Random Thoughts for June 16, 2011 – Concerning God and Morality


* If God doesn’t exist, then how do our moral actions matter? A man brutally murders a child and can escape justice. Even if given justice, 200 years from now it will not matter.

* What hope exists for those who suffer in this world? While the evidential problem of evil poses a challenge for theism, it is only in theism that we can recognize suffering as a tragedy (thus, the paradox in the problem of evil). Without God, such suffering is simply a part of nature and nothing to fret about.

* The skeptic will shout about the crimes of the Old Testament, but what objective moral code can the atheist point to in order to justify his rage? The best he can do is show that the Bible presents an incoherent view of God, but he cannot attack the morals of the Old Testament (or Bible in general) because he lacks any foundation to do so (again, another paradox).

* “Why act morally?” Atheism is left without an answer. “To survive” they say, but how shall we survive? What methods are best for survival? Why should we accept those methods. And finally, why should we desire survival? Is our survival necessarily a good thing?

* That one can be moral without God isn’t an argument against God, it’s an argument against atheism. That we somehow possess the ability to make a free and conscious decision to go against our nature and do what is right, even if it is against our own survival or self-interests, is something that simply cannot be naturally explained.

* Christianity has caused a lot of ills – certainly such a statement is true, but how do we know they are ills outside of having a moral code based upon God?

* The saddest part of people still using the Euthyphro dilemma is that there are hardly any Platonic religions around to which such a dilemma would apply. Regardless, it’s a flawed syllogism anyway and is guilty of begging the question (it doesn’t allow for a third option and forces an unnecessary either/or).

* Morality must be objective, but that objectivity cannot be abstract; it must be relatable. Yet, only persons are relatable and personable. Thus, objective morality must be found in a person, not in an abstract. Ultimately, much to the chagrin of the skeptic, objective moral truths are found in God.

Advertisements

19 thoughts on “Random Thoughts for June 16, 2011 – Concerning God and Morality

  1. Joel, I don’t think this is one of your better posts. So much so that I’m inclined to think you wrote it just to invoke comments, and not because you believe it. Your sentence “Christianity has caused a lot of ills – certainly such a statement is true, but how do we know they are ills outside of having a moral code based upon God?” doesn’t even make sense to me. If I may digress a little, maybe you should move to Washington state because you’d make an excellent cherry picker!
    Either you believe all the pain and suffering God has caused as written in the bible is right and morally just, or you’re just picking out the “good stuff” to believe. If you’re just picking the good stuff, then I have to ask you what is it inside of you that is doing the picking? Did God write obviously immoral things in the bible, then invade your being, and tell you what was right and wrong? Why would he do that? Is that like God putting fossils in the Earth to confuse non-believers? Or maybe men purposely wrote falsehoods into the bible for their own gain, and now God is coming back to you and revealing the truth? If that is so, then the bible isn’t the infallible word of God.
    What moral lesson should I learn when God says women are the property of their husbands? Do you believe that to be true? What lesson is to be learned that, because of one disobedient act of one person thousands of years ago, all humans for all eternity are cursed with evil sin? Should I go out and kill every prostitute that I meet? How about people that have sex outside of wedlock? Should they be killed too? Is the bill in S. Dakota that would make it justifiable homicide to kill anyone performing an abortion the moral word of God?
    I find it pretty easy to know right from wrong. I ask myself simple questions like: If I said something to someone, would I want them to punch me in the face because they didn’t like it? No. OK, then I shouldn’t punch someone in the face because I don’t like what they said. Would I like it if someone told me I couldn’t do something, even though it wasn’t hurting anybody? No. OK, then I won’t tell anybody what to do as long as they’re no hurting anybody when they do it.
    How simple can this be? You CAN be good without God, but just try and get that on the side of a bus in Little Rock AK!!!

    1. When I post random thoughts it’s not meant to be a complete writing. It merely focuses on what I’ve been reading about studying, or thinking about that day or that week. That being said, I think you’re failing to recognize the attacks against atheism that I’m making. Sadly, many atheists make this mistake because many theists never clarify their position. So let me clarify my position.

      I am not attacking the normative ethics of atheism. Normative ethics essentially tells us how we ought to act in a given situation or provides generalized standards for us to follow. What I am going after are the meta-ethics, such as the language used in ethical discussion or, more appropriately in this post, the overall justification for the ought. While atheism can certainly develop a good normative ethic (via preference utilitarianism, emotionalism, virtue theory [I’ve seen it done], or some other ethical theory) it is ultimately left without a meta-ethical justification. So normative ethics declares that x is wrong, but meta-ethics tells us why x is wrong. Utilitarianism, a normative ethical system, tells us to pursue the greatest good for the greatest number of people; meta-ethics tells us what that good is. My contention is that atheism is left without recourse to a proper meta-ethical justification for what it claims as good.

      Thus, when I say that Christianity has caused harm in the past, I am referring to the acts done in the name of Christianity. Further, I am arguing that we can only know that these actions are wrong if we presuppose a theistic mindset, otherwise there’s no absolute standard that says x is wrong, or at least atheism is left without a proper rational defense to say that x is universally wrong. That is the contention I’m making, that one must presuppose theism to attack the sins done in the name of theism, thus ruining the moral argument for atheists. At best, all the atheist can do is attempt to show that there are inconsistencies within any given theistic belief. Of course, all this would do is cast doubt upon the specific belief, but not upon theism in general (as atheism would lack a proper alternative, ethically speaking).

      Therefore, the arguments you use against Scripture completely miss the point; how do you know it was necessarily wrong for the Hebrews to attack and kill the Canaanites? Certainly we can show how the declaration from God is apparently contradictory to His ethical commands, but in reality the atheist can’t go further than that int he argument. The reason is he lacks proper meta-ethical justification to say that such commands are universally wrong.

      In the end, I would contend that your reading of Scripture is abysmal, but then again that’s not necessarily your fault; the reading of Scripture provided by the evangelical community tends to be shallow. The problem is both atheists and evangelicals take a prima facie approach to Scripture, but that’s not how it was done in the past nor is it how it’s done among Roman Catholics or Eastern Orthodox. While some parts are literal, other parts are figurative, and other parts are hyperbole that fits in with the writing style of the time. The war narratives of the Old Testament are no exception to this rule. Ultimately, your reading of Scripture and reasoning is highly flawed and completely misses the point; atheism has no meta-ethical standard to properly question or attack such attitudes.

  2. *sigh* I find this line of argumentation really tiring to read, yet I incessantly encounter t iby would-be apologists and actual apologists alike. Not only does this argument lack an understanding of what secular naturalists actually believe (which I can forgive), but it also shows a lack of understanding of basic evolutionary theory (which I cannot forgive). I could even make a case that it lacks an understanding of rudimentary modern economics, but that’s a bit more permissible. No intellectual atheist would argue for an objective morality. Your continuous assertions that we couldn’t have an objective morality is attacking a straw-man – a painfully obvious straw-man, if you ask me.

    “If God doesn’t exist, then how do our moral actions matter? A man brutally murders a child and can escape justice. Even if given justice, 200 years from now it will not matter.”

    Ultimately, no, there are no moral actions that matter with respect to the universe. In other words, the universe doesn’t care about humans. This anthropocentric world view is wholly confined to religion. We sentence people for murder because we care. Why does there need to be more meaning than this? Yet, I find this frequent assertion made by theists laughably ironic because in your world view (at least in Christianity) you believe that pedophiles and murderers can still go to heaven. I find this take on “justice” rather perfunctory and unconvincing.

    “What hope exists for those who suffer in this world? While the evidential problem of evil poses a challenge for theism, it is only in theism that we can recognize suffering as a tragedy (thus, the paradox in the problem of evil). Without God, such suffering is simply a part of nature and nothing to fret about.”

    Yes, suffering is a part of nature. How is this a problem with regards to epistemological truth? Suffering is tragic with respect to humans, but why should this be an argument against a materialistic universe? While we might not like the notion that our suffering is utterly inconsequential, it bears no relevance.

    “The skeptic will shout about the crimes of the Old Testament, but what objective moral code can the atheist point to in order to justify his rage? The best he can do is show that the Bible presents an incoherent view of God, but he cannot attack the morals of the Old Testament (or Bible in general) because he lacks any foundation to do so (again, another paradox).”

    Well, you’re half right about what the atheist would say. Yes, there are atrocities in the Old Testament, there is no denying this. Atheists mention this because a) it is seemingly contradictory with the ontological nature of an omni-benevolent being and b) many theists purport to be morally superior (or at least castigate atheists to being moral parasites) and we merely like to point out the irony. We show indignation because you worship a God that is self-purported to be omnibenevolent, yet shows so much apathy (and contempt, in some cases) towards his own creation.

    ““Why act morally?” Atheism is left without an answer. “To survive” they say, but how shall we survive? What methods are best for survival? Why should we accept those methods. And finally, why should we desire survival? Is our survival necessarily a good thing?”

    You almost accurately represented the secularist response, but not quite. Through evolution, humans have discovered the best way (at least, to the best of our knowledge) for a species to propagate. Why not murder? Because the human race would die out quite fast if we went around killing people. Why not pedophilia? While Catholic priests may not grasp this point, the general population knows that children are not able to understand what sex is. Therefore, they are not able to consent, at least in any meaningful way. Also, it’s just creepy. While morality may not be fully understood yet, evolution is able to explain quite a bit.

    To the second part, survival of the race is a subjectively good. We desire survival because we a biological predisposition to want to survive. Again, basic evolutionary theory.

    “That one can be moral without God isn’t an argument against God, it’s an argument against atheism. That we somehow possess the ability to make a free and conscious decision to go against our nature and do what is right, even if it is against our own survival or self-interests, is something that simply cannot be naturally explained.”

    Really? It is our nature to act immorally? We have natural inclinations to kill? We have natural inclinations for pedophilia? Could you elaborate, perhaps, on why you think we go against our nature to act morally? Do you really need some sort of arbiter to inform you as to what you should do?

    ” Morality must be objective, but that objectivity cannot be abstract; it must be relatable. Yet, only persons are relatable and personable. Thus, objective morality must be found in a person, not in an abstract. Ultimately, much to the chagrin of the skeptic, objective moral truths are found in God.”

    See, this type of syllogistic argument is ultimately flawed as your premises go unsubstantiated. Why must morality be objective? More to the point, why do you think morality is objective?

    1. Before acting haughtily, you may want to get your facts straight. I’m not attacking a straw-man at all. Atheists such as Sam Harris, Michael Martin, and a few other atheists do argue for objective morality (admittedly it is a small group). Now, I’m more than willing to concede that Harris isn’t an intellectual atheist, but Martin? The fact is, there is a contingency, albeit a small contingency, of atheists who argue for objective moral truths. The reason for this (to answer your last question) is quite simple; without them, we are left with no recourse as to deciding what is truly right or wrong, only what we have declared is right and wrong. Thus, rape may not be wrong, only that we say it is wrong. But in the end, it doesn’t really matter if one is raped. If one follows such thinking to its logical conclusion, one ends with a rabid form of nihilism that no one could truly follow.

      You ask why there needs to be more meaning in morality than the fact that we care, but you pick an easy subject. What about moral disagreements? What about abortion? What about homosexual marriages? What about helping the poor? All of these have moral disagreements, so under an atheist mindset how do we find a non-arbitrary standard to determine which moral standard is correct?

      You can turn to the evolutionary argument for morality, but it’s an argument destined towards failure. Certainly some of our morals are evolutionary traits and aid in survival, but speaking at the meta-ethical level evolution simply doesn’t work. Evolution is interested solely in survival. So you say that we have learned over time that murder is a bad thing; then why do we still do it? Through natural selection we no longer have tails. I can’t choose to have a tail. If we learned not to murder via survival, then we shouldn’t still be doing it. It should be in our genetic code not to, no different than having blue eyes or obtaining a specific height. Yet we still choose to murder.

      More importantly, such an argument doesn’t take into account moral disagreements. If morals are simply a matter of genetics, then there shouldn’t be any moral disagreements, anymore than there are disagreements over whether or not someone’s hair is brown or the pigmentation of one’s skin. Yet, when it comes to morality, there’s a massive debate. So no, evolution simply doesn’t explain every aspect of morality, nor can it. This isn’t a “misunderstanding of evolution,” but rather a critique of evolution that you’ll simply have to accept.

      Finally, if you want to run off and say that objective morals don’t exist, then be my guest. But remember that you’ve just knocked yourself out of the debate on this one, because ultimately there are no real consequences to what I’m saying if I’m wrong. There’s no moral impact if I’m wrong. So you’re just wasting your time. Any continued debate would contradict your belief that morals are subjective. After all, if there is a moral reason to believe in the truth, then what does it matter?

  3. Again, it is a bit ironic that you chastise me for not having my facts straight. Sam Harris does not argue for objective morality (if you are referring to the Moral Landscape). He argues that science will, in the future, be able to determine a base line which would be equivalent to the worst possible suffering imaginable and, based on that line, we can optimize happiness. Sam Harris fully admits that this is subjective. I encourage you to read the book again. Admittedly, I don’t know Michael Martin, but if he argues that there is an objective morality, he does not speak for the vast majority.

    “The reason for this (to answer your last question) is quite simple; without them, we are left with no recourse as to deciding what is truly right or wrong, only what we have declared is right and wrong. Thus, rape may not be wrong, only that we say it is wrong. But in the end, it doesn’t really matter if one is raped. If one follows such thinking to its logical conclusion, one ends with a rabid form of nihilism that no one could truly follow. You ask why there needs to be more meaning in morality than the fact that we care, but you pick an easy subject. What about moral disagreements? What about abortion? What about homosexual marriages? What about helping the poor? All of these have moral disagreements, so under an atheist mindset how do we find a non-arbitrary standard to determine which moral standard is correct?”

    There were several logical fallacies in this. First, though, you still have not answered me why there is a necessity for an objective morality and how this pertains to epistemological truth. You say that subjective morality to it’s logical conclusion would lead nihilism, but this is just a “slippery-slope” logical fallacy. It does not necessarily follow that because I think morality is subjective that morality devolves into nihilism. The “moral disagreements” you cite are really “disagreements” because theists disagree, not because there is a general moralistic disagreement. “Helping the poor” just helps my case and I really don’t see how this is a “disagreement”. Do you not think that we should help the poor? Evolutionary theory may say “survival of the fittest”, but do you not think that human empathy could override this?

    “You can turn to the evolutionary argument for morality, but it’s an argument destined towards failure. Certainly some of our morals are evolutionary traits and aid in survival, but speaking at the meta-ethical level evolution simply doesn’t work. Evolution is interested solely in survival. So you say that we have learned over time that murder is a bad thing; then why do we still do it? Through natural selection we no longer have tails. I can’t choose to have a tail. If we learned not to murder via survival, then we shouldn’t still be doing it. It should be in our genetic code not to, no different than having blue eyes or obtaining a specific height. Yet we still choose to murder.”

    See, this is just another straw-man, which is particularly insulting as it is a straw-man of something that I just wrote. I never said that morality is in our genetics. We may have a genetic predisposition to certain moralistic tendencies, but this does not dictate what we do (at least, not exclusively) (see above with the empathy example). Genetics determines certain physiological traits, but I never said that our genetics dictate how we should act.

    “Finally, if you want to run off and say that objective morals don’t exist, then be my guest. But remember that you’ve just knocked yourself out of the debate on this one, because ultimately there are no real consequences to what I’m saying if I’m wrong. There’s no moral impact if I’m wrong. So you’re just wasting your time. Any continued debate would contradict your belief that morals are subjective. After all, if there is a moral reason to believe in the truth, then what does it matter?”

    Ah yes, the favorite argument proffered of Douglas Wilson. It’s as if you haven’t even read what I just wrote. Ultimately, as far as the universe is concerned, it doesn’t matter. But it matters to me, it matters to people. It subjectively matters to people that we understand how the universe functions. So, yes, it matters to me when I read misrepresentations of naturalistic arguments, as well as profferings of bad arguments and then have the credulous believe said arguments.

    1. I think Harris would disagree with your own assessment of his work. In his talks he always speaks about how we must abandon the idea that every culture has something worth saying, that some things are always wrong, and for the cherry on top, engaged in a debate with William Lane Craig over objective morality. In that debate, Craig consistently referred to Harris’ belief in objective morality and Harris never once corrected him or offered a more nuanced stance. Rather, he accepted Craig’s accusations concerning objective morality and continued on. Admittedly, he and Martin don’t compose the majority view in atheism, but to say that I’m creating a “straw-man” by attacking atheistic objective moral claims is jumping the gun. You need to abandon this line of reasoning and realize that some atheists do, both explicitly and implicitly, claim objective moral truths. It would be better for you to stick to the postmodern route and argue that objective moral truths don’t exist and/or don’t need to exist.

      You then go on in your second paragraph to jump all over the place. First, the reason I didn’t answer the question about epistemological truths and objective moral truths is because the question is irrelevant and not based on anything I said. More to the point of a slippery slope, this fallacy is brought out too often in debates. First and foremost, what I argued wasn’t a slippery slope, but instead I was pointing to the necessary conclusion of a certain belief. A slippery slope argument points to something that isn’t a necessary conclusion, but a possible conclusion treated as a necessary conclusion (or it will include a non sequitur fallacy as well). When Republicans say that healthcare overhaul will bankrupt the system, that is a possible solution, but not a necessary solution, so such an argument is a slippery slope. When people say that smoking marijuana will lead to harder drugs, while possible, it is not necessary, therefore it’s a slipper slope argument. The necessary conclusion of an idea, however, is not a slippery slope. When it comes to subjective morality then, nihilism is the necessary conclusion. The idea that nothing ultimately matters is a necessary conclusion. And if we wish to remain logically consistent, the belief that the strongest will have their morals succeed is the only real conclusion one can have. So what you think or what matters to you doesn’t matter to me, because you’re not me, and so long as I’m stronger than you, I can impose my will over you. That is the logical conclusion of your ethical system.

      You then skirt around the point about disagreements. Rather than skirt around it, why not think through it and deal with it? Saying, “Well that’s only because theists disagree.” But if morals are an evolutionary trait then why do theists disagree? Disagreement simply shouldn’t exist, anymore than disagreements concerning the color of someone’s eyes should exist. If morals have arisen out of some necessity to survive, then there should be agreement, but there’s not. Furthermore, people shouldn’t be able to change their minds. Consider that humans have two arms. Some people are born with genetic deformities that cause them to have no arms, or one arm, or a deformed arm. So perhaps those who disagree simply have genetic deformities? Yet, this is merely an easy way out that ignores the implications of the belief. For we don’t see a man with one arm, or a deformed arm, telling those with two “normal” arms to chop off an arm or deform an arm since that’s what nature intends. We don’t see people decided to change their minds and chop off an arm, or people without an arm simply growing an arm. Likewise, if morality is genetically determined then there should be a vast agreement on what is and is not moral, and those that disagreed would simply be seen as having a genetic deformity. Yet, this simply isn’t the case as even among atheists there are moral disagreements on issues. So the evolutionary argument for morality simply doesn’t account for moral disagreements.

      Now you may want to say that genetics only dictate how we act, but you’re missing the point again or not properly understanding the evolutionary argument. If morality is an evolutionary trait then we cannot choose what morals we wish to enact. If our brains are purely physical then they’re simply part of the machine of cause and effect and cannot be prima causa. To say that we can simply choose to go against our nature doesn’t make sense in a naturalistic understanding of the mind. Hence, if a moral is an evolutionary evolved trait, then we are predetermined (not just predisposed) to certain actions.

      But for the sake of argument, I’ll grant your clarification. Thus, we are merely predisposed to certain moral tendencies, but if this is the case then we should all be predisposed towards similar morals (and I mean specifics). Yet, this simply is not the case. Rather, each individual differs from one another when we come down to specific morality. This means one of two things; our genetic dispositions are completely superfluous and don’t really have a survival benefit as people can go against these dispositions and still survive or such genetic predisposition don’t exist or at least aren’t exclusionary as an explanatory filter for why humans are moral.

      And finally, I don’t care if it subjectively matters to you. It subjectively matters to me that the Sooners win the NCAA Championship this year, it subjectively matters to me that Cold Stone Creamery stay open, and the list goes on. But none of these are universal. Another could argue that it subjectively matters to him that he become a multi-billionaire and it doesn’t matter who he has to hurt along the way to accomplish such a task. You are then left without recourse to argue against him, especially if he has a stronger will and a better means to impose that will. So you say it “subjectively matters,” but that never explains why I should care.

  4. I will grant that there may be atheists who argue for an objective morality. However, I feel it pertinent to defend Harris simply because his position is so often misrepresented, though I tend to think that much of the misunderstanding is his own doing. Harris has given a lecture at my university over the topic his book, I have had dinner with Harris, he even states in his book on the first couple of pages, “I will argue, however that questions about values – about meaning, morality, and life’s larger purpose-are really question about the well-being of conscious creatures. Values, therefore, translate into facts that can be scientifically understood: regarding positive and negative social emotions, retributive impulses, the effects of specific laws and social institutions on human relationships, the neurophysiology of happiness and suffering, etc. The most important of these facts are bound to transcend culture […] Of course, we will have to confront some ancient disagreements about the status of moral truth: people who draw their worldview from religion generally believe that moral truth exists, but only because God has woven it into the very fabric of reality; while those who lack such faith tend to think that notions of “good” and “evil” must be the products of evolutionary pressure and cultural invention. On the first account, to speak of “moral truth” is, of necessity, to invoke God…My purpose is to persuade you that both sides in this debate are wrong.” (pages 1-2) In other words, Harris does not argue for an objective moral truth that transcends human kind. Instead, Harris argues that there can be an objective moral truth in terms of human flourishing and that science will be able to best determine how this can be accomplished. In the Craig debate, he states this same position in his opening statement. Honestly, I don’t know why he doesn’t make it more clear, though. Having said all this, I acknowledge that there may be atheists who may in fact argue for a transcendent objective truth (though I hesitate to say that Martin would, simply because I haven’t read him).

    “First, the reason I didn’t answer the question about epistemological truths and objective moral truths is because the question is irrelevant and not based on anything I said.”

    Yes you did. In your original post you stated, “That one can be moral without God isn’t an argument against God, it’s an argument against atheism.” You then went on to state that it contradicts our nature, but this is just switching the category with what you were talking about. I understand how it may be an argument against, say, evolution, but not of an epistemological truth.

    I understand what a slippery-slope logical fallacy is, you didn’t have to explain it to me. I stick by what I said. It is not necessary that subjective morality leads to nihilism. If I may bring Harris back into this, it would not do well for the flourishing of human kind if we were to slip into nihilism. Yes, if we take this on a personal level, there may not be any reason to prohibit me from becoming nihilistic, but, in order to do what is best for me, I must do what is best for myself and the extant population (which is why I first alluded to economics).

    I would like to address the evolution aspect first before I get into anything else that you said. Biologically, there is a difference between genetic predispositions (ex. the adrenal gland genetically secretes more testosterone and adrenaline than normal, which would make a male more susceptible to violent outbreaks. But, said male can learn to control this genetic predisposition) and physiology that is dictated by genetics (i.e. no tail, two hands, two feet, etc.) We have no control over genetic physiology, but we can learn to deal, control, succumb to genetic predispositions. For some reason, you have a tendency to conflate the two and I don’t know why. To address the “moral disagreements” you cited, I pointed out that theism was the main cause for the disagreements. I would like to apologize for not explaining myself very thoroughly (it was late and I was tired). While we may have genetic predispositions, a major factor that may help determine how we act on these predispositions is our upbringing (i.e. secular vs. religious). I’ll just use one of the disagreements you cited as an example as my explanation should be applicable to most situations. In terms of homosexuality, the only disagreement is between theists and secularists. Secularists do not see a problem with homosexuality ( let us call this the default position). Theists through various methods are brought up to think that homosexuality is wrong. Through upbringing, theists are taught that homosexuality is wrong. If we simply think of it as something natural (which indeed it is as it can be exemplified throughout nature), one would be hard-pressed to say why it is “wrong”. Granted, this particular genetic predisposition does not have any “survivability” factor associated with it, but this does not make it any less natural. Not everything that is passed on has to necessarily translate to survivability.

    ” So you say it “subjectively matters,” but that never explains why I should care.”

    Yes, again, ultimately, our morality does not matter in terms of the universe. However, in order for humans to flourish, to propagate, there is a necessity to understand as much we can. This is why it subjectively matters. It subjectively matters to humans, not just me.

  5. Of course atheism doesn’t give someone one an answer to a question of morals, atheism has nothing to do with morals. Atheism is an answer to a question about the existence of gods and nothing more. You cannot expect the fact that a person does not play hockey to inform them on how best to fish. The association is a complete non sequitur.

    However, the expectation that god can grant any morals, let alone objective morals is ridiculous. The question to atheists is “Where do you get your morals from?”, so then the question to theists is “If you get your morals from god, where does god get its morals from?” If my morals are subjective and arbitrary, you cannot expect to tell me that god’s morals are not equally subjective and arbitrary. People who do not look to authorities for moral guidance will reason morals. People who turn to authorities, (in this case god for some reason) are subjecting themselves to unreasonable morals that one cannot even appeal or argue against. Going to a god for morals on the assumption that the only place one can find morals is just laziness.

    If morals are objective (a couple of words that to my mind are meaningless when put together, like saying “green thoughts”) then they are objective for god too, meaning that god is irrelevant because morality is independent of god. If morals are inscribed or formulated into the universe, “written on the hearts of men” by god then they are arbitrary and meaningless.

    The only way to make any sense of what is moral is to define what morality is. We choose – for subjective reasons since no one has anything better – that morality is defined as pertaining to the well-being of life. That which is objectively harmful to people is bad, and that which is objectively helpful is good. With this assumption, questions of morality can in fact become as objective as mathematics. In maths we assume 1 + 1 = 2, and all mathematics follows from that. The assumption morality is about human well being and suddenly all morality follows from that. Suddenly there are answers even if we do not know them, and they take time, sometimes, or are instantly obvious.

    An atheist with proactive morality can absolutely say that senseless killing is wrong, that the god of the bible is an evil maniac and that you are delusional and even dangerous if you actually do get your morals from that god or its book, the bible.

    Judging by your posts, you are entirely unqualified to speak about ethics.

    1. MPK, thank you so much for your comment. You may find this article that I wrote last week helpful: Why Should I be Moral? It addresses some of the points you made. I’m sure that Joel will interact with your arguments too. Have a great day!

      1. Hate to brake it to you but your post doesn’t answer any of my points. The entire thing is presuming its conclusion.

    2. Ah, good ole’ modern atheist incivility and irrationality, they often come hand in hand.

      You make three big mistakes. First, your claim of atheism is incorrect. Secondly, your rendition of the Euthyphro dilemma falls flat and is inapplicable. And third, you never deal with the objections I listed.

      When speaking about atheism, you can’t say “Atheism has nothing to say about morals, only things to say about God.” Such a position doesn’t work. When undermining one foundation for morality, you must supply another foundation for why we must act moral. Thus, by removing a theistic foundation you are bound to supply a foundation for why we should act moral. Should you fail to do so, then you’ve proven your own position to be irrational in that it’s simply inapplicable to life.

      Concerning your attack on God, it doesn’t work because Christianity isn’t Platonic. What few people seem to realize is that this particular dilemma only works for Platonic religions that belief in absolute forms that are autonomous from God (or the gods). The dilemma was actually dealt with by Aristotle. For our purpose, I’ll merely point out that Christianity has always taught that morals came from the nature of God; they are not dictated by him, rather they flow forth from who he is. This is because it is a part of his nature. His nature being absolute would therefore mean that morals – at least these base morals – are equally absolute and immutable. So your argument falls flat because from the get-go it’s a straw man argument that doesn’t even address the traditional view of God.

      Finally, you didn’t deal with any of the objections I listed. The fact is, sans God we have no reason to act moral.

      Next time you respond, please be more civil. Saying I’m “unqualified” to speak about ethics is both useless, unnecessary, and false.

      1. —“Thus, by removing a theistic foundation you are bound to supply a foundation for why we should act moral.”
        No I’m not. Whether we should act morally is an entirely different discussion. But seriously. How does the existence of a god mean we should act morally? If I don’t care about morality, why should the existence of a god make a difference.

        —“For our purpose, I’ll merely point out that Christianity has always taught that morals came from the nature of God; they are not dictated by him, rather they flow forth from who he is.”
        And you’re basing this on? How is this evasion not entirely contrived?

        If god exists, why should we care about what it says is moral?

      2. You’re asking a completely different question concerning the issue. I was dealing with the meta-ethical foundations for morality. You’re asking about the existential aspects of morality, namely that even if we know what is moral, why should we act upon it? Those are two completely different issues. My post was geared towards the foundations of morality and that without God we cannot have an objective basis for morals (contra Sam Harris and others). Likewise, without God, even subjective morals make little to no sense as subjective morals still must find a base in some absolute.

        As for the question of why we should act moral, because if God exists as we believe him to exist, then there is judgment, punishment, and other things to follow if you don’t act moral. But more pressing and more to the point, you should act moral because part of what it means to be human is to be moral. If God exists then it means we were created for a purpose. Thus, being moral would be part of what it means to fulfill this purpose; why act moral? Because that’s how to obtain true happiness.

        But ultimately, you still haven’t answered the objections I gave against atheism and it’s lack of foundation for morals (even subjective morals). So by default, even if you saw a million problems with theism, it’s still the more tenable option concerning morality than atheism seeing as how you have no defense for atheism.

  6. —“When undermining one foundation for morality, you must supply another foundation for why we must act moral.”
    Why? One moral foundation can be wrong irrespective of any other supposed foundation. Saying that an atheist MUST have the right answers to morality if he or she argues that a particular set is wrong is just shifting the burden of proof.

  7. —“As for the question of why we should act moral, because if God exists as we believe him to exist, then there is judgment, punishment, and other things to follow if you don’t act moral.”
    If those are the reasons to act moral (ala god), then I have no interest in god-derived morality. This is why I say the existence of a god doesn’t help answer the question of WHY we should be moral. “BECAUSE I SAID SO.” isn’t a good reason.

    —“If God exists then it means we were created for a purpose. ”
    The deist disagrees with you.

    —“Because that’s how to obtain true happiness.”
    I really think that’s a load of bollocks. The existence of hell makes any such thing as ‘true happiness’ as impossible.

    —“So by default, even if you saw a million problems with theism, it’s still the more tenable option concerning morality than atheism seeing as how you have no defense for atheism.”
    I’m advocating the “I don’t know. Let’s try and work it out.” position. Even if theism was the only option available, it’s still demonstrably a bad option and I’d rather try to improve on it than settle and give up.

  8. —“For our purpose, I’ll merely point out that Christianity has always taught that morals came from the nature of God; they are not dictated by him, rather they flow forth from who he is.”
    And are therefore arbitrary. It also permits that his actions in the old testament are both real and indefensible. It may be in his absolute nature to enjoy the suffering of the innocent. As a non-platonic god, this means that automatically causing suffering to the innocent is moral. In such a case, why would we be concerned with morality if that’s what it leads to?

    1. One-liners and multiple spamming responses are not welcome here. Restructure the posts and add some substance or your posts won’t be allowed.

  9. To address the specific points in the post.

    —“If God doesn’t exist, then how do our moral actions matter?”
    What difference would god’s existence make?

    It would also be nice if you could define morality for us.

    —“What hope exists for those who suffer in this world? While the evidential problem of evil poses a challenge for theism, it is only in theism that we can recognize suffering as a tragedy (thus, the paradox in the problem of evil). Without God, such suffering is simply a part of nature and nothing to fret about.”
    I don’t see what this has to do with anything. A situation either is or is not hopeless. The argument is that god gives hope in all situations. If there is no god, hope is no guarantee. Not many atheists would argue that there is hope in all situations. Ant it may be the case that suffering is a part of nature (undoubtable now that we understand evolution), but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fret about it. We’re in a situation where me can do something about suffering to some extent if we want to, and I think we simply do want to as empathetic apes.

    —“The skeptic will shout about the crimes of the Old Testament, but what objective moral code can the atheist point to in order to justify his rage?”
    Does an atheist need to? Theists say god’s actions are just, even if we cannot work out how, but how can someone say such a thing about a being who *defines* what is moral. God becomes its own standard rendering the notion of right and wrong circular and meaningless. It means you have a being indistinguishable from a tyrannical monster wiping people out and suddenly you’re disarmed of any tools with which to object to such an overlord.

    —““Why act morally?” Atheism is left without an answer.”
    If the atheist is left without an answer, so is the theist. “It’s our “god-image” nature to be moral.” So why should I care? “Not doing so will send us to hell.” So the reason is self-preservation, ie. the same answer the atheist gave. You’re asking for a REASON to act morally and simply stating that morals come from god doesn’t automatically give a reason.

    —“That we somehow possess the ability to make a free and conscious decision to go against our nature and do what is right, even if it is against our own survival or self-interests, is something that simply cannot be naturally explained.”
    Nonsense. If one sacrifices oneself for what is good, then it is because one values what is good over one’s own life. It must be pointed out that not all humans ARE able to do this, there do exist psychopaths lacking the neurological ability to feel empathy which suggests that god doesn’t give all humans a sense of right and wrong, he fails in the case of the psychopath. But both of these are expected and predicted by evolution. Social species normally experience empathy whereas non-social species do not. And even if we didn’t know this, saying there is no natural explanation is just an argument from ignorance. IF you do not know a naturalistic explanation it may mean there is none but it may also mean you haven’t looked enough – you’re not able to tell the difference so it really doesn’t give you reason to assume a supernatural explanation. This is why people supposed supernatural explanations for the wind and the rain before we figured it out. It means you could be wrong but you’d never know if you didn’t look for a natural explanation.

    —“Christianity has caused a lot of ills – certainly such a statement is true, but how do we know they are ills outside of having a moral code based upon God?”
    Beliefs inform actions. A non-believer isn’t going to chop her child’s arms off BECAUSE god told her to. The ills of Christianity are informed by the beliefs therein. You don’t see Buddhists burning witches because that’s not in their religion. It is in Christianity.

    —“The saddest part of people still using the Euthyphro dilemma is that there are hardly any Platonic religions around to which such a dilemma would apply. Regardless, it’s a flawed syllogism anyway and is guilty of begging the question (it doesn’t allow for a third option and forces an unnecessary either/or).”
    A third option is contrived and invented just to escape the problem.

    —“Morality must be objective, but that objectivity cannot be abstract; it must be relatable. Yet, only persons are relatable and personable. Thus, objective morality must be found in a person, not in an abstract. Ultimately, much to the chagrin of the skeptic, objective moral truths are found in God.”
    I can make up non-sequiturs too.

    Outside of the OP:

    —“Ah, good ole’ modern atheist incivility and irrationality, they often come hand in hand. ”
    Naturally I disagree my post was irrational but how can you say it was not civil?

    —“I was dealing with the meta-ethical foundations for morality. You’re asking about the existential aspects of morality, namely that even if we know what is moral, why should we act upon it? Those are two completely different issues. My post was geared towards the foundations of morality and that without God we cannot have an objective basis for morals”
    The only way you can demonstrate the kind of objective morality you’re talking about is proving a god exists. In order for your idea of objective morality to exist, there must be a god and so if there isn’t, there is no objective morality. My question is whether it would matter. If objective morality exists or not, given that we need to be reasoned with in order to accept a particular set of morals or deny them, how could the existence of objective morality matter? I can reason with a person to accepting X, Y or Z morals and they be subjective. You could reason with the same person to accept A, B and C morals which happen to be objective – given that we reason these things makes the objectivity of morality irrelevant.

    —“But ultimately, you still haven’t answered the objections I gave against atheism and it’s lack of foundation for morals”
    Practical morals don’t live up to your standard unfortunately but nothing short of your preconceived idea of objective morality will so I’m not sure what point you think you’re making in this post. In any case, atheism doesn’t need a foundation for objective morals in order to be true. A lack of theistic objective morals may seem unfortunate to you, if it is true, but that only makes it an inconvenient truth. These moral arguments, however, aren’t good reasons to suppose that theism MUST be true. In which case it doesn’t really matter.

Comments are closed.