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Callum

Objective Morality

Question

Hi guys I had a question about morality and I can't seem to find a decent answer so I thought I would ask it here.

 

Im sure some of you have heard this argument but it goes like this

 

1. If God does not exist there is no Objective Morality.

2. There is Objective Morality.

3. God exists.

 

From William Lane Craig.

 

I have heard of the Euthyphro dilemma but Christians have said that God is good in the same way that water is wet.

 

Other problems I have with this argument is that if the Christian God is true and is the objective source of morality then there are things that I see no harm in that are immoral. Things like Homosexuality, premarital sex, masturbation, birth control, polygamy etc...

 

Then theres the whole God doing some pretty nasty stuff in the Old Testament like a global flood and genocide of women and kids.

The only excuses I have heard for this is that 1. God had to do these things to bring about Jesus and he had to do them because humans were bad. But if I was all powerful I could probably think of a better alternative than flooding the whole planet and ordering a genocide.

 

and 2. that all people are born in sin and God is the creator of life so he has the authority to take life as he pleases.

 

 

There have also been secular attempts to produce objective morality. Like Utilitarianism and Secular Humanism but objections raised to them are that without God to ground morality the things that become right or wrong are dependant on society. Example being without God to ground objective morality if the Nazis won and brainwashed or killed everyone that disagreed with them then society would view the extermanation of Jews as a good thing.

 

Then theres another objection to Objective Morality without God is that it just becomes human opinion so while human 1 may think child abuse is wrong human 2 thinks its right.

 

Rambling over any help with this subject would be amazing. I am currently stuck in a circle of thinking about this.

 

Have a nice day!

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I don't buy into the argument that God exists with a higher moral standard.  Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Unless what was good and evil changed between here and there, and it can't, because God is the same then now and for ever, then God killing people and committing genocide (or urging his chosen people to do so) is still wrong.  This was the big thing that drove my urge to leave Christianity in the first place.

 

As for Objective Morality, even Bible-thumping Christians can't agree on what's wrong and right according to the Book.  That makes God's Objective Morality a hard pill to swallow and still a matter of opinion.  If He wanted us to behave a certain way He should have left better instructions.  Even Jesus is guilty of this; he talked in parables to confuse his followers.

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Premise 2 is not accepted fact. Therefore the conclusion is in error. WLC talks a lot of high sounding terms without actually giving his arguments any meat to them.

 

The first question is: how are you defining morality? The next question is how do you determine it's objective?

 

If morality is the wellbeing or reduction of suffering the wiping out every living thing in a flood doesnt help your case for objective morality. 

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18 hours ago, LogicalFallacy said:

Premise 2 is not accepted fact. Therefore the conclusion is in error. WLC talks a lot of high sounding terms without actually giving his arguments any meat to them.

 

The first question is: how are you defining morality? The next question is how do you determine it's objective?

 

If morality is the wellbeing or reduction of suffering the wiping out every living thing in a flood doesnt help your case for objective morality. 

 

I was going to make essentially the same point. Premise 2 will need to be demonstrated as opposed to simply asserted. If you encounter someone who asserts that morality is objective, I would challenge them on that. How is morality demonstrated to be objective? If killing is wrong, than it is always wrong but this is not demonstrable in the bible. If slavery is wrong, than it is always wrong....but this is not the case in the bible. 

 

Just as an alternative, should they ask for it, you should look into the proof behind cultural/social morality. Values are taught and passed along through the generations which explains why owning a slave was socially moral/of god not long ago, but is now completely immoral. 

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I wanted to make one more quick point....many things that Christians say are predicated on the premise that god is real. If god is truly who they believe him to be, than we are ants and are not owed anything. If he really has a plan, than our suffering really would fall in line with his ultimate goals. The problem is all of these things are explained away without any "proof" that their original premise is based in reality, so all their assertions are also not shown to be based in reality either.

 

Good advice was given to me on this site: stop boxing on their side of the ring, stop participating in a discussion that they control. They assert things that are their own beliefs, not fact.

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23 hours ago, Callum said:

Hi guys I had a question about morality and I can't seem to find a decent answer so I thought I would ask it here.

 

Im sure some of you have heard this argument but it goes like this

 

1. If God does not exist there is no Objective Morality.

2. There is Objective Morality.

3. God exists.

 

 

...

 

 

The argument is logically invalid. In a normal valid argument, if both P1 (#1) and P2 (#2) are true then C1 (#3) logically follows.  However, here, C1 is implied in P1 to begin with, i.e., "If God does not exist there is no Objective Morality" implies "If God does exist there is Objective Morality."  As such this is merely a tautology (assuming P1 and P2) are true.  Of course, if either premise is false, then the argument is just plain nonsense.

 

This can also be shown by adding another premise, "If God does exist there is no Objective Morality".  See where that leads?  Dead end.

 

In addition, the argument is not sound.  Neither P1 or P2 are facts but simple assertions.

 

The argument is invalid and unsound.  A total failure.

 

The trouble here (as with most things coming from Craig), is (i) no consensus on what "objective morality" means, what it is made of and what it is not made of and (ii) no definition of this "God".  

 

More importantly, however, is the disregarding of the actual evidence which does exist concerning the formation, development and application of morals and ethics by species with sufficient sentience and cognizance to do so.  Craig is quite good at ignoring reality when it suits his preconceived beliefs. 

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On 11/2/2017 at 3:10 PM, Callum said:

...

I have heard of the Euthyphro dilemma but Christians have said that God is good in the same way that water is wet.

...

I am currently stuck in a circle of thinking about this.

 

Well, water can also be frozen (think frostbite - hardly good), steam (think burns - hardly good) or plasma (think annihilation - definitely not good).

 

Studying the Euthyphro Dilemma will get you much farther than considering a weak apologetic composed of a faulty and incomplete analogy.

 

On 11/2/2017 at 3:10 PM, Callum said:

...

Other problems I have with this argument is that if the Christian God is true and is the objective source of morality then there are things that I see no harm in that are immoral. Things like Homosexuality, premarital sex, masturbation, birth control, polygamy etc...

...

 

 

Yes, who decides what is moral or ethical?  You should note in your studies that all claims of "X is moral and Y is immoral" come from humans, and from no other source.

 

On 11/2/2017 at 3:10 PM, Callum said:

...

Then theres the whole God doing some pretty nasty stuff in the Old Testament like a global flood and genocide of women and kids.

The only excuses I have heard for this is that 1. God had to do these things to bring about Jesus and he had to do them because humans were bad. But if I was all powerful I could probably think of a better alternative than flooding the whole planet and ordering a genocide.

 

and 2. that all people are born in sin and God is the creator of life so he has the authority to take life as he pleases.

...

 

 

Infantile Christian apologetics are typically based on wishful thinking (i.e., religious faith) and merely demonstrate shallow, myopic and intellectually dishonest thinking.  There is also a side salad of the Christian Stockholm Syndrome™ here too, i.e., the "might is right" poison from Job.

 

On 11/2/2017 at 3:10 PM, Callum said:

...

There have also been secular attempts to produce objective morality. Like Utilitarianism and Secular Humanism but objections raised to them are that without God to ground morality the things that become right or wrong are dependant on society. Example being without God to ground objective morality if the Nazis won and brainwashed or killed everyone that disagreed with them then society would view the extermanation of Jews as a good thing.

...

 

 

I disagree in part.  Many human groups and societies have attempted to explain and/or codify preferred behavior.  When these groups and societies develop these rules, they are in a sense "objective" because they exist outside of any individual.  However, as the evidence clearly shows, these rules vary depending on such factors are the group or society in question and the time period during which such groups or societies exist or existed.

 

Your Nazi example is flawed.  Even with a sky fairy around, the same result could occur.

 

On 11/2/2017 at 3:10 PM, Callum said:

...

Then theres another objection to Objective Morality without God is that it just becomes human opinion so while human 1 may think child abuse is wrong human 2 thinks its right.

...

 

 

This is evidence.

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14 hours ago, sdelsolray said:

 

The argument is logically invalid. In a normal valid argument, if both P1 (#1) and P2 (#2) are true then C1 (#3) logically follows.  However, here, C1 is implied in P1 to begin with, i.e., "If God does not exist there is no Objective Morality" implies "If God does exist there is Objective Morality."  As such this is merely a tautology (assuming P1 and P2) are true.  Of course, if either premise is false, then the argument is just plain nonsense.

 

 

Not to quibble, but this is not correct. C1 is not implied by P1. The statement "if not A then not B" does not imply "if A then B". For example, "if there is no water, then there are no fish" is a correct statement. It does not imply that "if there is water, then there are fish".

 

I don't think there is a problem with the form of the argument. But neither of the premises needs to be accepted.

 

Callum, if you want to explore this topic further I'll be happy to play along. Here's a recent thread from the colosseum where a number of us discussed objective morality in some detail. You might find it interesting.

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3 hours ago, disillusioned said:

 

Not to quibble, but this is not correct. C1 is not implied by P1. The statement "if not A then not B" does not imply "if A then B". For example, "if there is no water, then there are no fish" is a correct statement. It does not imply that "if there is water, then there are fish".

 

I don't think there is a problem with the form of the argument. But neither of the premises needs to be accepted.

 

Callum, if you want to explore this topic further I'll be happy to play along. Here's a recent thread from the colosseum where a number of us discussed objective morality in some detail. You might find it interesting.

 

Good point.  I still see an implication, given the content of the argument.

 

The argument would be better written and certainly valid if presented as follows:

 

P1  If God does exist there is Objective Morality.

P2  There is Objective Morality.

C1  God exists.

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Thanks for all the replies, I only brought up this question because before I put christianity behind me I want to have a look at all the reasons for it. I have checked out the ressurection, cosmological argument, fine tuning, and other parts of the bible such as the authors.

 

 

On 04/11/2017 at 12:34 PM, disillusioned said:

 

Not to quibble, but this is not correct. C1 is not implied by P1. The statement "if not A then not B" does not imply "if A then B". For example, "if there is no water, then there are no fish" is a correct statement. It does not imply that "if there is water, then there are fish".

 

I don't think there is a problem with the form of the argument. But neither of the premises needs to be accepted.

 

Callum, if you want to explore this topic further I'll be happy to play along. Here's a recent thread from the colosseum where a number of us discussed objective morality in some detail. You might find it interesting.

 

And if you want to sure, I don't think I would be good at it though as I am uneducated in philosophy and am still trying to understand arguments for and against. I also read your post after I posted my OP and found it quite interesting. While I didn't understand a whole lot of it

 

I have seen naturalistic attempts at objective morality. And I saw an essay from a moral realist critizing the idea of theists claiming morality is grounded in a god or gods. And the majority of philosophers 72% are atheist and 50 ish % of those believe in objective morality so theres obviously an argument to be made for it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On 05/11/2017 at 4:31 PM, Callum said:

 

I have seen naturalistic attempts at objective morality. And I saw an essay from a moral realist critizing the idea of theists claiming morality is grounded in a god or gods. And the majority of philosophers 72% are atheist and 50 ish % of those believe in objective morality so theres obviously an argument to be made for it

 

 

Certainly there are naturalistic arguments that can be made for objective morality. I don't personally find any of them convincing, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything. I've been wrong before.

 

If you're looking for a more detailed treatment of some of the problems with the argument presented in the OP, I may be able to help. I've written about this argument in the past, and I'd be happy to revisit the topic if you want.

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On 07/11/2017 at 1:53 AM, disillusioned said:

 

Certainly there are naturalistic arguments that can be made for objective morality. I don't personally find any of them convincing, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything. I've been wrong before.

 

If you're looking for a more detailed treatment of some of the problems with the argument presented in the OP, I may be able to help. I've written about this argument in the past, and I'd be happy to revisit the topic if you want.

Hey dude! Sorry for the late reply been busy with college. And yes I saw a video by a guy called counter apologist talk about the moral argument. If you have the time I would love to hear your input as well.

 

And on naturalistic arguments for objective morality I feel like its a game of everyone poking as many holes in each others idea. Do you think there is objective morality? And do identify with organisations like secular humanism?

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It would certainly help if someone would suggest a definition of "objective morality" that all can agree with for purposes of this discussion.

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Alright Callum, I'm going to treat the argument presented in the OP in this post. As sdelsolray points out, a major question which needs to be answered before we can make general statements about objective morality is that of what, precisely, this term means. Craig deals with this by defining objective moral principles as moral principles which are real and binding irrespective of what anybody thinks about them. This has always seemed to me to be a fairly clear, concise, and apt definition. On this definition, I don't think that objective moral principles exist. This is what I argued in the thread that I linked to earlier. I can explore this more here later if it is of interest, but for now I want to stick to the argument in question.

 

As this is an argument that Craig puts forth, and as you listed him as the source of the argument in the OP, I'm going to accept his definition of objective morality for now. Lets look at the argument:

 

P1: If God does not exist, then objective moral principles do not exist.

P2: Objective moral principles exist.

C1: Therefore, God exists.

 

As I explained before, there is nothing wrong with the form of this argument. It's a valid deduction. But there are problems with the premises. Premise one suffers from the fact that "God" is not well-defined. It may be tempting to say that we have an inherent notion of what "God" means, but I would contend that this is clearly not the case. Craig would not contend that if Zeus does not exist then objective moral principles do not exist. No, he is appealing to a specific notion of "God" which he has not defined. This is a significant problem! If it remains unresolved, then the rest of the argument is just nonsense. This is an appeal to ignosticism, which may seem like an attempt to dodge the issue, but I don't think that it really is. The fact of the matter is that the Christian notion of "God" is not well-defined, and has never been well defined. Indeed, I would argue that the Christian God cannot even in principle be well-defined, because Christianity stipulates that He is entirely beyond us, that He defies our understanding. So much then for arguments which claim to demonstrate that he exists!

 

The second premise is just a bald assertion. Do objective moral principles exist? If so, what are they? I haven't ever seen a single example of an objective moral principle which does break down under scrutiny. But suppose one is brought forth. The argument in question is clearly attempting to hold that God is the source of objective moral principles. So if the arguer presents an example of an objective moral principle, then he or she is making a direct claim to know the will of God. In such a case I think we would be entirely justified in asking on what authority this claim is made. This is a claim to special knowledge. It does not suffice for the arguer to say "I think that "A" is an objective moral principle". It does not even suffice for him or her to convince everyone that he or she is correct in this assertion. If "A" is truly an objective moral principle then it must be true regardless of what you, I, the arguer, and anyone else thinks about it. That is the definition of objective morality. But this means that we can't actually show that objective moral principles exist. To do so would be to convince ourselves that they exist. But we could, in principle, be mistaken. We are all fallible. And if they do exist, they must exist regardless of whether or not we are convinced that they exist. So convincing ourselves that they exist doesn't actually get us anywhere. Hence the second premise must simply be taken as true, or not. And if it is to be taken as true, then we must make the claim that I mentioned earlier: that we know the will of God. I don't think we are justified in claiming this.

 

This leaves us with one premise that does not make sense, and another one which is not justified. I think it's fairly safe to say, therefore, that the conclusion does not need to be true.

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Hey disillusiond thanks for the reply.

 

What definition of objective morality do you agree with? I don't exactly have a proper definition but a general one would be to increase the well being of thinking creatures. If you disagree I am all ears to your choice.

 

And if you deny moral realism how do we determine if one society is moral compared to another?

 

And I can see what you mean by God is poorly defined in this argument. If we were to replace god with Yahweh it makes morality a lot more confusing.

 

And I would like to also thank you for taking your time to reply to me, I have been on this journey for 4 years now and this is one of the last hurdles I need to overcome. I have been over the resurection, kalam, fine tuning etc and the moral argument is the last on.

 

 

 

 

 

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8 hours ago, Callum said:

Hey disillusiond thanks for the reply.

 

What definition of objective morality do you agree with? I don't exactly have a proper definition but a general one would be to increase the well being of thinking creatures. If you disagree I am all ears to your choice.

 

Personally, I think that Craig's definition is about as good as we can do. An alternative way of phrasing it would be to say that ethical propositions may be in fact true or in fact false; ie, that actions can be really right and really wrong regardless of what we think. To me, that is intuitively what "objective morality" means.

 

I am not a moral realist. I think that what you propose as an objective moral principle, that it is good to increase the well-being of thinking creatures, is a decent attempt. I think that it is generally useful to try and behave in ways that increase the well-being of thinking creatures. But I think that to say that this is objectively correct goes a little too far. Trying to use well-being as a measuring stick for moral actions is problematic, in my view, for a number of reasons. First of all, consciousness is not very well understood. We don't have a robust notion of what it is or how it works. But this means that the problem of what constitutes a "thinking creature" is very much open. I would argue that well-being is also not terribly well understood. At the very least, we don't have a way of measuring it, and we certainly don't have a way of measuring the way that an action affects the well-being of all conscious creatures. It may be the case that an action "A" increases my well-being while decreasing yours. How then can we say that an action is objectively right?

 

The larger problem with this way of treating objective morality is that I am entitled to ask how we know that increasing well-being is, in fact, good. Who gets to make this decision? And on what authority is it made? This is a major reason why I think that morality is, ultimately, subjective. The choice of which principles we will base our moral system(s) on is ultimately, arbitrary. If we want to use well-being as a moral measuring stick we can try, but I don't think that we can say that this is ultimately objectively the correct measuring stick.

 

8 hours ago, Callum said:

And if you deny moral realism how do we determine if one society is moral compared to another?

 

This is not a trivial question. In my view, moral systems are based on principles which are, in themselves, not objectively correct. This means that we can have ethical statements which are objectively correct, but only in the context of the moral system that we happen to be using. If I am using a system S, then I may be able to demonstrate that a statement A is objectively correct in S. But if you are using a different system P, then you may be able to demonstrate that the same statement A is objectively incorrect in P. The problem, as I see it, is that we don't have any criteria for choosing which system is objectively the "right" one. 

 

One analogy that I've made before is to compare morality to language. In English, there are some strings of letters which are words, and some which are not. There are also some arrangements of letters, punctuation marks, and spaces which constitute meaningful sentences, and some which don't. The sentence "I am going to eat breakfast now." is a valid statement in English. It makes sense. But it is not a valid statement in Spanish. If I said it to a person who had only ever spoken and heard Spanish, that person would not understand my meaning. It does not make sense in Spanish. And, as there is no sense in which either English or Spanish is objectively the correct language, we can't really say that the statement objectively makes sense. It objectively makes sense in English, but that's it.

 

I think the question of whether one society is moral compared to another is somewhat similar to asking if Spanish is objectively better than English. Certainly there are some languages which are more complex than others. Some languages use alphabets which are unique to them. Some languages share an alphabet with other languages. Some languages contain more parts of speech than others. But they are all useful, in that they allow for communication between individuals who speak that particular language. Some of them may be more useful than others, because more people speak those languages. It is generally more useful, for example, to speak English than to speak Dutch. But that doesn't mean that Dutch is objectively worse; it just isn't as useful. And of course, there will be some situations in which Dutch is more useful than English.

 

Similarly, I think that it is very difficult to say with certainty that a particular culture is objectively more moral than another. Certain cultural moral systems may be more useful than others, but this is different from saying that they are objectively better. So I don't think that your question can ultimately be answered.

 

To put it another way, if you showed me two cultures, and asked me to determine which one was more ethical, and I answered you, I would be making a moral judgement. And the criteria that I would use to make this judgement would necessarily be my criteria. Well, who says my criteria are the right ones? I don't think that this question can be resolved. But this means that I am reconciled to a world view which is devoid of truly objective morality.

 

The really important thing is this though: just because morality is, ultimately, subjective on my view does not mean that it is not real. We do not have moral chaos any more than we have linguistic chaos. Precisely because we are able to form socio-cultural moral systems, we are equipped to make moral judgements and to behave ethically. We just can't deal in absolutes. So what? We may want things to be black and white, but I can't think of very many areas where they really are.

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There is no such thing as 'objective' morality. Morality is subjective, fluid, and specific to the area/environment of populace. 

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Hey disillusioned.

 

I like your analogy of comparing morality to language. Please do correct me if I mis represent you here but I am just clarifying so I understand.

You said that moral systems aren't better or worse than each other just more useful. Does that mean that murder is not wrong it's just not useful? I can understand that point because it's not useful to society if people can steal, murder and rape.

 

So if what I said above is correct, we can determine how society should behave based on how useful it is?

 

Also lets say for the sake of argument objective morality exists. Do you think it would have to be grounded in a God or do you think humans could discover it like we discover maths?

 

The reason I ask this is because if objective morality exists and has to be grounded in a God (lets go with Yahweh) then things like homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, pornography, masturbation and polygamy become immoral. and I don't know abot you but I cant see any reason why any of these things are wrong.

 

And you seem pretty knowledgeable on this subject so I have this question, if its dumb I am sorry :D

 

Before I thought about this I thought that things were wrong or right depending on context. I.E I would be fine with killing someone if he attacked me or someone and would consider it the right thing. Or a poor person stealing bread from a supermarket, while it's illegal I dont see it as immoral. I also thought that morality ends when humans end. What is your opinion on this?

 

 

 

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On 12/11/2017 at 3:14 PM, Callum said:

Hey disillusioned.

 

I like your analogy of comparing morality to language. Please do correct me if I mis represent you here but I am just clarifying so I understand.

You said that moral systems aren't better or worse than each other just more useful. Does that mean that murder is not wrong it's just not useful? I can understand that point because it's not useful to society if people can steal, murder and rape.

 

Ultimately, I agree with this, but I wouldn't quite put it that way. I would say that murder is wrong under most common moral systems. Some of these systems are more useful than others, but once we assume a particular moral system, murder isn't just wrong because it isn't useful; it's wrong because our moral system says so. So if you ask me if murder is wrong, I will say "yes". If you ask me why it is wrong, I'll say "because we say so" ("we" being society, our culture, humanity as a whole; whatever). If you ask me why we say so, I'll say "because it is useful to say so". So yes, in an ultimate sense murder is only wrong because treating it as though it is wrong is useful. But individuals find murder useful all the time. I wouldn't say that this makes it right. On our societal moral system, it is wrong even if it is useful to a particular individual at a particular point in time.

 

On 12/11/2017 at 3:14 PM, Callum said:

So if what I said above is correct, we can determine how society should behave based on how useful it is?

 

Well, we may be able to determine that certain moral principles lead to societies which are more advanced (higher qualities of life, more wealth, less disease, less violence, etc) than others. The question of whether or not societies should become more advanced is subtly different though. I can't answer this question. All I can say is that I want to live in a society which is more advanced. Most people that I know of feel the same way. So there is that.

 

On 12/11/2017 at 3:14 PM, Callum said:

Also lets say for the sake of argument objective morality exists. Do you think it would have to be grounded in a God or do you think humans could discover it like we discover maths?

 

Ah, see I'm not actually sure that mathematics is something that we discover. I think it is something that we build, not in a dissimilar way to how we build morality. I'm happy to explore this more if it's of interest, but for now it would be a tangent. To answer your question, I think it is possible that true objective morality could exist independent of God. But, of course, one could always choose to call the source of objective morality (whatever it might be) "God". This is a problem for the theist, not me. The notion of God needs to be clearly and coherently defined before questions like this can be answered.

 

On 12/11/2017 at 3:14 PM, Callum said:

The reason I ask this is because if objective morality exists and has to be grounded in a God (lets go with Yahweh) then things like homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, pornography, masturbation and polygamy become immoral. and I don't know abot you but I cant see any reason why any of these things are wrong.

 

Let's say for the moment that the Christian God exists. In this case, His will determines what is right and what is wrong. So when the Christian says that homosexuality, for example, is wrong, what he means is that it is against God's will. Very well, but we are perfectly entitled to ask how he knows the will of God. This is a non-trivial question. I have never heard a satisfactory answer to it. So the Christian who wishes to say that homosexuality is evil is, in effect, elevating himself to the level of God. It should go without saying that this is a bit much. I can expand a lot on this if you want. It was this line of reasoning more than any other that ultimately led me to abandon my faith.

 

On 12/11/2017 at 3:14 PM, Callum said:

 

And you seem pretty knowledgeable on this subject so I have this question, if its dumb I am sorry :D

 

Before I thought about this I thought that things were wrong or right depending on context. I.E I would be fine with killing someone if he attacked me or someone and would consider it the right thing. Or a poor person stealing bread from a supermarket, while it's illegal I dont see it as immoral. I also thought that morality ends when humans end. What is your opinion on this?

 

You should never apologise to me for asking questions. If I seem knowledgeable on this subject it's only because I spend a lot of time asking hard questions myself. I assure you that I'm not, in any sense, an authority here. I'm very interested in these matters, but I don't have any real expertise here. Your opinion and input is as important as my own.

 

I certainly agree that morality ends where humans end. I think that morality is a uniquely human construct. As for the contextual question, I would say that the key question is, as usual, "immoral according to whom?" One of the benefits of my view is that it allows me to consider moral questions in context. There are no rigid rules. There are just the rules that we, as humans, make. These rules change over time, across cultures, and even, to a certain extent, between individuals.

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Hey again

 

I would love if you could expand on objective morality with the Christian God. I am still stuck on this because my idea of right and wrong are way different to what the bible says. (I was raised atheist before converting) I have watched WLC defend his argument. Bloggers debunk his arguments and then bloggers respond to the bloggers debunking so it's like a never ending loop. And the defense of it I have seen is that God is the good or God is love but this makes no sense to me. One objection to this is that are Gods attributes good because God has them or does God have them because they are good. But this makes absolutly no sense to me.

 

Another thing keeping me onto the idea of moral realism is the majority of philosophers that go with it. While I am just appealing to popularity if the majority of philosophers are atheist and the majority believe in moral realism theres got to be some argument im missing here.

 

I guess the main thing keeping me wrapped up in objective morality is that things that me and you consider abominations aren't objectivley wrong.

I also find it hard to grasp the idea that something is objectivly immoral but that same moral system goes away when humanity is gone.

 

And last question is how do we determine what moral system to use? The main one I see atheists using is humanism which seems pretty logical but how can we know that is better than another moral system that permits murder and rape?

 

 

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Callum,

 

Below is an excerpt from some writing on this topic that I did several years ago when I was first trying to work through some of these issues. I hope that you find some of it to be helpful.

 

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For the Christian, however, the problem of defining what is meant by “right” and what is meant by “wrong” is extremely simple. I must take a moment here to correct a common misunderstanding. Secular critics of Christianity often say that because of all of the atrocities that the God of the Bible commits, he cannot be good. It is therefore argued that Christianity must be false, because the God that it claims is good and loving clearly is not. It seems to me that this argument misses the point entirely. The simple fact of the matter is that when a Christian says “God is good” he does not mean that God conforms to some set of ideals which are considered “good” by humans. Rather, he means that whatever God is, that is what we ought to consider “good”. In other words, he is not starting with a notion of what is good and then saying “God is like that”, he is starting with a notion of what God is, and is saying “good is like that”. Hence, when God commands the Israelites to annihilate the Amalekites, including their women, children and livestock (see 1 Samuel 15), we cannot say that this is wrong. It is God’s will, and hence, it must be right. Similarly, when God commands that a young woman who has been raped in a city must be stoned to death because she did not cry for help (see Deuteronomy 22:23-24), this must be accepted as morally sound. There can be no objection to the Christian God on the basis that he is evil, because what the Christian means by “good” has been defined by the Christian God.

        What, then, do I mean when I say that the Christian God is evil? Clearly, what I mean by “good” and “evil” is quite different from what the Christian means. And, personally, I am well acquainted with the problems to which the Christian creed “God is good” leads. The problem with defining what is good by the actions that God has taken or commanded is that it leaves us with the problem of determining which actions have really be undertaken or sanctioned by God. It is the same problem that ultimately led me to abandon my faith. How can one be sure that one knows the will of God? How can one be sure that the injunction to, for example, mutilate the genitals of one’s offspring (see Leviticus 12:2-3) comes from God and not from one’s own brain or (heaven forbid!) from Satan? When I have posed this question to Christians I have received two responses. The first is that when a person hears from God, the actions that they undertake as a result must not be directly harmful to themselves or others. The second is that when a person hears from God, what they hear should align with scripture. These two responses are quite clearly contradictory. The Bible is literally packed with examples of commandments to undertake all sorts of actions which cause harm. Genocide, rape, murder, slavery, child abuse, spousal abuse and many other horrendous things are not merely permitted, but are explicitly commanded in the Old Testament. And, as I pointed out earlier, Jesus himself quite clearly stated that not even the smallest part of the Law is to be done away with. Furthermore, to say that one can know one has heard from God if the actions commanded align with scripture is to simply remove the problem by one step. How can one be certain that those who wrote the Bible really heard from God? Perhaps they were deceived. And, if a person does away with the notion of the Bible as an authority on God’s will, then that person has simply elevated herself to the level of God. After all, what she is really saying is that she is the person who determines whether she has heard from God or not. And, since it is God who determines what is right and what is wrong in her view, and she determines whether she has heard from God, it must be she herself who determines what is right and what is wrong.

        Therefore, when the Christian says “God is good”, he must mean one of two things: either the Bible is to be taken as our moral guidebook, or it is the Christian himself who is responsible for defining what is right and what is wrong. I submit that, as a moral guidebook, the Bible is completely inadequate. But that leaves us with the Christian himself determining what is right and what is wrong. How is this different from the secular perspective? Well, for one thing, the secularist does not claim any sort of special authority with respect to adjudicating what is right or what is wrong. We may argue, and provide justification for a certain view, but nothing may be called wrong simply because I say so. If I wish to say, for example, that murder is wrong, I must provide some sort of substantive ethical objection. I could say that any action which causes human suffering is wrong, and since murder causes grief and suffering, it is wrong. Or I could say that whether murder is wrong or not depends on the intentions of the murderer. Or perhaps it depends on the character of the murdered. The point is that these are all perspectives which may be discussed and debated. Through the use of reason, and via a quasi-democratic process, society as a whole may thus define a framework for morality. Of course, there will always be room for individual opinion and dissention. But no one individual may claim special authority to declare what is right and what is wrong. That, to me, is the fundamental difference between the Christian perspective and the secular perspective. If nothing else, at least the secular perspective demands and demonstrates greater humility.

        Of course, the Christian may choose to cleave to the Bible as a moral guidebook. I think that this is an absolutely horrendous idea. I have already listed, in general terms, a few of the various types of atrocities that are commanded in the Bible. But in order to thoroughly show that it fails utterly as a basis for morality, I believe that a bit more specificity is called for. Consider, then, the case of Lot, the nephew of Abraham. You may recall that God considered Lot’s family righteous enough to be saved when the rest of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. The apostle Peter confirmed that Lot was indeed a righteous man (see 2 Peter 2:7). And yet one day Lot received a pair of visitors. That night, the townsfolk caused quite a commotion outside his house, and beseeched Lot to give up his visitors to them to be raped. And, in what can only be called an epic display of righteousness, Lot refused. Instead, he offered them his two virgin daughters as a substitute (see Genesis 19:1-11). Let that sink in. Lot’s best solution to this admittedly tense situation was to offer a crazed mob the chance to gang-rape his two virgin daughters. A righteous man indeed! But lest anyone judge Lot’s love for his daughters based on this incident alone, we have yet another example from merely a few verses later of just how righteous this man was. It turns out that after Lot had fled Sodom, he lived with his two daughters in a cave, during which time he allowed both of them to seduce him, and fathered a child with each (see Genesis 19:30-38). It seems that perhaps this man loved his daughters just a little too much. And yet this is the type of person that we must accept as an example of righteousness if we are to use the Bible as a moral guidebook. How utterly absurd!

        Consider also the case of David, who was apparently a man after God’s own heart (see Acts 13:22). David is often held up as the greatest King of Israel. He authored many of the Psalms, and Jesus himself is supposed to be his direct descendant. And yet this extremely righteous man committed adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of another man (see 2 Samuel 11). And, when he found that he had impregnated her, he arranged for her husband to be killed. Of course, he repented of his sins, and God forgave him. But, in keeping with his vindictive character, God first had to impose some sort of punishment on David for this sin. And what better way to punish the sins of the father than by striking the child? So God caused the child that Bathsheba bore to be struck ill, and to suffer for seven days before dying (see 2 Samuel 12). To torture and kill a young child, then, in order to punish that child’s father is God’s idea of justice. If this God is the standard against which moral actions may be adjudicated, then we are in very serious trouble.

        And the list of atrocities goes on. Consider Elisha, supposedly one of the greatest prophets to ever live. When a crowd of young men teased him by calling him bald, he cursed them, and as a result God sent a pair of female bears who mauled forty-two of them (see 2 Kings 2:23-25). This must be accepted as justice if the Bible is to be the source of our morality. Furthermore, we must also accept that any slaves who attempted to escape prior to the abolition were sinning by doing so. For the bible commands them thus: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.” (Ephesians 6:5, NIV). We must also acknowledge that women are altogether inferior to men, for it is clearly written “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:22-24, KJV). Nor are women to be permitted to speak in churches (see 1 Corinthians 14:34), a commandment which apparently is lost on many of today’s Christians. I shall say nothing of the injunctions to beat children (see Proverbs 23:13-14), or even to kill those who are persistently stubborn (see Deuteronomy 21:18-21). Neither shall I mention the mistreatment of God’s faithful servant Job, the destruction of an entire civilization in a fit of divine rage via a worldwide flood, or the threat that if the children of Israel do not follow the law they will be reduced to cannibalism (see Leviticus 26:27-29). I could, of course, go on to expound upon the countless other hideous commandments, genocides, and acts of divine retribution, but I think I have said enough. If this is to be our moral guidebook, then God help us all.

        And so it is that I think the Christian statement “God is good” is utterly false. If the horrible things that I have listed above are actually examples of God’s will, then I would not trust anyone who called this God good. If, on the other hand, these things are examples of parts of the Bible which must not be taken literally, then we are back where we started, with the problem of having to deliberate what God’s will actually is. And I have already contended that, in this case, the Christian claims entirely too much authority on moral issues. In my view, to claim to know the will of God is to claim knowledge which one cannot possibly have. At the very least, this is knowledge which is forbidden to me. You will recall that I spent many years of my life trying to hear from God, and failed. Therefore, it seems to me that the religious approach to ethics can be safely discounted as arrogant, unhelpful and perhaps even downright dangerous.

        How, then, shall we determine what is right and what is wrong? This may seem like an unnecessary question to those who have never experienced the full power of the Christian delusion. But the fact of the matter is that for those who are Christians, the will of God must always be considered when responding to moral questions. And so, when the curtain is drawn back and the truth is finally recognized, it can be extremely daunting to realize that we can no longer look to God or to the Bible to determine how we should behave. Instead, we are responsible for solving all our ethical dilemmas ourselves. There is a tendency, therefore, to feel as though, when you have stopped believing, you have lost the foundation of your morality. After all, the God upon which you based your morality is no longer there. But this issue can be solved by the simple realization that He was never there in the first place. It is not as though Christianity used to be true and now it no longer is; rather, it was never true to begin with. Hence, if you have based your moral choices on knowing the will of God, you will very quickly come to realize that what you had thought was the voice of God was really only your own thoughts, your own conscience, your own inner moral light shining. And so the only thing which remains is to recognize that your perspective is merely that: the perspective of one individual and not that of the creator of the universe. Therefore the situation has not changed in the slightest. Our ethical dilemmas are precisely the same as they were when we believed. The only difference is that now we can recognize that we are the ones who are responsible for solving them. And, if we require assistance, we must now look to our fellow humans rather than to some fanciful notion of God or to some ancient dusty tome.

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

The question you asked about how to determine which system to use is a complex one. I think that, in many ways, we don't have much of a choice to make. My personal moral principles have been shaped by the socio-cultural environment in which I was raised. As my life has progressed, my moral principles have changed because of my experiences. And, in turn, the moral norms of our culture are defined and shaped by the individuals who make up the populace. But aside from all of this, I actually don't think that we need to rigorously define our moral principles. I think that most of the time it suffices to try and behave in a way that makes you as happy as possible, while also trying not to be a dick. As for how we can know whether our system is any better than a system which permits rape and murder, I can only answer that I wouldn't want to live in a society where these things were allowed. So it may not be "better" in an ultimate sense to exclude them, but I certainly find it preferable to do so. For me, that is enough.

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Hey dissilusioned.

 

Thanks so much for your post it is really powerful. My favourite parts where when you showed all the bad things God has done like commanded a genocide, flooded the earth and punishing peoples family instead of the person that commited the crimes and even the implications of if we adopted the bible as our moral guidebook.

 

I also noticed that our ideas of determing right and wrong are kind of simmilar. Before I converted to Christianity I lived by the rule that if your actions aren't hurting anyone I don't care what you do. But when I converted I changed my view of morality to fit the bible (granted I did not know at the time that God commanded a genocide) So when I converted I thought homosexuality was wrong but I thought that it shouldn't be illegal. And the main problem I have with leaving Christianity is theres nothing concrete to base our morals on. We have reason and debate which are pretty good but you can reason anything.

 

I also read another of your comments on this forums (I cant remember which topic) that we currently do things or believe things to be right but say 100 years later society will see what we do as wrong. (not exactly what you said but thats the message I got from it) I also don't think my moral system is perfect. To me it seems perfect but if I were to tell you what I believe is right and wrong and in what situations you may think im a lunatic!

 

Ill sum this ramble up with two questions.

 

1. Do you think in any given situation there is a objective best or right choice? Matt dillahunty from the Atheist Experiance that also debates christian aplogists think so. Or do you think that the objective best or right action in a situation depends on what moral system you adopt?

 

2. Do you have any our resources to help with getting over this fear of me being sent to hell for not believing in God?

 

Thanks for your replys.

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Here is a fairly recent debate between Alex Silverman and Alex McFarland on the subject of Can Christianity Cause Immoral Behaviour?

 

The debate question itself is unfair, as questioners pointed out, because you can take any organisation, set of beliefs etc and say it causes immoral behaviour. Possibly a better topic was Can belief in the bible cause immoral behaviour.

 

Regardless they end up getting into the topic of objective morality. Here, I must warn you, Alex becomes very frustrating. He applies apologetics, slips, slides and attempts to dodge and avoid like no other Christian debater I've watched. Silverman does well to keep bringing Alex back to the point. A good video and well worth the 2 hours to listen to. (You don't need to watch, you can have it playing in earbuds while mowing the lawns like I did... be warned you find find yourself yelling out that Alex is being dishonest lol)

 

 

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6 minutes ago, Callum said:

2. Do you have any our resources to help with getting over this fear of me being sent to hell for not believing in God?

 

Thanks for your replys.

 

I'm actually doing a series to put up on youtube on this very topic. Its not completed yet, but this topic has been discussed a lot here. Here are some links, the advice to others before you should apply equally well to you, and I'd imagine your questions are similar.

 

 

Incidentally this topic is probably worth going over as well:

 

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Hey LogicalFallacy

 

Im sad that others went through this mental struggle but happy im not the only one!

 

Im currently in therapy because of my fears of religion so its kind of nice to feel that I am not alone!

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