How does the atheist know basic right from wrong if he doesn’t have Divine revelation?
“Teacher, which Mitzvah in the teaching is the greatest?”
He told him, “You shall love the NAME, your God, with all your hearts, with all your animate being, and with all your measure.
This is the greatest and the first Mitzvah. The second is like (dam oat) it: You shall love your neighbor/Rai-a as yourself.
The whole teaching and the prophets depend on these two Mitzvah.”
Deuteronomist plays with this passage which Jesus quotes, first in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. In Deuteronomy 6, “Hearts” is plural and “Your,” is singular. In chapter 11, “Your,” is plural.
In chapter 30, we see Deuteronomist playing with the idea again.
“Return to the NAME, your God, listening to his voice, according to all that I Mitzvah to you today, you and your children, with your whole hearts and with all of your animate being.”
“The NAME, your God, will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you will love the NAME, your God, with your whole heart and your animate being, in order that you may live.”
“You will listen to the voice of the NAME, your God, guard the Mitzvah and customs written in this book of the instruction, when you return to the NAME, your God, with your whole hearts and your whole being.”
“This Mitzvah I give you this day is not too wondrous or remote for you. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who will go up to the heavens to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” No, it is something very near to you, in your mouth* and in your heart, to do it.”
It is not in the head. Concepts change from time to time and from place to place. That’s why we can’t go, “over there,” to get them. As with the Blessed Virgin who “kept all of these things in her heart,” we find basic right and wrong in our hearts.
All people made in God’s image have this image of basic right and wrong, given by God. That’s the reason dead baby pictures work so well. Pro-choice people can see in their hearts the humanity held within the picture that their brains want to hide.
The reason dead and dying children pictures work so well in relation to the poor of the world is that we can all see the humanity when faced with them in pictures of the poor. There is no running from the pictures.
Verse 19 continues, “I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life!
A rabbi I once read in the Jerusalem Post pointed out how verse 19 is one of the 613 commandments. What would it mean for choosing life to be a commandment? We have seen how chapter 30 removes the “And with all your measure,” and replaces measure with “Life.”
The writer of Deuteronomy lived two hundred years before Aristotle, but they seem to have the same idea in mind. Deuteronomist was a pre-Aristotelian, Aristotelian. For Aristotle life is always in the process of becoming what it already is. We will see that Deuteronomist thinks the same way.
“Life” is the focus of this chapter. As we meet people on the street God calls us to choose life for them. How do we do this? Jesus quotes Leviticus 19 where it says, The second is like (Dam oat) it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
When God makes mankind in his likeness, the word is “Dam oat). “Neighbor” in Hebrew sounds exactly the same as “To see.” It sounds and spells exactly the same as “Pastor,” and “Herd of sheep.”
You will see your neighbor as you see yourself, a human being trying to get from cradle to grave in one piece. You see him as a fellow member of God’s herd, made in his image, trying to find his way to his final end who is God himself. You will see him with hopes and joys, wishes and desires, pains and sufferings, and things he desire to avoid.
You will see him with unfulfilled potential and seeing that in yourself, you will strive to fulfill his potential. The atheist has this in his heart as we do. He may be wrong on the final goal, but he has that striving in his heart.
Seeing that potentiality in all people we can see what is radically wrong with the conservative pro-life argument. They are too busy using conceptual, mind, arguments to prove when life begins. The first question is, “What is life.” The Latin words, “Vitality,” and “Vivacious,” give the answer and it isn’t basic subsistence.
If God calls us to see the potentiality in all people and to fulfill that potential, and this is that Jerusalem Post rabbi’s article again, it doesn’t matter when life begins. The fetus in the womb is potential life from the moment of conception until the day it dies 90 years later of old age.
Aristotle is famous for one other very important thing as it relates to this article. During his age, the Greek gods were dying out. They were also far from moral. Aristotle had to come up with another way of defining right and wrong, if it didn’t come from the gods. He came to the conclusion, there was natural law, a law built into our hearts. In this he repeats Deuteronomy even though he probably did not know of Deuteronomist. Through Cicero this concept finds its way to Augustine who returns God to the formula through Divine Law. From Augustine it finds its way to St. Thomas Aquinas, and through some others to John Locke, Rousseau, and Charles-Louis de Montesquieu. Through these men it found its way to Thomas Jefferson who wrote:
“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them… We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men.
James Madison, who wrote our Constitution was also a part of this chain. It needs to be remembered that “General Welfare” is part of this chain, being found in Cicero’s Republic and Augustine’s City of God. St. Augustine, ever the musician, took pains to relate the Ten Commandments and General Welfare with music, using the Hundred Piece Orchestra example of Cicero.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
But “The liberals do this,” and “The conservatives to that.” The liberal and conservative wings are on the same bird.
God calls us to fulfill the life, the general welfare of the mother at home as she cares for her children, in the factory and office with her spouse, on the streets where she should not fear those with guns, or the polluted air or water. God calls us to stop global warming so her children and great grand children can fulfill their lives. Therefore, yes, God calls us as a nation to fulfill the life of the fetus in the womb.
Deuteronomy 30 and the Shema both call us to love God. How do we love God? What do we give someone who literally already has everything? We love honor and respect what is his, in particular what is made in his image, each other.
Genesis 2:15 gives God’s first command, a command that has never been rescinded, the command to cultivate and care for his garden, our planet. In his planet we help each other live their lives, and pursue the general welfare, and strive in the face of corporate power to keep their liberty. God calls us to cultivate and care for each other too. Loving God by following this command, is all their is to basic right and wrong. The atheist has this in his heart too.