Posts Tagged ‘moral argument’

Theism or Atheism – Which is More Logical?

In having several different discussions, something that just became evident to me is how much the debates between theists and atheists rely on logic. Truthfully, I hadn’t heard terms like special pleading, begging the question or non sequitur until I jumped into the fray. And yet they are constantly being tossed around in these arguments, knocking down arguments and providing objections and rebuttals.

That got me thinking a bit. If logic and philosophical arguments are such a big piece of the issue, then what logical arguments are being discussed. In all of my time here on WordPress, I’ve seen many positive arguments for theism, like the Kalam cosmological argument, the teleological argument, the moral argument, the argument for soul, the argument from desire, the argument for the veracity of the resurrection of Christ. I’ve made many of these arguments myself on this blog.

But for atheism, the positive arguments are scarce to non-existent. Shouldn’t a worldview that predicates itself on being “critical thinkers” and using “logic and reason” to show people the light of the day have more positive arguments on its side? I mean, realistically the only positive argument I can think of for atheism is the problem of evil, and that’s not even really a positive argument for atheism so much as a negative argument against theism.

So maybe someone can help me out here, but are there really any good positive arguments for atheism? My feeling is that if a worldview is true, there will be reasons to believe it is true. Just like if I believe that atheism is false, that doesn’t mean that theism is true. I need reasons to believe in favor of theism.

If there are no good positive arguments for atheism, then can atheists really contend that they come from the more logical position? Perhaps this is why atheism argues so hard for methodological naturalism, because that is really all it has to stand on if it can’t use philosophy or logic in favor of its position.

It’s just one more thing to make me (and hopefully any fence-sitters out there) convinced that theism has a much firmer foundation as a worldview, and I have solid justification in my belief in God. 🙂

Evidence for God’s Existence – The Moral Argument

Continuing with the series of evidence for God’s existence as the most plausible explanation for how things are, we get to the moral argument. This one is not born of scientific reasoning, but again using the inference to the best explanation. What I will do is give the logical argument for objective moral law, then look at some of the possible hypotheses for what moral law is actually like. Once we decide between subjective and objective moral law, then we will look at what is the most likely standard for objective moral law–in other words, is there an objective Moral Lawgiver?

The logical argument reads this way:

1) If objective moral law exists, then the best explanation for moral law is an objective Moral Lawgiver (i.e. God).
2) Objective moral law exists.
3) Therefore, the best explanation for moral law is an objective Moral Lawgiver.

The obvious issues are with both initial conditions in the hypothetical syllogism. First, it must be shown that objective moral law exists. So let’s talk about that first.

The simplest way to determine if objective moral law exists is to find a situation where there is no possible way you can look at it as either completely right or completely wrong. One common example used is rape. This has come up in another discussion I’ve been having recently, and there has still been no evidence to show that there is anything right about rape, no matter if it’s humans, animals, etc. It is decried as a completely wrong event, no matter how apathetic some people might be to it in certain instances.

Another hypothetical example: a mother murders (not kills–either by accident or a gun to the head, etc.–, but actually murders) her 3-day old baby for no reason. The baby has no ability to discern right from wrong, and so could not have committed a wrong against the mother for which it is self-defense or retaliation. There is no instance in which the murder of this baby could be considered right, so it is objectively wrong in every instance.

So in order to show that morality is not objective, one must break down such situations and show an instance where it is not only socially acceptable, but truly right to do so. Otherwise, this satisfies the burden of best explanation for morality being based on objective value judgments.

Once objective moral values have been determined, we continue with the same method (inference to best explanation) to determine the tertium quid, or measuring stick for moral values. So we look at the hypotheses available, and make the best judgment given the information we have. So let’s take a look at some of the potential measuring sticks:

1) Promotion of life=right. Not a bad measuring stick, but incomplete. This would mean such things as killing someone in self-defense would be considered immoral, or an act of altruism to save someone else would also be considered immoral. A police officer killing the criminal in a hostage situation to save hundreds of lives would be immoral. While the goal SHOULD be to promote life, it doesn’t provide a satisfactory explanation to an objective standard of moral values.

2) Causes suffering=wrong. Again, not bad, but still insufficient, because any act that causes suffering would be deemed immoral. So again, killing someone in self-defense would be considered immoral. Breaking up with someone would be considered immoral. Hitting a home run would be immoral. And so on to the absurd.

3) Minimizing suffering=good. This one gets a bit closer, but what is the definition of minimal suffering? The best way to minimize suffering is to eliminate it, and how do we go about doing that on our own? While we can try our best to do good, ultimately doing what is perceived to be a good act might involve causing someone to suffer. For example, social programs are seen as largely good, because they are attempting to help people that can’t help themselves. Yet in order to fund these programs, the government must tax its constituents at-large. This almost definitely would cause suffering for some segment of the populace, if for no other reason than that it forces them to give up money they would not give up otherwise. So it seems like a naturalistic view of minimal suffering is insufficient.

4) An individual responsible for determining right and wrong. This is where it gets considerably better. Finally it gets down to one unique standard of determining right and wrong. If this person is responsible for guiding moral law, then all choices come down to whether it falls on the right side or wrong side depending on how that one person sees it.

So the question then becomes this: who is that individual? If it is a human, would it be possible for him/her to govern all cultures at the same time with the same moral law? Technically it’s possible, but only if that person’s own considerations couldn’t be called into question. What I mean is that the person who affects moral law would also be bound to it, so if that person says lying is wrong but has lied, then there is a serious problem with their position as objectively moral.

So the individual must be someone who is bound to moral law but has no possibility of doing wrong. And what is the best explanation for that individual? First, the individual must be omni-benevolent, so good is embodied in them. Second, the individual must be omniscient, so that they have a perfect knowledge of the good. Third, the individual must be omnisapient, so that they have a perfect understanding of the best means to achieve that good. Fourth, the individual must be transcendent, so as to not be susceptible to the natural instincts that unfortunately cause us to sometimes do wrong. Fifth, the individual must be immanent, so as to be able to enforce the moral law.

I think if you look at all of the necessary attributes, the theistic God is clearly the best explanation for an objective standard of moral law. To break down the argument, one must either show that a better objective moral standard exists, or show that God does not possess at least one of the above attributes. It’s a very difficult challenge, because the biggest hurdle to overcome is a complete understanding of what is good; of course, I believe it to be impossibly difficult because I feel it cannot be demonstrated, but I’m willing to entertain objections to objective morality and counter-arguments to the best objective moral standard.

EDIT: Due to the comment made on this post, I feel it also necessary to note that the objective moral standard must also be immutable, for if the standard for moral law changed it would not be objective. Since the theistic God also possesses this attribute, the argument is still in good shape.

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?