The Moral Bankruptcy of Faith

(A Modern Example of Socratic Dialogue)

by Max Maxwell


Socrates: Can you think of one example in which a Christian can act morally without any secular knowledge whatsoever?

Preacher: No.

Socrates: Then is it true that it is not faith in God but secular knowledge, which gives us the ability to carry out moral acts and thus actually be moral?

Preacher: I will grant that our conversation makes it seem so, however it does not seem right to me.

Socrates: What would we say of a person, who knew what was morally right, yet was incapable of acting in accordance with his knowledge by behaving morally?

Preacher: Such a person would be morally bankrupt.

Socrates: To the extent that religious persons always need secular knowledge to carry out moral actions, should we not also say that religious faith in the absence of knowledge is morally bankrupt?

Preacher: It seems so.

Socrates: In light of this, perhaps we should acknowledge that atheists indeed have something of what it takes to be moral?

Preacher: Yet, without the knowledge of what is right and the desire to do it, which I still say does come from religious faith, the atheist cannot be moral.

Socrates: Are you really going to tell me that you have never, not even once, seen an atheist who knows what is right and wants to do what is right?

Preacher: No, I guess I cannot say that.

Socrates: And does an atheist, who knows what is right and desires to do it, get that knowledge and desire from their faith in God?

Preacher: Obviously not.

Socrates: Then isn't there some basis of morality in them independent of faith in God?

Preacher: Perhaps

Socrates: I am still fascinated by the idea that faith in God will teach me right and wrong. I greatly desire to grow in my of understanding of right and wrong. Can you tell me about that?

Preacher: I would be delighted. Jesus taught us a primary moral principle. He said that we should love our neighbor as we love ourselves and the fulfillment of the whole of the law and the prophets depend on this love. This principle can guide us every day and give us the knowledge of what is morally right. In fact, this principle is the heart and soul of a Christian's daily morality.

Socrates: So I should love my neighbor as myself?

Preacher: Yes, this is the teaching of Jesus.

Socrates: If I had a heart condition and took medication, should I share my medication with my neighbor as an act of kindness and well wishing for the health of his heart?

Preacher: No. That would not be a good idea.

Socrates: But I really am loving him exactly as myself in this case. How can it be wrong?

Preacher: Obviously, you could harm your neighbor by giving him medication that may not be good for him.

Socrates: What if I am enjoying all kinds of sweets that I received for my birthday. Should I share them with my diabetic neighbor?

Preacher: Obviously not. Sweets are not good for a diabetic.

Socrates: When I try to obey this teaching of Jesus and attempt to love my neighbor as myself, how will I know what is helpful or hurtful to my neighbor?

Preacher: Oh, come on Socrates. Surely you know that you just have to talk to your neighbors and get to know them.

Socrates: Then there is no special revelation in the bible that will help me to know if a particular action will help or harm my neighbor?

Preacher: No.

Socrates: Is it true the knowledge of what is helpful and harmful to our neighbors comes through our ordinary secular experience in the world and not through the revelations of faith?