Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Emptiness of Morality Dependent on God

"God is necessary for objective morality to exist" tells us nothing about what is objectively moral or immoral.

Many who defend the proposition of a god's necessity often jump jump from it to some desired conclusion such as, "Therefore, all homosexuals must be put to death," or "It is obligatory to kill any young woman caught talking to a man" or "The government may force the people to support - directly and indirectly - any church (and, in this way, any priest) that has the government's favor."

Yet, there is no moral conclusion that actually follows straight from the premises that a god exists and that without god there can be no objective morality.

In this, theism and atheism stand on equal grounds. The one difference is that most atheists are aware of the fact that "The proposition that a god exists is certainly or almost certainly false" says nothing about what (if anything) is objectively right or wrong. Whereas many theists make the entirely unjustified leap from, "God exists and a makes objective morality possible" to conclusions like "it is objectively obligatory to do X and objectively prohibited to do Y."

Let me illustrate this point with a story.

Let's pretend there is a god. His name is "God". God created humans, and God makes objective morality possible. In making humans he created our reproductive system. He knew that the system was one that would cause some males to acquire an attraction for other males and some females to love other females. However, God shrugged his shoulders and said, "Love is love. I don't need to fix this - it is not broken."

Yet, some humans did not share in God's unconditional love. They viewed "different" as "evil". When they encountered those who were different from themselves, they found themselves filled with hate and loathing. Driven by this passion, they sought to rid the world of those they hated. To give the devil's policy an appearance of legitimacy, they began to preach that God was on their side - that God viewed homosexuality as an abomination - and that they served God by ridding the world of this evil. It is not that they lied - they believed these things themselves. They held, "That which I loathe and hate, God must loathe and hate, because my hate certainly comes from God."

God could have corrected them. However, God said unto himself, "I have given them brains with which to reason and free will with which to decide who and what to believe. If they choose to believe that I would hate those who love, and love those who hate, then they truly sin against me. Their attitudes are not only wrong but objectively wrong, for I have made them so. I will not overrule their freedom to choose. However, when the day of judgment comes, I will give them what they deserve for what they have freely chosen to believe."

I hold that this is just a story. However, this story illustrates a point. One can believe that a god exists. One can believe that without a god there can be no objective morality. However, one still has to figure out what is objectively moral.

And how is one going to do that?

Let me add another story.

When God created humans, God gave to us the gift of reason. He considered this his greatest gift.

However, soon after creation, sin entered the world. False prophets started to mock reason and evidence. These false prophets told their followers to abandon such things - to turn their back on God's gift and hold those gifts in contempt. In its place, they elevated unreasoned faith as a virtue - belief without evidence, thought without reason. By promoting faith over reason, they found that they could claim to speak for God and to toss aside all questions. They found that they could get people to serve them, while still thinking they serve a god, because they have abandoned reason and evidence.

False beliefs flooded the world. People paid for their sins by suffering floods and famines and disease that reason could have prevented - that are prevented in those areas where reason does rule.

God could have told them of their error. However, God said to himself, "I have given them reason and the ability to figure these things out for themselves. If I tell them the answer, rather than having them reason it out for themselves, then I will be dishonoring my most valuable gift."

Now, when the faith monger dies and stands at the gates of heaven, he looks inside and sees the likes of Albert Einstein, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawkins, Carl Sagan. Yet, he is told he may not enter. "These people put my greatest gift to work understanding the world I created. They unlocked its secrets and taught their understanding to others. And though they may have gotten some answers wrong - as mere mortals are prone to do - they always spoke honestly about the possibility of error. They spoke about how future evidence may prove them wrong - something that those who abandon evidence can never say. They honored and respected my greatest gift. Whereas you spent you life holding my greatest gift in contempt, and spreading this evil around the world with you preaching. And with it you spread disease, famine, and war. You were right to say that objective morality comes from God. But you failed to realize that promoting faith over reason is - objectively - the greatest sin."

Go ahead and believe that a god exists. Go ahead and believe that without a god there can be no objective morality. That will tell you nothing - not one solitary thing - about what is and what is not objectively right or wrong.

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