Ethical Realism

December 23, 2013

The View That Objective Morality Requires God

Filed under: ethics,metaethics,metaphysics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 8:48 am
Tags: , , ,

Theists often say that atheism is incompatible with objective morality. This point is not that atheists are bad people or can’t understand morality. The point is that they think there has to be a basis (found in reality) for morality to be objective, and they think only God can be that basis. Many atheists don’t think there’s objective morality, and they might agree that atheism is incompatible with objective morality. However, I will argue that atheism and objective morality are compatible.

I will provide some important terminology, introduce Plato’s “Euthyphro,” explain the possible connection between theism and objective morality, describe other types of objective morality, argue that atheism and objective morality are compatible, and briefly illustrate a view of objective morality.

Terminology

What does it mean to think that atheism is incompatible with objective morality? And what do we mean by ‘atheism’ and ‘objective morality?’

In this context, I define atheism in the following way:

atheism – The view that gods don’t exist.

Some people define atheism as “lacking a belief in a god,” but that is not the right definition in this context because the question is if we need god to have objective morality. The issue is if the belief that gods don’t exist is compatible with the existence of objective morality.

I define objective morality (or moral objectivism) in the following way:

objective morality – (1) The view that there are moral facts that are mind-independent. Objective morality excludes views of moral facts that depend on subjective states or conventions. This form of moral objectivism requires a rejection of “moral subjectivism” and “moral constructivism.” (2) ‘Moral objectivism’ is sometimes used as a synonym for “moral realism.” (3) The view that there are true moral statements that are not true merely due to a convention or subjective state.

People rarely explain what they mean by ‘objective morality’ in a precise way, and it is not entirely clear what people mean by the term. I think that there are at least these three different definitions people can have in mind.

The first definition requires a certain type of moral realism, the second definition requires any type of moral realism, and the third definition could be compatible with moral anti-realism. For example, someone might think that it is rational for people to try to achieve certain goals (like avoid pain), and certain moral systems are needed for people to achieve those goals; but such people might think there are no “moral facts.”

I suspect that most theists who argue that God is required for morality are thinking that there is a “moral reality”—that morality isn’t just about achieving goals or having certain beliefs. (If it were, then I have no idea why they think God would be needed for morality.) Instead, morality has a connection to reality itself. For example, a view of objective morality might claim that “slavery is wrong” is true because slavery makes the world a worse place. Perhaps it makes people suffer needlessly. We have a reason not to cause needless suffering—perhaps because suffering is intrinsically bad.

Factual truth can be contrasted with fictional truth or institutional truths. We might say that it’s true that Sherlock Holmes lives at 221B Baker’s Street, even though Sherlock Holmes is fictional. We might also say that it’s true that $5 is worth more than $1, even though money is not part of reality beyond the interests of people. The view that morality is objective in the moral realist sense is the view that morality is part of reality itself beyond fiction or our interests. (It could be a fact about suffering that we have a reason not to cause needless suffering, or that suffering is intrinsically bad.)

I define ‘moral realism,’ ‘moral fact,’ and ‘intrinsic value’ as the following:

moral realism – The belief that moral facts exist, and that true moral propositions are true because of moral facts—not merely true because of our beliefs or desires (such as a social contract, convention, popular opinion, or agreement). Many moral realists believe that intrinsic values exist. A moral realist could say, “Murder is wrong because human life has intrinsic value, not merely because you believe that it’s wrong.” Some philosophers argue that moral realism requires a rejection of “moral constructivism” and “subjectivism,” but that is a contentious issue. See “moral fact” and “moral anti-realism” for more information.

moral fact – The reality, relations, or state of affairs that make moral statements true. One potential example is “all things equal, torture is morally wrong” because suffering is intrinsically bad (or that we have a reason not to cause pain). Moral facts are not taken to be facts that only concern our beliefs and desires. Saying that it’s a fact that torturing is morally wrong could not refer to the fact that people of some society agree that pain is bad.

intrinsic value – Something with value just for existing. We might say happiness is “good for its own sake” to reflect that it is good without merely being useful to help us attain some other goal. If something is intrinsically good, then it is something we should try to promote. For example, if human life is intrinsically good, then all things equal, saving lives would plausibly be (a) rational, (b) a good thing to do, and (c) the right thing to do.

When talking about objective morality in this context, I will defend the compatibility between certain types of moral realism and atheism. However, that does not require me to argue that moral realism is true, and it certainly doesn’t require that I argue that intrinsic values exist. My point is merely that if there’s objective morality (in the sense that moral realism is true), then we can’t jump to the conclusion that a god exists. It is possible that no gods exist and that there’s objective morality.

Plato’s “Euthyphro”

One famous dialogue related to the question about a divine relationship to morality is Plato’s “Euthyphro,” where Socrates questions the view that what is pious is based on whatever the gods prefer. Is it pious to worship the gods because they want us to or because there is a good reason to worship the gods? We can ask a similar question about morality—All else equal, is it morally wrong to do something (such as torture people) because God doesn’t like it or because there is a good reason to think such a thing? If it’s just because God (or people in general) don’t like certain actions, then morality is subjective. If there is a good reason to think that some actions are wrong, then we need to know what that reason is. One possible answer to that question is that God’s existence somehow makes morality exist, but there are other possible answers, which I discuss below.

The possible connection between theism and objective morality

I do not deny that theism and objective morality are compatible, and I know of two different theistic types of moral realism:

One view is idealism. This is the view that God is the embodiment of perfection (the ideal person), and our level of virtue is determined by comparing ourselves to God. We all fall short of being perfect insofar as we are not omnipotent, omniscient, or morally perfect; but some of us do a better job than others. Some people are more like god than others insofar as they are wise, helpful, and refuse to cause needless suffering.

Another view is Thomism or natural law. This is the view that God created the universe (and everything in it) for some purpose (to do something good), and we can try to find out what those reasons are in order to do good things. In that case we will need to know what made things ‘good.’

One important question to ask about the Thomistic view is—Would those things cease to be good if God stopped existing? We need to know why some things are intrinsically good and others are bad. We might trust that God has a purpose for everything based on understanding what’s good and bad, but we still need to know how to determine when something is intrinsically good or bad. We also need to know that what determines intrinsic value is God himself or we might think the natural world might be sufficient for intrinsic values to exist.

One problem with these two theistic types of objective morality is that they seem to have little to no relation to why we actually think actions are right or wrong. I don’t think people investigate God’s nature to know that causing needless pain is morally wrong, or that they investigate God’s plan to know that causing needless pain is morally wrong either.

Other types of objective morality

The main reason to think that atheism and objective morality are compatible is because the study of morality that focuses on the basis for morality (called ‘meta-ethics’) is the specialization of philosophers, and those philosophers have developed plausible views of meta-ethics that have nothing to do with God. In particular, the moral realist views called “naturalism” and “intuitionism” don’t require God to exist, and they would fit under any of the three definitions of ‘objective morality.’ I do not claim to know that objective morality exists, but these are two of the more plausible meta-ethical theories that have been developed, and these two views don’t requires us to assume God exists.

I describe these two views in the following way:

Moral naturalism – The view that moral facts are ordinary facts of the same physical reality described by scientists (biology, psychology, and physics), and we know about these facts through observation. Many naturalists think that we can observe moral facts because they are identical to other natural facts. For example, pain and intrinsic badness could be identical—two ways to see the same thing. Philosophers argue that scientists discovered that water and H2O are identical and we can discover that pain and intrinsic badness are the same thing in a similar way.

Moral naturalism clearly requires no assumption of God because the natural world is taken to be a sufficient basis for morality. I realize that it can be argued that the natural world itself couldn’t exist without God, but atheists obviously don’t agree with that conclusion. Also, if God is required for the natural world to exist, then we would have no reason to single out morality as something that requires God because pretty much everything would require God anyway. Finally, note that we know that the natural world exists with greater certainty than we know that God exists. If we find out that God doesn’t exist, then we would still agree that the natural world exists.

What would it be like if moral naturalism were true? Perhaps our experience of suffering would be enough for us to know that “suffering” means the same thing as “intrinsically bad.” Perhaps we would then know that “all things equal, causing suffering is morally wrong” insofar as “morally wrong” means the same thing as “causes something intrinsically bad to exist without an overriding reason to do so.”

There’s also a somewhat similar view of meta-ethics to naturalism that we can know certain things about morality through observation without asserting any particular identity relation, which we could call epistemic moral naturalism. For example, the experience of suffering could be enough to know that suffering is intrinsically bad without necessarily requiring us to think that being intrinsically bad is identical to suffering. Instead, we might think that suffering is part of the world, and being intrinsically bad is a property of suffering (and perhaps it is also a property of something else). (Go here for information about a book that argues for a view similar to this.)

Meta-ethical intuitionism – (Also known as “moral non-naturalism.”) The view that observation is insufficient to explain all of our moral knowledge and at least some of our moral knowledge is based on intuition or contemplation that enables us to know self-evident facts. Once we fully understand a moral statement, that can be enough to know if it’s true. For example, it might be self-evident that all pain is intrinsically bad to anyone who fully understands what “pain” and “intrinsically bad” refer to. This is much like our knowledge of mathematics and logic. We can know that “2+2=4” just by understanding what the statement is saying. (Go here for information about a book that argues for this view.)

Meta-ethical intuitionism is compatible with multiple views of knowledge and reality, so it doesn’t require that we say that the natural world is all that exists. Let’s say meta-ethical intutionism is true, and the natural world is all that exists. In that case we might experience things that are intrinsically good or bad (such as suffering), but we might say that the concept of suffering itself requires us to know that suffering is intrinsically bad. If so, it would be theoretically possible to know that suffering is intrinsically bad just by understanding the concept.

An alternative type of intuitionism refers to platonism—the view that there are abstract objects that don’t exist in space or time. The first platonist was Plato, who argued that there are Forms (ideal ways for things to be), and that we could figure out what the Forms are. Plato thought the forms existed outside space and time. They are eternal and unchanging. We could then figure out what the ideal justice is like and try to apply that definition of justice to our lives or society at large.

What would it be like if platonism is true? The concept of suffering could be an abstract entity in that it describes something that doesn’t necessarily exist in the natural world. There could be conceptual relationships concerning suffering that are true, even when there is no suffering in the world. Perhaps could know that the concept of suffering requires us to know that suffering is intrinsically bad, and we could use that information to know that it is better for a world to have less needless suffering rather than more.

Note that meta-ethics is about the basis for morality, but it doesn’t necessarily tell us what is right or wrong by itself. Normative theories of ethics (such as Kantianism or utilitarianism) are meant to tell us when an action is morally right or wrong. For example, Utilitarianism would tell us that happiness is the only intrinsically good thing and suffering is the only intrinsically bad thing, and an action is right when it is the best option in terms of how happy it will cause people to be (or it’s right to the extent that it would realize that goal). There are clearly moral theories that do not require God’s existence (at least insofar as anything does not require God’s existence). (Go here for more information.)

Atheism and objective morality are compatible

As far as we know any of the above meta-ethical theories could be true, and philosophers continue to debate over which is most plausible. I would certainly not say that we know that naturalism is false or that intuitionism requires something more than the natural world or platonism. Morality could exist because things like suffering exist, or perhaps because of concepts (which might be abstract objects). The basis of morality is not necessarily God.

The view that God is the only possible basis for objective morality requires us to reject every meta-ethical view that doesn’t require God’s existence. That would require us to know that they are false, but we don’t know that at this time. Therefore, to say that God is the only basis for objective morality requires us to jump to a conclusion.

It has not been proven once and for all that God really is the basis for morality, and if God is the basis for morality, we have not proven once and for all why that is the case. If it is rationally permissible to assume that God is the basis for morality because of a preferred view of meta-ethics, then I would think it would also be rationally permissible for someone else to assume that God isn’t the basis for morality because of a different preferred view of meta-ethics. It would seem hypocritical to me to just assume one’s own view about such unproven matters has to be correct and everyone else is being irrational. And yet that is exactly what many theists seem to be doing who claim that God is the only possible basis for objective morality. They are saying we should assume that God is the basis for morality, and we should assume atheists are being irrational for assuming that God isn’t the basis for morality—even though philosophers have developed plausible versions of moral realism that are compatible with atheism.

Some philosophers argue that their favorite view of meta-ethics is the best one. They argue that there are problems with alternative views, and their favorite view seems to have the fewest problems. That’s good. We are more likely to have justified beliefs when we study the philosophical issues in detail and argue for our own views. However, I would not say that any philosopher has necessarily succeeded in proving that a certain meta-ethical view is the best at this point in time. The debate isn’t over yet, and I would not just assume people are being irrational for disagreeing with any meta-ethical view in particular. A philosopher might be justified on a personal level to think a certain meta-ethical view is best based on her personal understanding of things, but it would be going a step further to claim that no one else should disagree.

An Illustration

I think explaining a view of objective morality in detail can help illustrate how objective morality can exist whether or not God exists. I am not saying that the view I will present is true, but I would like to think it makes sense at the very least.

The basis of objective morality (assuming there is one) is controversial and any particular view about such a thing is going to be less plausible than statements, such as “all things equal, torture is morally wrong.” The question is how we can know statements like that to be true. The answer to that question is not obvious.

Consider that we think we know “all things equal, torture is morally wrong.” The idea here is that we shouldn’t torture people unless we have an overriding reason to do so, and there might never actually be an overriding reason to do such a thing.

Some people might say we have a reason not to torture people and they might think that’s enough. Perhaps there are no explanations to there being reasons like that. However, I think there could be explanations for such reasons. One potential reason is that suffering is intrinsically bad, and the whole point of torture is to cause suffering. Given the option of a world full of happy people and one where everyone suffers endlessly, we should prefer to have a world full of happy people. Saying that suffering is intrinsically bad means suffering is bad just for existing. There might be a sufficient reason to cause suffering, such as when it is necessary for a greater good. But in the absence of any overriding reasons to cause suffering, we shouldn’t do it.

The view that happiness is the only intrinsically good thing and suffering is the only intrinsically bad thing is called utilitarianism. Let’s assume utilitarianism is correct. The main idea of utilitarianism is that we should try to maximize happiness and minimize suffering. An action that maximizes suffering is morally right (at least to the extent that it maximizes suffering), and one that causes needless suffering is morally wrong (at least to the extent that it fails to maximize suffering or causes needless suffering).

Does the existence of intrinsic value require God? I see no reason to think so. The view that happiness is intrinsically good and suffering is intrinsically bad only requires that happiness and suffering exist in order for such things to matter for ethical decisions. We might wonder if intrinsic value requires us to say that something strange properties exist in the world, but even if so, I see no reason to think God would also be required.

You have experienced suffering in your life and experienced that it is intrinsically bad. You realize that the suffering you experience is just as bad when other people experience it. God doesn’t have to tell you it’s intrinsically bad. You can experience it for yourself.

The illustration here seems to be compatible with both theism and atheism. It is secular in the sense that it doesn’t require us to know if gods exist or not.

You can follow Ethical Realism on Facebook or Twitter.

Related

About these ads

94 Comments »

  1. The rule with any argument put forth by an atheist is that their first premise is always wrong.

    If the first premise is wrong then everything that comes after it is false.

    The wrong first premise in this post is in the first definition:

    “In this context, I define atheism in the following way:…”

    Context is introduced so that objectivity can be dispensed with.

    Since the argument is about objective morals, the basis for the argument can’t be based on context.

    Context is a rhetorical weasel word that the atheist propagandist can use to rig the argument in his favor.

    There is a second fallacy: “I define…”

    Atheist don’t get to define the terms.

    Yet they always try because again, this rigs the argument in their favor.

    Set forth a bogus definition and force your opponent into a bogus argument.

    Comment by silenceofmind — December 23, 2013 @ 11:05 am | Reply

    • (1) About context. I don’t see why you think that the mention of context means that objectivity can be dispensed with. For example, the following two things are true:

      (a) There are horses at the farm I can see from my backyard;
      (b) There are no horses in my yard.

      This means that there are horses in the context of the farm and that there are no horses in the context of my yard. Yet both (a) and (b) are non-controversially objectively true. Thus, the mention of context does not undermine the claim to objectivity.

      (2) About definitions. It is standard philosophical method to first define what one means by certain words and then to use one’s own words in accord with those definitions. Christian philosophers do this too — just hang out a few minutes at a theology conference and you’ll see plenty of people giving their own definitions for terms.

      As far as setting out bogus definitions, so long as the definition is made explicit, all the cards on the table. The author of this post might be using words in a way that you dislike, but that’s fine — when you write your response, you can lay out what words you would like to use for which things. And it really doesn’t matter, so long as you are explicit and make it clear what you are doing and how you are using words.

      No where in your response did you state why the definitions in this post were bogus or why they forced the opponent of this post into a “bogus argument”.

      Comment by Daniel Linford — December 23, 2013 @ 7:43 pm | Reply

      • I agree with what you are saying, but I’m not sure what you mean by those statements being non-controversially true. I don’t know what you can see from your backyard.

        Comment by JW Gray — December 23, 2013 @ 9:16 pm

    • You said, “If the first premise is wrong then everything that comes after it is false.”

      That statement is false.

      Here’s an argument:

      1. Socrates is a dog.
      2. If Socrates is a dog, then Socrates is mortal.
      3. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

      The first premise is false, but the other premise and conclusion are true.

      I think what you want to say is that if a premise of an argument is known to be false, then the argument is not a good reason to agree with the conclusion. That would be true.

      I advise you to take a critical thinking class.

      Definitions in philosophy have to be defined for the sake of clarity. The idea that atheists would never get to do that is absurd.

      Many definitions in philosophy are philosophical jargon invented because otherwise communication would be nearly impossible. Logic and mathematics also require jargon. “Valid” and “argument” have precise definitions in logic that are quite different from what many other people mean who use the terms.

      Comment by JW Gray — December 23, 2013 @ 9:13 pm | Reply

      • JW,

        Absurd arguments are the realm of atheists.

        Go tell it on the atheist mountain.

        Christianity is rooted in the earth and have purpose.

        Comment by silenceofmind — December 23, 2013 @ 9:17 pm

      • You refuse to engage in the argument and insult atheists. I am not impressed. If you just want to troll, then I will delete your posts.

        This is a philosophy blog. You have to argue for your views or they are not relevant here. You can post whatever you want on your own blog.

        Comment by JW Gray — December 23, 2013 @ 9:22 pm

      • JW,

        I have engaged in the argument.

        The problem is that I have used reason to explain myself.

        And you as an atheist can’t comprehend reason.

        Comment by silenceofmind — December 23, 2013 @ 9:27 pm

      • I have studied logic and helped teach a logic class. What are your qualifications?

        I suspect you suffer from the dunning-kruger effect. We know that people who are the least skilled often overestimate their skill the most, and that includes logic. People who know the least logic overestimate their abilities of logic the most. People should actually take logic classes.

        Comment by JW Gray — December 24, 2013 @ 12:46 am

      • JW,

        The biggest enemies of logic and reasoning are found in the university.

        And I’ve turned many a professor into a blithering, dithering, foaming at the mouth idiot.

        That you would resort to waving your bogus credentials around is a sign of desperation.

        Atheism is nothing but leftist propaganda.

        If you know logic at all, it’s to use it create sugar coated nonsense.

        Comment by silenceofmind — December 24, 2013 @ 2:12 am

      • They aren’t bogus credentials. You keep making assertions without argument. I have no reason to think you understand logic. If you do understand logic, then you are a troll who goes around insulting people for no reason. I will delete any of your off topic or insulting posts that don’t include an argument from this moment on.

        Comment by JW Gray — December 24, 2013 @ 2:17 am

      • JW,

        Facts are not assertions.

        That you can’t tell the difference makes you a propagandist.

        The philosophy from which I argue is rooted in common sense where facts are not assertions but shared knowledge.

        And it is upon shared knowledge where discussion becomes possible.

        Atheists turn facts into debatable assertions and thus make truth seeking impossible.

        Ancient Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle called this abhorrent method of argumentation, sophistry.

        Comment by silenceofmind — December 24, 2013 @ 2:29 am

      • I never said facts are assertions, but you have to argue for any statement you give. To say “this statement is a fact, not an assertion” does not help you make your case. I could say that any statement I make is a fact without argument. That does not help me make my case either.

        When I use the term “assertion” I am talking about a statement. When I talk about “facts” I am talking about reality. Every premise and conclusion is a statement. Premises and conclusions are true when the correspond to reality (facts).

        Comment by JW Gray — December 24, 2013 @ 5:30 am

      • JW,

        You said that I was making unsubstantiated assertions.

        The is incorrect because I stated obvious fact and then supported my statement.

        It is an obvious fact that homosexuality is a sexual disorder.

        There is no debate on that because sexuality is well defined by science in both biology and evolution.

        But since you are both leftist and atheist you are agenda-driven, not truth-driven.

        Gay marriage and trying to make homosexuality look normal are integral to the leftist agenda. Therefore any facts contrary to the leftist agenda must be made out to be mere assertions.

        The atheist propaganda is necessary to leftism because it reduces everything to mere opinion. That means all facts, all truth is merely an opinionated assertion.

        For logic to yield truthful results it must first be informed by the truth.

        There is no truth possible in atheism since everything is simply a matter of opinion.

        Consequently, your logic my be true to form, but it will almost always yield a false result.

        Comment by silenceofmind — December 24, 2013 @ 5:54 am

      • I gave an example of something you wrote that was an assertion without argument, and that was not the example you gave.

        You are right that you did eventually give an argument for your conclusion that homosexuality is a disorder and I appreciated that. I already responded to why your argument that homosexuality is a disorder. You ignored what I wrote about that. And scientists agree with me that homosexuality is not a disorder. Here’s more information about it: http://www.csun.edu/~psp/handouts/APA%20on%20Sexual%20Orientation.pdf

        Comment by JW Gray — December 24, 2013 @ 6:14 am

      • JW,

        Science cannot present two facts that contradict each other.

        As with the global warming hoax, any assertions made by “scientists” attesting that homosexuality is normal, are simply leftist propaganda.

        Leftists have taken control of education, government, media and science so it is no surprise that the leftist agenda is presented as the only truth common sense and the obvious be damned.

        Comment by silenceofmind — December 24, 2013 @ 6:19 am

      • There is nothing about atheism that makes everything a matter of opinion.

        If you think science is wrong whenever it conflicts with a conservative opinion, then I would certainly think you might think that precisely because of the confirmation bias. Sometimes liberals do that as well. The anti-GMO and anti-vaccination stuff is what happens when liberals ignore science.

        If you think you can prove that scientists are wrong about something, then do it.

        It is a lot easier for you to persuade non-experts about your beliefs about sexual dysfunction and climate science than it would be to convince the experts because non-experts don’t have the skills and information needed to judge the arguments properly. You should talk to the experts about your beliefs because they have the background needed to assess what you say about such things properly.

        And to assume that you know more about science than the experts is likely due to the dunning-kruger effect. Are you an expert about anything? If so, I hope you realize how the opinions of non-experts are often unreliable and that your expertise could be needed to judge their opinions properly.

        Comment by JW Gray — December 24, 2013 @ 6:35 am

      • JW,

        The essential nature of atheism demands the rejection of objective truth and its replacement with personal opinion. You are just kidding yourself if you think differently.

        Without God all there is, is nature.

        Nature has no morals or ethics or free will. We are all just a bunch of chemical reactions that operate until entropy, accident, disease or bad fortune finally win the game and we die.

        That is the atheist universe, one without free will, morality or ethics or hope for a better world.

        In the atheist universe where God doesn’t exist anything the atheist thinks or feels is just preprogramming.

        That means that anything we think is essentially worthless. One way of expressing worthless thinking is through personal opinion.

        And since all men are equal by nature our opinions all have the same value. That means false is equal to true.

        Science was only made possible by Christian Western Civilization. No other civilization in human history was able to make the quantum leap into modern science.

        That’s because science is an expression of God’s Revelation to man. As a result of atheism there can also be no science.

        Atheists only feel moral because they borrow Christian values.

        They only feel modern and educated because they borrow modernity from the results of science (only made possible by Christianity) and an education system developed by Christian Western Civilization.

        In the warm, reveling light of truth, atheism is a total disaster.

        It is a philosophy that insults and abuses human nature and murders the being that makes us human.

        Comment by silenceofmind — December 24, 2013 @ 3:40 pm

      • JW,

        The reason I ignored your response to my comment on gay marriage is because only sophists dispute and/or deny facts.

        There’s an old saying, “Don’t confuse the issue with the facts.”

        That is the atheist-leftist motto.

        Comment by silenceofmind — December 24, 2013 @ 3:20 pm

      • If you think I am a sophist, then you shouldn’t even bother posting anything here. You replied to many things I said, so you are using the insult (saying I’m a sophist) in quite a selective way.

        Once again you are insulting someone. Your assertion that I am a sophist is also not properly argued for.

        Comment by JW Gray — December 24, 2013 @ 11:11 pm

      • You said:

        Without God all there is, is nature.

        Did you even read what I wrote here? You are not only saying something false about atheism, but anyone who reads this article would know why it is false.

        Nature has no morals or ethics or free will. We are all just a bunch of chemical reactions that operate until entropy, accident, disease or bad fortune finally win the game and we die.

        If you actually read what philosophers had to say (or what I wrote here), you’d understand why that statement is controversial at the very least. Read about compatibilism. Read about naturalism, which is a type of moral realism that states precisely that moral facts are based on nothing other than nature.

        You have no idea what atheist philosophers actually believe and you just have some straw man idea of atheist philosophy in mind. Ask what atheists think instead of telling them what they think.

        That means that anything we think is essentially worthless. One way of expressing worthless thinking is through personal opinion.

        We know people suffer from cognitive biases and we know a lot about how to reason well anyway. Let’s say we were programmed to reason perfectly. In that case our beliefs would be even better justified than they are now.

        And I do not necessarily agree that people are “programmed” either. Atheism does not logically imply that view.

        And since all men are equal by nature our opinions all have the same value. That means false is equal to true.

        I have no idea why you think this is a valid argument. The premise and conclusion seem to be completely unrelated.

        Science was only made possible by Christian Western Civilization. No other civilization in human history was able to make the quantum leap into modern science.

        Modern science was preceded by people who had Christian beliefs, but that doesn’t mean it would be impossible for modern science to exist in a society of atheists or people who have any other religion.

        Philosophy and logic were developed by Greeks who had polytheistic beliefs. That doesn’t mean philosophy and logic couldn’t possibly be developed by Christians or atheists.

        That’s because science is an expression of God’s Revelation to man. As a result of atheism there can also be no science.

        When you provide an argument with a premise that pretty much no one agrees with, such as “science is an expression of God’s Revelation to man,” then you can’t expect people to agree with your conclusion either.

        I could argue “science is a result of thinking gods don’t exist, so it is only possible for science to exist because of atheism.” I wouldn’t expect you to agree with that argument, and it would be silly to even bother giving an argument like that.

        Atheists only feel moral because they borrow Christian values.

        What you call “natural law” is based on Aristotelian ethics. Your view of ethics would not exist unless you borrowed ideas from a pagan.

        They only feel modern and educated because they borrow modernity from the results of science (only made possible by Christianity) and an education system developed by Christian Western Civilization.

        The education system was also based on the education developed by pagan philosophers, such as Aristotle.

        In the warm, reveling light of truth, atheism is a total disaster.

        Actually, this conclusion seems to be based on incredibly flawed reasoning, highly questionable premises, and total ignorance of what atheists can and should believe, even if we assume no gods exist.

        You seem to be prejudiced against atheism based on propaganda rather than because you actually understand what atheists can and should believe.

        Comment by JW Gray — December 24, 2013 @ 11:30 pm

      • JW,

        Your comment is undiluted sophistry and if you are as educated as you make out, you know it and are using it with full knowledge that what you are saying is just pure BS.

        For example, your wrote:

        “You are not only saying something false about atheism…”

        That comment is sophistry because what I said about atheism necessarily true. All you did was deny an undeniable fact just like I said atheists do.

        Denial is not an argument, it is a psychological malady.

        And then you followed up with a false generalization,

        “but anyone who reads this article would know why it is false.” I am part of “anyone” and I just destroyed your argument by stating an undeniable fact about atheism.

        The rest of your comment is full of the same false, mindless, fallacy laden sophistry that you evidently use on your unsuspecting college students.

        Comment by silenceofmind — December 25, 2013 @ 2:06 am

      • For example, your wrote:

        “You are not only saying something false about atheism…”

        That comment is sophistry because what I said about atheism necessarily true. All you did was deny an undeniable fact just like I said atheists do.

        Saying it is an undeniable fact doesn’t make it true. Prove the points you want to make. Use premises I can actually agree with.

        You have not even provided arguments that theist philosophers accept.

        “but anyone who reads this article would know why it is false.” I am part of “anyone” and I just destroyed your argument by stating an undeniable fact about atheism.

        I already explained why nature is not necessarily all that exists given an atheist worldview. Did you read the bit about platonism?

        And some atheists are dualists.

        The rest of your comment is full of the same false, mindless, fallacy laden sophistry that you evidently use on your unsuspecting college students.

        No, it’s not. I do not have to agree with everything you say no matter how invalid your arguments are, or no matter how controversial your premises are.

        Simply insulting me does not prove your arguments to be sound. You show me that your premises have to be true. You show me that your arguments are logically valid or are inductively strong. Do you even know what that means or how to do it?

        Comment by JW Gray — December 25, 2013 @ 4:35 am

      • JW,

        Your statement, “Saying it is an undeniable fact doesn’t make it true,” is an example of sophistry.

        That’s because things are true by nature, not because someone says so.

        The facts that I lay out are true by nature, not because I say so.

        You, the sophist, blithely deny that facts exist, turn them into mere opinion, and then assign them to your opposition because you are fully aware that one opinion is as worthless as any other.

        I’m not letting you do that.

        The atheist doesn’t get to redefine reality or determine what is fact and what is opinion.

        Doing so is bias and bias is what governs atheist thinking.

        Comment by silenceofmind — December 25, 2013 @ 1:29 pm

      • Let’s look at one of your arguments again:

        Nature has no morals or ethics or free will.

        Oh wait. That’s not an argument. It’s just a statement.

        Do you understand that arguments require premises to support a conclusion?

        The idea that everything I said to you is sophistry is nothing but an insult. You didn’t even argue for one of your central points.

        And your central point is controversial to say the very least. I do not agree with your central point, and neither do philosophers in general. There are philosophers who argue that nature is all that is needed for free will and/or morality.

        Should I agree with a statement that simply states that conclusions that philosophers argue for very carefully are false? No, I don’t think I should. There are already arguments for the views you disagree with. Instead of engaging in a proper philosophical conversation, you just announce that those philosophers are wrong. That is pathetic.

        If you want to waste my time with nonsense like this, then your comments will be ignored.

        Comment by JW Gray — December 25, 2013 @ 4:42 am

      • JW,

        Nature has no morals. That is a fact and I shouldn’t have to explain why it is.

        You are a university graduate, for Pete’s sake. What in the name of Sam Hill are you people learning at school these days!

        Comment by silenceofmind — December 25, 2013 @ 1:34 pm

      • To engage in philosophical discussion requires you to give reasons to think something is true. If you want to reject the arguments of others, then you need to argue why the other person’s premises or conclusion is false.

        For example, I can argue the following:

        1. Killing people is always wrong.
        2. Capital punishment kills people.
        3. Therefore, capital punishment is wrong.

        Someone might then tell me that the first premise is false because killing people is not wrong when necessary for self defense.

        Here is your comment:

        JW,

        Absurd arguments are the realm of atheists.

        Go tell it on the atheist mountain.

        Christianity is rooted in the earth and have purpose.

        That provides us with no reason to believe anything. It doesn’t even say that any of my premises are false, and it doesn’t state that my conclusion is false.

        You seem to have no idea what it means to engage in a philosophical conversation properly.

        Imagine that someone says the following:

        JW,

        Absurd arguments are the realm of theists.

        Go tell it on the theist mountain.

        The beliefs of atheists is rooted in the earth and have purpose.

        Those assertions are just like the assertions you made. They are unjustified assertions made without argument. The statements could easily be considered to be trolling, and would not be appropriate.

        Comment by JW Gray — December 24, 2013 @ 1:05 am

  2. I disagree with your premise. [Your claim] As objective morality is extant the mind, or the operation of the mind, name a moral act something without a mind can do. How do you test for the existence of objective morality? Also, I can’t see why we must cling to the notion of objective morality. It is an a priori concept meant to prop up theist apology.

    Comment by P Yew — December 23, 2013 @ 9:41 pm | Reply

    • I did not say that I know objective morality exists. I made that clear. It is not a premise of the argument I presented here.

      Additionally, it is quite possible that morality is not relevant when no minds exist. Notice that I mentioned that things like happiness and suffering are the types of things that could have intrinsic value. Obviously those things require mental activity.

      Comment by JW Gray — December 23, 2013 @ 9:50 pm | Reply

      • I re read your post, and concede your point. I’ll go away rephrasing [in my head for my own emotional comfort] “Atheism and objective morality are compatible” to atheism and objective morality are not contradictory, and can exist independently of each other as functions of the mind.

        Comment by P Yew — December 23, 2013 @ 10:12 pm

      • Anti-realism is the view that there are no moral facts, and there are meta-ethical theories that can be described as types of anti-realism. I would not claim that anti-realism is obviously false, and I think it is best for our meta-ethical opinions to be informed by the arguments found in meta-ethics.

        It should also be noted that the real issue here is existence/reality. To say that morality is objective means that it is based on reality. Minds are real, and so are thoughts. I wouldn’t say that happiness or suffering lack objectivity because they are real. There are facts about these things. In a similar way I wouldn’t want to say that morality necessarily lacks objectivity if we find out that morality is about things like happiness or suffering.

        Also consider if cars are objective. There would be no cars without people and mental activity, but I would still want to say that there are facts about cars.

        Objectivity also doesn’t require the existence of the relevant things at this very moment in time. There can be facts about cars, even when no cars exist. In a similar way we say that there are facts about non-avian dinosaurs, even though they are extinct.

        Comment by JW Gray — December 23, 2013 @ 10:26 pm

  3. I agree with you that at first sight moral realism doesn’t imply the existence of a god–there are other sources moral values could derive from, e.g. nature.

    All of these other sources, however, share a problem: while they provide a standard according to which goodness can be determined, they lack a justification for this standard. For instance, why ought one to do what is natural?

    The answer is that one ought to do what is natural because if that is one’s purpose. As something can only have a purpose if it is created for this purpose, man has to be created in order to have a purpose. And this creator can only be a god. Thus, either man has no purpose and thus he cannot be morally judged, or there is a god.

    Comment by Jos van Leeuwen — December 25, 2013 @ 2:02 am | Reply

    • I can still ask why we should care about the purpose you think God gave to people. I already explained the theistic views, and that one a problem with the “God’s purpose” based view that I described.

      Naturalism does not state that whatever is natural is good. It is a nuanced view. You should read the actual philosophical literature about it. I did not explain or defend the view completely.

      Comment by JW Gray — December 25, 2013 @ 4:29 am | Reply

      • For the record: I do not personally belief in god (note the lowercase). I also agree with you that a morality derived from the decrees of a god would seem to be rather subjective.

        Still, the reason why we should care about a gods’ purpose is pretty obvious: because we would be his creations, and whatever something is created for is its purpose. As goodness is always referential, i.e. good for something, something requires such a purpose to be able to judge its goodness.

        You claim that something does not require such a purpose in order for it to be morally good or bad. How then, in a world without creator and thus without purpose, would you derive such objectively valid moral values?

        Comment by Jos van Leeuwen — December 25, 2013 @ 3:31 pm

      • I described different types of moral realism. Some think the natural world would give us moral facts, and others think concepts would. Obviously there is more to the story, but I did give an example of how it can work. The natural world could very well be enough for suffering to exist, and we could find out that morality is about reducing suffering (and increasing happiness).

        I would say that I have a reason to think that pain/suffering is intrinsically bad — it is not bad merely because of any purpose. Pain can actually be quite useful.

        This is related to Aristotle’s view of final ends.

        One issue is that if every good is only good for a purpose, then no action would ever be truly justified. You go to work for money, get money to eat, eat to live, live to go to work, and so on. Why would any of that matter? We might think, yeah, but is there anything good about working, money, eating, or living? If not, then it was pointless.

        Comment by JW Gray — December 26, 2013 @ 5:53 am

      • (Besides, I know what naturalism is, and I realize it doesn’t include the claim that whatever that is, is right. My point was that it derives goodness from what is natural)

        Comment by Jos van Leeuwen — December 25, 2013 @ 3:51 pm

  4. Jos, purpose is circumstantial, is it not, whether the circumstances are big or small? A good knife is not a good hammer nor is a good man a good dog or a good God. Moore’s open question cuts both ways. We can always ask, given that pleasure is good, is good then pleasure? By the same token, we can always ask, if the word of God is good, is good then the word of God? This is the kind of problem that drives folks like Craig to advocate divine command theory, which is actually a form of error theory when it comes to moral realism as described above. It takes an equivocator of Craig’s talent to make the case otherwise.

    Comment by keithnoback — December 25, 2013 @ 12:35 pm | Reply

  5. It usually drives me crazy when someone argues that God is necessary for objective morality. Many such people have simply picked up the idea from somewhere but are unable to effectively argue for it. They merely keep asserting it as somehow being self-evident. If I attribute my morality as coming from the Flying Spaghetti Monster, does that automatically make it true and self-evident? Can I say that there can be no objective morality without the FSM? Prove me wrong! ;-)

    More interesting is the point you touch upon the idea that morality is considered by some to be necessary to achieve certain goals, i.e., morality is a means to an end. Certainly, any moral or ethical code can be used simply as a personal code of action, how one thinks one should treat other people. However, most of us want to apply morality to everyone, to have all people treat other people according to a moral code. In other words, people use morality as a means of achieving the kind of society that they desire to live in.

    If morality is a means to an end, to me that says that morality is not objective, except in a certain context. Human values are subjective, and people could subjectively desire different types of societies. The fact that humans have evolved in a certain way leads me to believe that the kind of society most people desire is very similar to other people’s desired society.

    People often argue about whether or not the means is justified by the end. I believe that due to the nature of reality, only certain specific means can be used to successfully achieve certain ends. You cannot simply use any means you want to achieve your desired end–it must be an appropriate means. Thus, while there is subjectivity in human desires and ends, reality imposes an objectivity on the means used to achieve those ends.

    Thus, it is necessary for us to choose the appropriate morality in order to achieve our desired society. Morality is only objective within the context of achieving a particular type of society.

    Maybe I’m trying too hard, but I’ve been thinking about this “subjective ends, objective means” idea for some time, trying to form it into a coherent theory. If morality is a means to an end, then it fits in quite well with this theory.

    Comment by macsnafu — July 28, 2014 @ 4:08 pm | Reply

    • Snafu,

      It is the atheist who parrots the idea that objective morality can exist without God.

      That God must exist for objective morality to exist is easily explained.

      Since all men are created equal, anything we think that is not supported by Natural Law, is simply an opinion.

      Atheists reject Natural Law, consequently they reject the basis of objective morality.

      Vladimir Lenin, founder of the mass murdering Soviet Union, said that “atheism is necessary for the Communist program.”

      He said that because under atheism morality and ethics can mean anything.

      That means justice is the advantage of the strong, just as Plato wrote 2500 years ago in his “Republic.”

      Comment by silenceofmind — July 28, 2014 @ 9:39 pm | Reply

      • silenceofmind,

        You said it’s easy to explain but I don’t understand what you are saying. You said, “Since all men are created equal, anything we think that is not supported by Natural Law, is simply an opinion.”

        Is this an argument? If so, I don’t understand it. Can you explain a bit more?

        Comment by JW Gray — July 29, 2014 @ 7:25 am

      • Gray,

        If you don’t understand the meaning of my comments then you don’t understand the meaning of “objective.”

        And therein lies the problem in dealing with atheists.

        They basically have no idea what they are talking about.

        I don’t say this to be rude. It’s just the way it is.

        Atheism is a trip back to a future of total ignorance (not knowing even the basics of how things are put together), before civilization was a twinkle in the mind’s eye of mankind.

        Comment by silenceofmind — July 29, 2014 @ 8:56 am

      • Now you are being insulting instead of clarifying what you want to say. Atheists are not going to be amazed by your intelligence just because you insult them when you can’t properly form an argument.

        Comment by JW Gray — July 29, 2014 @ 6:33 pm

      • Natural law is not the only moral theory. Do you think Kant’s Categorical Imperative fails to be objective? Or consequentialism? Or virtue ethics?

        Your argument appears to be this:

        1. If morality is objective, then natural law is true.
        2. If natural law is true, then at least one God exists.
        3. Therefore, if morality is objective, then at least one God exists.

        Both premises are likely controversial. I personally don’t see any reason to agree with the first premise.

        Comment by JW Gray — July 29, 2014 @ 6:48 pm

      • JW,

        A typical atheist tactic is to make up something totally stupid and then assign it to the opposition.

        Kant’s categorical imperative is nothing more than the Golden Rule.

        And who but philosophy students even know that Kant ever existed?

        The Golden Rule is an example of a Natural Law.

        And that is exactly why Kant pilfered it.

        Comment by silenceofmind — July 29, 2014 @ 11:36 pm

      • Is the argument I thought you gave a misunderstanding of what your argument is? I was trying to be charitable. If you can make your argument clear and I misunderstood it, then do so. What exactly are the premises that lead to the conclusion?

        Kant’s categorical imperative is not just the golden rule. Read what he says again.

        Is the golden rule an example of natural law? Maybe. But it can also be an example of other ethical theories.

        Do you want to say that the only reason to use the golden rule is if “natural law” is true?

        Do you want to say that Kant’s Categorical Imperative is equivalent to natural law? And that there’s no reason for an atheist to agree with Kant’s Categorical Imperative?

        I am not quite sure what you have in mind by “natural law.” The term is used in different ways.

        Do you mean the view associated with Thomas Aquinas?

        From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

        Even though we have already confined ‘natural law theory’ to its use as a term that marks off a certain class of ethical theories, we still have a confusing variety of meanings to contend with. Some writers use the term with such a broad meaning that any moral theory that is a version of moral realism — that is, any moral theory that holds that some positive moral claims are literally true (for this conception of moral realism, see Sayre-McCord 1988)— counts as a natural law view. Some use it so narrowly that no moral theory that is not grounded in a very specific form of Aristotelian teleology could count as a natural law view. It might be thought that there is nothing that can be done to begin a discussion of natural law theory in ethics other than to stipulate a meaning for ‘natural law theory’ and to proceed from there. But there is a better way of proceeding, one that takes as its starting point the central role that the moral theorizing of Thomas Aquinas plays in the natural law tradition.

        Comment by JW Gray — July 30, 2014 @ 7:31 am

      • Gray,

        My arguments are clear as a bell, written in simple, easy to understand language.

        Kant’s imperative is the Golden Rule, pilfered from antiquity.

        As King Solomon once said, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

        Comment by silenceofmind — July 30, 2014 @ 7:50 am

      • Then what did I say wrong about your arguments?

        People who think their arguments are clear and need no further clarification are often wrong.

        I think you like to just make assertions without argument. That is not how philosophy is done. You use the picture of the thinker. Well, argue properly. Use premises and conclusions for a change. Show me critical thinking. Anyone can think, but to reason properly takes a bit more work.

        Comment by JW Gray — July 30, 2014 @ 8:10 am

      • Gray,

        I am graduate school-trained, in both philosophy and simple, clear expression of systematic thinking and common sense.

        Comment by silenceofmind — July 30, 2014 @ 8:12 am

      • Then show me an argument instead of just making assertions. Why think objective morality is impossible without God?

        Comment by JW Gray — July 30, 2014 @ 8:16 am

      • Gray,

        If you can be specific about what is troubling you, that would help, surely.

        Comment by silenceofmind — July 30, 2014 @ 8:17 am

      • I already asked for clarification. You said, “Since all men are created equal, anything we think that is not supported by Natural Law, is simply an opinion.”

        Is this supposed to be an argument as to why objective morality would be impossible without God?

        Comment by JW Gray — July 30, 2014 @ 8:18 am

      • Gray,

        We are all equal by nature. That is, we possess the same human nature.

        That means each of us is no better or worse than any other person.

        That means what we think and feel has equal weight when compared to any other person.

        Therefore, man needs a higher authority than himself to cite as an objective authority.

        Comment by silenceofmind — July 30, 2014 @ 8:25 am

      • Is that a deductive argument?

        Comment by JW Gray — July 30, 2014 @ 8:27 am

      • Gray,

        The argument I presented is an argument based on common sense.

        Comment by silenceofmind — July 30, 2014 @ 8:28 am

      • Some arguments people think are based on common sense are actually invalid/fallacious.

        For example:

        1. If Lassie is a dog, then Lassie is a mammal.
        2. Lassie is a mammal.
        3. Therefore, Lassie is a dog.

        The premises are insufficient to reach the conclusion. The argument is actually invalid.

        Arguments are either inductive or deductive. Valid deductive arguments with true premises guarantee that the conclusion is true.

        Strong inductive arguments with true premises do not guarantee the conclusion is true.

        Do you think your argument is a valid inductive argument — If the premises are true, would that guarantee the conclusion to be true?

        Comment by JW Gray — July 30, 2014 @ 8:34 am

      • Gray,

        There’s a phrase that came out of the Clinton Administration from about 20 years ago:

        “Keep it simple, Stupid.”

        If you have an argument of your own make it.

        If you can’t understand common sense or concepts from basic Civics 101 than you don’t have sufficient intellectual skills to conduct a philosophical argument.

        That is the sad state of the atheist, I have found.

        There is something about atheism that sucks the life out of the human mind.

        Comment by silenceofmind — July 30, 2014 @ 8:38 am

      • If you think common sense is rational, even when it violates logic, then there’s a problem.

        Logic is used to evaluate certain requirements of good arguments. Invalid deductive arguments are not good arguments. Weak inductive arguments are not good arguments.

        The way you phrased the argument seems to violate logic.

        Here’s the argument:

        We are all equal by nature. That is, we possess the same human nature.

        That means each of us is no better or worse than any other person.

        That means what we think and feel has equal weight when compared to any other person.

        Therefore, man needs a higher authority than himself to cite as an objective authority.

        You did not phrase the argument as a valid deductive argument. I don’t see how the premises could be used as a reason to believe the conclusion.

        Why would being equal somehow mean we need a higher authority? We can be equal and use our brain to figure things out. We have no choice but to do that. God does not tell us what to think or what we ought to do anyway.

        You might like the idea that God has everything figured out, but no one actually has to know about moral facts for moral facts to exist. Let’s say that there’s a rock on Mars no one has ever seen. The fact that the rock is there has nothing to do with what anyone believes. It is there no matter what anyone believes about it.

        Comment by JW Gray — July 30, 2014 @ 8:58 am

      • Gray,

        You are engaging in a common tactic used by atheists which is to side track a discussion into the sewer of the irrelevant.

        Logic and common sense are used as a common framework by people who wish to communicate with each other rationally.

        If that is your wish than use what you know about logic and common sense to address the claims at hand.

        Comment by silenceofmind — July 30, 2014 @ 9:01 am

      • I rephrased your argument in a way to make it a valid deductive argument. I asked you if you agreed with the argument as I rephrased it. You didn’t respond to that.

        Comment by JW Gray — July 30, 2014 @ 9:04 am

      • Gray,

        You are playing word games hoping I’ll fall into some sort of trap.

        Go find another victim to abuse.

        You obviously don’t have the intellectual tools to have a civil conversation.

        Comment by silenceofmind — July 30, 2014 @ 9:25 am

      • No, I was trying to figure out what you are thinking because it is not clear and you won’t tell me. Your argument doesn’t seem to make sense.

        You think that what you think is common sense and easily understood because you are the one thinking it. I think what I think and say is common sense and easily understood as well.

        Comment by JW Gray — July 30, 2014 @ 9:41 am

      • I would think a way to make it a valid deductive argument would be something like this:

        1. We are all equal by nature.
        2. If we are equal by nature, then each of us is no better or worse than any other person.
        3. If each of us is no better or worse than any other person, then what we think and feel has equal weight when compared to another person.
        4. If what we think and feel has equal weight when compared to another person, then we need a higher authority to cite as an objective authority.
        5. Therefore, we need a higher authority to cite as an objective authority.

        Would you agree with this argument?

        Comment by JW Gray — July 30, 2014 @ 8:31 am

      • Gray,

        We need an authority greater than man to cite as an objective source.

        When we rely on philosophers like Kant, Nietzsche and Marx the result is always brutal, genocidal tyranny.

        Comment by silenceofmind — July 30, 2014 @ 8:33 am

      • Do you know what to do because God tells you what to do?

        Religious people have done horrible things in the name of God thinking they were doing what God wanted.

        We have no choice but to think for ourselves. God can’t think for us. Even if God exists, we need ethics (moral philosophy). We will make mistakes, but we need to be careful about it. I do not claim that I know everything about ethics, but I have no choice but to think for myself, and moral philosophy is the best way to do that.

        Nothing you have said proves that objective morality requires God. Objective morality has to do with moral facts. If there is a moral fact, then moral realism is true. I don’t need to know about moral facts for moral facts to exist. If morality is objective, then people can be wrong about morality. They don’t need to know everything about morality. There can be true statements about ethics whether we believe them to be true or not.

        Comment by JW Gray — July 30, 2014 @ 8:41 am

      • Gray,

        The existence of God is a self-evident truth, that is, his existence is knowable through reason.

        The “Laws of Nature, and Nature’s God” are knowable through reason.

        Comment by silenceofmind — July 30, 2014 @ 8:43 am

      • How would the world be different if God didn’t exist? Would you think it’s okay to punch children in the face assuming God doesn’t exist?

        I have no problem with natural law assuming it is truly a rational view of things. I have no problem with you believing in God assuming it is truly rational to believe in God. However, you have yet to prove that it is irrational to think that God is required for objective morality.

        God doesn’t tell scientists how to do science. They still figure things out. If God doesn’t exist, we can still do science and figure things out. Does that mean science isn’t objective because you think we need a higher authority?

        What exactly do you think the higher authority is doing that makes objective morality possible?

        Comment by JW Gray — July 30, 2014 @ 8:46 am

      • Gray,

        Some people think it’s okay to punch children in the face, and worse.

        I understand that child slavery is big these days.

        Without an objective authority higher than man there simply does not exist the moral authority to address such depravity.

        Comment by silenceofmind — July 30, 2014 @ 8:49 am

      • Is it impossible for needless suffering to be bad if God doesn’t exist? Does God have to exist for needless suffering to be a bad thing?

        Atheists generally agree that needless suffering is a bad thing. They have experienced suffering. They know what it is like. God doesn’t have to tell people that needless suffering is bad for them to figure these things out.

        As I said before, some people have false beliefs. There can be moral facts, even if no one believes them.

        Why think we need God for any of this?

        Comment by JW Gray — July 30, 2014 @ 8:52 am

      • You might like the idea that God assures us that justice will happen. That those who harm children will be punished or will be held accountable.

        Objective morality does not guarantee that there will always be justice. Sometimes bad things can happen and the criminal can get away with committing crimes.

        Comment by JW Gray — July 30, 2014 @ 9:02 am

      • Do you want to say everyone is equal and they disagree about ethics, so we need an authority to tell us what to believe? Is that why you think being equal is a problem and God as an authority is the solution?

        Again, the problem with that is that we have to reason about these things and God does not tell us what to think about ethics. You seemed to agree that we can reason about these things.

        So, what is the solution to disagreement? Some arguments are better than others. We have to assess the reasons for different beliefs. We have to make sure to reason properly about what we ought to believe. That is true in ethics, science, and just about anything else.

        Now, I do not deny that perhaps God is the source of objective morality. Maybe God exists. Maybe God makes sure that morality is objective. I never said that we have to reject God or reject that God might be the source of objective morality. I made that clear already in the essay.

        The whole point of the essay was to argue against the claim that objective morality would be impossible without God. There are other possible explanations for objective morality. I have already discussed some of them. You gave us zero reasons to think those explanations are totally irrational.

        You can argue that God is the only possible source of objective morality by showing how every single other source we consider could not be the source of objective morality. That would take a lot of work.

        Some philosophers will argue that X is the best explanation for objective morality (assuming that objective morality exists). That also takes quite a bit of work. They need to show that X is a good explanation and that all other explanations are significantly worse explanations. I have no problem with philosophers who argue that way.

        I do have a problem with people just dismissing that X is a possible source of objective morality out of hand. Consider all the possibilities. Evaluate the arguments. Show why you think people should agree with you. Don’t just assume that people who disagree with you are irrational.

        Comment by JW Gray — July 30, 2014 @ 9:15 am

      • What is the source of morality? You think it is God, but God doesn’t tell you what to think about morality.

        Does that mean God can’t be a source of morality? No. I explained how God might be a source of objective morality in the essay. It’s very similar to platonism.

        No one thinks a philosopher is the source of objective morality. The source of objective morality has to do with where moral facts come from.

        What’s an example of a moral fact? Perhaps the following: Suffering is intrinsically bad.

        It is not clear how exactly God’s existence would make suffering intrinsically bad. What makes suffering intrinsically bad? It could be suffering itself. The experience of suffering. We experience it as a bad thing. Suffering exists and a property of suffering is that we experience it a certain way (as a bad thing).

        Where does suffering come from? The mind. The mind seems to come from the brain.

        This is the type of explanation that I think seems to make sense. It could be the origin for a moral fact.

        Comment by JW Gray — July 30, 2014 @ 9:48 am

      • I thought you wanted people to agree with you that objective morality would be impossible without God.

        Well, I wrote an essay about why I disagree. So far you have merely contradicted me (as far as I can tell). You failed to argue that any of my premises are false and you failed to argue that objective morality would be impossible without God.

        You can give arguments as to why you think certain things. The fact that you think things is not enough to be right. If I am going to think you are right, then I want arguments. That’s what philosophy is about. It’s not just about having opinions. It’s about having good reasons to believe things. If you are trained in philosophy, then you should know how to argue properly. Tell me the premises and conclusions.

        Comment by JW Gray — July 30, 2014 @ 8:21 am

      • Um, there are atheists who support Natural Law, so you’re comment is an unwarranted assumption.

        Comment by macsnafu — July 30, 2014 @ 1:17 am

      • Snafu,

        Natural Law is governed by “Nature’s God.”

        Consequently, atheists who say they advocate Natural Law don’t know what they are talking about.

        Comment by silenceofmind — July 30, 2014 @ 7:48 am

      • @silenceofmind, per your own words on your blog: “Without God, all there is, is nature and nature’s laws.” So even you seem to think that Natural Law is possible without God.

        Comment by macsnafu — July 30, 2014 @ 2:58 pm

      • Snafu,

        I was referring to the “state of nature” that exists without civilization.

        You may notice that all civilizations grew up around religion.

        On the other hand the greatest mass murders in history were committed by atheists.

        Comment by silenceofmind — July 30, 2014 @ 5:56 pm

    • Is there no reason to desire one type of society than another? I would think a society with more needless suffering would be worse than a society with less. Reducing needless suffering and increasing happiness could be rational goals.

      Comment by JW Gray — July 29, 2014 @ 6:51 pm | Reply

      • Good question. I’ve merely noted that most people prefer a similar type of society, but advocate different means to achieve it. This is especially clear in the more modern, Classical Liberal views. Socialists and Capitalists largely believe in a similar society as an end–their arguments are mostly about the means used to achieve this society. They both want a peaceful, progressive, and prosperous society, i.e. a “happy” society, but their means are so different that it’s hard to believe that they are both compatible with this goal.

        Comment by macsnafu — July 30, 2014 @ 1:15 am

      • btw, silenceofmind is clearly a troll–I wouldn’t spend too much time and energy on him. You can’t have a rational argument with irrational people.

        Comment by macsnafu — July 30, 2014 @ 2:59 pm

      • Snafu,

        Atheists always resort to verbal abuse, bullying or character assassination when they are faced with effective opposition.

        Comment by silenceofmind — July 30, 2014 @ 5:58 pm

      • You have used verbal abuse and said insulting things. You also did give at least one argument. However, I don’t think it is a very good argument for the reasons I have given. Perhaps you can explain the argument in better detail, though.

        Comment by JW Gray — July 30, 2014 @ 7:25 pm

      • Gray,

        Like all atheists I’ve ever encountered, you don’t have the education or intellectual training to understand the basic philosophical arguments presented to mankind by our Western Heritage.

        Atheism is, in fact, a rejection of our Western Heritage.

        That means atheists learn dogma, not the means of reasoning out philosophical concepts.

        That is why you are asking me to spoon feed your mind, instead of you sitting down and spending some time thinking about these things for yourself.

        Comment by silenceofmind — July 30, 2014 @ 7:31 pm

      • That sounds like classic trolling. You are being insulting and saying that your argument is a good argument, even though I already explained why it isn’t. Sorry, this is not how a rational debate or rational conversation works. No one is impressed. You are wasting our time.

        Comment by JW Gray — July 30, 2014 @ 7:38 pm

      • Gray,

        Exactly. To the atheist, the person who has courage enough to explain reality to the atheist is a troll.

        As long as you continue to name-call instead of learning how to use your mind the way God intended, you will remain mired in the malignant ignorance of atheism.

        Comment by silenceofmind — July 30, 2014 @ 7:44 pm

      • If your argument is so obvious, and you think theists actually believe the argument because it is so obvious, then you should not be the first (and perhaps only) person in the world who knows of the argument. Has any philosopher actually made the same argument?

        You are such a hypocrite. You keep saying insulting things then turn it around to play the victim of name calling. Pathetic.

        Comment by JW Gray — July 30, 2014 @ 7:54 pm

      • Gray,

        When I refer to the Western Heritage I am referring to famous philosophers like Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas, John Locke, Charles Montesquieu, and the Founding Fathers.

        My arguments simply echo theirs since I learned philosophy from them.

        Comment by silenceofmind — July 30, 2014 @ 7:58 pm

      • I have studied them as well. I don’t think your argument was given by any of them. If you want, you can show me a passage by one of them that you think is identical or very similar to the argument you gave.

        Comment by JW Gray — July 30, 2014 @ 8:31 pm

      • Gray,

        You obviously have never studied Aristotle, etc.

        You may think you have, or may have been led to believe you have, but you have not.

        I first learned about our Western Heritage in grad school.

        In fact, I attended three different grad schools, one Catholic, one Protestant and one secular. Aristotle appears the same in each university.

        Also, Hillsdale College has various great courses in basic civics and the Founding Fathers and they are online and free.

        Comment by silenceofmind — July 30, 2014 @ 8:38 pm

      • My first philosophy teacher was a Christian and didn’t seem to think being an atheist was so terrible or irrational. We discussed arguments for God in the class. He didn’t think the arguments were obviously so good that we would be idiots to not agree with them.

        Comment by JW Gray — July 30, 2014 @ 7:57 pm

      • Gray,

        I am not your teacher and I didn’t call you an idiot.

        Comment by silenceofmind — July 30, 2014 @ 8:00 pm

      • Read what you said again. You have been saying a lot of insulting things.

        Comment by JW Gray — July 30, 2014 @ 8:30 pm

      • Gray,

        Stating the truth about atheism may seem like verbal because you are an atheist.

        The truth about such things as atheism, homosexuality, global warming, Marxism, social justice seems cruel to people who believe in such nonsense.

        Comment by silenceofmind — July 30, 2014 @ 8:34 pm

      • @silenceofmind You said, “Atheists always resort to verbal abuse, bullying or character assassination when they are faced with effective opposition.” So now you’re telling us that you’re an atheist…

        Comment by macsnafu — July 30, 2014 @ 8:16 pm

      • No, he can do the same things he thinks atheists do. He didn’t say only atheists do those things.

        Comment by JW Gray — July 30, 2014 @ 8:32 pm

      • You’re quite right. It just *seemed* like he was trying to tell us something about himself. ;-)

        Comment by macsnafu — July 31, 2014 @ 7:34 pm


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

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

The Rubric Theme. Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 218 other followers

%d bloggers like this: