Thursday, December 20, 2012

Morality, God, and Knowing What to Do

So, here you are. You believe that a god exists. You believe that objective morality is not possible without god.

How do you determine what is objectively right and wrong?

Yesterday, I wrote two stories. In one story, I wrote of a god who says "Love is love" and views homosexual love as equal to heterosexual love. The other was of a god that views reason as his greatest gift to humanity and faith as the rejecting that risk and in doing so, rejecting God.

Other people tell stories of a god that commands killing any young woman who is caught talking to a man, the slaughter of apostates, the slaughter of anybody who questions their claims about what God wants. Some say that god demands the execution of certain wrongdoers, and some say that god prohibits all killing. Some say blood transfusions are evil, others condemn cloning. Some say life begins at conception, others say the fetus as no soul until quickening.

All of these stories - in fact all similar stories that one can imagine - are consistent with, "There is a god, and objective morality would not exist without a god."

Even desirism, the moral theory I apply in these blog postings, is consistent with that view. There is a god. God is required for objective morality. Desirism accurately describes the objective morality the this god built into the world.

Now, how are you going to determine what is objectively right and wrong? How are you going to determine if your own actions are consistent with the objective morality god created, or a violation of that morality?

You could appeal to scripture.

Which scripture? There are a lot of scriptures out there. How do you know that yours is the right one.

Which interpretation of scripture? Even people who point to the same scripture disagree over what it says - what it commands. Does your interpretation capture what is really right or wrong? Or are you seeing a commandment to do that which objective morality forbids or to refrain from doing what objective morality requires?

It is the very essence of objectivity that where two people disagree, one must be wrong. There is no sense to the claim, "A person's religion gives them an objective morality." The only sensible claim to be made is, "A person's religion give them THE objective morality." However, where those "objective" moralities say different things, at least some of them must be mistaken.

We must also add the complication that, at some level of specificity, everybody's interpretation of scripture is unique. Nobody on the planet has exactly the same interpretation as anybody else.

This implies that at most one person in all of human history - at most one and almost certainly not even that - has the correct interpretation of scripture. And even this ignores the fact that a person's interpretation will change over time.

It seems quite arrogant for any person to claim, "At most one person in all of human history will have the correct interpretation of scripture, and that one person is me."

Is it objectively good to be that arrogant? Isn't a little humility a good thing?

So, where is your objective god-given morality and how do you know when you have found it?

Chances are, you have been warned about me - about the person who may temp you to question and to doubt. You have been told to ignore questions and doubt.

Are these truly virtues? Or are these vices you have been convinced to adopt by people who want your unquestioning economic, political, and social support. These religious leaders have a lot to lose if people go astray - if people quit contributing money and political and social power to them. It is only natural for them to fear the possibility of you questioning their word - questioning the claims that always end in a call to contribute money or power to them. But are they giving you a virtue? Or are they giving you a useful vice - useful to them?

Belief that there is a god, and that god is necessary for objective morality to exist, does not help a person one bit in determining what to do. It does not answer any real-world moral questions. When it comes to answering the question of what to do, the theist and the atheist are on equal ground.


Anonymous said...

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. - ZDENNY

Unknown said...

God is alive! The fool says in his heart that there is no God. They are corrupt.

Unknown said...

Atheists say that God is not real at the same time blame God for evils in this world. My questions to them are:
1. How can a God that is not real be responsible for all evils they accuse Him? If God is not real then He is not responsible for the evils they publish against God on the internet. They forget that their god Satan is the one responsible even though they lie that the devil does not exist.
2. Dont atheists believe that God exists? If atheists say that God is responsible for all evils on this earth then they are saying they believe that God exists.
These are confusing people by saying both things. let them stick to saying God does not exist and not accusing the same God of all the evils they have published on internet and in their books.

David Evans said...

"Atheists say that God is not real at the same time blame God for evils in this world."

Can you provide evidence of even one person who says both those things?

What atheists sometimes say is that if God existed he would be responsible for the evils in the world, and this is one reason for believing that he does not exist.

Anonymous said...

When atheists say that god causes the evil in the world, most of them mean "god" as in "religion". Many "holy" atrocities have been committed in the name of "god".

Anonymous said...

This is a comment to Muliwana's response about what atheists say about GOD, as well as David Evans. If you both actually think that true atheists would make comments like those you proclaim they have, then, you're either making these comments up to help your own argument, or you heard these comments spoken by people who don't understand what it is they're speaking of. It's just like a "believer" to misuse a phrase or misinterpret comments in a way that leaves them with fuel for their dying fire. Whether you like it or not, you need to wake up and realize that religion has had its moment in the sun,and, as embarrassing as it is that people have actually believed in gods living in an imaginary sky hotel with goodness and pleasure surrounding them, it's comforting to know that we're slowly moving away from our unevolved mentality about our world and our place in the cosmos. It's 2012. Wake up and start using your brains.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Maimbolwa Muliwana

Atheists say that God is not real at the same time blame God for evils in this world.

Any atheist who would say this is deeply confused, and is certainly a very rare form of atheist.

Neither I nor the vast majority of atheists "blame God for evils in the world". We do, however, blame belief in God (or "religion") for many evils. A belief in God can be real (and very dangerous) even where God does not exist, just as a belief in Santa Claus can be real even though Santa Claus does not exist.

By this, they refer to people who are agents of evil while they quote scripture. Those who do harm to homosexuals, force women into subservient roles, kill young women for not being properly "modest", allow their children to die from easily treatable diseases, or who obstruct education in such matters as evolution and climate change - all while quoting scripture - are examples of evil caused - not by a God - but by a belief in a God.

Yet, ultimately, I disagree with many atheists on this specific focus. Humans, without any divine intervention, created religion and assigned to God their moral beliefs and sentiments. Any evil that humans write into religion they also have the capacity to write into a non-theistic philosophy as is illustrated by Ayn Rand Objectivism or several forms of Marxism.

Religion does not cause evil and eliminating religion will not eliminate evil. It leaves untouched the evil written into non-theistic philosophies and, in fact, provides a smoke screen for those evils. There are many atheists who write and speak that they are willing to ignore the evils written into non-theistic philosophies simply because they are non-theistic.