In the recent film “Batman v. Superman,” the villains and heroes are not set up as a typical good guy beats bad guy fare. While the heroes and villains are rather well-defined, the screenwriters, particularly David S. Goyer, shaped the colossal film to be a battle between philosophical ideologies, exposing Lex Luthor’s in particular as corrupt and vile.
A while back, I wrote a post called “Comics 101: The Joker and Nihilism.” In that post, I laid out how the Joker was a prime example of worshiping meaninglessness and how he presents the ultimate illustration of where such a philosophy leads us as a species. In Lex Luthor, we find a similar set of consequences, though from a different source. Luthor also commits acts of terrorism. He blows up buildings, creates a creature of mass destruction, and, above all, targets an innocent and virtuous superhero and determines to do every single thing in his power to kill him, regardless of collateral damage.
He’s insane, right? Completely and utterly maniacal, right?
Not so fast.
Lex Luthor’s actions stem from one major motivation, which can be broken down into two assumptions. His major motivation is, believe it or not, the survival and well-being of the human race.
“But he wants to kill their savior!”
Yes. Yes he does. But that leads me to his two assumptions: 1. If there is a God, he is malevolent. 2. The destruction of a malevolent God (if possible) would prevent the destruction of the human race.
So then, given these two assumptions, is it then logical to conclude that the destruction of said malevolent God would be worth the collateral damage of some, or even a substantial number of, the human race? The answer is yes – if survival of the human race is a superior good.
“But wait!” you say. “This all happened because he was wrong about Superman!” But that’s incorrect. This all happened because he was wrong about divinity, not about one particular member of the divine. And the moment you strike out divinity you have no moral recourse left, except to adopt subjective morality. If there is no transcendent source of morality (and a malevolent God is by definition immoral, as the word malevolent is itself a moral statement), then there can be no objective morality. So, according to his worldview, adopting the survival of mankind as the greatest moral good is internally consistent, and therefore justified.
But who’s to say that the survival of the human race is a superior good? If this thought occurred to you, you’ve hit the nail on the head. That is exactly the question we need to be asking. Because if indeed there is no objective morality, if Lex Luthor’s restatement of the traditional Problem of Evil is correct, then there is no transcendent basis on which you can say that his moral system is wrong. In fact, there’s a certain sense in which you can say that his unbridled atheistic humanism is even more dangerous than the Joker’s nihilism. Nihilism removes all values from all actions, but atheistic moralism leaves human beings free not just to remove meaning from moral or immoral actions, but to assign integrity to the reprehensible and virtue to vice.
It may well be noted that this is an imperfect analogy, since Superman has not taken it upon himself to legislate a moral code, even if he does consider it his duty to follow one. In that sense, he is not completely analogous to Jesus. While technically true, any viewer of the film can plainly see that Superman is meant to represent Jesus, which is clear not only from the character’s Kryptonian name (which literally means “The voice of God”), but also from the accusations of “false God,” the theological accusations by Luthor, the comparisons drawn to celestial beings, and most certainly the climax and ending of the film itself.
While I believe these comparisons were intentional, it is not necessary that they be so in order for this point to be sustained. That is, those who hold to atheistic moralism have no objective grounds on which to call all kinds of various moral ills bad. Things like rape, child abuse, the Holocaust, and the slave trade are no longer objectively wrong, but only subjectively so. And by definition, any subjective moral precept is a “take it or leave it” scenario. I might think that rape is wrong, but if you think it’s okay, what transcendent standard do I have to appeal to?
The discomfort you may have as you read this leads me to what I think is one of the most convincing proofs for God: The Moral Argument. I have just used an argument typically called reductio ad absurdum which means granting the opponent’s claim for the sake of argument and showing the absurd conclusions it makes. They are absurd conclusions because most people, whether Christians or unbelievers, have a strong sense that certain things are absolutely wrong. Rape is one of those things, as is unprovoked murder. If we conclude that morality is ingrained within the human experience, does it not follow that there ought to be a common source of that morality?
One might argue that this only proves that all humans have a common experience, not that something outside of humanity originated it. But that has very little explanatory power when it comes to the feelings of guilt that associate with these moral wrongs, especially within the Darwinist framework. Within that worldview, we would most expect to see expressions that such actions are illogical, not that you ought to feel bad for them. You’re just doing something that’s typically contrary to the human experience. But that’s not what we see. We see an emotionally gut-wrenching feeling that we call guilt. That insinuates a connection to something outside of what humans typically do. While this observation does not “prove” God’s existence in and of itself, it does point to the divine and is an important part of the cumulative case for God.