Jordan Peterson: the problem with atheist’s explanation of morality

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”)

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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 38 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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7 Responses to Jordan Peterson: the problem with atheist’s explanation of morality

  1. I’m glad you found JBP. He definitely is in your iconoclastic wheel house. I love his insight and wisdom on these subjects because I don’t think very many people have done as much thorough research into history, psychology, and sociology as he has.

    I definitely think he is loosely Christian but, his insights are nevertheless astute on our present culture. Post modernism, Neo-Marxism, and new-atheism all seem to be wrapped up in this delusional “spoiled child” kind of mentality where feelings trump logic or a “hate the man” mentality that makes them just want to smash all of society to bits and try to build some utopia.

    I think that same mentality is aimed at Christianity because it could be considered “the man” for the past few hundred years so, they divorce everything they have from it in their minds because if they attribute anything to it then they would be admitting that they are in fact working with or benefiting from “the man”. It seems to be the same mentality that was so prevalent in the 60’s. “Fight the power!” lol… but, why?

    • Mel Wild says:

      “Fight the power!” lol… but, why?”

      Exactly. One of the things Peterson points out about that is because of identity politics. And this has definite Neo-Marxist postmodern roots. It’s the classic struggle between the oppressed and the oppressor dressed up in contemporary issues. You’re not an individual anymore, you’re part of a group that’s either the oppressor or the oppressed. So, if Jordan Peterson comes against some of the crazy things being talked about in education or politics, he is shouted down, banned, and called a neo-Nazi or alt-right! LOL! This is classic Marxism.

      So, you’re exactly right. Christianity is a popular target because it dominated Western culture for hundreds of years. Some of the backlash is justified, but it’s been co-opted by radical identity politics, as the oppressor, just like “white privilege.” It’s the new Groupthink. So, these radical anti-theists want to eradicate religion like it’s a form of bigotry. It’s all lumped together with hate-speech (which is ironic, because the anti-Christian rhetoric would also be hate-speech!) And if you don’t agree that there are dozens of genders, even if you’re appealing to biological and empirical data, you’re transphobic! Yeah, the truth is getting very much stranger than fiction here. Quite Orwellian, indeed. Here come the Thought Police! As the Chinese curse goes, “May you live in interesting times.” 🙂

      To your point, all of this just shows how deeply ingrained our culture is in the Neo-Marxist paradigm. Peterson exposes this for what it is and the radical left hates him for it.

  2. I’m pleased you’ve checked out JP, Mel. I appreciate many of the things he is addressing and the way he is going about it. I was a concerned about him at first and praying, “please let this man use his powers for good.” I saw the draw, the appeal, the charisma he had when he first became popular, and I was worried. Now I am somewhat reassured. From stalking him on Twitter, I’ve seen he really does have a sound moral base, some kindness towards people, a bit of Christ mindedness. I don’t always agree with him on everything, but at least I know he’s serving some good.

    That cut flower analogy, I think we would call that He is the vine, we are the branches. Separated from the Vine we just become dead branches, the nutrients and life can’t get to us. We people must be rooted, our lives must have some context, and of course, we must be watered liberally.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Yeah, I was the same as you, checking Jordan out the last year or so without bringing him up here. But, like you, I found that he has a good moral center and profound understanding of human nature from his professional training. I’ve also found the Intellectual Dark Web (IDW) an interesting phenomenon on YouTube, bringing people like Peterson and Harris and other unlikelies together for deep discussions that you’ll never get from the new media.

      I do get a bit frustrated when Peterson talks about theology and ontology with atheists like Harris, because the arguments for the existence of God are much stronger than he is perhaps willing to defend (or just doesn’t understand yet), but he has it mostly right and we evangelicals could learn a lot from the way he communicates.

      And, besides, he’s an iconoclast so he’s a man after my own heart. 🙂

      One thing for sure. Jordan Peterson is a godsend to our insane postmodern culture that’s getting downright Orwellian these days. Even many on the left have been influenced by him and have moved away from the radical to more moderate views. And when I see people like Bill Maher agreeing with him, I know there’s hope for some sanity to return to the public discourse. 🙂

      • nickcady says:

        I agree about Peterson being a welcome voice and an important counter-balance in the modern public discourse. I think there’s a way in which the fact that he’s not a Christian helps lend credibility to his logic, because people can’t immediately write him off. I too cringe whenever he speaks about the Bible and theology however.
        I’m curious what your thoughts would be on my review of his latest book and his comments on the Bible: https://nickcady.org/2019/01/11/jordan-peterson-and-the-bible/

        • Mel Wild says:

          I agree with you, Nick, on how Peterson can have a credible voice in today’s culture that a “Christian” would not have.
          I have not read his book but I will take a look at your review when I get a chance.

  3. Pingback: Jordan Peterson and Sam Harris on ethics | In My Father's House

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