I am in the process of reading Carl Sagan's "The Demon-Haunted
World" which I suspect you read at least partly. I have linked your
essay "The Moral Law: A Response to Carl Sagan" to my essay site not
because I believe in what you say, but the opposite. Perhaps your essay
is the best example I have found so far of the reason I became an
atheist. I wish to be as gentle as possible, sir, and I have the
highest respect for your conviction and the time you spent putting it
down in words (as eloquent as a professional writer).
I have grown up in the Unification Church.. in my opinion it is a
much more enlightened form of christianity than any of the protestant
faiths that emerged in the 16th to 19th centuries. It accepts, even
promotes science -- that science and religion should work together.
Explanations are extremely plausible, the logic and harmony of the
universe explained (dual particles in atoms, stamen and pistil, male and
female, man and wife) -- but now at the age of 20 I am realizing the
evidence was merely circumstantial. Another reason I believed in the
church (besides having been born into it) was because of Moral Law, and
it was my main standpoint and holding ground for arguing religion while
I was 17 and 18. You may find this unusual for boys that age who are
not interested in attending church but I was pushing for answers, and
finding that maybe there is no moral law.
Currenly I believe that there is a moral law, but it is not of as
broad a spectrum as you describe. Humans tend to follow them -- why?
Easy explanation, because they were all made by God. Yet, that is not a
logical conclusion. Upon finding a tree stump, are we to assume that
the tree was struck by lightning, cut down by lumberjacks? Or stolen by
guerrilla militants for fort supplies? We can't be sure, but we can
examine the evidence.
In the 1970's a theory came out called "Sociobiology" in which it
was proposed that behavioral genes were controlled by genes, even in
humans. You may have heard about this theory. At first, it won much
credit. It explained that altruism survived as a gene trait because in
civilization, altruism and friendliness lead to cooperation and an
enhanced chance to pass on genes. This is one of many explanations it
gives for the strange ways people behave (emotions are mixed, love and
crushes are accompanied by hate, especially in hormone flooded
adolescents, etc.). Stephen Jay Gould wrote a response to this that I
pretty much support -- that there simply is no evidence that these
behaviors are controlled by genes. And even if they are, the influence
is probably very weak. There is a much simpler explanation that
explains the phenomenon equally well -- that humans learn altruism from
birth, and that the human brain just naturally has limitations, life is
In the same way there is a much simpler explanation for moral law.
That humans learn it from birth. Clearly, many mammals are altruistic
with their young. Even if the theory of sociobiology turns out to be
true (I have not heard of any altruism genes having been mapped on the
human genome yet) it still makes a good argument agains the "moral law"
God proof. When deducing things logically, one must take the simpler
answer. Why are humans curious? Because we are technologically
inclined, perhaps. Perhaps technologically inclined humans were more
likely to survive, especially in competition with other humans. The
invention of steel was a formidable weapon against armies with less
advanced metals, such as tin. Cannons and gunpowder .. but what of
weapons. Running water, antibiotics, hydroelectricity, all serve to
dramatically improve our standard of living. Does that mean that God
gave us curiosity? Or that we simply wanted more comfort? I do not
pretend to know the history of metallurgy, weapons, or other
technologies, but do you see what I mean?
Of course, God's existence has yet to be disproved. But there is
plenty more circumstantial evidence against Him than there is for Him.
Therefore why believe? Why not just be moral, agnostic, and hope that
He will understand if you die and you find yourself awaiting judgement?
Why live in fear? Why pray, cry, or spit on jews? Why bomb abortion
clinics, why attend sunday service, why beat and maim homosexuals? And
doesn't the bible say love thy enemy? Love thy neighbor? Why are
crimes so often (today) committed in the name of God? Terrorism and the
like are often driven (at least as they claim) by God or Allah. Until
religion is proved, why not leave it alone?
Maimonides tought that God could only be spoken of in negatives.
Thus one could not say God exists, but rather God does not not exist.
Maimonides seemed to be somewhat iffy on the existence of God though.
He explained that religion was not necessary for the educated, they
merely needed to understand morality and be moral. Religious practice,
attending the synagogue or cathedral, was for the "hoi polloi" or
commoners -- those who would not understand why they should be moral if
they were told there was no God. I agree with the rabbi.
And lets not even mention all the people in China and india who for
centuries were without a chance of salvation. Should they go to hell?
It's not fair. Maybe since they had no chance to know, they should
automatically go to heaven or paradise.
Supposedly this really happened -- a missionary was witnessing to
eskimos, and explained that if they did not believe in Jesus they would
be killed. One of them asked "If we had never known about Jesus, would
we have then gone to Hell?"
After some thought, the missionary replied "No."
At which the eskimo was quick to reply "Then why did you tell us?"
If people are naturally moral, if moral tradition is maintained,
then there would be no need for religion, unless God punishes moral
atheists and sends to heaven cruel bishops and pious witch hunters. Or
do they all go to hell? What is the qualification for heaven? Why are
there no signs of heaven? Is faith the requirement? Or faith and
action? What about action alone?
Sorry about the lack of organization in this essay, I am just
cranking this out during my .. somewhat extended lunchbreak. Thank you
for getting to the end, if you want to post this I would find it
admirable of you, or wait for me to polish off some of the rough areas.
Write back. And my essay site is at
Thanks for the e-mail. Pretty good for lunchbreak. That is usually the down time of day for me. Yes, I would like to post your letter and dialogue about the important points you raise. Best that we start by making sure we are talking about the same thing. What is your definition of "moral law"?
Fr. Phil Bloom
P.S. the URL got me to tripod, but not your essay site.
For a book which addresses many of these issues, please see my review of Reason in the Balance