Opposition to the Moral Argument

Recently I have found myself in several discussions with atheists based on a variety of topics. I have stumbled on the “Blessed Atheist Bible Study,” where atheists go through the stories of the Bible and attempt to show inconsistency and laugh at how foolish they think it all sounds. I had the privilege of refuting one such consistency from the author of a book called “Disproving Christianity: Refuting the World’s Most Followed Religion.” I have come upon the blog post from an atheist who is not scared of death but assumes that many religious people are. I have discussed the rational nature of atheism. Yet in all of these instances, it seems the discussion has boiled down to the Moral Argument for the existence of God.

And why should it not? Morality is at our inner core; Christians know this to be our souls. We can’t see it, can’t touch it, but we know it’s there. In fact, everyone knows it’s there, because everyone believes in some form of morality. Even the most inconceivable of people who thought that murder was not wrong would still be enraged with a sense of wrongdoing if someone murdered their own child. Morality is a part of everything we actually do, because it is the innate governing body (given by God) of what we should and shouldn’t do.

So what do those who don’t believe in the existence of God say in opposition of the argument for objective moral values? Here are several that I’ve heard:

“Morality is based on a consensus of society.”

This sounds a lot like many of the laws we have today. Things are wrong because the law says and most people agree that these laws are good. The problem inherent in this argument is that different societies can have different opinions on what ought to be done. For instance, some societies say that polygamy is perfectly acceptable, other societies say it is absolutely wrong. One society in particular found it perfectly acceptable (by consensus, of course) to attempt to exterminate an entire race of people in what we call the Holocaust; many other societies decry this as pure evil. But if it is a societal consensus that determines morality, then someone injecting their morality on you is perfectly acceptable, for they are acting completely within their moral code. They are not violating their morality, so any act they perform, regardless of whether right or wrong in your own society, is OK. But if someone’s society says you ought to kill all blonde people and this is moral, and you are blonde, you might take exception to this if they came after you; you might even say it’s wrong. But if it’s not wrong in their moral code, then they are technically right in killing you. So morality based on societal consensus really doesn’t make sense.

“Anything that causes suffering is immoral,” or “Suffering is the measuring stick by which we determine right and wrong.”

This one actually sounds OK at first, because it allows for objective morality and suffering is seen as a universally wrong act. But this one consists of a logical inconsistency as well. First, on whom is the suffering placed for it to be immoral? For example, if someone were to attempt to kill a woman, but that woman killed that person in self-defense, is she committing an immoral act? It would definitely cause suffering for the person dying, as well as the dead person’s family and friends, so it would have to be considered immoral to defend one’s self.

But let’s take it a step further, and this is the argument I presented in response to this as well. Suppose a baseball game is tied 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth. The big power hitter for the home team comes up with two outs and smacks a game-winning home run off the opponent’s best pitcher. By doing this, he unleashes a huge celebration among his teammates and his fans. Unfortunately, he has just committed an immoral act and must therefore be condemned. Why? Because he caused suffering in the form of shame and disappointment for the pitcher, the opposing team, and all of the opposing team’s fans. It would also be an act with a relatively greater level of immorality than just killing the one person in self-defense, because the home run inflicted suffering on so many more people. I’m being sort of facetious here, but the logic to this argument is pretty ridiculous when you break it down.

“Morality has evolved over time and is based on current culture and circumstances.”

This one was particularly interesting, because this subjective morality came from someone who was trying to say that the Bible is inconsistent because God was evil in killing innocent Egyptians in the final plague of Exodus. However, if right and wrong change over time and are based on the current culture and societal norms, then we can make no judgments about the past in a moral sense. In this sense, everything done in history could be moral, so we can’t really condemn any acts we’ve seen in history. The persecution of Christians would be OK, the persecution of atheists would be OK, the slavery of Africans would be OK, because at that time the “current morality” could have allowed for this to be OK. This also means that not only was Pharaoh justified in enslaving the Israelites, but God was justified in committing an act in direct opposition. Both sides of the coin are OK in the past, because we can’t judge them based on our current morality, since it has evolved over time.

The second part of this one is whose morality we’re talking about here. My sense of what is moral in my culture is very different from the gentleman who put forth this argument, so which one of us evolved correctly? Did I not evolve properly, and so my morality is not really morality unless it agrees with his morality? If it is neither of us, then what is the measuring stick for the morality of the culture? If culture is the measuring stick, then it has to be independent of individuals, in which case we would all be subscribing to objective morality based on culture, which then begs the question of the past. It is a self-defeating argument.

Ultimately, there is no good answer to the Moral Argument, because there are objective moral values, and we all know it. They are based on what C.S. Lewis calls the “Tertium Quid,” or a Moral Law-Giver that transcends time and culture, so we can judge things once and for all as right or wrong based on this Moral Law-Giver. So if you are a believer in God, this should give you confidence moving forward that we have a great God that not only transcends time and space, but also is willing to give us a part of His nature to guide us as a compass discerning what is right and what is wrong, based on His nature. If you are a skeptic, what is your criticism of the Moral Argument?

Advertisements

22 responses to this post.

  1. I do agree with this post. I think that the Moral Argument is one of the most powerful arguments for the existence of God. Often, people get stuck between denying that there are objective moral values or denying that they need God to justify objective moral values. The same people tend to go back and forth between these two stances. I think it is because the argument is unavoidably true. Objective moral values exist, therefore God exists.

    Reply

  2. Excellent post.

    Good points, clearly and elegantly put.

    Reply

  3. I will have to bone up on the moral argument and I will definitely look for the C.S. Lewis book you suggest. Based upon what I’ve read here so far, however, I must ask – why do we presuppose that morality must have come from God? Isn’t that doing a little bit of a disservice to human beings – to think that we are not capable of having developed morality without some sort of outside influence?

    It seems to me that the development of morality by any group of beings, without the aid of a “God”, requires, at the outset, only the use of their senses, the capacity to experience emotion, and consciousness. Even if “consciousness” as we understand it is only in the infant stages of its development (i.e. the beings in question need not have risen to the analytic level of DesCartes), beings who meet the first two criteria should certainly be capable of recognizing what gives them comfort, what makes them safe, and what actions to take to try to guarantee their own survival. It’s not a great stretch to imagine moral behavior arising out of such circumstances.

    To put it another way – we feel; we can observe that others feel; why would we not attempt to behave towards others in a way that makes them feel the way we like to feel?

    Reply

    • Good questions. I think for the most part no one would disagree with your last paragraph. What you’re getting at I think here is the “Golden Rule.” The fact that some form of this concept appears in every religion and even non-religious people agree with it would seem to give rise to objective morality. That is the first issue we have to tackle; is morality objective or subjective?

      So I think you can see with my arguments that I firmly believe morality must be objective, because if there’s not an objective standard for morality (C.S. Lewis calls this a “Tertium Quid”), then anything can really be right depending on the circumstances. Pre-meditated murder would be acceptable as long as it was compliant with a person’s moral code. Furthermore, we can’t judge the morality of the past, so we would be morally condoning the Holocaust, slavery, etc. But if there is an objective moral standard, then something can be wrong all the time, regardless of the situation.

      The problem with behaving in a way that makes us feel like we like to feel is that it might be infringing on someone else’s feelings. Take adultery for example. Let’s be honest; guys really like sex. So having sex with someone might make us feel good, but think of all the damage that it does. Or take for instance a serial killer who takes pleasure in the suffering of others. To make others feel the way the SK likes to feel means that the SK would want them to enjoy suffering, particularly at others’ expense. This would fit right into the description of your last paragraph. If you agree that this would be wrong, then you would have to say that neither can “what feels good to me” be a standard for morality.

      So ultimately I would be interested in whether you think there is objective morality. If there is, then we have to ask, “What is the measuring stick for this morality?” And when you look at it logically, in order for this standard to affect everybody, it has to be something that exists over the period of time that man does, because the morality remains the same through all generations. It can’t be society/culture, because societal standards change and not every society has the same standards. So when it comes down to it, a Supreme Being is really the most likely explanation for objective morality. It doesn’t do us a disservice to say we can’t come up with morality. It just means we’re not the top rung on the ladder, so to speak. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that in a supernatural sense, particularly if the top rung is a God who loves us enough to show us the differences between right and wrong and to provide a way for redemption when we happen to fall on the wrong side of things.

      I don’t do justice to either Lewis’ or Craig’s argument, so I would just encourage you to check them out for yourself and decide if you agree/disagree. But thanks for your inquiries and for the discussion. It’s always good to test these things, because it shows whether through the tests of time these arguments hold sufficient weight. I think this one is still on solid ground, but if you disagree, please feel free to share. This is an open forum for reasonable thought.

      Reply

  4. I still haven’t had time to do much research, so I can only base this response on my present attitudes. As such, I’ll try to keep it short.

    Quoting from your post above – “The problem with behaving in a way that makes us feel like we like to feel is that it might be infringing on someone else’s feelings.

    I wasn’t suggesting that we should always behave in ways that make us feel good, or always use that as a barometer of how to treat others. Rather, I was suggesting that we can use our own feelings as a jumping off point – empathy as the beginning of morality (not the end).

    Quoting you again – “…I firmly believe morality must be objective, because if there’s not an objective standard for morality […] then anything can really be right depending on the circumstances. Pre-meditated murder would be acceptable as long as it was compliant with a person’s moral code. Furthermore, we can’t judge the morality of the past, so we would be morally condoning the Holocaust, slavery, etc. But if there is an objective moral standard, then something can be wrong all the time, regardless of the situation.

    I can’t see how there can be objective morality. Moral standards are, and always have been, subject to the beliefs and practices of individual societies and/or periods in human history. As a case in point, is pre-meditated murder acceptible if it’s used as a punishment for other moral infractions? In some societies the answer is an unqualified yes!

    Moreover, the reason we can’t judge the morality of the past is that it’s [necessarily] radically different from the morality of today – so we can have no common frame of reference by which to make such judgments. If we did have such a common frame of reference, it would only be because moral standards had become stagnant, static, and not subject to change as cultures change. In that case we most certainly would condone slavery (as it was viewed as an acceptable and ethical component of ancient societies of for thousands of years). Similarly, once we realize that morality is always subjective, we can accept more easily that certain historical figures viewed morality as deontological; and if we could share a frame of reference with those figures, we might condone The Holocaust (as crazy as that sounds!).

    This is the primary reason that I am such an advocate for the rights of homosexual couples. I don’t see morality as objective, immutable knowledge sitting out in the ether waiting for us to find it (as Plato might have). I see it as ever evolving – and I think those who cannot (or will not) recognize that will quickly find themselves becoming obsolete.

    Reply

    • “Rather, I was suggesting that we can use our own feelings as a jumping off point – empathy as the beginning of morality (not the end).”

      I apologize if I mis-represented your position. I agree with the above, but then the question becomes, “Where do our feelings come from?” Science has only shown the brain has interpretive power when it comes to emotions, not creative power. The intangible nature of emotions suggest (based on taxonomy) their origin from an intangible source. The theist has a logical explanation for this dating back to the writings of the Old Testament: the soul. The naturalist has no such answer.

      “Moreover, the reason we can’t judge the morality of the past is that it’s [necessarily] radically different from the morality of today – so we can have no common frame of reference by which to make such judgments.”

      But then what determines the past? By this standard morality can change from year to year, or even day to day or minute to minute. Radical shifts in culture seem to happen almost overnight these days (just look at the fashion industry), so how do we define when morality has changed? And whose morality decides what is moral and what isn’t? We here in the US live in the same time period as Al-Qaeda, but the two moral codes governing our actions surrounding the same situation are entirely different. So who is right and who is wrong, and who gets to decide? I have a feeling that the contemporaries of the Civil War era had vastly differing opinions on the morality of slavery, but under these circumstances both sides of the coin are right. It doesn’t add up.

      I have no problem with the advocation for the rights of homosexual couples. They ought to be afforded the same opportunities as all other citizens (I made this point on your blog also). However, if we have objective morality we can decide whether their behavior is right or wrong, regardless of rights. It all depends on what the Tertium Quid is, and I submit that the God of the Bible is the most plausible explanation.

      The problem with evolving morality is that eventually it can evolve to a point where it is to the direct detriment of others’ well-being (Holocaust, 9/11), and because it was completely within their moral code, these things are completely justified on subjectively moral terms. Only if we have that innate moral compass given to us can we decide what actions are good and what actions are not. Otherwise there is no good, and there is no evil (if everything is right, nothing is wrong, and thus there ceases to be a “right”, because everything just becomes “what it is”). This robs humanity of purposeful existence, for we are all merely acting out for no real reason at all. Just like with intelligent design, the theological position gives us both explanation and purpose for our existence. That’s a comforting thought to me, and one that makes sense.

      I just hope what I said makes sense here. I’ve become quite the rambler lately. 🙂

      Reply

      • “I apologize if I mis-represented your position.”

        Not to worry. Interestingly, I recently had a very nice, and thought provoking, exchange with your wife in which this was a central point. It really is a shame that the written word is so limiting in terms of expressing the thoughts and feelings of the writer. Even when the writer is someone far more eloquent than I, quite often the intent is lost.

        “The problem with evolving morality is that eventually it can evolve to a point where it is to the direct detriment of others’ well-being (Holocaust, 9/11), and because it was completely within their moral code, these things are completely justified on subjectively moral terms. […]there is no good, and there is no evil (if everything is right, nothing is wrong, and thus there ceases to be a “right”, because everything just becomes “what it is”). This robs humanity of purposeful existence, for we are all merely acting out for no real reason at all.”

        Precisely my point. In this one paragraph, you have successfully brought together everything I have been thinking/feeling for the bulk of my adult life. If you observe events going on in the world today, or study events that have gone on throughout recorded time, you invariably find that this is exactly how things are and always have been, and may always be in the future if we don’t recognize our own ability to change them – not with the help or guidance of a “God” – but by ourselves. Because, sadly, no amount of spiritual enlightment, religious congregation, or passing down of scripture through the ages has made any real difference in the conditions you’ve described; which makes it seem very likely that we are, indeed, on our own.

        I apologize if it sounds like I a total pessimist – I’m actually not. I’m very optimistic that humankind possesses the abilty to address and rectify the things about which you and I have been conversing. I just don’t know for sure that the abilty was “given” to us as much as we developed it ourselves.

        Now I’m also rambling. 😛 Sorry.

      • “If you observe events going on in the world today, or study events that have gone on throughout recorded time, you invariably find that this is exactly how things are and always have been, and may always be in the future if we don’t recognize our own ability to change them – not with the help or guidance of a “God” – but by ourselves. Because, sadly, no amount of spiritual enlightment, religious congregation, or passing down of scripture through the ages has made any real difference in the conditions you’ve described; which makes it seem very likely that we are, indeed, on our own.”

        I think the question then becomes, “How are we supposed to be any better than those in the past?” This is a two-fold question; one part is this idea of moral progress. But if morality is evolving, then we have no basis for measuring the morality of the past, for we don’t know what it really was. This makes everything right in the past, which leads to the point I made in my last paragraph previously. We can’t have any moral progress if there’s nothing to progress from. The only way to judge our morality in relation to the past is if there is an objective standard transcendent of time by which we can compare these things.

        The second part of the question is this: “What makes us think that those in the past weren’t trying the same way we’re trying now?” If they were doomed to failure (sorry, I know I seem sort of pessimistic too), then either we use our objective moral compass to make a radical shift in the morality of our own society, or we are doomed to repeat or add on to their mistakes. Unfortunately, I think we’re in the latter category, especially with some of the more perverse stuff becoming more socially acceptable today (pornography is one such distinct example of this). It sort of seems like while some people have high hopes for moral progress in our culture (and I would put both you and I in this boat), when we look at our world’s culture as a whole, we’re going backwards. Now I can only say that because I’m using the Bible (God’s Word) as the objective morality with which to compare, because just as if we can’t progress in the sense I mentioned earlier with evolving morality, we can’t regress either.

        I guess what I’m ultimately saying is that to make the world a “better place,” as we are all wont to do, we have to know what we’re making it better than, and only an objective standard allows for that. I also would suggest that those who are trying vigorously at what we would call “moral progress” are actually practicing values that are found in the New Testament (e.g. “Love your neighbor as yourself”), so I think this is a worthwhile place to start looking when determining morality. In all of your study, have you found any issues with the moral values put forth in the New Testament? I’d love to help answer your questions or break down misconceptions.

        Now it’s your turn to ramble again. 🙂

  5. I’m sorry. It seems like I’m hijacking space that could easily be used by somebody else. I also don’t want to come across as argumentative. As much as it might seem like my mind is already made up, I keep pounding away at my points with the sincere desire that the discourse will help me somehow.

    In any case – – –

    “I guess what I’m ultimately saying is that to make the world a “better place,” as we are all wont to do, we have to know what we’re making it better than, and only an objective standard allows for that. I also would suggest that those who are trying vigorously at what we would call “moral progress” are actually practicing values that are found in the New Testament (e.g. “Love your neighbor as yourself”), so I think this is a worthwhile place to start looking when determining morality. In all of your study, have you found any issues with the moral values put forth in the New Testament? I’d love to help answer your questions or break down misconceptions.”

    Isn’t “better” a word that, by its very definition, asserts the need for subjectivity? What’s better to me might not be better to you. For example, I happen to think that pornography is useful and good (as long as those who produce it and appear in it are of legal age and are doing so of their own free will without being exploited). So, to me, the world would be a “better” place if more people felt the same way.

    As for measuring the evolution of morality (i.e. using the morality of the past as a yard stick) I don’t see where an objective standard would be of any more use than a subjective one. In fact, I think that trying to impose an objective standard of morality on a society that is constantly evolving is impossible; and were it possible, could do more harm than good.

    Morality is requisite to ethical behavior. The biggest problem with an objective morality is that the ethics arising from it are put into action by subjects (i.e. people – so subjectivity invariably enters into it). If our morality comes to us only from God (i.e from scripture) we either stagnate, or worse, we have to deal with conflicts over which “God” it’s coming from – Yahweh, Allah, The Trinity – who knows?

    The best philosophical questions I’ve heard on the topic of morality ask us to conclude which is “better” – consequential morality or deontological morality. What is the “right” answer? Is there evidence of an answer in scripture?

    Speaking of scripture, as for the New Testament, I can’t really comment with any certainty as I’m still struggling through the Old Testament. I can certainly see where the stories in the New Testament are meant to emphasize morality. As far as I can tell, most of those morals existed long beforehand – even before the Old Testament was written – but I wouldn’t necessarily say that they’re all applicable or beneficial today – although some are. I guess I’ll have to get back to ya’ on that one. 🙂

    Reply

    • Sorry it’s taken me so long to get your comment up. I’ve been having some computer issues and haven’t had the time to read it in full. I have no problem with your continued comments, as I believe this is fruitful discussion. So let’s get back to it! 🙂

      “Isn’t “better” a word that, by its very definition, asserts the need for subjectivity? What’s better to me might not be better to you. For example, I happen to think that pornography is useful and good (as long as those who produce it and appear in it are of legal age and are doing so of their own free will without being exploited). So, to me, the world would be a “better” place if more people felt the same way.”

      This is precisely my point though. If we are going it alone to make any real differences, then if we have differences of opinion on what’s right and what’s wrong, then we can’t make any real differences, because under subjective morality both viewpoints are entirely correct. But since they are contradictory, there can be no definition of progress or “making a difference”, because morality becomes relative to the individual (meaning the only difference we make is in our own worlds, not in the actual world as a whole). So the abolition of slavery and subsequent civil rights could be seen as a regression by some and a progression by others, and how do we make the determination what is actually true? We can’t under subjective morality. The only way we can determine progress is by objective morality.

      “I think that trying to impose an objective standard of morality on a society that is constantly evolving is impossible; and were it possible, could do more harm than good.”

      Why would an objective morality be bad in an evolving society? It seems to me that if we could say adultery is wrong no matter the time or circumstances, we could probably prevent a lot of human suffering throughout history.

      “The biggest problem with an objective morality is that the ethics arising from it are put into action by subjects (i.e. people – so subjectivity invariably enters into it).”

      This only applies to our interpretation of the moral values. It doesn’t change the values themselves under objective morality.

      “If our morality comes to us only from God (i.e from scripture) we either stagnate, or worse, we have to deal with conflicts over which “God” it’s coming from – Yahweh, Allah, The Trinity – who knows?”

      I still don’t understand how we stagnate if morality comes from God. It doesn’t hold back the evolution of culture; it just holds culture to the same standards no matter the time period. As for which God it comes from, that’s when it becomes a heart issue and we have to look at what fits both rationally and emotionally. I submit that when doing that the Christian God ends up the winner when looking at humanistic moral values. C.S. Lewis probably has a better argument for it than I do.

      “The best philosophical questions I’ve heard on the topic of morality ask us to conclude which is “better” – consequential morality or deontological morality. What is the “right” answer? Is there evidence of an answer in scripture?”

      I think looking at the Bible you would find that it supports the idea of deontological morality, because it brings its objective moral values down to an individual level. If we were to do the same thing with consequential morality, then the only consequences that matter are what happens to us as an individual (i.e. anything you do is moral only as it affects you). So if you were to rape and murder a 2-year old child, because it doesn’t necessarily affect you consequentially (unless you get caught), this is completely moral. Deontological morality says that each individual has an obligation to use objective moral values to determine the treatment of all things. The Bible, particularly the New Testament, is chock full of references about attitudes of your own heart in relation to other individuals, so I would submit that although moral absolutism is probably the best descriptor of Biblical morality, deontological fits better than consequential. Let me give an example.

      Some serial killer murders your daughter. You find out who it is, track him down and have him at gunpoint begging for his life. Consequential morality says don’t hesitate to pull the trigger, because the consequences for you are minimal or non-existent. But it also says that what he did wasn’t consequentially immoral, so what basis do you have for killing him? However, the Bible uses deontological morality in this sense. Jesus says in Matthew 5:38-39: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ (small aside: this previous statement is an Old Testament reference) But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” He also says in Matthew 5:43-45: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” God says here that He loves all people and treats them equally, so we should do the same, regardless of how they treat us. We are to behave this way because God does it for us, not because God commands us to do it. This is deontological, not consequential, in my opinion.

      I hope to help you clarify further things as you make your way through the Old Testament. If you can’t reconcile some things, I’ll do my best to lend a hand. Thanks for taking the time to continually make a serious study of this! 🙂

      Reply

  6. He he he ..I’m feeling particulary wordy tonight. I hope you’re still speaking to me after I post this. Don’t worry though, I will not be rude and, if I come off as condescending, it’s not on purpose. Alright then, here we go:

    “If we are going it alone to make any real differences, then if we have differences of opinion on what’s right and what’s wrong, then we can’t make any real differences, because under subjective morality both viewpoints are entirely correct.”

    They’re only both correct until one isn’t. Peoples’ attitudes change (which history shows us is inevitable) and that’s when one becomes incorrect. If morality is measured only by an objective standard, moral progress couldn’t occur. To put it another way – how many morally acceptible situations have changed radically since Christ’s era to the point that they’re now morally reprehensible? DId God decide somewhere along the line that that social order should no longer include slaves? What about the subjugation of women?

    “So the abolition of slavery and subsequent civil rights could be seen as a regression by some and a progression by others, and how do we make the determination what is actually true? We can’t under subjective morality.”

    They are seen as a regression by some. Nevertheless, there has been a sufficient number of visioary people throughout history to effect change. So, the way we make the determination of “truth” is by observing that such change can be (and is) beneficial to many and detrimental to none.

    “Why would an objective morality be bad in an evolving society? It seems to me that if we could say adultery is wrong no matter the time or circumstances, we could probably prevent a lot of human suffering throughout history.”

    That’s a subjective statement. Since we can’t know how circumstances will change, how can we know that adultery is bad no matter the time or circumstances? If morality is what it is and the “truth”of it can’t be redefined as we evolve, then how do we ever get to a point where we can all live harmoniously? Using your example – there is much current research that indicates that humans, by our very nature, are not meant to be monogamous. Plenty of married people are committing adultery every day with the full knowledge, consent, and sometimes even involvement, of their spouses. In many cases these couples enjoy a much closer relationship than they otherwise would have. in fact, I know some couples who have reached their golden years living in this way and they have no regrets. So what if, five or ten generations from now, the bulk of married couples in the world live in this way and are happy and fulfiled? What if marriage, as we currently know it, becomes unnecessary? Granted, this is just a hypothetical scenario but, if it came to that and men and women were not only accepting of it but happy about it, and no one was being hurt by it, then it wouldn’t be immoral would it?

    “I still don’t understand how we stagnate if morality comes from God. It doesn’t hold back the evolution of culture; it just holds culture to the same standards no matter the time period.”

    If morality comes from God (who apparently hasn’t had much to say in the past two millennia) then it would be safe to say that what was morally acceptable at the time of Christ should still be acceptable today. Slaves, concubines, animal sacrifices, conquest of entire nations, etc. Need I say more?

    I’ve already gone on much longer than I intended to so, I’ll finish up with this quick bit about consequential morality. It isn’t just about the consequences for the individual who has to make a moral judgment. It’s best described using the statement “the end justifies the means”. So, in the serial killer example, my satisfaction is not the desireable consequence. Taking a serial killer’s life so as to prevent further serial killing is. This is why, for example, a police officer who shows up as a gunman is shooting up his workplace will quite probably shoot the gunman and never be charged with a crime. This makes me think of the God of the Old Testament (who is presumably the same God as in the New Testament) who would sweep away entire societies if they didn’t behave morally. Is that moral?

    Reply

    • Of course I’m still speaking to you! Nothing you posted in there was outrageous or out of line, not even close. Feel free to be as wordy as is necessary to make your point. I certainly haven’t been holding back. 🙂

      “They’re only both correct until one isn’t. Peoples’ attitudes change (which history shows us is inevitable) and that’s when one becomes incorrect.”

      Yes but who gets to decide what is correct? That’s my point in all of this. Unless there’s an objective standard nothing can be considered more right than something else, because people in every society have contradictory attitudes. They can’t both be right, so who is, and what’s the standard for deciding this?

      “To put it another way – how many morally acceptible situations have changed radically since Christ’s era to the point that they’re now morally reprehensible? DId God decide somewhere along the line that that social order should no longer include slaves? What about the subjugation of women?”

      I think if you look at the context for both of your examples you will see that the morality didn’t change. On slavery, dig a little and you’ll see that the slavery mentioned in the Bible was not the slavery we think of during the time of the American Civil War. Biblical-times slavery was pledging yourself to someone for a length of time in service to work off a debt, not forced from your homeland and put under someone’s thumb. Biblical slavery is much closer to the current job-wage system than it is to African-American slavery. God also provided a way out every seventh year, where every debt was forgiven and every worker was to be freed, so it’s not quite what we think of slavery today. The subjugation of women, if you look at the context, didn’t really happen either. If you look at the instructions to women (not to wear braided hair, for instance), it was to keep others from stumbling. The braided hair example, while not applicable today, was relevant because prostitutes would braid their hair to entice men into lust. And lust is sin, so Paul instructed women not to entice men into sinning. The implicit nature of the command is still applicable today, as are most of the others regarding women and other things that are relevant based on historical context and implied instruction.

      “So, the way we make the determination of “truth” is by observing that such change can be (and is) beneficial to many and detrimental to none.”

      But how do you define “detrimental to none”? I think the “moral progress” of civil rights would be seen as detrimental by neo-Nazis and the KKK, because it affects their well-being and livelihood, according to their moral code. Or to jump to the adultery example, it’s detrimental to many, but if society says this is the norm, does that make it any less detrimental to those who don’t approve? Or same-sex marriage to the Catholic church? These are all detrimental to some people or a large group of people depending on perspective. So in this sense, we can’t really determine any truth, either. The only way we can really determine truth is objectively, and to do that we need an objective standard.

      “Using your example – there is much current research that indicates that humans, by our very nature, are not meant to be monogamous. Plenty of married people are committing adultery every day with the full knowledge, consent, and sometimes even involvement, of their spouses.”

      And herein lies the inherent problem of sin and sanctification. To be a Christian means to follow Christ, even at the expense of what the world says is right or even what feels good. But in that sense, morality is not “what feels good,” because the same act can feel good to one and not another. By our very nature humans are also prone to violence, but that doesn’t mean we go around killing everyone we see to satisfy our nature. It’s making choices (aka moral decisions) based on what God’s will is, and this is evident in the New Testament of the Bible. I can’t wait for you to get there, honestly. This might help our discussions greatly. But these choices are not always easy. It’s the analogy of the narrow road versus the wide gate. It’s easier to take the bigger road, but it doesn’t always lead to the right place. Sometimes we have to make choices because of what is right, not because of what is easy or satisfies the flesh. This is why social norms can’t be an objective standard, because they change from society to society, and sometimes they are contradictory (e.g. Nazi Germany and Polish Jews), but under the social norms morality, both are completely right.

      “If morality comes from God (who apparently hasn’t had much to say in the past two millennia) then it would be safe to say that what was morally acceptable at the time of Christ should still be acceptable today. Slaves, concubines, animal sacrifices, conquest of entire nations, etc. Need I say more?”

      God hasn’t needed much to say in the past two millennia because his objective moral values remain the same regardless of the time period. He doesn’t need to say it if it’s already written down for us to see ourselves. I don’t need to touch on slavery since I already did that. Concubines were not acceptable even before the time of Christ, as God doesn’t command people to go get concubines even in the Old Testament. The “leave and cleave” aspect found in Genesis (which purports the two becoming one flesh, not the 700 becoming one flesh) validates that point. Animal sacrifices are no longer necessary because Jesus Christ offered Himself as an eternal sacrifice to cover the sins of all people who accept this gift. So animal sacrifice is no longer needed, and is therefore no longer correct. This goes to the importance of understanding that we are bound to the covenant found in the New Testament, not the Old Testament. Again, so excited for you to get there. As to conquest of nations, you’ll see that this is also no longer applicable based on the New Covenant. Look at Jesus’ commands regarding “an eye for an eye” and “hate your enemy and love your neighbor” which were both in the old covenant. In Matthew 5, Jesus lays out the way we are supposed to live based on the covenant He set up by offering His blood in place of our sins, and He replaces the two statements above with different ones (much more humanist ones, in fact).

      “It’s best described using the statement “the end justifies the means”. So, in the serial killer example, my satisfaction is not the desirable consequence. Taking a serial killer’s life so as to prevent further serial killing is.”

      So am I correct in believing that you value justified consequences over human life? That doesn’t seem very humanist to me, but you’ve never established yourself as a humanist, so I don’t know what your value system for judgment is. But if it’s “beneficial to many and detrimental to none”, then human life would have to be the most important. Otherwise, it would be justified to kill all unborn or newly born children, because odds are at least a handful of them will become serial killers or rapists or some other socially unacceptable person, or they could give birth to one, or some other such thing. The end justifies the means there too, so consequential morality only holds up in specific circumstances. Deontological, or even better, absolute morality allows for the same standards to be applied across the board. So in our serial killer/police officer scenario, the serial killer is wrong because he commits murder, while the police officer is not wrong because he does not. Objective morality (e.g. murder is wrong) allows us to put both actions on different sides of the coin, even though the acts are almost essentially the same. This allows for the greatest possible humanistic values, because people, next to God, are the most important thing we have.

      “This makes me think of the God of the Old Testament (who is presumably the same God as in the New Testament) who would sweep away entire societies if they didn’t behave morally. Is that moral?”

      Well yes, but I need to explain why. If you’re not familiar with the Euthyphro dilemma, it’s basically a dilemma of this question: “Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?” I’ve had atheists turn this one loose on me, sure that they had me trapped. The problem is that this is a false dilemma, because there is a third alternative, and that is the one that Christians for 2,000 years have attested to: God is morality. Just like God is love, God is omniscient, and God is faithful, God is morality. It’s a part of His nature. If God ceased to be moral, He would cease to be God. So is anything God does moral? The answer is yes.

      Now how do you explain wiping out entire societies being completely moral? The answer is that before Jesus Christ came to the earth, there was no justification for sins. Anyone alive before Christ would be judged based on their merits about how well they obeyed God’s laws. Since He is omniscient, He knows who in their heart embraces Him and who rejects Him. If they rejected Him in Old Testament times, then God had to be a just (as in, imparting justice) God and punish people for their sins. He did it just as much to the Israelites as He did it to the Amalekites, the Ammonites, etc. For justice is another part of God’s nature; He doesn’t want anyone to go to hell, but if they reject Him, then He has no choice but to impart the justice due on us because of our sin. So if an entire nation was worshiping false gods and had rejected the one true God, then, as Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death.” I’m willing to bet that God would know whether or not a nation would turn from their rejection of Him or not, so if in His omniscience He knew that this wasn’t the case, then He was completely justified in exacting the sentence for breaking His law.

      Luckily for us, Romans 6:23 says more than just what I said above. The second half says this, “But the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” So when Christ came to pay the penalty for our sins by offering Himself on the cross as a sacrifice once and for all, God was no longer bound to exact justice on sin in the same way. Instead, He has given people a choice to accept or reject this gift of salvation, and this offer stands until a person leaves this world in death. Only if this person throughout their life continually rejects God and never chooses to embrace Him and His free gift of salvation must He then carry out the justice for our sins. See, our sins separate us from God, but if we repent, tell God we need Him in our lives and accept His gift of salvation, then we are covered under the blood of Christ, and we are spared the justice for our sins. So God is the same God in both Old Testament and New Testament, but with Christ as Mediator, we can have justification from our sins under the new covenant that has been set up.

      Sorry I took so long, but this is basically the most important thing I can share with you, and that is that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. But now we have a way that we can share eternity with Him, and that’s accepting the gift of grace He has given us through Christ’s death. I hope you will accept that gift. God wants you to do so more than anything, and that goes for me too.

      I hope what I’ve said makes sense. To be continued by you, I hope. 🙂

      Reply

  7. I apologize for taking so long to reply. I have spent several days reading and re-reading, considering and reconsidering all that you have written. I was also, unfortunately, preoccupied by situations in my life that have further cemented my skepticism about God.

    I hope to continue to correspond with you as you seem like a good natured, intelligent, helpful person. But I have no wish to debate you and I think, at this point, our discourse is beginning to feel like just that – a debate.

    So I hope you agree with this next suggestion: perhaps we should bring this thread to a close and allow your readers to focus their attention on the many other things you have undoubtedly written since this discussion started. If you think you’d like to fire off a long response to everything I’m about to write, I’ll look forward to reading it but, after that, I may only reply with a brief summary of all my points (like a conclusion in a term paper). Maybe then, you do the same and we’ll put this topic to bed.

    By the way, I will definitely pick up the C.S. Lewis book you recommended. I hope you, in turn, will look for the following:

    “The Case for God” by Karen Armstrong

    “The Lost Christianities” – lecture series by Bart D. Ehrman

    OK, here I go.

    “…who gets to decide what is correct? Unless there’s an objective standard nothing can be considered more right than something else, because people in every society have contradictory attitudes. They can’t both be right, so who is, and what’s the standard for deciding this?”

    I think the weak point in the whole argument [for objective morality] is the presumption that there even has to be a standard from the outset. Suspend your beliefs for just a moment and assume that there is no objective morality. Now ask yourself the same questions. If there’s no objective standard, who gets to decide? The people decide. It’s not a perfect system but it has certainly allowed us to reach a point where there is some cross-societal agreement on morality. And, I think it’s safe to say that we’ll see more progress as we evolve further.

    All the same, for the sake of argument, let’s go back to your view and assume that there does, indeed, have to be an objective moral standard. Why does it have to have come from the God of the Christians? Recent research indicates that two thirds of the world’s population is made up of non-Christians. That’s a pretty big disparity – big enough to have me questioning the likelihood that the New Testament is actually “The Word of God” by which humans at large should make moral judgments. It seems much more likely that it’s just a volume of books written by men about a man. Anyway, given the points I’ve just made, why shouldn’t we accept the God of Islam or the God(s) of Hinduism as the source of our morality?

    “On slavery, dig a little and you’ll see that the slavery mentioned in the Bible was not the slavery we think of during the time of the American Civil War. Biblical-times slavery was pledging yourself to someone for a length of time in service to work off a debt, not forced from your homeland and put under someone’s thumb. Biblical slavery is much closer to the current job-wage system than it is to African-American slavery. God also provided a way out every seventh year, where every debt was forgiven and every worker was to be freed, so it’s not quite what we think of slavery today.”

    I hope you’re not seriously telling me that slavery isn’t really slavery just because it’s mentioned in the Bible. I will certainly dig deeper but I have to tell you I was really disheartened by the statement in italics above. The “debt-slavery” to which you refer was certainly one type that was prevalent at that time and may bear some similarity to our current understanding of indentured servitude.

    Nonetheless, there is really no disagreement among historians that slavery in the ancient world also covered a wide gamut of other detestable conditions including, but not limited to, punishment for crime, enslavement of conquered enemies, and birth of children to slaves. In fact, it was a widely held belief in ancient cultures that some men are born slaves by nature. Aristotle wrote about this in his Politics. Regardless, by our current standards any situation in which one human being is considered the property of another is morally reprehensible and rightly so, I hope you’d agree. Yet, this does not seem to have been the case in Biblical times. If morality is to be measured only by an objective standard, then these two disparate conditions are not reconcilable by that standard.

    “The subjugation of women, if you look at the context, didn’t really happen either.”

    Wow. OK, I must admit that I am enjoying our ongoing discourse on matters of faith and morality. I’ll even admit to learning a few things – which is an enjoyable part of my quest. Still, the above statement is the second thing you’ve written that gives me serious pause. I don’t want to believe that you are so blinded by your Christian faith (as many whom I’ve encountered sadly are) that you deny thousands of years of long established historical fact. So, since I can’t know your thoughts or intentions at the time those words first appeared on you screen, I’ll simply say the following:

    Throughout recorded time, women in most settled societies of the world and virtually all class societies have experienced low status, exploitation, oppression, and loss of self-determination. People can sugar coat it any way they like by pointing out examples such as your braided hair tidbit. Be that as it may, women of the New Testament era actually enjoyed far less freedom than their Jewish predecessors. I can’t begin to rattle off all the names of women who were well respected prophetesses in ancient Jewish history. Yet, by the time of Christ, women were relegated mostly to domestic duties. They were excluded from the educational opportunities that men had, they were unable to take public leadership roles, and were often regarded as being little better than slaves.

    I’m not a big fan of putting total faith in words on a page (as your wife will attest – she and I had a most thought provoking dialog about that). So I will not quote from the Bible. However, as I understand it, even Paul, in his letters, makes reference to the elevated status of men over women.

    So again, given what we now know about the extraordinary capabilities, tenacity, intelligence, and talent of women in general – would we say the subjugation of women in Biblical times was moral? If it was, we should have no problem keeping them barefoot and pregnant here in the 21st Century.

    “God hasn’t needed much to say in the past two millennia because his objective moral values remain the same regardless of the time period. He doesn’t need to say it if it’s already written down for us to see ourselves. […] Jesus Christ offered Himself as an eternal sacrifice to cover the sins of all people who accept this gift.”

    I have two concerns with this line of reasoning. First, in the simplest possible terms, it essentially gives people permission to behave immorally. If it is our nature to be sinful and we must accept Jesus as our savior in order for our sins to be forgiven, then it stands to reason that we will sin. So rather than giving humans the benefit of the doubt and focusing on how we should conduct ourselves morally, the Christian message is that we’re born sinful, we will act in sinful ways, and we should accept that. Once we’ve accepted it, then we should seek redemption. Wouldn’t it make more sense to suppose that we’re neither good nor evil at birth and to just teach ethical behavior as an attainable goal through morality? Obviously, we can’t know for sure whether “nature” or “nurture” is correct. But why assume it’s “nature” and, in so doing, muddle the message of “nurture”?

    My second concern is that the entire concept seems wildly unlikely. If God is the uncaused cause; if God is morality; if God is love; if God is omniscient, omnipotent, and all those other infinitely great things that are really beyond humans’ ability to conceive of, why would he even bother to give humans tens of thousands of years of existence on Earth (or even three thousand years if you’re a strict believer in the timeline of the Old Testament) before finally coming up with the idea of offering his son for our benefit? Was everything before Christ just an experiment that didn’t go well? If God is really God, why would he do this? Logically, he’d either have gotten it right from the word go, or he’d have given humanity a savior way earlier in the game – like at the beginning.

    “And herein lies the inherent problem of sin and sanctification. To be a Christian means to follow Christ, even at the expense of what the world says is right or even what feels good.”

    This is why I think it’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever be a Christian. The “world” has come a long way. It is not inconceivable to me that eventually, the people of the world will arrive at a common moral ground. I am also optimistic that such subjective morality will dictate that no one is hated, no one is discriminated against, no one is “less equal” than another; that love, kindness, respect, and all those other wonderful things are the driving force behind all of our actions.

    “So am I correct in believing that you value justified consequences over human life? That doesn’t seem very humanist to me, but you’ve never established yourself as a humanist, so I don’t know what your value system for judgment is. But if it’s “beneficial to many and detrimental to none”, then human life would have to be the most important.”

    Not at all. I wasn’t stating anything about my values – just attempting to clarify what I meant when I used the phrase “consequential morality”. For the most part, I like to think that I abide by what Emmanuel Kant would call “moral imperative”. Although, as I understand it, this implies “conscience” and, where my conscience is concerned, there are certainly a few situations in which consequential morality would apply to my decision making. Again, this deviates from the concept of an objective morality given to us by a God, but I think it’s plain to see, at this point, that I can’t get on board with that.

    “Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God? I’ve had atheists turn this one loose on me, sure that they had me trapped. The problem is that this is a false dilemma, because there is a third alternative, and that is the one that Christians for 2,000 years have attested to: God is morality. Just like God is love, God is omniscient, and God is faithful, God is morality. It’s a part of His nature. If God ceased to be moral, He would cease to be God. So is anything God does moral? The answer is yes.”

    If you look, even casually, at what you wrote about the Euthyphro Dilemma it’s fairly obvious that you’ve chosen one of the original two prongs. If God is morality, then moral good is what it is because it is commanded by God. The rest is semantics.

    Further, if anything God does is moral, he could throw humanity another curveball in the form of another prophet like Jesus who could conceivably show up and tell us that everything in the Christian Bible no longer applies and that we now have a new covenant by which to be bound. This would make sense in light of what I wrote earlier about God “experimenting” with humanity and not getting it entirely right the first time. Perhaps he’s still tweaking things. If you look at it like this, can you see why it all seems so nonsensical to me?

    I have no desire to offend. I hope I’ve not done so. Your faith is obviously very important to you. Although I can’t possibly know you through your writing alone, I would guess that it’s perhaps the paramount thing in your life. If that works for you, then more power to you. I can only say that it wouldn’t work for me and I can’t see it working for humankind as a whole.

    Reply

    • I won’t make a long discourse here. I suppose I have done what I could do to attempt to show you the case for objective morality. I won’t really say anything to your points except that I disagree with or have reasonable responses to all of them. But it seems that I will not be the one to convince you about such things, and that’s completely fine. I’m glad that you are using reason when it comes to your journey, and all I can hope and pray is that perhaps someday someone else will make an argument that will make more sense to you on this subject, and you might be inclined to agree.

      I’m not offended in the least. My faith is extremely important to me, important enough that I’ve felt it critical to not only grow in faith but also in reasonable knowledge to discuss with those who are not ready to make such a leap of faith. 1 Corinthians 9:22 says this: “When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.” This verse is all about meeting people where they are, and finding common ground with which to start so that some might come to understanding of the one true God. That’s what I’m trying to do here, because many like yourself are intelligent people who use rational logic and reason to sort out their opinions on such things. If you ever have any additional questions or would like a Christian or theistic perspective on things, consider me a resource. I will stay in touch via your blog and hopefully we can continue to have friendly dialogue. For now, I agree, and let’s put this to bed.

      Reply

  8. Thanks for your understanding and insights. You have certainly given me plenty to think about. I appreciate it. I wil follow your blog as well and you can be assured that I will seek you out any time I feel l should have a Christian perspective.

    This particular thread has been educational.

    Reply

  9. Posted by Teague T. on September 8, 2010 at 1:09 PM

    Let me ask you this: if humans ceased to exist, would there still be morality? if you say yes, then you must identify the sustainer of moralist (likely God) in which case you will end up begging the questions – God is the conclusion of the moral argument and if it is assumed that He is the sustainer, then you have placed His existence into a premise – and if you answer no, then you lose the argument on grounds that morality is subjective to humanity (not to be confused with the consensus point above).

    There is another problem here. If X is universally accepted, it does not mean that X is objective. Objectivity and universality are not the same thing.

    Plus, calling actions ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, require several things. First, as I pointed out above, then require a judger – if not humans, then who or what? Second, they require intentionality and actions. This means that morality is totally contingent, like beauty or good food.

    Reply

    • Hey TT,

      Unfortunately the issue you bring up is a false dilemma. The theistic God is not a creator or sustainer of morality; He is morality. Every action done in this world is right or wrong based on the reflection of God’s nature. If it would be against God’s nature, it is morally wrong. But since God exists transcendent of time and space, there is no sustaining of morality. There is just simply the existence of morality in an infinite sense. Your argument is no different than the Euthyphro dilemma, which also attempts to place God in a naturalistic box that He simply does not exist in.

      And the issue here is objectivity, not universality. The converse to your statement is also true; if X is objective, it does not mean that X is universally accepted. We’re discussing objective moral values, for which there must be a Tertium Quid. There’s really no problem here; just a clarification of intent.

      Reply

      • Posted by Teague T. on September 8, 2010 at 3:09 PM

        Dontcha think the “He is morality” claim will land you in deeper water? I mean, if you are trying to get to the existence of God by way or the moral argument, the LAST thing you should do is suppose God right away. That’s begging the question.

        So from what I gather you have (1) morality exists, (2) Morality = God (C/) God exists. Which is not a good argument by any standard:)

        Also, it is impossible to show that morality is objective. You offered us “In fact, everyone knows it’s there, because everyone believes in some form of morality. “but this doesn’t say much. Everybody also thinks that good food exists, but that doesn’t license the conclusion that there is such a thing as objectively good food. Everyone thinks that something is beautiful, but that doesn’t mean that anything is objectively beautiful. Right?

        Have you read J.L. Mackie’s Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong?

      • No I don’t think it lands me in deeper water at all. The moral argument is about establishing objective moral values. Then the question becomes, “What is the most likely explanation for the Tertium Quid”? That is the question to which God is the answer. Why? Because if there is a moral law, there must be a Moral Law-Giver. But you can’t lump in examples of beauty and good food with morality, because morality is based on actions, as you said yourself. So there is a clear distinction between what defines morality and what defines beauty or good food. Something can be considered tasty or beautiful with no action at all, but something can’t be considered moral or immoral if there is no action taken. So you’re comparing apples to oranges here.

        Objective moral values exist because there are some intentional acts that everyone knows is wrong. Take murder for example. There are no circumstances under which murder is deemed acceptable morally, but if morals really were developed based on survival instincts, then murder would be completely acceptable and in fact desirable in many cases. So why is murder wrong? Because it goes against the nature of the Moral Law-Giver. See, God is not the conclusion of the moral argument, for the moral argument determines the “if”. God is the answer to the “why”.

        Nope I have not read Mackie’s book. Can you give me a little bit of explanation for why you think this is a good read before I go snatch it off the library shelves?

  10. Posted by Teague T. on September 9, 2010 at 11:23 AM

    I’m appreciating this conversation, thanks:)

    Well, historically the moral argument is meant to conclude with God’s existence and objective morality is just part of the grander argument. So again, if God is presupposed from the get-go, then it’s not a good argument at all. If, as you say, the question of God only comes after, then there is still another problem. Your argument looks like this: If there is objective morality, then God exists (inference to best explanation). And likewise, If God exists (as per scripture) then objective morality exists (as per scripture). So it’s circular.

    You made a point here about murder, but we already agreed that IF some moral value in universal, it does not make it objective. So I’m not sure why that matters. Plus, clearly everyone does not think murder is wrong (war, payback for rape, etc). Also, murder involves something wholly subjective; human laws. I think, to put yourself on better ground, you ought to start with a better example of something that if considered wrong, like torturing babies. Nobody really brings up murder in ethics, as far as I know. But even baby torture will get you nowhere, IMO, because as mentioned even if you get everyone to agree that it is wrong, that would show that it is universal, not that it is objective. Objectivity, as Mackie might have said, is a queer thing to assert.

    re: analogous relationships
    You pointed out that beauty and food don’t involve human action like morality, which is true. It is ALWAYS the case that two things being compared are different in some way. If you’d like to reject that point, you’d have to show how they are importantly different. I say that “what he did was wrong” and “that was the best pizza ever!” and “my wife is beautiful” are all subjective value judgments. So one involves an action — so what?

    Mackie probably gives the clearest and most impressive (according to me, lol) statement on moral skepticism. You’d be doing yourself a disservice to not read him. That’s why I read Kant, C.S. Lewis, Plantinga and guys like that. You have to get a better take on what you are arguing about or you’ll fall into, what I find to be, problem areas.

    Reply

    • I think you’re doing a disservice to my argument. My argument is not circular; it’s this: if there is objective morality, then there must exist an objective moral standard. God is the inference to best explanation of an objective moral standard that exists. So God is not pre-supposed, but the answer to the second level of the moral argument. But objective morality is the conclusion to the first level. So it’s not circular; it’s procedural.

      I guess when we talk about whether murder is wrong we need to define murder. Because I think everyone thinks payback for rape is wrong, but that doesn’t mean they won’t do it. And I don’t think that war constitutes murder, but certain actions within war can. But let’s look at it from a different perspective. If murder was OK to some, then why aren’t there more people making the claim that abortion is OK because murder is OK? What you see when it comes to abortion is that those who say it’s OK justify it because when it takes place the baby is not a person in their minds. The question is when it becomes a life, not whether taking a life is OK. This suggests an objective moral value. And though objectivity and universality can be different, it doesn’t mean that they always are. If everyone universally agrees that murder is wrong, it can also mean that murder is objectively immoral. There’s nothing wrong with this assumption.

      Re: analogous relationships
      The issue at hand is that “what he did was wrong” isn’t a value judgment until an action takes place. The action defines the value judgment, so each of the judgments has to be based on the same standard, and they are not. There is no action needed to judge beauty or pizza, so we’re still at apples and oranges. You also don’t have any standard to define the moral judgment, so unless there is some standard by which one is wrong, your value judgment actually has no value at all. So there is no subjectivity, and there is no value. There is only judgment, and judgment by itself can’t stand.

      Well I will put Mackie on the reading list, though it’s growing pretty big, so I don’t know when I’ll get to it. Thanks for the suggestion though!

      Reply

  11. Posted by Teague T. on September 9, 2010 at 2:53 PM

    This might save some time:

    http://ttubach.wordpress.com/2010/09/09/value-judgments-and-ontology/

    [Owner’s Note: Linking to this blog does not mean I support or agree with this viewpoint, nor do I claim any credit to either its validity or to its origin. This is one blogger’s opinion, and should be treated as such in its reading.]

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: