I’ve written two articles which articulate the difference between natural morality and Christian (or other faith-based) morality, but it occurs to me that I’ve never actually presented them sequentially. So, for anyone who has difficulty expressing the difference, here’s the two-chapter version:
If we assume that there is, in fact, a perfect interpretation of the Bible, we are at something of an impasse. Since logic and conscience can’t be our criteria for making the decision, we must rely on something else, but what? Divine revelation? Again, every denomination makes some claim of divine revelation, so which one is correct? How will we decide? What if none of them are correct? What if, after reading the Bible, you come to the conclusion that everybody’s got it wrong, and that you have the perfect interpretation. God has spoken directly to you, and you are certain you are correct. This is fine for you, but how am I to judge whether or not I believe you? You are now in exactly the same situation as the other fifteen thousand denominations. You must ask people to use either logic, conscience, or divine revelation to decide to believe you.
The sad truth is that if there is a true interpretation of the Bible that does not rely on human logic or conscience, then it is unknowable beyond individual interpretation, which is the same as saying that it’s entirely subjective.
Remember that morality is the name we give to our value judgments of human interactions. The key word here is value. Before we go any further, we need to establish just what kinds of things are valuable to humans. In order to do that, we need to go to the source. If a human finds a thing valuable, it is because his genes have programmed him with the capacity to find it so. This isn’t a small point. Things very seldom happen for no reason in evolution. Natural selection has a way of weeding out traits that don’t directly contribute to their own best interest, and extraneous hangers on are usually dropped off at the nearest evolutionary junkyard.
At the base of our genes’ list of desires is the continuation of the species. Genes want us to reproduce. It doesn’t stop there, though. Every species on earth reproduces, but there is incredible diversity. Diversity is very useful in adapting to different environments. We can say, then, that genes want to create organisms that fill niches. This is common sense. If there are two creatures fighting over the fruit from one tree, and there’s a different kind of tree a mile down the road, it benefits genes to make a new kind of creature that can eat the fruit of the other tree. Instead of having one population fighting over limited resources, there are now two populations fighting over two limited resources. Again, economics gives us a clue. Diversification is always a great investment strategy. That way, all our financial eggs aren’t in the same basket. It’s the same with evolution.