As we move further into a post-Christian society, the morality that was once taken for granted has been challenged and is beginning to shift. By and large, atheists' morality, whether knowingly or not, seems in-line with Judeo-Christian tradition. Atheists generally agree that theft is wrong, murder is bad and that people should respect their parents. All of Western society was built on such shared truths, or values, which the Declaration of Independence described as "self-evident". This self-evidence came from the shared belief in God among society at the time. Whether one was Christian, simply a deist or even agnostic...society agreed that nature and it's God was the author of rights that were undeniable. On a side note, the shared belief in an orderly and unchanging God lead to the idea that God would uphold nature according to unchanging axioms, or laws. In turn, this philosophical expectation lead to repeatable experimentation and, eventually, to the scientific method itself. As painful as it is for modern atheistic scientists to admit, modern science flourished under a Judeo-Christian worldview to the extent that such a worldview seems to be a prerequisite...but I digress. Back to morality...
In large part, humanism is the philosophy, or religion, that is slowly replacing Judeo-Christianity as both the foundation of our legal system and the arbiter of truth and morality in our society. Humanism agrees that robbery and murder are bad because both crimes negatively impact human lives. The biggest area of contention between Judeo-Christianity and humanism is mainly in the area of sexuality and what is included in moral sexuality. The traditional view of Judeo-Christianity is that homosexuality is a sin. However, within a humanist view homosexuality is acceptable if it is between consenting adults. Nobody is being hurt and people are just expressing their sexuality in a way that feels right to them. Humanism at it's core seems focused on the enjoyment of sex without imposing unneeded rules or standards. In fact, through much of human history, a good example being the Enlightenment, mankind was driven by it's collective sexual drive and all philosophic and spiritual musings were simply crude models setup as justifications for sexual "deviancy".
So we are at a point in time when our moral authority is changing. Often this change is in the shadows and goes unnoticed by culture at large. However when radically changing things as important as our nations' moral authority, I wonder if a public conversation and more consideration are in order? We are being presented two options on who determines right and wrong:
1 - God
If God is the answer, that involves a debate about which account of God is the correct, or most accurate, one. If humanity is the answer then morality is determined by a majority vote. That seems dangerous to me, knowing both my own personal character and the character of other humans I've known throughout my life. Humans are prone to emotions and selfishness and, as a result.....to mistakes.
This ultimate battle for authority, between man and God, is brewing...somewhat quietly..in the background of society. The Judeo-Christian tradition considers homosexuality a sin, but humanists are repulsed by that thinking, because it comes across as "judgmental" when not properly understood. So a humanist responds by demanding equal rights and treatment for gay people. On this point, I think sanctified Christians are in agreement. Any sinner deserves to have the same rights as any non-sinner, especially since there are none who do not sin (save Jesus of course). Likewise, nobody should be personally mistreated due to any particular sinful activity that they engage in. If they break laws, they will be subject to penalties and punishments via the legal system, but society as a whole should treat them no differently. Likewise, whether God exists, judgement will come by Him and should not come from the average Christian on the street.
Where things start to break down is when the non-Christians, referred to as humanists in this hypothetical, progress from righteously demanding equal rights and treatment for the gay community, to incorrectly attempting to redefine Judeo-Christian morality such that homosexuality is no longer considered a sin. True believers can't change their morality as they believe it emanates from God himself, who is unchanging. What we can do is ensure we treat gay people no differently than we do any other group of people. I think most Christians who are truly embracing sanctification already feel and act this way. But it appears that humanists have decided that equal treatment and respect is no longer sufficient. The humanist view has evolved to charge that mere belief that homosexuality is a sin is, in and of itself, an "immoral" belief. Under a strictly humanist view, it is immoral to consider homosexuality a sinful act. So society teeters back and forth on what is moral in this case and even more importantly, by extension, who is it that ultimately defines morality.
However this is a bridge too far, in my opinion, and a few things strike me about it which may be relevant in this context. Firstly, the left have gone from complaining that Christians isolated and negatively labeled a given group of people based on sexuality, to making progress in removing some of the negative social stigma, to a full-fledged 180 wherein they now seek to isolate and negatively label the very group that did it to them. If humanists found it wrong for Christians to implicitly impugn all homosexuals, simply because they chose a homosexual lifestyle, shouldn't they find it equally wrong that they now impugn all Christians themselves, simply because Christians chose a Christian lifestyle? Turn about is fair play but the goal is to learn along the way.
The big moral question in the coming decade will be....Is it morally acceptable to consider homosexuality a sin or does it make you a bigot?
The answer to this question will determine the future of the freedom of religion in this country. That freedom could be going away a lot more quickly than we think.
In my opinion, an incorrect understanding of sin makes people view Christian beliefs as judgmental or divisive. In reality, it's very easy for a Christian to have a moral standard that is idealist in nature without harboring any judgment or ill-will towards people who fall short of such a moral standard. All Christians sin almost daily. Just looking at a woman with lust is a sin. Christian men have not found a magic way to avoid these types of temptations, rather it is a slow, sometimes painfully slow, process of sanctification that happens over the life of the believer. Just like I myself can be a sinner yet not feel like I'm sitting in active judgement, non-Christians should be able to engage in what Christians consider sinful behavior without feeling like they are sitting in judgement.
The laws and moral codes set forth in the Old Testament were meant to show that we, as fallen human beings, don't have the ability to earn our way into the afterlife by engaging in moral acts and refusing immoral ones. The laws and moral codes were intended to show us the hopeless situation we are in regarding our sin nature. It points to the New Testament and the sacrifice that Jesus made to pay for all of our sins for all time....whether they be lustful looks, homosexual desires, lying, disrespecting authority figures, extreme selfishness, or sneaking out after curfew that one time...whatever.
We need to educate the non-Christian members of society and help explain why the Christian view of homosexuality as sinful is not inherently bigoted. Christians can follow God's moral laws regarding sexuality and still respect those Christians, and non-Christians, who fall short of the impossible standard. Christians need to be loving rather than judgmental and humanists need to understand that viewing homosexuality as sin is not rooted in hatred. It's rooted in faith in a God who knows more than us, including more about what is best for us. I believe God is love, therefore any moral rules related to sexuality were crafted for the health, well-being and enjoyment of humanity. It's now incumbent upon the religious community to make a non-biblical argument for why heterosexual committed relationships are the best for both society as a whole and the individuals and children of individuals involved in said relationships.
In the meantime, we should respect and love those we disagree with from both directions. We must find a way for the freedom of sexuality to coexist with the Christian view on sex.