Let’s talk about you “OWNING” A CAT.
First, you have enslaved an animal against its will so that it will know only the space, food, and experiences YOU have chosen for it. So Cruel. So UNNATURAL.
Second, you let this animal POOP IN YOUR HOUSE, and no doubt anyone who is not numb to it will smell its feces the moment they step into the place where you eat and sleep! Filthy and Disgusting.
Third, I don’t like cats. I find them rude and selfish, murderous creatures who kill for sport. And I am allergic. They are unpleasant to be around, which tells me all I need to know about the type of people who trap them (against their will) in their houses. *laughs* Cat “Owners”…
Forth, I hate radishes. While not ipso facto directly linked to cats per se, the fact that you “own a cat” tells me that you are the kind of person who likely buys and eats radishes- an activity so vile and wicked that the rainbow flag doesn’t even have a stripe for people like you. Appalling. Perverse.
I find it hilarious that you can be this kind of radish munching animal slaver in a poop scented house, and yet you think you have the right to condemn ANYONE else for the comparatively TINY sins of lying and hypocrisy! Even if you COULD prove that I am a dishonest hypocrite- AT LEAST I am not some Cat Owning Radish Eater!
[pause for dramatic effect]
Whew! I think that went really well. Just like we rehearsed it!
How did it feel? I thought it got really tense for a minute there, but in a good way! Right? Dramatic!
Ok, let’s take a breath and think about what we just read.
*hums as much of Beethoven’s 5th as he can remember*
Anyway, let’s talk about it together now that we’ve had a second to digest our experience. I have an important question I need you to think through and answer for me, but first I need to set the groundwork for my question so it makes sense-
To start with, my cousin has a cat named Clyde which is one of my favorite animals on earth, as he is chatty, sweet, and chill. Though I probably am allergic to him. So I don’t actually hate all cats. Clyde is the only one I actually know personally right now, and I love him. And he loves me.
But you do need to change that litter box regularly, because you get used to it. Your friends and family don’t so… I’m just saying. Stay on top of that. But I digress.
Let’s talk about the MORAL question I have raised.
Consider the following:
1. First, it is incompatible with Christian teaching to condemn either the having of pets (including cats) or the eating of radishes, so it would not be logically possible to say that a stance against cats or radishes is founded on my being a Christian. Those positions would be entirely divorced from my Christianity.
2. Morality is based on the Character and decree of God, as He is the creator, King and Judge of all creation. We are made in His image, and so it is HIS IMAGE that determines if we are good or bad- just as it is my face that determines if a picture of me is a “good” picture or a “bad” picture. The photo cannot decide that it is both “good” while being significantly different from me, because it was created with the purpose of being my image. It either succeeds or fails. We similarly succeed or fail at being the image of God by choosing to be like Him or choosing NOT to. When Jesus claims to be truth, he is also reminding us that we are to shun lies and embrace the light of truth because we are made to be like Him.
3. I don’t have the right to add to or subtract from GOD’s moral framework, revealed to us in the Bible, any more than a selfie can be a good picture of me while arbitrarily deleting one of my eyes or making my nose green. I can no more say it’s wicked to own a cat than I can say it’s acceptable to kill my neighbor and have sex with his wife. And as God has condemned lying, if you were to prove I have lied, it would be to prove I have sinned against God by failing to be in His image. I cannot reasonably decide that I reject one of God’s laws- and again this is because His laws are based on his unchanging character, and because my purpose for existing is to be an image of HIM.
4. All transcendent standards need a source which is in authority over those who are expected to obey it. The speed limits around my house are enforced by the police and created by the law makers who rule the place I live. I have to obey those speed limits or there are consequences. By contrast, imagine us on the moon in moon buggies. Do I have the right to tell you how fast you can drive? Does anyone? No. There is no government which rules over the moon, and so no laws can be made that govern the speed limits on the moon. You can drive as fast as you want, just as you can decide if you want to have a cat or eat radishes.
5. My disdain for radishes (that part was true, I find them disgusting) is like the speed limit on the moon. I have a strong feeling about how gross radishes are, and I refuse to eat them, but CAN that translate into a rule that YOU are obligated to obey? Obviously not. There is no rational basis by which I can say, “I don’t like radishes, therefore YOU shouldn’t eat them.”
Superficially similar and yet importantly differently, I could say “I like chocolate, and so every living thing should eat and enjoy chocolate.” The difference here is that, not only am I overstepping my bounds by insisting that MY FEELINGS become rules for others, but if you fed chocolate to your cat, it would be HARMFUL to him, and so even if he enjoyed the taste, it should be forbidden if you care for his well being. Even if I could prove that your cat LOVES THE TASTE and it makes him HAPPY to eat it, knowing that it will cause long term harm is reason enough for you to forbid the short term pleasure for the long term happiness and health and well being.
6. In summary:
A. Personal feelings, no matter how strong or popular, are not transcendent moral laws.
B. Laws are given by an authority which has the right to govern, and the responsibility to govern.
C. As the Creator and King of the universe, who made us with specific purposes, God has the right and responsibility to put laws over us both to protect our long term good, and to help us fulfill our purpose for existing.
D. The responsibility to put laws over those being governed is built on long term peace, health and wellbeing, and not on momentary pleasure.
THEREFORE: Because lying leads to broken relationships and long term harm, God rightfully forbids it with no regard to whether we might enjoy misleading others. Because it is His right and responsibility to govern his creation, and because He made us to be His image, and because he hates lies and He is love and truth, God says, “You Shall NOT LIE.”
I said all of that to ask you this:
As an atheist, how do you condemn lying? What makes it WRONG?