As you probably know, I dabble in apologetics. This is a past-time derived from my personal struggle through agnosticism. Digression: People like me are the reason that the Church cannot abandon its God-given apologetic duties. Apologetics that are ultimately Gospel-centered are an ordained means by which God draws men to Himself. Why would you abandon something in which so much power resides?
Back on track, I’d like to briefly explore some of the implications of the Moral Argument. I’ll start by covering the argument itself:
- If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
- Objective moral values and duties do exist.
- Therefore, God exists.
Atheists aren’t good people.
Some who misunderstand the Moral Argument take it to say that all atheists are evil, therefore God exists, or that all atheists must be bad people. This would be a silly thing to say, however: We know that there are atheists who do things that we consider good. The converse idea — namely, that theists couldn’t then be bad people — is also blatantly false. There are plenty who serve the false god named Self (all the while defaming the title of “Christian”) who are terribly insufferable at best. So right on the face of it, this objection seems valid. It’s a truthful statement: Atheists can be good people. But this objection misses the point: The Moral Argument doesn’t conclude that atheists can’t be good people. The Moral Argument implies that the only way it will make sense to talk of “Good” is if God exists. You have no basis, or grounding, for what you call “Good” if not in the transcendent nature of God.
And that is precisely the presupposition I take issue with. “The transcendent nature of” what god? The god you believe in. You assert without evidence; at the very least, you can assert and provide an explanation. Why does it make sense to talk of good only if your god exists? Why doesn’t it make sense only if Brahma exists? Why doesn’t it make sense if no god exists? You make an assertion and provide no reason(s) as to why that must be the case.
Some atheists simply shrug off the implications of the Moral Argument by denying the objectivity of morality. Morality evolved, they say. We just keep getting better. Such language, however, again misses the point. This objection presupposes a standard by which to judge the morality of a society over time. In other words, to say morality has improved presupposes that it improved as compared to…something. In the atheistic worldview it is incoherent to say that morality got better or got worse; morality simply is. (By the way, this knocks quite a bit of the wind out of any “moral monster” argument you might want to make toward God.)
This section has so many issues. Yes, some of us deny the objectivity of morality, but again, it is incumbent on you to prove that morality is objective. Why shouldn’t we deny the notion of objective morality? Morality has gotten better and we measure this improvement by comparing the highest moral standard of the modern day against the highest moral standard of some past time or even a contemporary standard that’s clearly lower. One can compare the laws in Leviticus to the laws in the US for instance; how can anyone fail to see the improvement? One can compare secular law to law based on religion and again, how can anyone fail to see the improvement when comparing US law to blasphemy laws in Pakistan that are based on the Qur’an? Your last sentence is yet another unexplained and unsubstantiated assertion. How does that knock the wind out of a “god is a moral monster” argument? It’s almost as if you’re implying that god’s morality improved. Ultimately, I don’t understand why you wrote what’s between the parentheses.
Objective moral values don’t need God.
This is the most tenuous objection to the Moral argument. It’s the denial of premise 1: That moral values can be objective without God. This can often drive some form of the Euthyphro dilemma. But the problem here is that any theory in which moral truth is a byproduct of the natural world necessarily defines morality in subjective terms, and thus denies the objectivity of morality. For instance, a popular argument is that because moral values are valuable to survival, then they are truly objective without God. However this simply redefines an ethical right and wrong as a societal adaptation, which means that moral value is dependent on, and thus subjective to, societies. And so this is again a denial of objective moral values in any meaningful sense of the phrase.
How is it a denial of objective moral values? You’re simply asserting without explaining and without establishing your view as true. Your post should have a persuasive tone; instead, it has a tone of reinforcement—in other words, you’re trying to reinforce your predilections rather than attempting to convince your opponents. Why should we accept the objectivity of morality? Once you’ve established that, why should we accept that that proves the existence of your god? You have done absolutely nothing to convince us of any of your conclusions. One can only hope that your academic essays are better because if this is any indication of how you approach writing, one has no choice but to pity your wits.
Objective morality doesn’t need god. Consider the following argument:
P1 The qualities that make us normal human beings begin to exist in the brain.
P2 Morality is a quality that makes us normal human beings.
C Therefore, morality begins to exist in the brain.
I’ve come across two common responses:
1) What is normal?
This is nothing but semantic dabbing. It is safe to assume that you know what is meant by normal; it is safe to assume that you consider yourself a normal human being. In any case, I think this is a childish approach to the argument.
It’s usually not general dualism, but some form of property dualism, which is a contortion; it’s an attempt to have it both ways. The mind is reducible to the brain and that is made evident by many cases of brain damage and/or impairment. Moreover, there is no evidence for a soul, which is usually considered separate from the physical body. Again, self-awareness and consciousness are reducible to the brain. Put it this way: assuming there’s a soul and assuming that it’s separate from the body, why does drug and alcohol abuse affect self-awareness and consciousness and why does the prolonged abuse of such substances change an individual? All that makes us normal or abnormal exists in the brain, and the evidence for that is incontrovertible (read here).
The real weight of the moral argument is that it tosses atheism on the horns of a dilemma: Either reject objective moral values, or accept God. Most go the way of rejecting objective moral truth in theory, but in practice this fails. Atheists still talk as if objective moral values exist, choosing to deny them by lip-service only. And that’s why you can be good without believing in God: Because objective moral values do exist, and can be apprehended by each of us. We can tell what is right and wrong, and what good and bad are. And because objective moral values exist, we know that God exists — whether you believe in Him or not.
There’s no such dilemma. Again, you haven’t established objective morals and you sure as hell didn’t establish your god. The very definition of atheism rejects your god; I don’t see why rejection of your god isn’t a viable option in this case. Why can’t we reject your god and accept objective morals? You say nothing to dismiss this as an option. My argument above establishes a much better reason to explain why we know right from wrong.
Since we’re on the subject of rebuttals against the Moral Argument for God, I have a question: why didn’t you address the argument that states that morals predate religion—specifically Judaism, which is the precursor of Christianity? Assuming the moral argument is true, an Egyptian god, a Hittite god, a Mesopotamian god or a god of another civilization that predates the ancient Israelites exists and through it, objective moral values exist. To disprove this fact, you would have to prove that the Ten Commandments were the first examples of laws built on objective morals or alternatively, you would have to prove that god’s command to Adam in the Garden of Eden was the first example of a law built on objective morals. It follows that you would have to prove the myths as true, and in my experience, that is an utter impossibility. Therefore, you are left with faith and assertions derived from faith, and nothing more. While I don’t fully stand behind my Argument for Moral Ontology without God*, I can conclude that if objective moral values exist, they begin to exist in the brain.
*I’m an agnostic moralist. In other words, I behave as if morals exist, but I don’t claim any knowledge on the matter. For a more thorough explanation of moral agnosticism read here.
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