Jordan Peterson has been a voice of clarity in a culture adrift in the morass of nihilistic subjectivism and identity confusion. In the following video clip he gives us a very informed and concise reason for the problem he has with the radical atheists like Sam Harris and their claim that morality can be divorced from any transcendent value. He says what I’ve been trying to say about the secular problem with morality all along, but he says it much better.
One thing to make clear here. Peterson is not saying that atheists or agnostic or humanists cannot be good people or live moral lives. That’s not the point. The point is that they cannot appeal to some purely secular humanistic source to get their moral values.
I will add Will Herberg’s “cut flowers” analogy to bring home Peterson’s point at the end of the clip, something that both Nietzsche and Dostoevsky understood but seems to escape many of today’s atheists and secularists.
“The attempt made in recent decades by secularist thinkers to disengage the moral principles of western civilization from their scripturally based religious context, in the assurance that they could live a life of their own as “humanistic” ethics, has resulted in our “cut flower culture.” Cut flowers retain their original beauty and fragrance, but only so long as they retain the vitality that they have drawn from their now-severed roots; after that is exhausted, they wither and die. So with freedom, brotherhood, justice, and personal dignity — the values that form the moral foundation of our civilization. Without the life-giving power of the faith out of which they have sprung, they possess neither meaning nor vitality.” (Will Herberg, “Judiasm and Modern Man”)