprisonment or death in return.

The truth of the matter is that evolution has bred in us traits of altruism and cooperation. The societies where these tendencies were more prevalent would’ve been more likely to survive not only the elements, but against other groups that were hostile.

If objective morality really exists how come it seems that so many people didn’t get the memo? The Nazi soldiers (Godwin’s Law just entered the post) felt they were in the right when pushing Jews into the showers to be gassed. The things that people claim to be objective usually coincide with what they feel subjectively to be true.

And finally, if you insist on the existence of objective morality how do you determine it’s actually your god that gave it? How do you separate your god from the thousands of others, both living and dead, that have existed?

When people ask me how I determine what’s moral my response is about as simple as it gets. I ask myself, “is what I’m about to do going to help or harm anyone?” If there’s a possibility of harm coming to a conscious creature (humans) then it’s probably not moral and shouldn’t be done.

It’s really as simple as that.

The Suffering of Children

Every few weeks I’ll run across a heart breaking story like this 2 year old boy with only weeks to live.

The family, in order to celebrate his life, is moving their wedding date forward so that Logan can be the best man.

Is there anything more emotionally devastating than seeing terminally ill children dying or afflicted like this? Not to me.

A staggering 9 million children die every year before the age of 5. How can anyone reasonably argue that there’s a god that cares for them with suffering of this magnitude?

Even when I believed I was still struck with the impotence of god in these matters. People would always tell me about the Age of Accountability. That these kids would go to heaven because they died too young to realize what god did for them and to accept him in their hearts. Unfortunately, the bible isn’t very clear on this matter. All we have is conjecture not unlike most of how people interpret the bible.

What a sad way to make ourselves feel better at the suffering visiting these families and children. A way for us to be okay with a god that seems to have no regard for what should be the most precious of his creation.

Makes me sick to my stomach.