I once wrote an essay on why a naturalistic worldview does not invariably lead to nihilism. In this essay, I argued that morality is objective with or without a god. I tried (so hard) to use this to make the case that there is a definite law of right and wrong (yes, I used C.S. Lewis’ reasoning to make this point) within the human race, because I believed that without it, nihilism would ensue. I had been told once that anyone who is honest with herself and is a true nihilist would not be able to find any meaning in life or reason to live. It’s understandable that given this factor, I saw the link between naturalism and nihilism to be a deadly one, so I tried my very best to argue for atheistic objective morality.
Changing My Opinion
It was almost two years ago that I wrote that paper; mind you, it was a piece of work that I was unimaginably proud of, and the research I did for it is what pushed me to the atheist that I am today. Mostly for sentimental reasons, I wouldn’t change this paper for anything, but in the past two years my views have drastically changed. Reading through it now, I can’t help but notice how uneducated I was as I tried to make a definite claim in academic territory that I was almost entirely unfamiliar with, however intrigued and fascinated I was by the topic. I can finally admit to committing a fallacy (I am so very sorry) in which I made up my mind on my claim before finding supporting evidence. I even left out arguments that I didn’t know how to win.
However dishonest I was with myself back then, I have since faced what I find to be a more candid truth about godless morality: it is often subjective. This was a hard fact to cope with, considering how sure of objective morality I had been after I first read the arguments in Lewis’ Mere Christianity. He has a persuasion tactic that is hard to reason against, but I find this to be due to his smooth rhetoric and coercive tone than actual logic or candor.
If you’ve read this book, you may recall that Lewis has a way of starting with a simple observation and building from it using phrases like “It seems, then, we are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong . . . they are not a matter of mere taste and opinion any more than the multiplication table. Now if we are agreed about that, I go on to my next point . . .” (7). This begs the question: who ever said that we were agreed on that? Later on, he dismisses atheism as he builds his case: “Very well then, atheism is too simple” (40), before casually moving on to his next point.
In his build-up to this haughty claim, Lewis had been morphing a bit from the objective morality argument to the ontological argument, which in my opinion may be the worst of them all. The idea that we need a “moral measuring stick” may appear to be sound when one considers that some actions are almost always good ones and some actions are almost always bad ones. But when it is refined, this idea manifests itself into the ontological argument, which makes the claim that if we have a sense of right and wrong, then there must be something that is 100% good to which we hold our standard.
Do We Need a Moral Standard?
Given this, I wonder whether there must be a standard of what is 100% evil as well; people don’t seem to be rooting for the existence of Satan so much as they do for God. Outside the scope of this post, however, is the glaringly obvious truth that the Christian god is an absolute tyrant, and if he is the standard of perfect goodness, then we are all doomed.
I’m reminded of Euthyphro’s Dilemma: to paraphrase, is something good because God says it is good (which makes goodness arbitrary, resulting from a measly “Because I said so!”), or is he good because he adheres to a universal right and wrong (which makes him unnecessary because he himself has to adhere to some greater moral standard)? Of course, the Christians have their objections to this, including “Well, perfection is part of his nature,” “But he said he is perfect and he’s God so he must be right and therefore perfect,” or “Have you heard of the ontological argument? It means that God must both exist and be perfect!”
This need for a moral standard that is outside ourselves may seem like a formidable argument from Lewis at first glance. Clearly I had a hard time making a case against it in my paper years ago, but since then I’ve become a bit more educated on how we may measure morality and understand its origin and patterns. There are several ways of determining “right” from “wrong” in the light of nature and humanity without the need for divine absolutes.
One ethical system that I briefly defined in another post is consequentialism, which determines an action’s worth based on its outcome. I personally find value in this idea, but I know that there are many, many more, including utilitarianism, which defines “good” as what gives the most happiness to the greatest number of people, and deontology, which encourages people to only do what they would be satisfied seeing all others doing as well; it assigns us a duty to fairness (more details on page 232 of The God Delusion).
(Note 8/4/21: I’ve found that which of these helps you to determine the best course of action in a situation—shockingly—depends on the situation. Consequentialism is pretty reliable, but in the case of how I dealt with COVID, lockdowns, masks, and vaccines, I definitely employed deontology. The nature of the virus means that what you do only works if everyone does it. I’ve been constantly checking my actions by asking: if everyone were doing what I’m going, would that make the virus go away? Now the hard part is getting everyone else to be responsible as well.)
I find these non-religious moral theories to be concrete and measurable while also subjective. You can’t stamp onto an action a percentage of how “good” or “bad” it is; it all depends, and some actions don’t really fall into a category. As I sit and write this blog post right now, I don’t see it as a right or wrong action the same way I would see, say, the action of rescuing a helpless kitten from a tree. To put it in Lewis’ words, “You would not call a man humane for ceasing to set mousetraps if he did so because he believed there were no mice in the house” (15).
(Another note from 8/4/21: ignorance about the issues going on in the world is not really an excuse to ignore or worsen them, however. If someone is convinced that racism is “over,” they’re much more likely to do or say something that is racist, and they’re definitely not going to work towards racial justice. So it is up to those who know what’s wrong to continually (at least try to) educate those who turn a blind eye.)
So without the ontological moral standard, how do I know that saving a kitten from a tree is a good thing? In my own preferred moral theory of consequentialism, for example, I would act because I know that that kitten is probably afraid and in pain. Physical perceptions such as pain or hunger are more or less non-negotiable; rather than a built-in moral compass, we have these instinctual reactions that have evolved within living organisms because they keep us alive and out of danger. It seems that in almost every case, the cause of an action or desire can be traced back to a universal need for humanity to continue, thrive, and evolve.
The Hypocritical Christian God
When they meet someone who believes that morality is subjective and subscribes to a system other than Divine Command Theory, Christians often point out a perceived flaw when they see us criticizing the morals of their god. They wonder how we can judge even his most despicable acts such as asking Abraham to kill his own son, or worse, God’s own decision to drown every member of his precious creation, if we don’t have a standard of what is right and wrong.
The response to this is twofold: God himself claims to be perfect, and he goes so far as to specify that murder is wrong in the Ten Commandments, meanwhile killing an approximate sum of nearly 30 million people within the pages of his own infallible text (see Steve Wells’ Drunk With Blood). If one were so twisted (or indoctrinated) to say that this is not wrong, it could at the very least be identified as contradictory. Additionally, God’s actions in the bible could easily be held against my previously defined naturalistic theories of morality; he clearly caused pain to many people, and ultimately the amount of killing that he did would have significantly set back the progress and advancement of humankind.
I hope that after reading this post and my paper on naturalism and nihilism (or at least my summary of its flaws), you would agree that my views have, over time, become more aligned with reality. It may or may not be true that I find naturalism to lead to nihilism. I can’t yet tell you if I identify as a nihilist, a humanist, or both. Perhaps, as my younger self would find ironic and possibly frightening, I am an optimistic nihilist.
Work cited: Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001.
90 thoughts on “The Argument from Objective Morality”
Here’s a more honest version of the Ontological argument:
The Logical Ontological Argument
1. It is possible that a maximally great being does exist, but the probability is vanishingly small.
2. If it is possible that a maximally great being exists with a vanishingly small probability, then there is a vanishingly small probability that a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world with a vanishingly small probability, then it exists in every possible world with a vanishingly small probability.
4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world with a vanishingly small probability, then it exists in the actual world with a vanishingly small probability.
5. If a maximally great being exists in the actual world with a vanishingly small probability, then there is a vanishingly small probability a maximally great being exists.
6. Therefore, there is a with a vanishingly small probability that a maximally great being exists.
Note Is there any example of a maximally great anything? No. So, the idea is imaginary in the first place.
All of these so-called philosophical proofs of a god really can only convince believers because they all can be reworked to prove the exact opposite. In fact, the idea that a philosophical argument can prove anything is quite suspect … convince, yes, prove, no.
So, what you’re saying is that we can’t prove God exists. I agree. We can’t prove he doesn’t exist either. So then it becomes and exercise of faith wheter you believe or don’t believe. I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist (to coin a phrase). I do have the intellectual curiosity to seriously explore the claims of Christ and found them very convincing.
Atheism does not require faith because there is nothing to have faith in. For me, I think God’s existence or lack thereof is unprovable, so I cannot believe either claim. Call me an agnostic atheist. Now, for you, I would also ask that you have intellectual honesty to go along with your curiosity. Do you believe Jesus rose from the dead? Turned water into wine? Exorcised demons into pigs? If so, what is the proof that convinced you?
OK, agnostic who firmly doesn’t believe? For me it comes down to how’d it all start. God has a story that works – the big bang theory – God spoke and BANG, created the universe, and so on. If a God can do that, then what’s so hard about Jonah and the whale, water into wine, etc.? Rising from the dead has significance because Christ has overcome death – it had to happen to make sense, and without it, nothing in Christianity works.
Now, we all must make the admission that it started somewhere. It’s a physical universe and it’s aging. Yet science says that absolute nothing cannot create anything. That makes sense too. I can’t believe science and believe that I’m real at the same time, yet I believe science and I’m here. There’s a conflict. At somepoint, something created something that started this all. Now, where did God come from? I don’t know – he’s always existed somehow I can’t get my head around. I do like having a God that’s bigger than me.
What convinced me? The logic of Christ’s teaching and how a carpenter from the backwaters of Isreal with no education nailed his world and our world so perfectly. He knows as only the creator can. How he has fulfilled prophecy even though the odds are trillions to one. How he has remained counter cultural forever. How he goes against religion of the day and today. The list goes on. Last but certainly not least is feeling his presence in my life.
Not sure about your first comment, but I think I should clarify. Gnosticism is a claim to having knowledge. So you can not believe in a god (atheism) and also believe that there is no way to know if that god does or does not exist (agnosticism).
Next point. The Bible does not mention anything that resembles the Big Bang. You are using known science and then reinterpreting your book. That is disingenuous at best. You gain one point for not being a young Earth creationist, though.
As for science, they say nothing about absolute nothing. The reason is we have no example of absolute nothingness so we cannot make any claims about it. And I don’t understand your conflict. Science is a way of explaining the known universe. If you know you’re here, in the known universe, then you know your parents had sex and through a complicated biological process, you were born. Your statement that something created something that started this all is close to accurate. I wouldn’t use the word “created”, but still there was some cause and effect. The difference between us is I am willing to say I don’t know what that is yet because it hasn’t been proven, while you just say it was God because you can’t think of anything else. That is a classic fallacy called an argument from ignorance.
I would hardly call Christ counter culture when Christianity is the largest religion in the world with over 2.5 billion followers.
As for the rest of what you said, many can say other philosophers, like the the Buddha, is more logical. Some may say Camus, Spinoza, Heidegger, Plato, Aristotle or Dennett are, too. Jesus’ background has little to do with anything. In fact, his background is forged from previous tales like the one of Krishna and Horus.
OK, if you can’t make the jump from God spoke and created the universe to the big bang, I can’t help that. All of a sudden, something happened.
Logically and physically it can’t have existed for all time. It’s a logic of arrogance to not believe a perfectly rational explanation that fits because you believe it to be so.
Christ’s teaching remain counter cultural even though there are many Christians. If you knew what they were, you’d know we aren’t following the teachings.
Yes, you can’t help me understand that jump because you have no convincing evidence that your god exists. I would say the same thing to a Hindu or a Sikh or a Jain. Your perfect rational explanation is not rational at all. It’s just that some being did it without even proving that being exists. I’m afraid you don’t know what logic is which makes this difficult to explain. So, I won’t even try in this forum. It would take a concentrated effort that this medium does not allow for.
Ugh, not that you’ll believe. It’s called faith. You have no convincing evidence that he doesn’t exist, yet you believe. It’s called faith.
It’s also called a draw and has been that way for many years.
I’ll be more than happy to set up a shared doc where we can continue, or if you know of a better medium, please set it up.
If you’re in Chicago/Milwuakee, LA, Dallas, Portland, Finger Lakes region, Minneapolis/St. Paul, or Tampa/Orlando, let’s grab a coffee.
JB, You’re arguing with someone who explicitly says he does /not/ believe your god doesn’t exist. He just doesn’t believe your god /does/ exist. Rejecting your claim does not equal believing the opposite claim.
Thanks, Mason. I will repeat that I make no claim either way to whether a god exists or not. I only say that I do not believe because I haven’t been provided convincing evidence. As for faith, it is not a reliable path to truth, so I’ll pass.
@ Just Broken
Exactly how do you know the words in the bible attributed to the character Jesus of Nazareth were in fact spoken by him?
There’s a ton of biblical and extra-biblical proof. Do you believe Socrates existed? Yes, of course, but know that the writings describing Christ, his life and his teaching are very detailed, and written much, much closer to when it acutally happened. Socrates has no such biography.
Really, how can we be sure any history happened? The earliest writings of Christ are within a lifetime of Christs death – people who knew him, or knew people who knew him were alive.
Why would you believe in Socrates and not Christ?
You say there is a ton of extra-biblical proof, however, to date all you have done is tell me there is. So, please, be my guest, list some of this proof that demonstrates that the words attributed to the biblical character Jesus of Nazareth were actually spoken by him.
Let me ask a few questions – Do you believe in God? Do you believe in the history of Greece written by Herodotus?
If the answer to the first is no, at least I know where you’re coming from. If the answer to the second is yes, then we both agree on the power of history recorded through the oral tradition. Herodotus wrote some 500 years after the events – the events of Christ were written with in a decade or two of when they happened. If oral tradition works for 500 years, it works for 30. Unless we choose to believe that the oral tradition is not a valid recorder of history then we believe it’s valid – true? We can’t say it’s valid here but not there just because we like what it says here and don’t like what it says there. That’s logical. If oral history is valid, why isn’t the bible valid? Did he say what he is recorded he said? Please apply the same standards to what you believe as well as what you don’t believe. My point is that the Bible is a history as well as God’s word. If you don’t believe in God, it’s still a history. The Bible tells us what he said.
Additionally, given the time frame and that the letters that make up the New Testament were widely circulated, wouldn’t you think if they were not true that they would have been widely disputed? Some “Hey – I was there and none of this happened” letters should be in abundance given Christ followers were persecuted greatly in an attempt to wipe out the movement. Yet, I don’t know of any – do you?
Did Jesus exist? Yes. Please see http://coldcasechristianity.com/2017/is-there-any-evidence-for-jesus-outside-the-bible/ for a breakdown of extra-biblical references to the existence of Christ.
I believe it best we stay firmly on topic here as there is a likelihood off wandering of on a tangent, as so often happens with these topics.
However, I am more than happy to engage you on the other aspects you have raised once we clear this up, okay?
So, to this end …
You have stated there is a ton of evidence for your claims and this is what I wish to clarify. Therefore, how do you know the words attributed to the biblical character Jesus of Nazareth were actually spoken by him?
All I am asking is for you to provide (at least some of) the evidence you have asserted is out there.
So, you’ve got me. It’s impossible for Christ to have spoken the words because he didn’t speak English.
So I go back to the argument on the veracity of oral tradition. Oral tradition says Christ said the words. Are they the exact words? No, they can’t be, but in the history of oral tradition the words and themes are accurate. They are not creations of latter day manipulations.
Extra-biblical sources – look at these pages to see where Christ and his teaching are mentioned. Not exhaustive – I have friends who are MDiv’s and DDiv’s who study this far more than I do. Like any good student, I trust their research and teachings while asking my own questions.
Africa has been and continues to be a great study ground for oral tradition because it’s continued so deep into the modern era. Please see http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199846733/obo-9780199846733-0037.xml
I’ll ignore how asinine this comment is as to respond would simply make you look even more of an ass.
There is no evidence of oral tradition of the gospels, only conjecture. Even if there were, all you would have is hearsay. Furthermore, the gospels are neither contemporary accounts nor are they eyewitness accounts.
There are no extra biblical sources that can verify what the biblical character Jesus of Nazareth said.
You have no evidence. Period.
OK, your arrogance is finally coming out. I’ll stay out of the petty name calling. If you’re going to ignore logical arguments in avor of Christ while supporting those that aren’t Christian, so be it. That sort of wallowing will get you far. There is plenty of freaking evidence. Look at the extra-biblical sources that point to Christ’s existence. Question of did Christ exist is answered there and the answer is yes.
Extra-biblical sources of his teachings – OK, I don’t have access to those, I know they exist – I don’t have the bandwidth and trust my teachers. You don’t have proof they don’t exist, so your challenge is hollow. But let’s pause here – if it’s a fragment of a letter in the bible, it becomes biblical. The reference to Christ’s teachings in Extra-biblical writings should be enough for you understand that he said what he said.
Clement, elder of Rome, letter to the Corinthian church (95 AD):
“The Apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ…” They recieved the words of Christ.
Christ received the words from God and shared them.
Surah Al-Ma’idah [5:46] – The Noble Quran
Yusuf Ali. “And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had come before him: a guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah.”
There is evidence of oral tradition of the gospels – the writings, translated and put to words. As far as contemporary accounts, you’re plain nuts. please see https://carm.org/manuscript-evidence,
Matthew 7:6 is a fitting ending to this.
Our discussion was centred solely on your claim of the veracity of what the character Jesus of Nazareth is purported to have said as recorded in the gospels, and not whether he was a verifiable historical figure. But we can discuss this later if you like?
So far you have failed to provide a single piece of evidence to support the claim you initially made.
May I remind you, the gospels are neither contemporary or eyewitness accounts. Furthermore their authors are anonymous.
There is no evidence of an oral tradition, merely conjecture. Much as there is no evidence for the fabled Q source. All scholars have ever had is conjecture. Even the date of composition of the first gospel, Mark is based loosely on the dating of the destruction of the temple.
So, bearing all this in mind perhaps you would like to revise your statement regarding the evidence for the words attributed to the character Jesus of Nazareth?
Really? Ok, if you don’t think what I’ve supplied is sufficient then I’m done. There is no evidence of an oral tradition? Huh? Really? Where, just here or everywhere? If the New Testament isn’t an oral tradition captured, what it’s it?
Contemporary? The earliest original manuscripts date to within 100 years of the events, and the events were recorded within decades of their occurrence. That’s incredibly contemporary in context of other historical writings we take as fact.
I’m not sure what you are stuck on.
I know you’ll answer my questions with more of your own. I invite you to comment on my page going forward. Blessings to you.
You first need to look in a dictionary and read what the word ”contemporary” means. Then you might begin to grasp the problem you have with regard evidence.
The alternative is not that difficult to work out. However if you have details of the evidence for this oral tradition you claim then, all you have to do is provide it.
And please, not a link to an apologist site such as CARM, but somewhere that can provide genuine historical evidence.
I think you might have a problem with gravity too. If you disqualify an apologist site, disqualify any other site while you’re at it. Only seems fair. I certainly don’t understand why you can’t grasp this.
Are you going to provide evidence of your claim concerning the veracity of the words you claim were spoken by the biblical character Jesus of Nazareth, yes or no?
What I’ve provided you don’t want to look at. Your game is becoming boring.
Easy enough to prove? Go for it.
What you have provided I have seen before and as I previously told you this is NOT evidence for the claim that you made.
Therefore, based on your repeated refusal to provide the evidence I have asked for we can only conclude that you do not in fact have any evidence to back your claim.
Even though you did not pass Go or get your 200 bucks, thank you for playing.
👍 still waiting for your follow up on easy to prove …
Sorry, what exactly is ”easy to prove?”
I might add that Nan has opened the question up in one of his blogs. That might be a better place to continue this. Blessings to you on this glorious day!
Perhaps to change blog in mid-stream might come across as a little rude to our host?
Let us finish here and afterwards we can continue over at Nan’s spot.
So. Where were we? The evidence.
Are you simply unable or unwilling to answer my question, please?
If I haven’t answered it I’m afraid I don’t understand it. I’ll be back for your reply later today or over the weekend.
Please supply the evidence you claim to have that supports your assertion of the veracity of the words recorded in the bible were spoken by the character, Jesus of Nazareth.
It is not a difficult question.
All I want is to read the evidence to back your claims.
I am often confronted with these arguments that morality is objective. I’m probably reading too much philosophy. But I don’t see how it could be objective.
Yes, as a society, we do have objective moral standards. According to those standards, I should not break my neighbor’s window. However, if I notice that his house is on fire and I have to break that window to rescue him, my own morals would compel me to do that. Your example of rescuing a kitten makes a similar point.
As a society, we have objective moral standards. But much of our moral activity takes place outside of those standards.
By contrast, we also have objective standards for description. Almost all of our descriptive activity is within those standards.
As for God as a basis for morality — I just look conservative evangelical Christianity in the USA. And they elected a moral monster as president of the USA. They claim that God is the source of their morality, yet they clearly demonstrate that they are morally bankrupt. By their fruits ye shall know them.
Morality is subjective.
I think Moral Realism does not work, overall.
In this, I agree with William Lane Craig (DCT is an Anti-realist position).
You are an incredible writer & philosopher. This piece is just one profound thought after another.
Thank you! 😁
I am so sorry your idea of God is that he’s a tyrant.
Yeah, boundaries can be tough, especially tough boundaries. I suppose I’m a tyrant at times as a parent then. Really? God is perfect, and so is his justice. Because his justice is perfect, he has no choice but to be just. If you want to do whatever you want to do, OK. Just be ready to deal with the consequences without complaining. God eliminated a whole bunch of folks because they had gotten so sideways – perfect justice. And he did it multiple times. And he’ll do it again. Choices. Consequences.
Does that make him evil? No. It makes him just. Does it make him a murderer? No, it makes him a meter of justice. Do we have that right? No, we don’t.
Naturalism doesn’t work because the concept of good is in conflict with survival of the fittest. You can’t have both be true without some real convoluted thinking.
As far as Abraham and Issiac, any rudimentary study and you’d know that the whole scene was a set up for Christ. How abomidable that God would ask a father to sacrafice his son – as a father, I can’t imagine. Yet, that’s exactly what God did with his Son for us, for the forgivness of our sins. He sacraficed his son for us. On the same mountain. Quite the tale to weave, right?
Christ says “I am the truth”. Pilat answers “What is the truth?” The world loves to play Pilat, and we know how that turned out.
As far as morality, what are you using as your anchor? What Christ gave us? Hmmm, how interesting. It’s certainly a western bias, but hardly surprising given you and I are certainly western. But what about the rest of the world? What about relativism? Where does it stop and who decides what is right and wrong? When you step away from an absolute, you’re on a slipery slope that can only be defended subjectively, but you lose the argument to someone who has a different absolute. If someone feels it’s absolutley right to kill anyone who deals drugs (I have a little skin in this game given that they took my daughter), who are you to criticize my actions? In order to test a hypothesis, take it to the extreme. You can do that with Christ and it holds up – no questions asked – love God and love your neighbor. Relativism can’t, and the only option to relativism is absolutes, and Christ gave us the best absolutes. Christ claims to be the God who you’re denying. Tough row to hoe.
So, again I’m sorry you think that God’s a tyrant. Too many Christians have turned God into a monster. What He is is absolutly perfect. Perfect justice. Perfect love. Perfect peace. Perfect joy. Perfect fair. Perfectly perfect.
I do like your blog because it challenges me. I hope you don’t mind me challenging you in return.
So, everything god allows to happen is just? Slavery? Lot’s daughters raping him and carrying his children?
Slavery back then was not what we practiced as in America or worldwide today.
Lot’s daughters raping him are typical of what we do – we assume God isn’t around and do what we want to do. This is so close to Abraham and Sarah too – we forget so easily.
Not everything that we do has God’s stamp on it, would you not agree? That’s the free will part. We do many, many things that go against God all the time and he gives us the freedom to do that. We just pay the consequences.
You’re a fantastic apologist. Slavery is slavery no matter the time and place. One human owns another. That’s it.
God still allowed Lot’s rape. He saw it and either allowed it to happen or didn’t care, if you believe he’s “perfect” I.e omniscient.
Free Will? I think not. By your belief we are born into sin. What kind of Free Will is that? And if I truly had free Will then could I not choose to not have consequences? Anyway, I don’t believe in free will but that’s a different story. I am a determinist.
In a time when it was difficult just to survive, survival mattered. I guess it still does today. Modern salvery is an aboslute horrific abomination of anything decent. Again, what God allows to happen vs. what is right in God’s eyes are not one in the same. That’s called sin.
What God allows us to do what we want to do are not necessarily the same. He gives us a choice to follow the narrow path or not to follow it. He’s not in the game of preventing it – that’s up to us to come to, to come closer to him. That’s a weak argument that he either couldn’t stop it or didn’t want to. God isn’t a puppeteer, so don’t expect him to run our life. He is a judge.
Even as a determinist you have self cause. I see no difference with free will.
Free will does not mean that you get to determine the results, only that you get to choose the action with hoped for results. Maybe we’re talking about a different kind of free will or I’m not understanding your view.
We have to remember that God doesn’t have a linear time line – he’s past, present and future all at the same time. Omnicient, omnipotent – yes.
I gotta go, but I’ve enjoyed this. Will be back later.
When you return, explain “self cause”. When I say free will I mean it in a different context than free choice. Will is what you are – your genetics, upbringing, physiology, economics, etc. You did not choose your parents, your time of birth, your sex, your genetics, the home you were born in, etc. All of those things matter when you make a choice. So, the question is whether or not your choice is free. There is scientific evidence that it is not. Your brain, your consciousness, makes choices before you are aware of them and those decisions are based on prior causes that make up your will. Therefore, if your will is determined, then so are the choices you make. For example, if you are given a choice to eat oatmeal for breakfast, it was a decision made because of many factors, some of which are that maybe you had no eggs in the house, your car was in the shop, you were running late for work, etc. That’s an oversimplification, but it expresses the idea I’m trying to convey.
Also, I would say all slavery, at any time, in any place, is horrific. Wouldn’t you agree?
I walk back self cause. I need to study determinism a bit. I did not choose who I was born as, yet God knew before I was born. So, you’re saying that God has far more control in my life than I think he does? It seems there is scientific evidence that says it’s not true as well – the indeterminacy at the level of sub-atomic particles by Stephen Hawking. It also defies logic unless you believe that we’re part of a simulation. For example, you’re driving a car. You have no control over the other cars. One of them suddenly swerves and you have 1/100000000 (for arguments sake) of a second to react. You react. If that’s the subconscious acting, then it’s so close to conscious that two become indistinguishable. We can take this off line as well with the other conversation.
Blessings to you.
It’s not an easy philosophical question and that’s why it’s still being discussed. My philosophy professor is a libertarian (believer in free will) while I am not so we butt heads often. There is also a third option in compatibilism. I recommend reading Sam Harris’ Free Will. It’s a short read. You can also find simple explanations on a YouTube channel Crash Course Philosphy. Another YouTube site, Rationality Rules, does an ok job of debunking free will in a strictly logical way. As for your sub-atomic particle example, a determinist would say that random events are actually proof of determinism. Lastly, of course, I am not saying god knows or does anything since I don’t believe in god. You inserted that. 😁
Ok, you do need to open your mind a bit. Psalm 22:9, Psalm 51:6, Psalm 71:6, Psalm139:15, Ecclesiastes 11:5, Jeremiah 1:5, Isaiah 44:24, Galatians 1:15 all point to God knowing us before we are born and tie to what it seems determinism to claim. Don’t read the King James, go to something that is a better interpretation vs translation, because the nuances of Greek or Aramaic are lost in English, needs to be nuanced. How is it possible that these ancients could come up with this?
I didn’t answer slavery – it’s bad in concept, however it can be compared to a monarchy: a good monarchy is benevolent and serves for the greater good. It’s probably the best form of government. I’m a slave to Christ by my choice and couldn’t be happier. The freedom is amazing, as is the fruit of the spirit. I’m not making a claim that slavery is good, just that it can be.
Sorry for the typos, working off my phone.
Wow. There’s way too much to process here, so I’ll just paraphrase Hitchens. I have no problem if you play with your toys in your house. Just don’t make me play with them if I don’t want to. Gesundheit.
Argh, be a good little Christian and take my immaginary God inside? Seriously?
The funny thing is we’ve been here before. As has happened so many times, folks walk away from God only to be brought back or justice meted. It’s kind of like gravity – you might not think it exists, you might hate it, you might think you can better it, but at the end of the day it really doesn’t care what you think, feel or believe. Gravity is gravity and it’ll do what gravity does.
I’ll pray for you and if there’s a suitable site to continue this, I’d love to if you’re willing to do a little studying outside your bubble. I’m still looking at determinism.
Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit
Not to wade into your entire debate but I had to mention one point in particular: “As far as Abraham and Issiac, any rudimentary study and you’d know that the whole scene was a set up for Christ.” You do realize that millions of Jews read Torah with that story and in no way see it as a set-up for Christ, right? Any retrofitting of Jesus backwards into the Old Testament is entirely anachronistic and erroneous. There are many, many interpretations of that story (by Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Atheists) that would depart from your reading so I claim your “any rudimentary study” comment as totally false.
Anachronistic and erroneous? Dude (Dudette?) the bible is one story, his story. You can’t understand the Old Testament without the New Tesatment and viceversa. The prophecies that Christ filled are all in the Old Testament, so how can you claim that retrofitting, when it’s about His return? You’re way off base here.
Additionally, it’s main stream Christian thought that the Abraham and Issiac, and the ram, point to Christ and the ultimate sacrafice when He paid for our sins through His sacraice.
I find it fascinating that Christ quotes Old Testament scripture, Paul points to it, the Prophets point to Christ and the New Testament and you say they aren’t connected. You can’t rip them apart.
Yes, the Jews have a different take, and it’s a huge point of deleniation between the two religions.
Your interpretation is very niche. Liberal/Progressive Christian denominations, Universalist, and most mainline Christian theologies reject any interpretations that retrofit NT doctrine back into the OT primarily because they reject supersessionism. Secular and academic biblical historians reject your interpretation because it makes no logical or historical sense—the Abraham story was written by different writers at a far earlier time than those that wrote the Christ stories. The reason NT stories sometimes parallel OT stories is because they are purposefully alluding to them for thematic, narrative, and legitimacy motive by authors with access to the earlier stories—it’s not miraculous, it’s what modern politicians do when they thematically allude to the Declaration of Independence. You’re certainly welcome to see divine prophecy in the Isaac story but know that your view is not shared by most mainstream biblical scholars or historians.
The OT points to the Messiah. The NT is about the Messiah. To say that the NT stories purposefully allude “to them [OT prophecy] for thematic, narrative, and legitimacy” is essentially saying that Christ is a literary creation, or perhaps a play, or he’s not who he says he is. There are very few scholars who hold on to this favorite atheist anchor as a being true. As if the bible wasn’t enough, hostile writers mention Jesus – Thallus, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Lucian of Samosata, Jewish Talmud, The Toledot Yeshu, and more, giving proof to his physical existence as a real being. Maybe you can turn to the Quran where Christ is mentioned over 70 times and is recognized as the only sinless prophet. Or how about human nature – who’d go to be crucified because they were so impacted by a play? Or, is it all untrue in spite of extra-biblical proof?
No, Christ is real, he existed. We have no reason to doubt that the recordings of his life are accurate. Christ pointed to the OT as proof he is who he says he is. When he says he’s fulfilled prophecy (Luke 4:16-21), or he says he is The Messiah (Matthew 26:63-64), or when he says he is The Way (John 14:5-7), he’s claiming to be who he says he is, and he’s claiming to be what the OT points to. The OT points to the NT and the NT points back to the OT.
The choice is yours to believe or not
@Just Broken …
😀 I choose not to believe.
And I will pray for you.
While you are correct that the belief that there was no historical figure at the root of Jesus or that he is a composite figure is still a minority view* such a view is not prerequisite to denying supersessionist theology and scriptural interpretations that read every OT story as prophetic prefiguring of Christ and a NT story. As I mentioned, most mainline Christian, all Jewish and most every secular biblical scholar and historian reject that without necessarily denying the existence of some type of historical Jesus. I’m not telling you to give up your beliefs, just recognize them as far from the only or even the standard view.
The OT is NOT about Jesus. It’s about the development of Torah, the tribes of Israel and a host of pre-historic and mythical fables (2 creation stories, a great flood tale). It’s ancient wisdom collections, poetry, proverbs and more. The concept of a messiah is developed in later OT writings but it’s one who will arise militarily to bring back the Davidic rule.
Biblical historians without theological agendas have to take chronology seriously. Of course NT writers could reference OT writings and the Quran could reference Jesus—each was written far later.
While the Christ as composite figure theory has gained steam particularly since the only extrabiblical reference to Jesus (in Josephus) was found to be a likely later insertion, it is still a niche theory and not the core rational for rejecting OT as all prophecy view. I spent 15 years studying religion in college, seminary and secular universities and met those of every denominational background and most other than the very conservative wouldn’t share your view.
The OT is more than a collection of ancient wisdom collection, poetry, proverbs and more if you believe it’s God’s story, and the story of mankind’s relationship with Him. If you don’t believe in God, it’s likely just pre-historic and mythical fables. No one BUT Christians would argue that the OT is about Christ – if you believe the story as Christ told it, then you are hard pressed to not be a follower of the Christian religion (though not necessarily a follower of Christ – I’m not a big fan of religion). If you don’t you’re going to argue against it. If the OT is just an ancient wisdom collection, etc. then we’re ignoring what it says anyway because we think we’re smarter than wisdom. That arrogance is also captured in other modern writings, so it’s not a new thing.
If you believe that Christ is real, then there’s no reason to not believe what he says in real. If you believe that he’s real but what’s been recorded about him isn’t real, or what he said isn’t what he said or meant, I can’t make you drink the water.
The problem comes from adding to what’s said in the bible. In our arrogance we try to do that. Liberal theology tries to add to what Christ said. Word of Faith, Prosperity, liberal theology all try to add to what God and Christ have given us and that dog just don’t hunt. I also don’t believe I’m in the minority of Christian thought.
IMO, “Christian thought” is the problem in a nutshell.
How so? What of Christ’s teachings is promlematic?
It’s not the teachings that are problematic. It’s the teacher himself. Christians credit this itinerant preacher with far more raison d’être than (I believe) was his intent. But this is not the platform to defend my POV. You may wish to visit my blog where I entertain the topic (with ensuing discussion) now and again.
I don’t mean to be combative and I wish you no ill. It seems to be that I’m wasting my time because its impossible to argue with fundamentalists— I understand you are certain you are right regardless of any other information but you also seem unwilling to admit other opinions even exist including other Christian views. I have no dog in this fight regarding whether you are right or not as I am an atheist though one completely uninterested in converting others. I have friends and family of every type of religious tradition and as long as their beliefs don’t lead them to oppress others I have no problem with whatever they believe. However, you claim liberal theology, secular biblical study, and historical-critical review of the OT “adds to” the text and is therefore false. But when you retroactively read Jesus into the text of the OT it’s you who are adding to the text where the above groups are not.
As I initially said, you’re free to your beliefs and you obviously believe you are wholly completely correct in them. Just be aware that not everyone agrees with your interpretation and not all who disagree with you are atheists like myself. Many mainline Christian denominations view supersessionism as a heresy. This is my last comment on the matter. Best of fortune to you.
And you too
Reading about Satanism really made me realize where my morality lies. I think that every person has their own morality and that’s okay, but since we mostly live in societies, it is society that ultimately decides what is or isn’t moral. It’s a social contract.
What bugs the hell out of me is that the social contract in the US is supposed to be shifting to give as much individual freedom as possible (because we’re a “capitalist republic”) yet there are way too many conservative Republicans who don’t see the hypocrisy of their politics.
I think it’s perfectly fine to support individual morality in a society. For instance, I can understand why someone may believe that it’s better to kill than be killed and I can even (within reason*) support laws that protect the right to self defense. But personally I can’t imagine killing someone to save my life in any circumstance (I guess I’m a martyr for peace).
*I worry that it can be too easy to defend murder with self-defense.
So much good stuff here. First, to get it out of the way, Camus would argue that life is worth living despite it’s absurdity (meaninglessness), so the jump to nihilism is not absolute. Camus believed that we create meaning by living with authenticity. In other words, your life may be in a rut, but you chose to live there by not being authentic.
I have yet to read Sam Harris’ The Moral Landscape, but he argues for a type of objective morality based on evolution. Simply put, we have evolved to be societal creatures, so we have also evolved values to protect that society. CosmicSkeptic has a real good video where he discusses this book with Steve from Rationality Rules.
For now, I’m in the Dillahunty camp. Morality is subjective based on objective facts about the universe. If we subjectively agree that well-being is the basis of morality, then cutting off my head is bad. Objectively bad. Cuz I’m dead. Objectively dead.
When theists bring up objective morality, what I feel like they are doing is backing into a god, which they still haven’t even proven exists. They could just as easily back into Evolution which is proven.
The important part, I think, is to define objective and subjective. I heard one scientist say that something that is objective is true whether or not it is perceived. In other words, a “rock” is still a “rock” even if I can’t see or feel it. The problem with this is we have a hard time applying that to our own consciousness because we cannot not perceive it.
—Logically and physically it (the universe) can’t have existed for all time. It’s a logic of arrogance to not believe a perfectly rational explanation that fits because you believe it to be so.—
to which I comment the fact that my (our human) logic is unable to grasp the mere reality of the known universe. But what is wrong with not understanding how something came into existence. I am comfortable with not knowing it, and I do not find your explanation ‘perfectly rational’. Of course, it fits your unquestionable belief,
I have followed this thread with interest, sofar. Sincerely, I think that you will never come to an agreement because of the fundamental difference in your starting points. Belief against Scepticism. Why MUST one believe in something? As a coincidence, today’s supplement of our local newspaper published this cartoon:
“if nobody believed that God existed, would He nonetheless exist?
What’s funny about that last question is that they assume god exists because people believe in him. That’s a totally stupid question.
All of that huffing and puffing aside, I found this little animation charming, funny, and reasonably cogent. You seem to be sharpening those knives, and I have no idea wny.
CA, you go, girl. =)
I’ve been popping in to read your blog for the past few months. Very interesting writing through some challenging times. You would enjoy and probably benefit from reading Jonathan Haidt’s book “The Righteous Mind” (reviewed here https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304692804577281311514282028 ). It would help your own musings about morality and perhaps make understanding and communicating with your family and college people a bit easier. Keep writing and good luck with everything!
“…is something good because God says it is good (which makes goodness arbitrary, resulting from a measly “Because I said so!”)…”
4 examples in the Bible of people successfully arguing with God; 4 examples people essentially going, “God, you say ___ is good, but here is why ___ is better”:
Exodus 32:9 — 14
Genesis 18:16 — 32
John 2:1 — 12
2 Kings 20:1 — 11
What can these 4 examples teach us? Talking with God is not in vain.
Which is important.
Because: God wants to have a relationship with us — Jeremiah 31:3 — and communication is the foundation of any relationship.
“…or is he good because he adheres to a universal right and wrong (which makes him unnecessary because he himself has to adhere to some greater moral standard)?”
Good question. Hmm….
Here’s how I see it: God is the universal right and wrong.
God is the “universal right and wrong” in the sense that he knows what is good and what is evil. (Genesis 3:5)
Everything — from an atom to a star — exists because of him. Which means that even the most depraved, “evil” thing ultimately has its source in God, since he allows it to exist.
You might be thinking, “But doesn’t the fact that people in the Bible won arguments against God show that God doesn’t know what is ‘good’ and ‘evil’?” and to that question I would say:
Consider what these people were arguing for. Not for power or wealth or victory over their enemies, but for mercy, and a second chance to be one’s best self.
It is because God knows what is “good” and what is “evil” — i.e., because he knows these peoples’ hearts are in the right place — that he grants these peoples’ requests.
Then God can introspect and thereby discover things about himself?
God, being God, already knows everything there is to know about himself.
No introspection then – he needn’t inspect his internal state (as he presumably has none) and he has no perspective on his knowledge?
Not being God, I can’t speak for him. I can only tell you what I believe to be true about him.
And, in this case, that is:
God is “introspective” in the sense that he considers what we (human beings) have to say, and acts accordingly; he isn’t an impersonal, unknowable deity, but a deity that wants to have a relationship with us, his creation.
And what is the foundation of any relationship? Communication.
In your current, or next, relationship, do whatever you want with no regard for the other person’s thoughts and feelings, remaining completely set in your ways no matter what. See how that goes.
Regarding God’s “perspective on his knowledge”:
God knows everything that can happen, but not everything that will happen.
God is like a man in a blimp looking down on a parade: he sees all the routes the parade can go down but, because of free will, does not know all the routes the parade will go down, and he knows how he will react to whichever routes the parade chooses.
Does that answer your question?
I think so.
God’s knowledge is comprehensive, but not complete,(Bye-bye aseity; so long atemporality).
God has experiences with aspectual shape, which means God has a relative location or identity, however you want to put it.
In other words, you reject divine incomprehensibility under the terms of classical theism, and choose instead something which is coherent and comprehensible – a very powerful guy
“I think so.”
“God’s knowledge is comprehensive, but not complete[.]”
I would say it’s “complete” in the sense that God knows everything he can do, but not everything he will do.
For example: Because of man’s free will, God doesn’t know if Abraham will plead with him to spare Sodom, but God does know what he’ll do if Abraham does or doesn’t plead. (Genesis 18: 16 — 32)
“…God has a relative location or identity… …you reject divine incomprehensibility…and choose instead something which is coherent and comprehensible…”
Like how the person who builds a dollhouse does not live within that house, God exists outside of the universe he has created.
Since he exists outside of time and space, I would say that God doesn’t have a “relative location”; I can’t point somewhere and say, “Look. There’s God.”
Though: Through texts such as the Bible and beings such as Jesus, God gives us a way to partially understand him. I say “partially” because: God being who he is, and human beings being who we are, there will always be aspects of God that will make a person go “WTF?” but, unlike the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, God is not, to quote that film, “[A] total mystery.”
Umm, “outside” is a relative location, metaphysically.
And besides,”…exists outside of time and space…”, begs the question, which is: How do you suppose that the properties of conscious existence (intentionality, cognition, perception, etc.) are compatible with a lack of the metaphysical accoutrements of physicality (relative identity, perspective, causation, etc.)?
Or are you saying that there is God (who has and does all these things) and God*, who somehow gets along without all these things, and of whom God is a sub-part?
“Umm, ‘outside’ is a relative location, metaphysically.”
My point remains: “…I can’t point somewhere and say, ‘Look. There’s God.'”
i.e.: God cannot be shown to exist in the same way that, say, the Earth can be shown to orbit the Sun: through observation, calculation, and experimentation. (The means by which scientists learn about the universe.)
“…How do you suppose that the properties of conscious existence…are compatible with a lack of the metaphysical accoutrements of physicality…”
Well, if God is who I believe he is (and I have no reason to believe that he is not), than he is the one who created “the properties of conscious existence” and “metaphyiscal accoutrements of physicality” and, thus, since they come from the same source (i.e., God) it stands to reason that compatibility would not be an issue.
For example: If you’re an expert developer building a game for a system you created, making sure the game is compatible with that system is a walk in the park, no?
“Or are you saying that there is God (who has and does all these things) and God*, who somehow gets along without all these things, and of whom God is a sub-part?”
I am saying:
God created the universe and keeps his eye on it. Like how a human being will look into the dollhouse they’ve just finished building, making sure everything is as it should be.
God, being God, can exist without the universe. He didn’t, say, create the universe in order to keep himself from dying.
God created the universe (planets, stars, animals, people, etc.) because he is love (1 John 4:8), and wanted to give others the opportunity to express and share that very same love.
After all: What do you do when you’re in love? You want to express it and share it. Hence the number of love songs.
God is not a “part” of creation in the same way that a human being isn’t a “part” of the dollhouse they’ve; like how a human being doesn’t live in the dollhouse they’ve just put together, God’s existence remains beyond the scope of his creation.
*God is not a “part” of creation in the same way that a human being isn’t a “part” of the dollhouse they’ve built…
Yet you seem to be willing to point at space and time and say, ‘God is not there and then.’ – or is God both there and then and not there and then?
The latter is a big problem for identity and causal explanation – that’s what I am saying.
To take your dollhouse analogy: The person who regards the dollhouse stands in some definable relationship to it.
I am not asking you whether you believe that God can have intentions which lack an aspectual shape.
I am asking what that is and how it works.
An explanation, please, if you have one, rather than the assertion you keep throwing out there
“The person who regards the dollhouse stands in some definable relationship to it.”
Which is why I said earlier:
“…Through texts such as the Bible and beings such as Jesus, God gives us a way to partially understand him. I say ‘partially’ because: God being who he is, and human beings being who we are, there will always be aspects of God that will make a person go ‘WTF?’ but, unlike the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, God is not, to quote that film, ‘[A] total mystery.'”
“I am asking what that is and how it works. An explanation, please, if you have one, rather than the assertion you keep throwing out there[.]”
If you truly want to know where I’m coming from, than you will be willing to go to the place that is the foundation for my belief in a god: The Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Give it a read. It’s available in its entirety online.
If you are not willing to explore what I believe, than nothing I say to you will make any difference.
After all: you can’t speak to a person who refuses to listen.
The choice is yours.
So god has not changed his mind since the books of the Bible were written? We must be perfect.
“So god has not changed his mind since the books of the Bible were written?”
If you have read my original comment, you know that in more than one book of the Bible is an instance of God changing his mind.
If you have read my original comment, you know that I have said the following:
“4 examples in the Bible of people successfully arguing with God; 4 examples [of] people essentially going, ‘God, you say ___ is good, but here is why ___ is better’:
Exodus 32:9 — 14
Genesis 18:16 — 32
John 2:1 — 12
2 Kings 20:1 — 11”
Looking back on your comment, I realize that I didn’t exactly address what you said. So:
“So god has not changed his mind since the books of the Bible were written?”
Not being God, I couldn’t tell you if God has “changed his mind since the books of the Bible were written[.]”
You ask the impossible of me.
But: if God changing his mind more than one time in the Bible is anything to judge by — for example: John 2:1 — 12 — God is perfectly capable of changing his mind after “the books of the Bible were written[.]”
“We must be perfect.”
The election of Donald Trump says otherwise.
To re-phrase my thoughts on these words:
“We must be perfect.”
Depends on what you mean by “perfect.”
If two world wars are anything to judge by, humanity is most certainly not “perfect.”
I explain it this way: morality is a subjective system of reasoning that is an emergent property of social species and based on objective facts about existence and experience. Moral reasoning without a basis of objective facts is useless. The objective facts without a subjective desire for a certain outcome is useless. It’s the combination of the two that creates the complex concept we call morality.
I know there are already piles of comments; but I couldn’t not comment. Very interesting and controversial post. I too am learning that this moral well is far deeper than my comprehension at this point.
“The response to this is twofold: God himself claims to be perfect, and he goes so far as to specify that murder is wrong in the Ten Commandments, meanwhile killing an approximate sum of nearly 30 million people within the pages of his own infallible text (see Steve Wells’ Drunk With Blood). If one were so twisted (or indoctrinated) to say that this is not wrong, it could at the very least be identified as contradictory.”
It seems that, in response to Divine Command Theory, you are using a logical contradiction almost akin to the logical problem of evil. I think that this is moving emotionally, as you seemingly are by using words like ‘twisted’, but not necessarily intellectually. The burden of proof on this level is extremely heavy, for the atheist, as they need to be able to show that God did not have sufficient moral reasons for doing/allowing/causing such things to occur. This is, partially I think, why the logical problem of evil has mostly ceased in usage, except as emotional barbs in debates.
“Additionally, God’s actions in the bible could easily be held against my previously defined naturalistic theories of morality; he clearly caused pain to many, many people, and ultimately the amount of killing that he did would have significantly set back the progress and advancement of humankind.”
I think that this is another emotional barb here. Recently, I dislocated my shoulder which caused me an excruciating amount of pain. Both the resetting of the shoulder into the socket and the therapy caused me pain. Interestingly, the pain in and of itself in the latter cases was not a ‘bad’ thing. If we define ‘bad’ or ‘evil’ as that which causes pain, we lend ourselves to calling therapy and doctors ‘evil’ for causing pain. It is too simple to define it as such and it ultimately fails for the same reason the first reason you have brought up. It cannot be shown that there was not a sufficient reason for causing the pain. We simply do not have enough information or knowledge.
Thus I see no reason to reject DCT as a moral system, at least according to this post. Appreciate the thought provoking nature of your posts TCA. 🙂
Your article was a good read, thank you. I appreciate that you don’t vilify Christians, even if you think the God of the Bible is vile. I did have a few questions.
You mentioned that Godless morality is “often” subjective. Do you mean that it is sometimes objective?
You also go on to talk about several ways to “determine” right from wrong, and then provide a summary of a few different ethical theories (i.e. consequentialism, utilitarianism, etc). I wasn’t sure how you intended this to interact with C.S. Lewis or the moral argument? Determining right from wrong and ethical theories are in the realm of epistemology (how we know right from wrong), whereas C.S. Lewis as well as the Moral Argument deals with moral ontology (the nature of right and wrong). Having a way to determine the difference between right and wrong presupposes that there is a difference, and accounting for that difference is where ontology comes in. Imagine you wanted to know if a particular cell cluster had cell walls. The different microscopes you use would be how you go about examining the cell cluster, but the microscopes don’t cause the cells to have walls. The cells themselves either have walls or don’t. In the same way the different ethical theories may be ways to try and determine right and wrong, but they don’t make things right or wrong. Since C.S. Lewis and the Moral Argument deal with ontology, rather than epistemology, the availability of ethical theories doesn’t seem to interact with their arguments.
You mentioned that we have instinctual moral feelings from evolution. This seems to be another epistemological account (talking about how we come to experience morality). Are you claiming that since moral feelings came from evolution that there is nothing more to them than that? If so then this would be the genetic fallacy. Presumably our ability to see light was conveyed by evolutionary development as well but that doesn’t give us any reason to doubt that there really are light waves. Even if our moral feelings did come from evolutionary history, this wouldn’t give us any reason to doubt that there is a realm of objective moral values and duties. Perhaps I have missed the point you were making in bringing up evolution?
Also I really don’t think that optimistic nihilism is a viable alternative. The content creator made a number of illicit moves philosophically in their video. I wrote more about that in he article below if you are interested.
Thanks, looking forward to your reply.
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Good article, and my thoughts quickly.
1) Nihilism- even without a universal or objective meaning or morality, I am still here, and I still enjoy the company of my friends and family. And as an atheist, I naturally believe that this is the only life I have to live. So I quite easily conclude that I’d rather enjoy my time here than not. That’s my short rebuttal to Nihilism.
2) Objective morality. I think the exercise to make morality either objective or subjective is to completely loose how complicated and fantastic morality is. I’m glad you’ve moved to some subjectivity. It’s obvious you’re well researched in this area, so try not so hard to try to categorize morality into one of two holes. Let it be what it is, a vast canvas of emotion and evolution. Thanks again!