Why Morality Requires Faith In God

Detail from "The Creation of Adam" in the Sistene Chapel
Detail from "The Creation of Adam" in the Sistene Chapel | Source

The last several years have seen repeated instances of individuals murdering as many people as they could before taking their own lives. These horrific occurrences are universally denounced as evil. People of all faiths, as well as those who profess no faith, join in that condemnation.

Yet without faith in God, there is no moral foundation for considering such acts to be wrong.

Without God, human beings are just biological machines

If there is no Creator, humans are nothing more than accidents of evolution. They are in essence bio-chemical machines, no different, except in level of complexity, from a computer. As famed atheist Richard Dawkins puts it in his book The Selfish Gene, "We are survival machines - robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes."

We are survival machines - robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.

— Richard Dawkins
The real you?
The real you? | Source

If human beings were not created by God, and are only the products of blind, unplanned, and purposeless evolution, they are nothing more than organically based computers or robots, no different in essence from their electronic counterparts. They are simply biological machines that have been programmed, through millions of years of evolution and natural selection, to react to their environment in certain very complex ways. That complexity does not, however, change the essence of what they are.

Do people have souls?

But, someone may counter, people are not like machines – they have thoughts and feelings. Yes, but are those qualities any different than what sophisticated programming could produce in a computer?

For example, a computer applies rules of logic on a very complex level, and may appear to "think." In reality it does no such thing. It only reacts, on the basis of its programming, its past experiences (which, by design, may alter its programming), and the inputs it is currently receiving.

If human beings are the products of evolutionary chance rather than being the special creations of God, any of their activities that may appear to result from "thought" are, in reality, the result of nothing more than the interaction of an individual’s genetic programming and personal history with the inputs they receive from their environment.

If God did not create human beings, then people, like computers, cannot possess anything that goes beyond the physical structures of their bodies. They have nothing that could be called a "soul." Thus, they are complex biological mechanisms, and nothing more.

Are people really any different from computers or robots?

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There is no moral dimension to shutting down a machine

The moral consequences of this way of thinking are immense.

We swat houseflies unmercifully, with no thought of any moral considerations.
We swat houseflies unmercifully, with no thought of any moral considerations. | Source

If human beings are indeed nothing more than bio-chemical machines, then a person has no more real purpose or significance than a housefly. And we swat houseflies unmercifully, with no thought of any moral considerations in doing so.

An experiment carried out by Dr. Christoph Bartneck, a robotics researcher at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, illustrates the moral abyss into which this view of our nature would pitch the human race.

An experiment that shows people will "kill" a machine

Dr. Bartneck set up a scenario to test, as National Public Radio reporter Robert Seigel put it, "What would happen if a machine explicitly addressed us as if it were a social being, a being with a soul? What would happen, for instance, if a machine begged for its life?"

Switching the cat robot off

In Dr. Bartneck's experiment, a human subject was paired with a robot cat that talked like a person. The two verbally interacted, as would two people, while they teamed up to play a game against a computer. At the end of the game, the humans were told it was their responsibility to turn their robot partner off.

Dr. Bartneck says, "It was made clear to them what the consequences of this would be; namely, that they would essentially eliminate everything that the robot was. All of its memories, all of its behavior, all of its personality would be gone forever."

When it came time for the human to shut off -- to "kill" -- the cat robot, it was programmed to beg for its life, pleading with the person to not shut it off. It was apparent that most of the human test subjects were very disturbed by the prospect of doing so. The experiment was set up to encourage the human to interact with the robot as if it were a person, and all the individuals in the test group struggled for some time with the decision to turn it off.

But here is the key: in the end they all did it.

Is switching off a robot any different from "switching off" a person?
Is switching off a robot any different from "switching off" a person? | Source

As Siegel put it, "There they sit, in front of a machine that is no more soulful than a hair dryer; a machine they know, intellectually, is just a collection of electrical pulses and metal. And yet they pause, waiting, until finally, they turn the knob that kills it."

Because they understood that the robot was only a soulless machine, all the people involved in the experiment eventually brought themselves to "kill" it, simply because they had been instructed to do so.

Without God there can be no morality

Think what it would mean for human society if this understanding of the nature of human beings, which is the unavoidable corollary of removing God from the equation, became widely accepted. If people are nothing more than biological machines, as without a Creator they can only be, there is no moral consideration in shutting any of those machines off. There is no moral dimension to anything one might choose to do to a machine.

How can any action inflicted on entities that are acknowledged to be nothing more than complex machines be called immoral, or even wrong?

God in the Dock
God in the Dock

C. S. Lewis's masterpiece describing how modern society has put God on trial.

 

Only God's standards of morality are universal and binding

If human beings were not created by God, and thereby endowed with transcendent purpose and value, they can have no more significance than any other machine.

That's why when we refuse to acknowledge God as our Creator, and that He has imposed universally binding standards of right and wrong concerning the way we are to treat one another, we abandon the very concept of morality.

Interview with Dr. Bartneck - We treat robots like people

© 2014 Ronald E. Franklin

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91 comments

Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

A very interesting article. I find the logic compelling and the data disturbing. Thank you for the perspective.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, Eric. I hope this perspective will be thought-provoking to people. Disturbing trends we are seeing right now show, I believe, the effects on society of rejecting the idea that there are God-ordained standards we must all adhere to.


Oztinato profile image

Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

Ron

I totally agree with you.

Atheism is obviously losing touch with basic ethics. Many atheist leaders are even promoting legal infanticide as ok!

Human ethics evolved alongside the concept of God and seem unable to function normally without God.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, Oztinato. When we try to make ethical and moral choices without reference to God, we end up, as it says in the book of Judges, with everyone doing what is right in his own eyes. And that is truly dangerous!


Oztinato profile image

Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

Ron

you might be interested to know that the infamous atheist Richard Dawkins actually says we are "hardwired" to believe in God.

When we try to eliminate God we are short circuiting ethics and the results are very odd, anarchic and devolving.

The atheist paradigms often try to eliminate basic compassion. Compassion and enlightened Love are essential to all ethical philosophies otherwise a philosophy does not qualify as a philosophy.


Dip Mtra profile image

Dip Mtra 2 years ago from World Citizen

Very nice article. Thought provoking.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Oztinato, thanks for the tip on the Dawkins quote. I'll have to look that up.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, Dip Mtra. Provoking thought was my aim!


aweSomeday profile image

aweSomeday 2 years ago from Lees Summit, Missouri

You're comparing computers to humans and of course the logic is that we are not the same. It doesn't disprove evolution or prove that God exists. Or that morality comes from God. Personally although I know about various religions I did not gain my perspective from any of them. I gained throughout life from my parents first, then friends, both the good and the bad, I knew what behaviors bothered me and what I didn't approve of myself. I'm sure society influenced somewhat, but I've always been on the full side of empathetic and highly sensitive to other peoples worries and struggles and I'm not religious. I've explored many churches, but I never left with anything thought provoking or wanting to return. Watching, listening, and learning about other people has guided me through life. It seems natural to me. We are human and maybe we are all connected, but whether it be through God or evolution through science what matters is that we take the time to acknowledge and appreciate one another and take the time to help those who need guidance. The mind is powerful and yet so fragile that it doesn't take much to send someone down the wrong path.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi, aweSomeday. I think the key word in your comment is "personally." You're saying you've developed your own set of moral values through your experiences in life. I'm glad for that. But it has nothing to do with "morality" in the sense of this article. Hitler and Stalin also developed their own personal moral values (this is not at all to compare you to them; they are just examples to illustrate the point). Who is to say that your values are in any sense better than theirs? If a person like yourself, who respects other people, and a Hitler or a Stalin can both be said to have "moral" values on the basis of using their life experiences to determine what they accept as right or wrong, what possible meaning can the term "morality" have? Unless there is a universal, objective standard of right and wrong, any individual's moral standards are simply that person's opinion, and applicable to no one else. From that perspective, the very concept of morality ceases to have any meaning. It's just every individual doing whatever they happen to think is right.

I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.


aweSomeday profile image

aweSomeday 2 years ago from Lees Summit, Missouri

I can only speak in a personal sense. In my mind we may develop different within the womb causing the clash in morality as more of a defect. Say Hitler and Stalin both had development problems causing mental issues and on top of that raised poorly, abused, bred with hatred (not that I know, just a guess), that would also persuade who they became in life and how they came to reason with right and wrong. Now their followers would be a different story all together.....I'm not atheist by any means, I just think human interaction bad or good plays a key role.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

aweSomeday, morality goes beyond the personal issues of individuals. Remember that the purpose of the entire concept of morality is to be able to teach and enforce the fact that there are standards of conduct that are binding on every human being, no matter what their background or personal experiences. "Thou shalt not kill." Why not? Only God has the right to set that standard. If you or I try to do it based on our own concept of morality, someone else would have every right to say, "That's your opinion. I have a different one" as he pulls the trigger. And who could say he's wrong?

Certainly human interaction plays a role. Suppose you've made me blindingly angry. Why shouldn't I act on my anger and take revenge on you? On what basis could anybody tell me it's wrong to do so? That brings us back to the fact that if we don't acknowledge God's right to set the standard of right and wrong - that is to define a set of moral principles binding on every person - anything you or I might say to someone about it being wrong to kill people out of revenge would be nothing more than our personal opinions. And why should they pay attention to our opinions?

Again, the fundamental issue I'm dealing with in this article is that morality is not a private affair. Either it's binding on everyone, or it's binding on no one.

On a separate issue, have you ever read any of the works of C. S. Lewis? His writing on issues of morality and theology are very readable and very sound. If you haven't read it, I would strongly recommend picking up a copy of Lewis's "Mere Christianity." I think it might answer a lot of your questions.


aweSomeday profile image

aweSomeday 2 years ago from Lees Summit, Missouri

I see your point, I am thinking in a different manner. I've actually thought a lot about this when trying not to judge other people. Who am I to know what is right and what is wrong? Honestly I wish I knew as it would answer so many more questions. C. S. Lewis I have read quotes, probably some from that very book and my favorite poem "I carry your heart with me". I will pick up a copy of this book. A couple other good reads are The Story of My Experiments with Truth from Mohandas K. Gandhi, Conversations with Myself from Nelson Mandela, & An Open Heart from Dalai Lama. Not that you have to read, but I can't take recommendation without giving one. Or a few. :) Thanks.


Hendrika profile image

Hendrika 2 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

Of course humans are not machines. People believing that there is no God only have to look at nature, not only humans, and realize it cannot all be "accidentally"


techygran profile image

techygran 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

Thank you Ron for this very interesting perspective, and for your thoughtful and more explanatory conversations in the comment section with aweSomeday. I feel that I learned something important today. ~Cynthia


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

aweSomeday, thanks again for reading and offering your perspective. I hope you'll grab hold of "Mere Christianity." It offers a lot to think about.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi, Hendrika. I think you're exactly right. As the Bible puts it, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." Thanks for reading.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, techygran. I really appreciate that. My hope is that the perspective I've tried to give will cause people to think a little more deeply about God and morality than they may have done before, so your words are encouraging to me.


Besarien profile image

Besarien 2 years ago

I'm am a former Catholic, newly Episcopalian, and obviously a Christian. I believe in God. I like to think even if I did not, that I would know it was wrong to do harm to other people. Most Buddhists and Jains seem to know this, even though they are not theists. Most atheists too know that harming others is wrong along with it being illegal. Most animals seem to recognize this fact. They kill other species for food but most do not hunt within their own species. They do kill each other in wars for dominance just like we do. Mothers and fathers in the animal kingdom die to protect their young and often young that is not their own biologically. Perhaps robots too might come to the realization that life is rare in the universe and therefore precious. Morality certainly can exist with or without knowledge of or belief in God and does. People who believe are in no way morally superior to those who don't. People who believe can still be immoral and can still commit hideous sins and terrible acts including murder. Often they believe that God wants them to blow up buildings, bring down aircraft, slaughter tribes of "savages" to take their land, enslave a bunch of "savages" and have us pick cotton for free, or burn all the midwives and healers at the stake. Those people think they are moral as well. Their every action can be justified by the Bible and most any other religious text. I guess what I'm saying is that morality is a lot more complicated than belief in God.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean

Ron, this article is so thought provoking. In many crimes, the offender swat the victim as they would a fly without any no respect for life or for the Creator God who made it--and to think that some actually do this in the name of God. Belief in God must translate into obeying His principles on how to interact with Him and with others. Great article!


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi, Besarien, and thanks for sharing. The point of view you express is a common one, and just the one this article is designed to counter. You say most people, believers or not, know it's wrong to harm other people. But who says it's wrong? Why is that ethic any more "right" than saying, it's ok to kill people who's religious beliefs differ from yours? We live in a world where it's demonstrated every day that many people believe the latter rather than the former. Who is the arbiter of what's right and what's wrong? My point is that having the opinion that hurting people is wrong does not make you any more moral than having the opinion that beheading infidels is right, unless there is a universal and objective standard against which such opinions, and the actions that flow from them, must be compared.

What I'm trying to say in the article is that without God there is no basis for saying "life is precious." OK, that's your opinion. But why should anyone else adopt that opinion? From the human history of continuous war, it's obvious that millions of people don't share it.

Since their opinion is as good as yours or mine, who says yours is right and theirs wrong? Only God has that authority.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, MsDora. As you say, if step #1 in being a truly moral person is acknowledging that God has set a standard in how we treat other people that applies to every human being, then step #2 is being bound by that standard in our own decisions and actions. "Thou shalt not steal" is not a statement of divine philosophy, but a command to be acted upon!


Shades-of-truth profile image

Shades-of-truth 2 years ago from USA

Ah, Ron - this article reminded me of one of the movies my family liked, called "Time Changer", starring Gavin Macleod. His character said, in that movie, when explaining why God is the final authority, and morals alone are not enough - "Satan is not against good morals; he is opposed to Jesus Christ".

That is one of my favorite movie quotes of all time.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi, Shades-of-truth. I haven't seen that movie, but the quote you share from it is, IMO, exactly right. Satan's ideal is that people would substitute their own ideas of morality for faith in Christ. And to much too large a degree, in our modern world he's succeeding. Thanks for reading.


Nayira 23 months ago

This piece was cogent, wenilwr-ttel, and pithy.


Althea Curtis 22 months ago

Good read and really mind blowing. My favorite verse in the bible says for i am convince that nothing can separate us from love of God. (Rom 8)We are loved irrespective of our believes and mistakes. God bless you and keep u all.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 22 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi, Althea, and welcome to HubPages. That entire chapter in Rom 8 is really deep and powerful, isn't it? Thanks for reading and sharing.


Jill Moore 19 months ago

What a great hub. It is so nice to read an intelligent, articulate and well-written article created by a person of faith. That quote - 'the devil gets all the best tunes'? Sometimes I feel that atheism got the stronger writers! I love it when I find intelligent Christianity on display. This is such a complex topic yet you distill it down to its essence and get right to the heart of what morality means to society.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 19 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks so much, Jill. I've been disturbed by the degree to which atheists project the image that their viewpoint is based on reason, while believers fall back on intellectually indefensible blind faith. I think it's just the opposite, and my goal is to defend and advance that position with a measure of intellectual rigor. I appreciate the encouragement!


Akriti Mattu profile image

Akriti Mattu 19 months ago from Shimla, India

Ok let's say i agree. I'd like to know your response about people who are staunch believers of God and yet indulging in the most heinous crimes ?? Whatever happened to their morality ??


Michael-Milec profile image

Michael-Milec 19 months ago

Hello RonElFran.

A truth perfectly said, "Without God there can be no morality." To my better understanding 'absolute' morality vs. 'relative' morality as my son made remarks of his generation friends cling to notion of "some" morality, "you are not an animal" they say we do create a norm what is 'moral' for us ,- in you brilliant statement they rather exclude the Creator from equation. You are generous by saying that if there is no Creator humans are nothing more than accidents of evolution. Not many 'atheists' or those denying God's existence would accept their accidental status. While living among communists we had this discussion to which my conclusion was they rather exists or 'vegetate'= exist in a state of physical or mental activity; admitting having the "living soul" but not everlasting spirit. Right here is your " morality requires faith in God" the strongest point of undeniable TRUTH.

Voted up, beautiful, interesting.

Peace with us.


adagio4639 profile image

adagio4639 18 months ago from Brattleboro Vermont

The question is whether or not belief in any god or higher power is required for morality and social stability. There are any number of objections which can be made here, but I will try to cover a few of basic ones. The most obvious thing to point out is that this is nothing but an assertion, and empirical evidence is clearly against it.

An examination of history makes it evident that believers in gods can be very violent, especially when it comes to other groups of believers who follow different gods. Atheists have also been violent — but they have also led very good and moral lives. Thus, there is no apparent correlation between belief in gods and being a good person.

As Steven Weinberg noted in his article Designer Universe:

"With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil — that takes religion."

Another interesting fact to point out is that the claim doesn't actually require any god to really exist. If social stability and morality are only achieved with believing in a god, even a false god, then the theist is claiming that human societies require massive deceit in order to survive. Moreover, the theist is arguing that a society doesn't actually need their god, since any god will apparently do. I'm sure that there are some theists who will quickly agree with this and not be bothered, but they are rare.

A more fundamental objection, however, is the implicit portrayal of humanity which such a claim makes. The unspoken reason why humans need some god to be moral is that they are not capable of creating their own social rules and, hence, require an eternal rule-giver with accompanying eternal rewards and eternal punishments.

How can a theist possibly claim this when even chimpanzees and other primates are clearly capable of creating social rules? The theist is attempting to create ignorant children out of all of us. In their eyes, we are apparently incapable of running our own affairs; worse yet, only the promise of eternal reward and the threat of eternal punishment will keep us in line. Perhaps this is actually true of them, and that would be unfortunate. However, that is not true of any of the atheists I know.


Ta-Iset profile image

Ta-Iset 17 months ago from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

I can tell you from your view point I can see what you're saying. But I am also inclined to tell you that you are also very wrong. Everyone is brought up learning right and wrong, what you do in life with that knowledge is up to you (Free will). I am Pagan, and I get told sometimes time by Christians that I cannot possibly have morality because of my beliefs. I tell them I do have morality, because I know the difference between right and wrong. I also believe I will be judged when I die by Osiris my God, who will preform the weighing of the heart ceremony. If I lived a good life with no need for repentance, my heart will be light as a feather, and I will have Ma'at. If I lived my life full of things to repent, my heart will be heavy and I will have my heart devoured in front of me by Sekhmet (The judge). I will then not pass into Amenti (Egyptian heaven).

So see I do have morality, based on my beliefs, and I do not need to believe in the bible's God to have morality.


adagio4639 profile image

adagio4639 17 months ago from Brattleboro Vermont

HI Ron, I'm back. Every once in a while I check in to see what you're saying and respond with why I disagree. I do find you very refreshing compared with most conservative minds that resort to ad hominem attacks rather than reason. You're polite and respectful and that always makes for a good debate.

Let's begin with this:

"Yet without faith in God, there is no moral foundation for considering such acts to be wrong."

Can you demonstrate for me why that's true? I don't believe that and if I'm not mistaken, you're a preacher so if that's true, then I can understand why you might take that stand. But our morality really comes from two approaches . One is called Consequential Moral Reasoning, and the other is known as the Catagorical Imperative.

For an example of consequential moral reasoning: You're driver of a trolly car. The trolly is out of control hurtling down the track at 60 mph. Your brakes don't work. at the end of the track you see 5 men working on the track. There's no question that you'll hit and kill the men. Lets assume you know this for sure. But you notice a side-track and although the brakes don't work you can still steer. The problem is that on the side track you see one man working on it. If you steer onto that track you'll kill that man. You have to decide NOW. What do you do? Do you kill the one to spare the five? Better for 1 to die than 5 right?

Ok.

What if the person on the side track isn't a worker...but a child? Do you still kill the one to spare the five? If the reason you're using tells you, kill the 1 to spare the 5, then it should make no difference who that 1 is. The logic that you use to tell you, kill 1 to spare 5 hasn't changed. You're still letting 1 die to save 5 so the moral reasoning hasn't changed. The only thing that has changed is, who is that ONE that's going to die. There is no absolute morality to your decision here. There is only a value judgment.

Consequentialist moral reasoning locates morality in the consequences of an act. That which has the greatest benefit for the greatest number is the morally correct position to take and that's the basis for Consequentialist Moral Reasoning. It's Utilitarianism.

Catagorical Moral reasoning locates morality in certain duties and rights regardless of the consequences.

example:

You own a store and a very young boy walks in to buy a loaf of bread. You realize that he's too young to know about making change so when he gives you the money you know that you could short change him and he wouldn't know the difference. But you also reason that if word ever got out that you cheated a kid, you could lose customers, so you give him back the right change. The question is, Is there any moral worth to what you did?


Ta-Iset profile image

Ta-Iset 17 months ago from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Well said.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Akriti Mattu, you ask about those who believe in God and yet commit heinous crimes. To say that God (and only God) defines what is moral and what is not does not in any way imply that everyone who believes in God understands or correctly applies His definitions. To illustrate, I firmly believe in the laws of lift and gravity that define an airplane's ability to fly. Believe me when I say that my belief in those laws in no way guarantees I wouldn't immediately crash a plane if I were put at the controls. Yet my inability to apply those laws correctly certainly does not call into question their validity.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thank you, Michael-Milec. If I understand you correctly, some of your son's friends seem to believe in situational or relative morality. It's true that the particular moral choices we make may sometimes depend on circumstances. But that is not really what morality is all about. Morality is about fundamental values that do not change. For example, "Thou shalt not kill (murder)" is a fundamental value of God-given morality that is entirely unaffected by what the particular circumstances happen to be. So is "love your neighbor as yourself." What it means to love my neighbor may differ depending on circumstances, but the underlying moral issue is always "how can I love my neighbor in this particular situation?"


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Ta-Iset, in this article the issue I'm dealing with is not which particular god a person must believe in in order to be moral. Rather, the question I am addressing is, how can "morality" be more than just personal (or group) opinion about what is "good" unless there is some objective standard of what "good" is? And the only One who can set such a standard is the God who is Creator and ruler of the universe. Only He has the right to set standards of morality that are binding on every human being, no matter what god a person believes or disbelieves in. In the absence of such a standard, "morality" simply becomes each individual's opinion about what is good.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi, adagio4639, and thanks for engaging on this subject.

I think you, in common with most who try to define morality without God, misunderstand what a "moral code" is. It's not a personal standard that guides you as an individual, but a universal standard to which every human being can be held accountable. Otherwise, "morality" is simply your opinion as to right and wrong.

To illustrate, let’s take the Steven Weinberg quote you mention in your first comment:

"With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil — that takes religion."

Take note of the key words here: “good” people; behave “well”; do “evil.” Who defines what those words mean? We all can agree that moral people do “good,” behave “well,” and avoid “evil.” But who is to say what “good” is?

What does an atheist mean by "evil"? It can't mean "illegal," since Hitler gassed millions of Jews legally. It can’t mean the consensus opinion of the society, since there was a very high level of consensus in the antebellum South that holding black people in slavery was perfectly moral as well as legal. (That takes care of your argument about God-based morality implying that human beings are incapable of creating their own social rules. Of course they can! That’s how slavery got to be legal and accepted in this country.)

Take it a step further. Hitler gave the German people economic recovery, autobahns and the Volkswagen Beetle. Who is to say he did evil just because he also sent a few million people to the showers and ovens? Since those people were nothing more than purposeless biological machines (if we leave God out of the equation), their deaths mean nothing anyway. So, who is to judge a Hitler or hold him accountable?

With no universal standard to compare against, on what basis could an atheist reasonably claim that Mother Teresa was more moral than Hitler? Mother Teresa thought she was doing “good” by caring for lepers. Hitler thought he was doing “good” by ridding the German nation of Jews. If there is no universal standard, how can you judge between them? Any standard of judgment you might put forth would be nothing more than your opinion, and therefore worthless as a standard to which anybody else can be held accountable.

In your latest comment you speak of categorical vs consequentialist moral reasoning. Again, this misses the real meaning of morality. By the time you are dealing with whether the consequences of an act should be taken into account, you are already on the second floor of the building. You are talking about how to decide which actions will produce “good.” But who defined for you what “good” is? That’s the foundation upon which questions of categorical vs consequentialist must rest.

The bottom line is that without God there can be no moral standard that is binding on all people, and to which they have a responsibility to adhere. Anything else is just somebody’s opinion about right and wrong, and to try to force me to adhere to your opinion is simply tyranny, not morality.


Ta-Iset profile image

Ta-Iset 17 months ago from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Yes, but in this case you were speaking about only one "God". I'm saying that you cannot say that someone doesn't have morality just because they do not believe in one "God". Morality is based on choice, which was given to all of us, regardless of faith or not. We all possess this ability to choose right from wrong. We all have the ability whether we are aware of it or not. Just as we are all given the ability to eat, and drink. That was never given by a "God". why would we say the same about other natural things that are in us?

I was stating that some of my Christian friends say because I don't believe in "God" I do not have morality. I stated that this is wrong, because I believe in "Gods" and "Goddesses". She stated that, that didn't matter if I don't believe in divine judgement. I told her that I do, and shared the weighing of the heart ceremony... She still insisted as you do that there is only ONE God, ONE creator, ONE divine judge. I'm saying there's not, and it's not fair to place everyone in the mindset that the only way to be viewed as a moral human being they need to believe in this ONE God, ONE creator, ONE judge.

There are many belief systems, and if you're point of view is to work you have to state it clear, you stated that it only needs a God, a Creator, well do you mean yours? Or any ones?


adagio4639 profile image

adagio4639 17 months ago from Brattleboro Vermont

@Ron: "In your latest comment you speak of categorical vs consequentialist moral reasoning. Again, this misses the real meaning of morality. By the time you are dealing with whether the consequences of an act should be taken into account, you are already on the second floor of the building. You are talking about how to decide which actions will produce “good.” But who defined for you what “good” is? That’s the foundation upon which questions of categorical vs consequentialist must rest.

Based on what you wrote here Ron, I don't think you fully understood what I was saying. Consequentialist Moral Reasoning is a Utilitarian way of looking at the world. The exmples that I presented were hypothetical situations that force us to confront our sense of morality and where it comes from. A Catagorical Imperative is something entirely different. Catagorical Moral reasoning locates morality in certain duties and rights regardless of the consequences.

"You are talking about how to decide which actions will produce “good.” But who defined for you what “good” is?"

We define that Ron. In deciding which actions will produce good, we determine that. You never answered the hypothetical scenarios that would in fact challenge your own moral reasoning. Would you kill the one to save the many? And if so, why would the reasoning change if it was a child that was the One? Do you hold to your moral reasoning or do you modify it according to who gets harmed in the process?

Did the actions of the store owner have any moral worth to them? Yes or no? Our morals take shape in our values, and our values can't be demonstrated as true. If you accept that humans have values and morals, then it’s *their* values. They are not dependent on demonstration, otherwise, why would we consider them *our* values?

“Truth is demonstrable” logically entails that “truth is not determined by humans”. If you hold that “humans decide about the truth” then you can’t hold that “truth is demonstrable.” These are mutually contradictory ways of viewing the world. To make it clearer we could instead say, “truth is determined by human judgment” or “truth is determined unequivocally by demonstration.” Not only are these two ideas incompatible, as truth is a value we as humans place on certain ideas or viewpoints, it makes no sense to say it can be determined by demonstration. It is determined by humans.

Truth is determined by humans, not criteria or standards or bases. Moreover, a criteria cannot be its own criteria. Again, it is an issue of responsibility. Even assuming you have a criteria you think is adequate, how did you determine that? Are you responsible for that judgement, or is the criteria responsible? Merely claiming a standard or a criteria or a basis does not help one to demonstrate the truth of values or morals. Instead, it creates a certain amount of hypocrisy. If we claim a basis gives us truth, we then are making the implicit claim that truth requires bases. But then it is plainly obvious our own basis lacks a basis, as it cannot be its own basis. By claiming truth must be demonstrated by bases we undermine our own moral integrity. A similar case might be made for the Christian who says that miracles support his faith in God. Is that not hypocritical? After all, faith is faith. It does not require proof. Similarly, from a Christian perspective, if a person is “good” because he wants to go to heaven, is he not being “bad” as he is pursuing selfish ends. While I think that one can be willing to question “humans have values”, and therefore hold the position non-dogmatically, I don’t think that the notion that “humans have values” is logically compatible with “values are determined by demonstrations.” I don't believe that God is necessary for morality at all. We have an entire region of the country that is called the Bible Belt that found justification in the Bible for slavery. We have a chapter in Moses where God told Abraham to kill his son as a sacrifice to him. What kind of God requires blood sacrifice?

"Since those people were nothing more than purposeless biological machines (if we leave God out of the equation), their deaths mean nothing anyway. So, who is to judge a Hitler or hold him accountable?"

That's nonsense. It's easy to hold Hitler accountable. That says that rational beings were nothing more than purposeless biological machines. I don't need God to inform me that this kind of reasoning is false. I say that man and in general every rational being, exists as an end in himself not merely as a means for arbitrary use by this or that will. That alone nullifies Hitlers view of those people.

Rational beings are persons. They don’t just have a relative value for us, if anything they have an absolute value, and intrinsic value. Rational beings have dignity. They’re worthy of respect.

So we act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other never simply as a means but always at the same time as an end. It’s the idea that human beings as rational beings are ends in themselves not open to use merely as a means to some other end.

I find that to be a great guide to moral reasoning. God was not necessary to arrive at that idea. It's not religious in any way. It's non-dogmatic.


Oztinato profile image

Oztinato 17 months ago from Australia

Once again the reason we have laws has been shelved in the debate: if people can do it for themselves then why do we have laws covering everything? These laws evolved out of religion and morality.

Tax laws, traffic laws, morality laws etc etc are here for a reason. People can't do it for themselves. Historical attempts to have no laws (nihilism ) failed miserably.

Law is based on morality and morality evolved directly out of religion and faith (see "history")


colorfulone profile image

colorfulone 17 months ago from Minnesota

What a great hub, Ron. I agree with you 100%.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

adagio4639, think about the entire premise of this hub: without reference to God, human beings can be seen only as the products of purposeless evolution. They are, on that understanding, no more than biological machines that appeared by evolutionary accident, and have no intrinsic purpose or value. Those are self-evident ramifications of the "no God" premise that atheists themselves, as far as I've seen, accept. On what basis, then, can atheists say, "Rational beings have dignity. They’re worthy of respect"? Why should that purposeless evolutionary accident we call "human" rate any more respect or dignity than that purposeless evolutionary accident we call "housefly"?

You say, "It's easy to hold Hitler accountable." On what basis? I challenged you before to articulate the basis on which an atheist could draw a moral distinction between Hitler and Mother Teresa. How can that possibly be done without reference to some standard of morality to which they both have a responsibility to adhere?

Every statement about morality I've seen atheists make has been along the lines of "I am moral because I have decided to conduct myself in such and such a way." That's great, but why should Hitler be bound by the way you have decided to conduct yourself? How could he possibly be held accountable for not doing so?

The reason I don't deal with the particular moral dilemmas you propose is because, in terms of the issue of how universal standards can be set in the absence of a Creator and Ruler who has the right to set them, they are red herrings. The issue, as I've said over and over without hearing anything to refute it, is that in the absence of that universal, objective standard of right and wrong, no one has the right to set moral standards for anyone but themselves. Thus, your "morality" applies to no one but yourself, and is therefore nothing more than your opinion. And why should I, Hitler, or anyone else be bound by your opinion? Therefore, in the absence of a God-given universal moral standard, no one can be held morally accountable because whatever action even a Hitler takes, he can simply say, "according to my idea of morality, what I did was right."


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Oztinato, good point about law being ultimately based on morality, which in turn, is founded on faith in God.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, colorfulone. To my mind, this is a foundational issue that everyone needs to understand as they determine their personal stance regarding God.


Ta-Iset profile image

Ta-Iset 17 months ago from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Of course Colorfultone agrees, Colorfultone isn't intelligent enough to understand anything other than a book that has been discredited by everyone with a real facts. I doubt anyone who believes the bible has true knowledge of anything other than what is written in the bible. Such a shame, this world would be way better if they followed the true laws, and the true religion that was of Old Egypt... Before and during the first dynasties, they knew truth, they knew everything that we have lost over time.

Our society isn't a real society, the Ancient Egyptian's knew what was needed for a full functioning society, and for millenniums they were at peace, and lived the right way... But then greed, and mans need for vanity came into play, they made the bible and everything that once was, was lost in one giant sweep, and to this day they still try and sweep truth under the carpet, but for those of us who are awake and enlightened, we will stand on top one day, and we will have the truth and our voices heard.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Ta-Iset, I'll leave this comment up so that your point of view may be seen. However, I won't accept any more comments that denigrate other commenters ("isn't intelligent..."). Thanks.


Ta-Iset profile image

Ta-Iset 17 months ago from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Alright, thank you, and sorry, I didn't mean it the way it sounded. I meant to say that believing in one book isn't true knowledge, knowledge comes from learning more than one book, learning truth, and without that, no one can truly have knowledge or intelligence. Even I am not intelligent because I do not possess the full truth yet.


SuperBrains profile image

SuperBrains 17 months ago from Florida

As religion itself is a human construct, it's safe to say that all morality is man-made. So the dichotomy between divine and human law/ethics is a false one.

The idea of a "divine absolute morality" is also more of a blight than a blessing. Different religions and different sects within religions are always arguing, and sometimes killing each other, because they think their specific ethical code is the only divine absolute truth. From the Crusades, to the sectarian wars of Europe between Protestants and Catholics, up to the 9/11 jihadis, it's difficult to think of a time in history when there wasn't religious conflict. Absolutism is almost always at the core of these conflicts.

Interesting, there is also plenty of evidence to show that a larger proportion of the prison population are religious than the general population. That would suggest that ethics grounded in religious belief are perhaps much weaker that many of the commenters here seem to think.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

SuperBrains, thanks for your comment. But it contains quite a few logical leaps. "Religion itself is a human construct." Thus you start your discussion by simply assuming the issue being discussed. That's not a very persuasive starting point for a logical discussion. "It's safe to say that all morality is man-made." Since it could only be "safe to say" based on your initial unfounded assumption, that statement adds no information to the discussion.

The claim that the idea of God-based morality has been a blight is demonstrably untrue both on historical and logical grounds. Historically, there have been few, if any, armed conflicts over how God defines moral behavior. Certainly there have been religious conflicts galore, as well as transgressions by people who claim to be religious. But in the case of those religions that acknowledge a single creator God who rules the universe, individuals who murder or steal or rape are condemned as outlaws by those who are closest to the center of their religious traditions. The fact that God-given moral standards exist is certainly no guarantee that they will be correctly interpreted and applied by fallible and selfish human beings who have some ax to grind. But again, it is usually people of faith who apply corrective action. Thus, although antebellum Southern Christians sought to justify slavery on biblical grounds, it was people who believed Jesus's admonition to love our neighbors as ourselves who sustained the Abolitionist movement that eventually brought slavery to an end.

That brings us to the logical fallacy of your argument. As I explain in the article, the logic of atheism must unavoidably claim that human beings are nothing more than the accidental products of blind, purposeless evolution. If their lives have no purpose, which is the unavoidable corollary of denying they were created by a purposeful God, why is the death of a human being of any more import than the death of a housefly? If it is convenient for me to swat a fly or shoot a man, please explain to me why I shouldn't do one or the other based on something besides your personal opinion about what is "right." On the other hand, God's standards assure me that every human being has purpose and significance, and command me to love them, even my enemies. From a purely logical perspective, it should be obvious that a person who believes that God holds him accountable to love his neighbor as himself is likely to engage in less mayhem than one who believes we are all accidents of evolution, and there will be no accounting for what we do to one another.

Your aside about "plenty of evidence" that prison populations are more religious than the population at large suffers from all kinds of deficiencies, from the reliability of that "evidence" to issues of cause and effect (it's well known that large numbers of inmates have adopted some religious belief in prison, after, and not before, they committed their crimes). If you are claiming that people who believe in God are more prone to crime than those who do not, the bar for making such a claim credible is pretty high.

Finally, you raised objections to morality being based on God-given standards, I didn't see that you offered any persuasive alternative basis for universal moral standards to which every human being can be held accountable. Remember, in the absence of such standards, there is no basis for judging any action taken by anybody as being right or wrong - except for somebody's opinion. And your opinion cannot define my morality.


Ta-Iset profile image

Ta-Iset 17 months ago from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

But again you are basing this on your bible. I then must point out one important fact that I came across.

Jewish monotheism was stolen from Egyptian Akhenaton

The Jewish creation was stolen from the Egyptian Creation

The Jewish Yahweh's use of the word to create was stolen from the Egyptians (Jewish Yaweh replaces Ptah)

"Let there be Light" was stolen from the Theban Creation epic.

The "firmament in the midst of the waters…" was stolen from the Egyptian Creation. The idea of the firmament was also used in the Sumerian cosmology model until 1600 when the telescope was invented.

Adam and Eve were stolen from the Egyptian Geb and Nut 5

Eve coming from Adam's rib was stolen from the Epic of Enki and

Ninhursag: "My brother what hurts thee?

"My rib hurts me"

ANET.

Ninti who's name means

"Lady of the Rib" cured Enki's rib6

Adam and Eve's punishment and loss of immortality were stolen from the Mesopotamian story of Adapa.

Jewish Cain, Abel and Seth were stolen from Osiris, Set and Horus8

The conflict between Cain and Abel was stolen from Set and Osiris and as the story goes on, it is later based upon the Sumerian Dumuzi and Enkimdu

Jewish Samson was stolen from Heracles,

The putting out of his eyes is based on Oedipus

The pulling down of the pillars was stolen from the Egyptian tale about Re-Herakhte

The Jewish story of Jacob and the Ladder was stolen from the Egyptian Funerary Rituals for the deceased King

"Hail to thee, O Ladder of God, Hail to thee, O Ladder of Set. Stand up O Ladder of God, Stand up O Ladder of Set, stand up O Ladder of Horus, whereon Osiris went forth into heaven.” “The Egyptian Ladder consisting of the bodies of two Egyptian deities upon which Osiris ascends into heaven, has been replaced by a ladder with several supernatural beings, angels, climbing up and down between earth and heaven."

Jewish Moses was stolen from several Gods and kings, depending on what stage of his life story:

Sargon (the birth and abandonment in the river, being rescued by royalty, etc)

The wanderings in the desert were based upon the Sun-God Bacchus as seen in the Hymns of Orpheus 12

The Hebrew stint of "40 years in the desert" claimed in the Jewish book of Exodus and the subsequent "40 day and 40 nights" wanderings in the desert of the Jewish Nazarene were stolen from:

"The struggle of Set and Horus in the desert lasted forty days, as commemorated in the forty days of the Egyptian Lent, during which time Set, as the power of drought and sterility, made war on Horus in the water and the buried germinating grain....These forty days have been extended into forty years, and confessedly so by the Jews."13

Jewish Joshua was stolen from the Egyptian Deities Shu and Nun.

Jewish Deborah was stolen from the Egyptian Goddess Neith

Jewish Noah was stolen from Sumerian The Epic of Ziusudra.

The Jewish God Yaweh in the Noah story replaced the Sumerian God Enlil

Noah's son Jewish Ham was stolen from Belus

Jewish Nimrod was stolen from the Egyptian Pharaoh Sesostris

Jewish Abraham was stolen from King Hariscandra of the Hindu Sankhayana-Sutras

Jewish Isaac was stolen from King Hariscandra's son Rohita

The fictitious Jewish God Yaweh in this story replaced the Hindu God Varuna

Jewish character Daniel was stolen from Egyptian Neferti

Jewish Jonah and the whale; Jonah was stolen from the Hindu character "Saktideva" found in the Somadeva Bhatta.

The "Twelve Tribes of Israel" like the Twelve Disciples of Christ are based upon the twelve signs of the Zodiac.

Jewish Lot and his wife were stolen from the Greek Orpheus and Eurydice

Jewish Yaweh replaces the Greek God Hades

Jewish Jacob and Jewish Esau were stolen from Horus and Set

Jewish Rebekah was stolen from The Egyptian Goddess Isis

Jewish Joseph with the eleven brothers was stolen from Egyptian Psammetichus

Jewish story of Joseph and Potipher's wife stolen from Egyptian Anubis and Bata

"The Ten Plagues" against Egypt were grossly exaggerated and altered and stolen from the Ipuwer Papyrus

The Ten commandments was stolen from The Code of Hammurabi Jewish Yaweh replaces the Sumerian Sun God Shamash aka Azazel

Jewish David killing Philistine Goliath were stolen from Thor throwing a hammer at Hrungnir and striking him in the forehead.

The Jewish Job was stolen from Ugaritic Keret and Jewish Yaweh replaces the God "El."

Now here is the 42 laws of Ma'at

42 Principles of Maat 2000 years before Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments, eight of them at least, were taken from the Egyptian Principles of Ma’at written at least 2000 years earlier.

I have not done iniquity.

I have not robbed with violence.

I have not stolen.

I have not made any to suffer pain.

I have not defrauded offerings.

I have done no murder nor bid anyone to slay on my behalf.

I have not trimmed the measure.

I have not spoken lies I have not robbed God.

I have not caused the shedding of tears.

I have not dealt deceitfully.

I have not acted guilefully.

I have not laid waste to the land.

I have not set my lips against anyone.

I have not been angry or wrathful without a just cause.

I have not lusted nor defiled the wife of any man.

I have not polluted myself.

I have not caused terror.

I have not done that which is abominable.

I have not multiplied words exceedingly.

I have never uttered fiery words.

I have not judged hastily.

I have not transgressed nor have I vexed or angered God.

I have not stopped my ears against the words of Right and Truth .

I have not burned with rage.

I have not worked grief.

I have not acted with insolence.

I have not avenged myself.

I have not stirred up strife.

I have not been an eavesdropper.

I have not wronged the people

I have done no harm nor have I done evil

I have not worked treason.

I have never fouled the water.

I have not spoken scornfully.

I have never cursed God.

I have not behaved with arrogance.

I have not envied or craved for that which belongs to another.

I have not filched food from the mouth of the infant.

I have done no hurt unto man, nor wrought harm unto beasts.

I have never magnified my condition beyond what was fitting.

Now the ten commandments

You shall have no other gods before Me.

You shall not make idols.

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Honor your father and your mother.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

You shall not covet.

So if your ten commandments came after my beliefs, than how can you say that your "God" was the one who gave morality to all Man?


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Ta-Iset, you say, "you are basing this on your bible." Perhaps that's the source of the disconnect concerning this hub. If you read it again, you'll see that it does not refer to the Bible at all. Nor does it specifically refer to the God of the Bible. I deliberately did not include such references, because I did not want them to complicate the simple point I'm trying to make: without acknowledging God as the arbiter of right and wrong, there is no basis besides the opinion of various individuals or groups for defining any action as right or wrong. Thus, without God there can be no morality that is anything more than a person's individual opinion of how he or she should behave.

I'll say again, nothing in this hub is intended to say that only Christians can be moral people - that's not the point at issue.


Ta-Iset profile image

Ta-Iset 17 months ago from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Then I say this, I had written that I have a God who I believe he is not yours, but he gave me morality, and this is what you said to that:

"And the only One who can set such a standard is the God who is Creator and ruler of the universe."

Notice how you capitalize one? and how you capitalize creator? You are talking about a specific "God". your views are biased because you believe in One God, One Creator, One divine Judge. You are not in the business of acknowledging any other God, or faith, because you are only concerned with what YOURS provides, and that is your whole argument, or as you say you wouldn't of capitalized one, and creator, which was emphasizing the fact you want others to pay attention to ONE and only CREATOR "God".


Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 16 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

If you are kind to your family and to your neighbors and most of your family and neighbors are also kind, loving, and protective of each other, your whole community stands a better chance of thriving. If you take care of your weak, elderly, and poor, the lives of everyone in your community are better, richer, healthier, and more fit.

Fitness does not equal fierceness, cruelty, and killing ability, it equals health. Does your doctor check how good you are at hurting people when he examines you for fitness, or does he run tests to find out how healthy you are mentally and physically? Violence has been proven to be unhealthy for everyone involved, including the aggressor, both physically and mentally. There are clear, obvious individual and societal earthly benefits to being kind rather than cruel.

How is the God-based morality of Middle Eastern cultures that execute women and children for being raped and execute other people for being atheists, Christians, or other non-Muslims superior to the ethics-based morality of modern Humanists? How is my ethics-based moral view that rape victims should be counseled and healed instead of murdered inferior to the God-based morality that insists they die? How is my moral view that those atheists, Christians, and other non-Muslims be left alone inferior to the God-based morality insisting they die? How is the God-based morality of the KKK superior to the ethics-based morality of Humanists? How is my atheistic reason-based moral view that all human beings be treated equally inferior to the KKK's God-based moral view that all non-whites, all non-Christians, all non-conservative Christians, and women are inferior?

As to why you'd obey or want to follow ethics-based morality- you'd have to be a sociopath to not want to be a decent human being. Religion is a great thing to keep sociopaths in line, because they may not care if they are decent human beings or not, just whether they get to live forever or not, but most human beings are not sociopaths. The vast majority of human beings would like to have pleasant lives wherein their fellow humans do not regard them with disgust and fear. The problem is that authority-based morals such as God-based morals, can easily be twisted to make horrible acts into moral acts for people who follow the authority. It can also be twisted to turn harmless acts into horrible acts in the minds of those who follow authority, justifying the horrible things they do to others who've done harmless things they consider evil.

Being kind and helping others makes people feel good, like they are meeting their responsibilities. If you don't have those feelings it's a mental illness.

As to why it makes people feel good to help each other without a promised reward of Heaven, it's likely because, compared to other animals our size, humans are fairly weak and have needed to rely on each other for safety and survival since before humans were fully people like us. I don't really believe that people like you only help others because you are working toward a reward for yourself. Kindness is in your genes. You're just a nice person. For our species, being nice is a survival trait.

Most Buddhists don't believe in God, yet when tsunamis devastated Japan, a predominantly Buddhist culture, people immediately stepped up and started helping each other.

The Bible teaches that humans are pieces of crap that are evil by nature and like to hurt each other, only good when God commands them to be good using threats and promises, but such an animal species would never survive. Such behavior isn't fit in our type of species. In species such as ours, kindness is a much more powerful survival trait than cruelty.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 16 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Kylyssa, let me first clarify something that seems to be a sticking point for many atheists when they engage in this kind of discussion. The claim that morality requires belief in God is not a claim that atheists cannot be moral people. I’m sure there are many who, like yourself, have set high standards for themselves. But the key is in the words “for themselves.”

If I understand the argument of your first two paragraphs, it can be summed up as saying we should be kind to others because that is the best thing for the human race, and therefore for us personally. I certainly would not disagree. But in what sense is that anything more than your opinion? Why should anyone else be bound by it? How can any other person be held accountable to abide by your view of what is reasonable and right? Don’t we all have a right to our own opinions on such matters?

Adolph Hitler’s opinion was that he was doing the best for not only Germany but for the human race by trying to rid the world of Jews. Why isn’t his opinion as good as yours? Antebellum slaveholders in the American South thoroughly convinced themselves that they were being kind to blacks by holding them in slavery. Why should your opinion prevail over theirs?

Without some universal moral standard that every human being is obligated to obey, nobody can be held morally accountable for anything. Hitler stands on exactly the same footing as Mother Teresa. I guarantee you that there are many people in our world today who hold the opinion that the former was morally superior to the latter. Who’s to say they are wrong?

That’s why all your reasoning about how it is better for everybody if we treat one another well has nothing to do with morality. It’s your opinion (one I happen to agree with, BTW), and as an opinion is great for you, but applicable to no one else.

Your claim that the morality of jihadists or the KKK is God-based is certainly nothing more than an opinion, and one that is utterly repudiated by those who know those religious traditions best. Any claim that the philosophy and actions of the KKK is based on the teachings of the One who commanded that we love our neighbors and even our enemies as ourselves is ludicrous on its face. And as a seminary graduate, I can tell you that the understanding you express concerning what the Bible teaches about the nature of human beings is, shall we say, somewhat deficient.

You speak of “ethics-based morality” and being a “decent human being.” But what do those words mean? Who defines ethics? Who has the right to say what it means to be decent? Those words acquired their original meanings within the context of accountability to God. Now, atheists want to remove God but retain the meaning. Can’t be done! You cannot remove the foundation from those concepts yet expect them to remain standing on their own. Without that foundation, your definitions of “ethics,” “goodness,” “kindness,” “decency” and all the rest carry no weight – they are simply your opinions.

Morality is not about the personal decisions we make regarding right or wrong, but about our adherence to a code that is binding on us all, and to which we are all accountable. No human being has the right to define such a code. Whether it’s one person, a group of people, or even an entire nation, to attempt to force your definition of ethics on anyone else is not morality but tyranny.

Only God has the rightful authority to define the moral code to which He will hold every person accountable. Without such a code, the entire concept of morality falls to the ground.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 16 months ago from Oakley, CA

Be that as it may--in my opinion--and that of many other atheists, I'm sure, religion and belief in any kind of deity are in themselves nothing more than opinions of others.

The bottom line is, no matter how much we might wish so, and try to, whether by means of religious rules or societal laws, not one of us can actually control the behavior, and certainly not the thoughts and opinions of any other person.

Interestingly, my husband is a licensed minister--but has become virtually an atheist himself, and refuses to practice precisely BECAUSE of all the things he learned in seminary school. When he quizzed the instructor as to how he could preach such things, knowing the truth behind it, the answer was, "Because people need to be told what to do."

That did it for him. He finished the course and got his license, but has wanted nothing further to do with religion from that day forward. The lesson he learned: religion is more about control than faith. Keep the congregation cowering in fear over some mythical afterlife eternal punishment, and you can get them to do anything you want, including coughing up good sums of their hard-earned cash to keep churches afloat.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 16 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

DzyMsLizzy, I would think that by definition all atheists consider belief in God to be nothing more than opinion. Yet there are compelling objective reasons for believing that what we know scientifically about the universe is best explained by the existence of a Creator. I write about some of those reasons in my hub "Atheists Disregard Scientific Evidence of God" [http://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Atheists-D...].

BTW, regarding your husband's experience. There's a wide range of seminaries, some of which are well known to have drifted far from biblical Christianity in their teachings. Among those schools that take seriously the task of understanding and teaching the faith as the Bible expresses it, your husband's experience is not a common one.


Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 16 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

Hitler, as a Christian, was following what he perceived God's morality to be. You obviously don't follow the Bible the same way he did, so how is Biblical morality any less subjective than reason-based morality? If it's all interpreted completely subjectively, how is God-based morality any less subjective than morality based on ethics and reason? How is it an absolute standard for behavior if there isn't even a clear written guide for it? Now, please don't say that the Bible is the clear written guide because it isn't clear at all if there are tens of thousands of different forms of Christianity, all of which interpret it differently and, inside of which, individuals interpret it differently from others in the same sect.

How is it tyranny to show people how to be kind and to hope they follow suit as human beings are apt to do? How is it tyranny to enforce laws arrived at by reason? Laws against dealing drugs, enslaving people, and molesting children aren't in the Bible. Are they immoral to enforce because they come from reason and empathy rather than from the Bible?

Yes, severely mentally ill people will not necessarily wish to be kind and avoid hurting other people even if you teach them how, but most people aren't mentally ill and most mentally ill people aren't that kind of mentally ill. Theocracy is tyranny.


wrenchBiscuit profile image

wrenchBiscuit 16 months ago

For the record, I will reprise, in other words, what I stated on your other hub. The atheist wants to have it both ways. They claim that there is no empirical evidence for God, yet there are those who will insist that there is an absolute morality. However, there is no way for them, short of faith, to ascertain that there is an absolute morality. It is hypocritical of them to suggest otherwise.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 16 months ago from Oakley, CA

I came to my own conclusions long before I met my current husband, and our opinions and assessments match. He has read the bible extensively, and finds many contradictions. I do not appreciate the implied derision of the school he attended. It was valid and is accredited. (http://www.emmaus.edu/accreditation)

I studied it for a while, until I got annoyed with the anti-woman slant in much of it.

It is a made-up work, created over many centuries, by MEN.. long after the existence of any person named Jesus. (Which, by the way, historians show was a rather common name in those times.) Interestingly, he is not mentioned even once by any contemporary of the time. That alone is suspect.

Much of the book, I believe is simply more attempt by humans, and men in particular, to control people, through the use of analogies and fairytales. Then, there was the infamous Council of Nicea, in which more books were removed than now exist, because "the common people don't need to know these things." Among them, the Book of Massachai, which is the root for our word massacre, teaching priests and others how to murder, pillage and otherwise terrify people to force conversion.

I'm sorry, but that book has way too much blood on its hands over the centuries for me to find it credible; it has only been a tool of control and fear.

I do not intend to get into a flame war with you. You are entitled to your opinion, as am I. It is obvious neither of us will change the other's mind, so lets just leave it at agreeing to disagree.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 16 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Kylyssa, this is the first time I've heard anyone make a serious claim that Adolph Hitler was a Christian and attempting to follow God in what he did. I'll only say that that is extremely, definitely, and by far a minority opinion. Regarding your "how is it tyranny" sequence, none of that follows from the statement I made. Please read it in context. My point was that any standards of right and wrong you espouse, apart from God, are nothing more than your opinion. And yes, it is tyranny if I by force require other people to adhere to my opinion.

No, there are not tens of thousands of interpretations of basic morality among Christians. Beliefs about theological concepts vary, but not about the basics. Even beyond Christianity, there is widespread agreement about the basics of God-defined morality. C. S. Lewis calls this the Tao. It's not the content of this moral standard that I'm addressing in this hub, but its existence. Getting into the weeds of exactly what's in it is a task for another, in fact probably many other, hubs.

The question of requiring people to obey laws is a separate issue. Laws, at least in this nation, are not based on anybody's opinion about morality, but on the electorate's assessment of what works best for the society as a whole. In the past when there was consensus in the nation about being accountable to God, morality and law tracked pretty closely, in principle if not in practice. That is no longer the case. What I address here is not law but morality.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 16 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

DzyMsLizzy, I'm sorry that you were apparently offended by my response to your comment. That is never my intention, as I think you'll see if you examine any of the hundreds of comments I've made on this site. I had no knowledge of where your husband might have gone to school, and to be honest, based on your own comments about what he got out of it, I'm not sure how my saying some seminaries are not biblically up to par could be seen as a shot at him or you. In any case, if my inartful phrasing was offensive, I apologize.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 16 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, wrenchBiscuit.


colorfulone profile image

colorfulone 16 months ago from Minnesota

Ron, I agree with what you replied to my comment.

"Thanks, colorfulone. To my mind, this is a foundational issue that everyone needs to understand as they determine their personal stance regarding God."

I'll share this hub around once again.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 16 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks again, colorfulone. I appreciate that.


Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 16 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

Hitler wasn't an atheist. In fact, Hitler outlawed all atheist groups in Germany in 1933. During negotiations leading to the Nazi-Vatican Concordat of April 26, 1933 Hitler also stated that “Secular schools can never be tolerated” because of their irreligious tendencies.

His book, "Mein Kampf" is chock full of passages wherein he stated that he believed he was doing the work of God.

If you'd like to learn more, you could read a translation of Mein Kampf, which comes across as utter religious zealotry. I recommend you take it in small bites when you'll have people who care about you around afterward. I'm saying that as a person who found it literally nightmare-inducing. I don't even think God is real and the passion of his belief in such a vicious, evil version of God was deeply upsetting to me. One reason I found it so disturbing is that there's no way to really, truly know what version of God a believer earnestly worships. Hitler was by no means the only one to worship that ugly, vicious version of God. The KKK appears to follow a very similar and horrifying version of God.

Catholic bishops even threw Hitler's birthday parties in the late thirties and he spent time with cardinals and archbishops. His mother was extremely pious and he was utterly devoted to her. Plenty of photos of Hitler enjoying himself in the company of high church officials exist as do photos of him praying and enjoying Christian religious ceremonies. He stopped to pray at war memorials frequently, even when no cameras were around for it to serve as a photo op.

The SS did not admit atheists, in fact their oath required them to affirm they believed in God:

"What is your oath?" - "I vow to you, Adolf Hitler, as Führer and chancellor of the German Reich loyalty and bravery. I vow to you and to the leaders that you set for me, absolute allegiance until death. So help me God!"

"So you believe in a God?" - "Yes, I believe in a Lord God."

"What do you think about a man who does not believe in a God?" - "I think he is arrogant, megalomaniacal and stupid; he is not eligible for us."

You can see photos of Hitler hobnobbing with Catholics here: http://www.nobeliefs.com/nazis.htm

As to your disbelief in the existence of Christians with completely different morals than yours, I suggest you look around yourself and also make note of the fact that there are over 20,000 sects and denominations of Christianity, most of which disagreed with other Christian sects to the extent that they felt they had no recourse but to break away to practice Christian morality as they see it. Would you, for instance, be comfortable living by the morality of the Westboro Baptist Church or a Unity Church? The first would likely be severe to the point you'd find it immoral and the latter would support liberties you'd surely consider immoral. How about a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church or an Evangelical Lutheran Church? The first won't even let a virgin, celibate gay person be a minister but the second will marry gay people and they allow gay people to minister. There's no way that all Christians share a morality so similar it makes no difference. Otherwise, why would all those churches teach morality so different from each other?


Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 16 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

There is actual peer-reviewed evidence that violence causes harm to its perpetrators, its victims, and the society in which it occurs. There's real-world evidence that harm is not healthy for individuals or societies. There is also actual peer-reviewed evidence that kindness is good for its givers, its recipients, and the societies in which it occurs. Why shouldn't real-world evidence have any bearing on how people choose to live their lives? Why should morality be based on, and only based on your feelings about the God you believe in?

Ethics are based on observation and logic. A very common observation and logic concept common among humans is altruistic hedonism. It's an idea most humans arrive at somewhere around the age of 5 and continue to develop as they grow. It's the ability to generalize that since they like to be comfortable and happy and dislike being uncomfortable and unhappy other people do, too. It leads to a desire to help others avoid discomfort and find pleasure. By age five, most human beings, even if they are never told God wants them to, will try to comfort another suffering person, even if that person is unrelated. That is ethics-based morality.

The natural leaning of people is towards altruistic hedonism and it's an amazing survival trait for our species. It's a sign of fitness. It's part of that survival of the fittest you seem to think is so awful. Mother Theresa, by a great many accounts, was a devoted altruistic hedonist, providing love and comfort to incredible numbers of dying people. She contributed greatly to the health and fitness of our species and millions adored her for it. She was extremely fit.

There's empirical evidence all around us that doing harm has a negative effect and that helping people has a positive effect. There's also a mountain of empirical evidence that cooperation has a positive effect and conflict has a negative effect. You'd have to be home-schooled with some bizarre curriculum and raised in some kind of extreme cult to avoid seeing any of of that evidence.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 16 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Kylyssa, I stand by my statement that the idea that Hitler was operating as a Christian with the intent of being obedient to God in what he did is accepted by very, very few people. Remember that evil actors often attempt to cloth themselves with religious legitimacy (the Bible says the devil presents himself as an angel of light). Before accepting their claim, their ideas and actions must be judged against the core teachings of the faith they claim association with. That definitely applies to entities like the Westboro Baptist Church, which is considered an outlaw organization by the vast majority of those who understand the Christian faith.

Also, I'm well aware of the variety of sects that are considered Christian. There are many variations of interpretation among them. But, as I say, there is not wide variation about the basic moral standards God has set forth. Please note that I have made no argument that the existence of a God-given standard of morality means that everyone who believes in God will believe exactly the same things. There can and will be disagreements about some details of what that moral code requires. Some will misunderstand and some will misapply those precepts. But the main elements are almost universally understood. I’m not aware of any segment of Christianity that teaches, “thou shalt steal.”

Without God any definition of right and wrong can only be purely personal. As I said before, both Hitler and Mother Teresa considered what they did to be right. An atheist has no basis on which to say one was correct and the other not.

That’s what this hub is about: if we remove God from the equation, we are all reduced to doing what is right in our own eyes. And that is not morality.


Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 16 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

An atheist has evidence-based reasoning on which to base an opinion that Hitler was sick, twisted, and wrong and Mother Theresa was an excellent example of humanity at its best and fittest. Doesn't empirical evidence hold any weight at all with you? Would you convict a man of a crime based on your feelings alone or would the empirical evidence of his guilt or innocence have weight in your decision? If you'd weigh the evidence in that scenario, why is the evidence completely unimportant in all other moral judgments?

It really does not take a belief in Yahweh to realize that genocide is bad for individuals and for humanity. There's tons of empirical evidence that hurting people is bad. As to stealing, stealing is hurting people financially so, again, it's bad. You don't have to believe God commanded it to realize it's a good idea to avoid hurting people. It's a logical conclusion based on overwhelming evidence. The average human being figures out hurting people is bad by age five, so it can't be all that difficult. Grown-ups can see even more evidence and make even better sense of it. The majority consensus of humanity is that hurting people is bad. Some believe that because an authority told them so, others come to that conclusion by observation and reasoning, many people do both.

The Bible does not say "thou shalt steal" but it does command people to kill. Scott Lively, an American Christian, has supported the "thou shalt kill" movement in Uganda, calling for the execution of gays and using the Bible as his support. I think his "thou shalt kill" morality is vastly different from your morality yet he's still following the Bible.

By admitting that Hitler likely felt he was doing what his God wanted, you've admitted that God-based morality is just as subjective as any other. It is no less subjective than morality based on evidence and reason if people can experience it so differently. If God is in the equation, you're still only doing what you feel is right in God's eyes because you don't know the mind of God. There is no objectively proven means of two-way communication with God. If the mind of God were evident and knowable, people couldn't misinterpret His desires.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 16 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Kylyssa, you say "An atheist has evidence-based reasoning...that Hitler was sick, twisted, and wrong," and you claim to have "empirical evidence of his guilt." But, from an atheist perspective, of what was Hitler guilty?

You ask if I would use empirical evidence rather than feelings to convict someone of a crime. Certainly I would. But "crime" is violation of the law. Hitler was in a position to make his own laws, and did. So, the atheist can't convict him, or even say he was wrong, on the basis that he was a law breaker.

You say "There's tons of empirical evidence that hurting people is bad." Oh? Are you claiming that hurting people is universally accepted as bad? The world we live in makes it abundantly obvious, on the basis of “empirical evidence,” that that is not the case. The most the "empirical evidence" can say is that there are some people in some places in some parts of the world who have a belief, based on the particular histories of their particular societies, that hurting people is, in some circumstances defined by themselves, not acceptable to a majority of people in those societies. The "empirical evidence" is just as clear that many other communities of human beings around the planet do not share those particular prejudices. What puts you in a position to say that your opinion that hurting people is categorically bad is any more valid than the opinions of those who think cutting off the heads of infidels is right? Wouldn’t it be fair to say that attempting to elevate your view of what’s right over their view is an just another example of Western arrogance toward other cultures?

You claim the evidence demonstrates “that genocide is bad for individuals and for humanity.” But what evidence? And what do you mean by "bad"? As I say in the article, from an atheist perspective human beings are nothing more than soulless biological machines with no more significance or purpose than a housefly. How is it any more “bad” to turn off such a machine than to turn off your computer? In terms of the machine’s experience, from the moment it is deactivated it is exactly as if it had never existed. The one thing we know is that every one of those human machines will eventually be deactivated. So what does it matter whether it is deactivated a hundred years from now, or one minute from now? You say it will matter to those left behind. So what? They, too, are just soulless machines that will each, in its turn, also vanish into nothingness. Zero + zero +… ad infinitum is still zero.

You speak of a man who supports the killing of gays in Uganda based on his understanding of biblical morality. To attempt to characterize an entire group (those who claim to be believers in God) based on one or even several aberrant examples (jihadists, for instance) is a fallacy. Based on that fallacial reasoning you declare “God-based morality is just as subjective as any other.” To claim that someone’s erroneous application of a principle renders that principle “subjective” obviously makes no sense.

I believe in the law of gravity. Along with others who also believe in that law, I have been taught that if an object is released to free fall in the vicinity of the earth, it will accelerate toward the ground at a rate of about 32 ft/sec/sec. Therefore, the law of gravity gives me the ability to calculate the terminal velocity of an object dropped from a particular height. That does not, however, mean that I will always make such calculations correctly. I can guarantee you that multiplied thousands of science students have not! But that fact has no relevance to the existence or validity of the law of gravity. The fact that some of us make mistakes in applying the law does not render it “subjective.”

In fact, although our shared belief in the law of gravity cannot guarantee that we will all make correct calculations based on our belief in that law, it is only that belief that assures us that correct calculations regarding gravity do exist. Therefore it is highly meaningful, as any NASA engineer could tell you, to work hard at understanding how to correctly apply that law, even though some, perhaps many, mistakes will be made along the way.

That’s the way it is with God-based morality. Knowing there is a moral standard approved by God not only motivates us to do our best to adhere to it, but also gives us a basis for correcting the inevitable mistakes that will be made in applying it. It is only by acknowledging that the standard exists that we have a basis for rejecting and correcting faulty applications of that standard. Mistakes of application in no way render the standard “subjective.”

So, do atheists based their conclusions on “empirical evidence”? You have to ask yourself, empirical evidence of what? Remember that in logic, the most perfect reasoning will produce faulty results if it is based on faulty assumptions. And so far, all I’ve seen atheists produce as the basis for their conclusions are opinions about what they think is good or bad, along with the assumption that everyone else in the world should conform to their opinions. The idea that “by age five” human beings around the world will inevitably come to agree with your opinions concerning right and wrong is disproved by the “empirical evidence” that can be seen every day by anyone who watches the evening news.

I’ll say it one more time. Without an objective standard of right and wrong, there is no basis for judging anyone’s actions as moral or immoral. There is no basis for holding people morally accountable.

Finally, though it has no relevance to this discussion, I want to say for the record that I most emphatically do NOT acknowledge that Hitler was trying to implement any kind of God-based morality in what he did.


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 15 months ago from northeastern US

evolution has equipped us with empathy. we are machines who can feel. empathy lets us discover the golden rule. in christs own words, that is the essence of morality. every major religion agrees. the golden rule is a good basis for judging right and wrong whether you have a religion or none. only the most obtuse will fail to see this.


Snakesmum profile image

Snakesmum 12 months ago from Victoria, Australia

In my opinion, a decent set of ethics can exist without a belief in God. People with empathy do not, in general, go around hurting people or animals.

Although I disagree with you, I respect your beliefs.


wba108@yahoo.com profile image

wba108@yahoo.com 10 months ago from upstate, NY

"If human beings are indeed nothing more than bio-chemical machines, then a person has no more real purpose or significance than a housefly."

That's it in a nutshell, without a connection to Jesus our destiny is worse than meaningless, its also cruel. We were made to reveal Christ to the world!


adagio4639 profile image

adagio4639 10 months ago from Brattleboro Vermont

Hi Ron, back again. Nice to see this Hub gets so much activity. I really do enjoy our back and forth. It's always civil and never contentious.

You said this; "The reason I don't deal with the particular moral dilemmas you propose is because, in terms of the issue of how universal standards can be set in the absence of a Creator and Ruler who has the right to set them, they are red herrings."

Earlier, in one of my comments I presented the Consequentialist Moral Reasoning approach, which you clearly rejected. So do I by the way. I think we can see evidence of that kind of reasoning in any number of our politicians today and I think a utilitarian approach to morality is totally wrong headed. On the other side of the coin, I offered a different approach referred to as the Catagorical Moral Imperative, which is something that from your response, you actually subscribe to. I do as well. So we're closer than you might think when it comes to this subject. I think the only difference is that you prefer to inject a deity or Super being into the equation, which I don't find necessary which of course goes directly to the subject of this Hub.

The Catagorical Moral Imperative was something presented to us by the German philosopher Emmanuel Kant.

Kants groundwork is about two big questions.

1. First: What is the Supreme principle of morality?

2. Second: How is freedom possible?

Bear in mind a set of opposites, contrasts or dualisms that are related.

The first thing to consider is the motive according to which we act. According to Kant, only one kind of motive is consistent with morality. The motive of Duty. Doing the right thing for the right reason. What other kinds of motives are there? Kant sums them up in the category of inclination.

Duty v inclination

Motives:

Determination of will.

Imperatives.

Every time the motive for what we do, is to satisfy a desire, or a preference that we have, to pursue some interest, we’re acting out of inclination. Kant says insofar as we act morally, in so far as our actions have moral worth, what confers moral worth is precisely our capacity to rise above self-interest and prudence and inclinations and to act out of duty.

For an action to have moral worth it must be done for the sake of duty, not out of inclination. This is why the store owners actions had no moral worth. He did the right thing, but for all the wrong reasons.

If Reason determines my will, then the will becomes the power to choose independent of the dictates of nature or inclination or circumstance. Kant says there are two different commands of reason. Kant calls a command of reason an imperative. An imperative is simply an “ought”.

Hypothetical imperatives. IF/Then. If you want x, then do y.

IF you want a good business reputation, then don’t shortchange your customers. Word may get out. That is a hypothetical imperative.

If the action would be good solely as a means to some end, the imperative is hypothetical. If the action is good in itself, and therefore necessary for will which of itself accords with reason, the imperative is categorical.

A catagorical imperative commands without reference to or dependence on any further purpose. The actions are done for their own sake. Not for what they will get you.

What is the Catagorical Imperative. What is the Supreme principle of Morality?

The Catagorical Imperative: The formula of Universal Law.

“Act only on that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law”.

(Maxim = the rule that explains the reason for doing what you’re doing.)

The Golden Rule is a maxim.

The test, the way we can determine if a statement is at odds with the categorical imperative, is to try to universalize it. Universalize the maxim upon which you’re about to act. If everybody made false promises when they needed money, then nobody would believe those promises. There would be no such thing as a promise since nobody kept them anyway. So there would be a contradiction. The maxim universalized would undermine itself. That’s the test. That’s how we can know that a false promise is wrong.

The Formula for Humanity as an End. A second version of the Catagorical Imperative.

“We can’t base the Cat Imperative on any particular interests purposes or ends. Because then it would be only relative to the person who’s ends they were. But suppose there were something who’s existence has in itself an absolute value…an end in itself…then in it and in it alone there would be the ground of a possible categorical imperative”

What is there that we can think of that has an end in itself? Kant’s answer is this:

I say that man and in general every rational being, exists as an end in himself not merely as a means for arbitrary use by this or that will.

Kant distinguishes persons on the one hand, and things on the other. Rational beings are persons. They don’t just have a relative value for us, if anything they have an absolute value, an intrinsic value. Rational beings have dignity. They’re worthy of respect. This line of reasoning leads Kant to the second formulation of the categorical imperative which is this: ‘

“Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means but always at the same time as an end.”

It’s the idea that human beings as rational beings are ends in themselves not open to use merely as a means to some other end.

When I make a promise to you, I’m using you as a means to my ends. So I’m failing to respect you, your dignity, I’m manipulating you. Consider the example, the Duty against Suicide. Murder and suicide are at odds with the Catagorical Imperative. Why? If I murder somebody I’m taking their life for some purpose, either because I’m a hired killer, or I’m in the throws of some great passion or anger, I have some interest or purpose that is particular for the sake of which I’m using them as a means. Murder violates the categorical imperative. For Kant, morally speaking suicide is on a par with murder because what we violate when we take a life, including our own, we use that person, we use a rational being as a means and so we fail to respect humanity as an end. And that capacity for reason, that humanity, commands respect. That is the ground of dignity. That humanity, that capacity for reason, resides undiffernentiated in all of us. So I violate that dignity in my own person when I commit suicide and in murder when I take another life from a moral point of view, they’re the same. The reason they are the same is the universal character and ground of the moral law.

Respect is unlike love in this way. It’s unlike sympathy. It’s unlike solidarity or fellow feeling for altruism. Because love and those other particular virtues are reasons for caring about other people and have to do with who they are in particular. But Respect, respect is for humanity which is universal. For a rational capacity which is universal, and that’s why violating it in my own case is as objectionable.

It's clear to me that our sense of morality has evolved considerably over time. Slavery was justified in the Bible, and Consequentiialist Moral Reasoning was used to impose that hideous practice. Consequentialist moral reasoning tells us that the right thing to do is based on pain and pleasure. What gives the greatest amount of happiness to the greatest number is ALWAYS the moral thing to do. It's a numbers game. It's all about utility. It's about what is best for the greatest number. That's the measure of good. If slavery meant the greatest happiness for the greatest number, then it was morally acceptable to impose it. So morality becomes an algorithm. It is a procedure or formula for solving a problem and most problems have moral consequences to them. The consequentialist or utilitarian uses consequentialist reasoning to find his morality. If torturing one person means that you could save hundreds, then torture is morally, not only acceptable, but required.


adagio4639 profile image

adagio4639 10 months ago from Brattleboro Vermont

As another hypothetical test of our moral reasoning, we could ask this question:

Lets say that we captured a suspected terrorist that we think has a bomb ready to go off somewhere in the city. Bear in mind, he's "suspected". We have to find the bomb or hundreds might die. Do we torture him to find the bomb? Now the argument for torture is that if it would save hundreds, then what is one life compared to the number of people that might die if the bomb goes off. Some would say yes. Those people are called Republicans or Conservatives today. If we have to torture somebody to stop the bomb, then go to it. Torture is acceptable. Ok. But lets add a twist. Instead of torturing the "suspect", we also grab his 8 year old daughter, and we put her in the room with him watching, and we proceed to torture her instead of him. We start with one finger at a time. What's one finger, or two or three compared to the hundreds of lives at stake? Is it morally acceptable to do that? After all, the argument has nothing to do with WHO gets tortured. The logic of this doesn't care about who gets tortured. It's only about whether torturing somebody will stop the bomb from exploding. Remember, hundreds of lives hang in the balance. The entire reason for torturing anybody is to stop the bomb from going off. So if the consequentialist argument for moral reasoning is consistent, then torturing the daughter should be just as morally acceptable, even though she has nothing to do with this. If it stops the bomb, then the consequentialist/utiliitarian must say, torture the girl, or his logic is flawed and his moral reasoning as well.

I'm not of that school of thought. Personally, I reject consequentialist moral reasoning. I'm not a utilitarian.


adagio4639 profile image

adagio4639 10 months ago from Brattleboro Vermont

" the golden rule is a good basis for judging right and wrong whether you have a religion or none. only the most obtuse will fail to see this."

Is it really? I used to think so. Growing up I was taught the Golden Rule and I lived by it. But that doesn't mean that I haven't revisited that maxim and examined it more closely. You say that "only the most obtuse will fail to see this".

Let me throw this out at you. The Golden Rule, states "Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you". Take a good hard look at that. The reason for doing good to others here, is based on self-interest. You do unto others, because you want something in exchange. You're making a bargain. I'm going to treat you well, because I want something out of it. I want to be treated well. So the motive for doing good to others, is out of self interest. Not because it's the right thing to do. Jesus did not preach self-interest. It was self-sacrifice. What kind of morality preaches self-interest as it's highest goal? Do the right thing for the right reasons. Not because of what you hope to get out of it. I see no moral worth to that kind of thinking. I think it's only when we take ourselves out of the equation and universalize the action that we achieve a moral outcome. If we're only doing unto others because we want to be treated well, our motives are wrong. You should do unto others with respect regardless of what you get from it.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 10 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

wba108, you are right - having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the ultimate goal. The purpose of hubs like this is to help clear away the intellectual biases and logical fallacies that often stand in the way of people even considering Christ. Thanks for sharing.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 10 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi, adagio4639. I enjoyed reading your discussion of Kant’s Categorical Imperative. I must say, however, that Kant’s formulation suffers from the same deficiencies as every other attempt I’ve seen to establish some basis for morality apart from God. I’ll point out a few.

You say, “According to Kant, only one kind of motive is consistent with morality. The motive of Duty.”

OK. But here’s the problem: who defines and assigns that duty?

Can we agree, first of all, that no human being has a right to assign a duty to someone else? The whole system of slavery in the American South was built on the concept that slaves “owed” (had a duty to provide) labor to their masters. If you disagree, I still have some leaves on my lawn, and I assign to you the duty to come and remove them. I’ll expect you tomorrow.

Kant himself said that the imperatives resulting from duty cannot be based on subjective considerations. If there is no One who has the right to define and assign duties that are universally binding on all human beings, how can they be anything other than subjective. In other words, as I have emphasized at every turn in this discussion, how can they be anything other than someone’s personal opinion? And your opinion, or Kant’s, cannot be binding on anyone else.

Kant says, "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law without contradiction."

The most significant word in that sentence is “you.” Who, according to Kant, is the arbiter of what should become universal law? YOU! So, the entire concept of Kantian morality is tied to an individual’s personal assessment of what he determines, for whatever reason, to be right or wrong.

So, I (being strong) believe it should be a universal law that the strong rule with a rod of iron over the weak.

But, you say, “The actions are done for their own sake. Not for what they will get you.” But actions that are not performed for some purpose are nothing more than whims. I think what is meant is that actions must be done not for selfish but selfless reasons related to duty. That takes us right back to the question of who defines duty.

You say, “It’s the idea that human beings as rational beings are ends in themselves not open to use merely as a means to some other end.”

But if human beings are nothing more than accidents of evolution, as without God they can only be, in what way are they “ends unto themselves”? They are nothing more than purposeless biochemical machines that exist for a while, purely by accident, and then dissolve into eternal nothingness. If there is no purpose, then the existence of a person, or of humanity as a whole, is not an “end.”

Morality is about the standards to which every human being has an obligation (“duty”) to adhere, and for which he or she can and will be held accountable. But if that duty is defined only by someone’s opinion, no can be held accountable to it.

Is the Categorical Imperative anything more than just Kant’s opinion? Critics like Schopenhauer, Hegel, John Stuart Mill, and Jean-Paul Sartre don’t think so.

And neither do I.

[BTW, the one who talked about the golden rule being the basis of right and wrong was not me, but cathylynn99. And, in fact, I do not agree.]


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 10 months ago from northeastern US

life is what you make it. i am a feeling machine who chooses (but doesn' t have free will - i'm just plain lucky) to try to make myself and others happy and healthy over the long hall. if that doesn't make life worthwhile, i don't know what can.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 10 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

cathylynn99, I certainly agree that life is worthwhile, but not for the reasons you speak of. You say, "life is what you make it." That says "you" make decisions about how to conduct your life. But then you say you don't have free will. That means you do not make any decisions at all, but just respond to environmental inputs based on your organism's evolutionary programming. That self-contradiction is typical of what happens when people try to find purpose - or morality - in human life aside from God.


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 10 months ago from northeastern US

no free will and making choices that make a life aren't contradictory. it's just that luck has everything to do with the choices one makes and the life one has. it keeps me from feeling that i'm better than anyone. if they can't make a satisfactory life, it's fate, just like my satisfactory life is fate.


adagio4639 profile image

adagio4639 10 months ago from Brattleboro Vermont

@Ron: "You say, “According to Kant, only one kind of motive is consistent with morality. The motive of Duty.”

Right.

"Can we agree, first of all, that no human being has a right to assign a duty to someone else?"

Yes.

"If there is no One who has the right to define and assign duties that are universally binding on all human beings, how can they be anything other than subjective. In other words, as I have emphasized at every turn in this discussion, how can they be anything other than someone’s personal opinion? And your opinion, or Kant’s, cannot be binding on anyone else.

That was already answered. But I don't think you understand the answer based on what you've offered. You say this: "Kant says, "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law without contradiction."

You say "The most significant word in that sentence is “you.” Who, according to Kant, is the arbiter of what should become universal law? YOU! So, the entire concept of Kantian morality is tied to an individual’s personal assessment of what he determines, for whatever reason, to be right or wrong. What you are either missing or glossing over is this: "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law without contradiction." The key word is not YOU. The key word is Universal. In order for that to be universal, you must take YOU out of the equation. Otherwise you're acting out of self-interest. And the only thing preventing YOU from doing that is your own ego and desire to serve your own interest. Slavery was immoral. ( it still is of course) I was never a slave, but I can very easily universalize the issue even though it never effected me personally. I can look at that objectively. Every time the motive for what we do, is to satisfy a desire, or a preference that we have, to pursue some interest, we’re acting out of inclination. Kant says insofar as we act morally, in so far as our actions have moral worth, what confers moral worth is precisely our capacity to rise above self-interest and prudence and inclinations and to act out of duty. The slave owners all acted out of inclination in pursuit of their own self-interest. There is no moral worth in doing that. Would you not agree?

What we are talking about here is Morality. Our morality is all based on our own values. And you've already stated that "no human being has a right to assign a duty to someone else?" Therefore those values that determine our morality and the duty that we embrace are in fact subjective. Do you hold that values must be demonstrated as True? Because, values must be demonstrated as true, is just another value. And if so, can you demonstrate why that's true? Do you hold values (morals) than can't be demonstrated as true?

If you accept that humans have values/morals, then it’s "their" values. They are not dependent on demonstration, otherwise, why would we consider them "our" values?

“Truth is demonstrable” logically entails that “truth is not determined by humans”. Conversely, if you hold that “humans decide about the truth” then you can’t hold that “truth is demonstrable.” These are mutually contradictory ways of viewing the world. To make it clearer we could instead say, “truth/values/morality, is determined by human judgment” or conversely, “truth is determined unequivocally by demonstration.” Not only are these two ideas incompatible, as truth is a value and a moral judgment we as humans place on certain ideas or viewpoints, it makes no sense to say it can be determined by demonstration. It is determined by humans.

We might discuss certain consequences of holding or not holding the value or moral position. However as it is a value and a moral position, it is determined by human judgement, not any particular demonstration. So there can be no basis or criteria or standard. Otherwise that would be to remove the human element from this. Truth is determined by humans, not criteria or standards or bases. And our morality and our values MUST be grounded in Truth or there is no point in holding them. Moreover, a criteria cannot be its own criteria. Again, it is an issue of responsibility. Even assuming you have a criteria you think is adequate, ( and you do. You adopt a theistic view of a higher being or deity as the arbiter of Truth and the morality and values that accompany that truth), how did you determine that? Are you responsible for that judgement, or is the criteria responsible? Merely claiming a standard or a criteria or a basis does not help one to demonstrate the truth of values and morality. Instead, it creates a certain amount of hypocrisy. If we claim a basis gives us truth, and the morality and values that accompany that truth, we then are making the implicit claim that truth requires bases. But then it is plainly obvious our own basis lacks a basis, as it cannot be its own basis. By claiming truth must be demonstrated by bases we undermine our own moral integrity. A similar case might be made for the Christian who says that miracles support his faith in God. Is that not hypocritical? After all, faith is faith. It does not require proof. Similarly, from a Christian perspective, if a person is “good” because he wants to go to heaven, is he not being “bad” as he is pursuing selfish ends. He's acting out of self-interest. He has not universalized anything. He's sitting right in the center of his reasoning. He's not acting out of duty. He's not doing the right thing for the right reasons. If doing the right thing means it will effect his own self-interest, he'll do the opposite.

While I think that one can be willing to question “humans have values”, and therefore hold the position non-dogmatically, I don’t think that the notion that “humans have values” is logically compatible with “values are determined by demonstrations.”

Your Hub is "selling" the notion that morality requires "Faith" in God. And you give your reasons which unfortunately require some basis which then requires another basis to justify the first basis. What I'm doing is critiquing that claim. I don't believe that it has anything to do with that. Truth is a value. It is not the content of the assertion or idea. Therefore it is separate from the assertion or idea. I believe in the rational unity of man, reason is the same for all of is. Although the burden of truth falls on each of our shoulders individually, we are all united in the sense we share the same world. Truth is the same for all of us. There is only one truth. We’re each approaching it from different directions and positions and situations. Comparing, contrasting and criticizing these positions helps all of us to weed out error and get nearer to the truth. At least those of us who have an interest in the truth. I believe that we must work to share our ideas and take part in critical discussions and that this is how we progress. I propose a negative methodology. That means remove ourselves from the equation when considering questions of morality. Because if you don't, you're acting out of self-interest. And NOT out of Duty. And for an action to have moral worth it must be done for the sake of duty, not out of inclination.


adagio4639 profile image

adagio4639 10 months ago from Brattleboro Vermont

A catagorical imperative commands without reference to or dependence on any further purpose. The actions are done for their own sake. Not for what they will get you.

If Reason determines my will; and I believe in the rational unity of man, reason is the same for all of us, then the will becomes the power to choose independent of the dictates of nature or inclination or circumstance. If the action would be good solely as a means to some end, the imperative is hypothetical. If the action is good in itself, and therefore necessary for will which of itself accords with reason, the imperative is categorical. It's universal. I'm quite capable of doing that. And if I can do that, then it's not some kind of super-human thing that others can't do? Only you can take yourself out of the equation if you want to universalize any issue. Otherwise you're acting out of inclination and self-interest, and Jesus himself NEVER acted out of self-interest. He did everything out of self-sacrifice. His message was universal and not out of inclination.


savvydating profile image

savvydating 9 months ago

Humans are not able to create a standard of morality (on their own) that is higher than God's. When we do try, we deteriorate into Sophistry (to rationalize) or New Age thinking, the belief in god-as-self. This is also why we have, for the most part, allowed for a system of eugenics here in the United States and beyond---through abortion and euthanasia.

As an aside, I have yet to meet a die-hard, committed New Ager who is not either "really messed up" or who has become quite narcissistic in his thinking, especially if he has a "high" intellect (or so he believes) and who may also see himself as a self-appointed guru.

Interesting story about the robot.


adagio4639 profile image

adagio4639 9 months ago from Brattleboro Vermont

Of course they can. It's done all the time. And it always is a result of doing something with no regard to self-interest. First of all you can't tell me what Gods morality is or where it comes from. You can't even tell me that a God exists. You may believe that, but that doesn't prove that it's true. Your beliefs are yours, not mine. I could care less about them or your concept of morality for that matter. So what's left? What's left is operating from what I know to be real rather than imagined. That's what makes science and physics so fascinating. It's true whether you believe it or not. It was just announced today that a prediction that Einstein made one hundred years ago in 1915 that demonstrated the theory of relativity was verified as true.

For the first time, scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves, arriving at the earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. This confirms a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity and opens an unprecedented new window onto the cosmos.

Here's a question that the theist must face: Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?

The problem this question raises for the theist is two-fold. First, if a thing is good simply because God says it is, then it seems that God could say anything was good and it would be. This might include things that we instinctively know to be evil, like rape or murder. But we don't want a morality based on God's arbitrary declarations, so it seems this choice is a poor one for the believer. Would you consider something that you instinctively know is repugnant as morally good if God said it was? What would stop him from doing that? Assuming that God is omnipotent then he has the power to determine what morality is. If God is omnipotent, then what governs his sense of morality? If he's omnipotent, there can be no governor. He literally creates morality out of nothing. That makes morality arbitrary. It's nothing more than a whim. Do you really want to go there? However, if God is simply reporting a thing's goodness, then He is no longer the standard for goodness and seems to be at the mercy of some outside standard that informs him of what is morally good. But we don't want there to be a standard above God that He must bow to, so this response does not seem attractive, either. Hence the dilemma.

What informs God's sense of morality? If nothing informs him then morality is merely arbitrary. He could say anything is moral and, that makes it moral. He could say genocide was moral and that would make it so. Not that he would. But he could. What's stopping him? He's omnipotent. So what well does he draw from to decide what is moral and what isn't? What informs his morality? However if something does inform God of what is moral then that's coming from outside of God. So Morality exists outside of God. He gets his morality from someplace else. That means that there is something above God. But you don't want to go there do you ? So which is it? Are morally good acts commanded by God because they are morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?

"This is also why we have, for the most part, allowed for a system of eugenics here in the United States and beyond---through abortion and euthanasia."

What are you talking about? Eugenics? Euthanasia? where is this being done in the US?

To be honest I have yet to meet a die-hard born again Evangelical that hasn't completely gone off the deep end and committed to a life of complete hypocrisy, always telling us how God has forgiven them, which then allows them to go and do something else completely irrational, immoral and repugnant.

During the campaign in Iowa, Senator Ted Cruz, along with fellow GOP presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, spoke at a conference in Des Moines headed up by a man who advocates the execution of gay people -- per his interpretation of the bible -- and who made his call for mass extermination once again, onstage at the event, the National Religious Liberties Conference. Pastor Kevin Swanson has said in the past that Christians should attend gay weddings and hold up signs telling the newly married gay and lesbian couples that they "should be put to death." He was an advocate of Uganda's infamous "Kill the Gays" bill, which he saw as a model.

Why would anybody want to align themselves with a pastor that advocates extermination of human beings? and that's Christian? I'm sure this man calls himself a Christian since he was waving the Bible and shouting scripture while calling for the execution of Gays. But do you find anything moral about what he's saying?

Another person named Mike Bickle has endorsed Cruz and Cruz welcomed his endorsement. Even bragged about getting it. Bickle preaches at IHOP, (International House of Prayer) claims that there are less than 20 million Jews in the world and God is going to give them a chance to "come to Jesus", and if they refuse, then he'll send the hunters after them, and one of those hunters was Hitler. So God sent Hitler to hunt the Jews. And this guy is endorsing Cruz and Cruz is bragging about it. Do you find anything moral in this? All of these people claim to have very deep faith and are Christian to the bone. I call then Christionists. They practice Christianism. I don't find anything moral going on there, and I can find a moral code on my own that I find far superior to what these so-called Christians have to offer. I can find something that doesn't offend my sense of reason and demonstrates without a doubt, that I don't need faith or religion to inform my sense of morality.


adagio4639 profile image

adagio4639 9 months ago from Brattleboro Vermont

"Humans are not able to create a standard of morality (on their own) that is higher than God's. When we do try, we deteriorate into Sophistry (to rationalize) or New Age thinking, the belief in god-as-self."

Why not? What you're doing is simply making a value judgment regarding one belief, v. another. First of all you're operating on the assumption of God as a given. That's the major premise of your argument. Another person may simply reject that premise as a condition for the argument since you cannot demonstrate God, which means your arguing something metaphysical. You can't apply logic to this kind of argument. It requires that everyone suspends disbelief and simply accept the premise. In that sense, you're preaching. Can you demonstrate why humans are not able to create a moral standard for themselves? I think we do it all the time.

Do you hold that values must be demonstrated as True? Are your values different from your morals? I for one don’t think values can be demonstrated as true. Is not that hypocritical? IF you accept that humans have values, then it’s "their" values. They are not dependent on demonstration, otherwise, why would we consider them "our" values? If they could be demonstrated as true, then we'd all uniformly simply function from that demonstration.

It boils down to Truth doesn't it? Is truth determined by human judgment or is truth is determined unequivocally by demonstration? These are mutually contradictory ways of viewing the world. Not only are these two ideas incompatible, as truth is a value we as humans place on certain ideas or viewpoints, it makes no sense to say it can be determined by demonstration. It is determined by humans. If truth is a value then our morality must be wrapped in truth. What kind of morality would be false and still call itself moral? And if that's the case then we determine our morality for ourselves, just as we determine truth for ourselves.


savvydating profile image

savvydating 9 months ago

Adagio, I used the term 'eugenics' too loosely. My bad, and thank you for the correction. That being said, Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was a proponent of eugenics---when all is said and done.

As for any evangelical who bashes gays or Jews, I am not in agreement with them at all. Such talk is despicable and not Christ-like at all.

However, saints do walk among us. They just don't get much air time, nor do they seek it. But that's another subject.

As for God's morality, it has not changed. God is the same always. He is love.


adagio4639 profile image

adagio4639 9 months ago from Brattleboro Vermont

Thanks for the response Savvy. I wouldn't argue with what you just posted. I wouldn't take whatever Margaret Sanger had to say about Eugenics as representing the views of Planned Parenthood. She's no longer around. That would be like those that condemn today's Democrats for the evils of the Southern Dixiecrats that promoted Jim Crow and Segregation. They were the most conservative people in America and the party has no identification with them at all today. In fact, it's because of the liberalization of the party that those people have become Republicans today.

I agree that there are "saints that walk among us" today. They are hard to find since their voices are often drowned out by those with motives that are strictly self-serving.

My view of "Gods' Morality" takes on a different view, which I pointed out in a post above. The question I offered is " Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God? Your response doesn't really address this question. In fact, you avoid it. You speak of "Gods Morality" but you don't tell me where that morality comes from. Does it come from God? If so, then what informs God's sense of morality? If nothing informs him then morality is merely arbitrary. He could say anything is moral and, that makes it moral. He could say genocide was moral and that would make it so. Not that he would. But he could. That makes it possible. What's stopping him? He's omnipotent. So what well does he draw from to decide what is moral and what isn't? What informs his morality? However if something does inform God of what is moral then that's coming from outside of God. So Morality exists outside of God. He gets his morality from someplace else. That means that there is something above God and governs Gods actions. But you don't want to go there do you ? So which is it? Are morally good acts commanded by God because they are morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God? Is Gods morality arbitrary? Seriously, if he said the murder was morally acceptable, would you say, "Hold on a minute. That can't be right? Would God issue a moral command that you couldn't accept? Or would you simply say, If God says murder is morally good, them I accept it because God said so. What kind of blind acceptance of a "belief" that can't demonstrate itself as true would compel you to take that kind of direction for your life? When does your own reason kick in and say, that makes no sense to me.

My point here is that you accept that there is a God who dictates our morality. So your own morality is totally contingent on a belief which finds itself in a moral dilemma presented by the question that I offered. It's actually called Euthyphro's Dilemma, and was presented by Plato a long long time ago. So, you need to ask yourself, that question. " Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?" If the answer is that it's commanded by God, then morality is arbitrary and God could say morality is what he says it is even if you find it repugnant. Being omnipotent he could do that. And would you accept an immoral act if God commanded it? Or would you say, NO. That offends my sense of what is morally just.

If the answer is that what is morally good is commanded by God because it's morally good, then God is getting that from somewhere outside of God, meaning that God is governed by something else. But if God is God then what kind of source could inform him of morality, if not something outside of an omnipotent God. It would mean that God is NOT omnipotent and something else tells God what is moral.

It's this kind of thing that leads me to dig deep into my own sense of truth and continually put my own moral views to the test of whether they stand up under as many different situations as I can find. When I find a contradiction, I never accept or simply ignore the contradiction and pretend that it doesn't exist. It doesn't go away and hangs there over every decision we make. It must be addressed if Truth matters to us. And my beliefs NEVER override the Truth. If the Truth shatters my beliefs, then I'm better off for knowing that the belief was false. We are all fallible, and that means you just might be wrong about a lot of things, and that includes your belief system.


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 9 months ago from northeastern US

the judeo-christian god actually commanded genocide - men, women, children, even the animals.


Nudely 3 months ago

R.E.F.: "Yet without faith in God, there is no moral foundation for considering [mass murderous] acts to be wrong."

Nudely: Rubbish! (sorry!) Says who? I don't believe in God but I still feel a moral obligation to support my wife and cat. I also feel morally obligated to respect my mom and dad if for no other reason than for the life they've given me (although there are plenty of other reasons.) I feel a moral obligation to contribute to, rather than be a drag on, society. I know that if I want to become the world's "best" mass murderer ever by killing off everyone and everything that isn't me, that it will hasten my own demise! I depend on farmers, grocers, doctors, etc.

R.E.F. "If there is no Creator, humans are nothing more than accidents of evolution. They are in essence bio-chemical machines, no different, except in level of complexity, from a computer."

Nudely: Objection, your honor! The differences between humans and computers are our self-awareness, our sense of being, our sense of obligation to others of our own kind. We won't have that with computers until at least Windows v. 12 :-)

R.E.F.: "If God did not create human beings, then people, like computers, cannot possess anything that goes beyond the physical structures of their bodies. They have nothing that could be called a 'soul.' Thus, they are complex biological mechanisms, and nothing more."

Nudely: Hurray! We agree! You think you have a "soul" but it's the same flawed bit of faith that led you to believe you have a God! Greek philosophers as far back as Aristotle, and likely before, have conjectured that men must have souls and be the pawns of gods, although at least with respect to gods, theirs differ significantly from yours! Since their gods were different, were they moral? If we are complex biological mechanisms and nothing more, what of it? Sand is a simpler, non-biological compound, not even a mechanism, and yet it has purpose and meaning. It gives nice organic mechanisms like us fields to plant crops in, beaches to lie on, roads to travel down. Humans are nothing without sand, how is it any less important in the overall scheme of the universe?

R.E.F.: "If people are nothing more than biological machines, as without a Creator they can only be, there is no moral consideration in shutting any of those machines off. There is no moral dimension to anything one might choose to do to a machine."

Nudely: So people paused before "killing" the mechanical cat that begged for its life. That is a reflection of our innate humanity, that is a moment to ponder alternatives and the underlying meaning of the test. They know after they flip the switch to the OFF position, they can then return it to the ON position and the cat won't be dead anymore. Turning the switch off on a human is permanent.

More compelling to me than the mechanical cat exercise are the real life cases in the military, or onboard sinking ships, or what have you, where the commander has to sacrifice someone to keep the rest alive. A sailor can dive down to a hole in the ship with a patch, but it's so far removed that he'll only have enough air to get there and put the patch on, then he'll run out of air half way back. The captain, possibly religious, possibly atheist, orders sailor Jones to his death to save a hundred others. Does God judge the case differently based on the Captain's faith?

R.E.F. poll: Are people really any different from computers or robots?

Nudely: Kind of. I happen to be of the strict determinist school, or for the uninitiated, the school of pre-destination.

I like to shoot pool... I like to see if I can make two and three cushion bank shots, etc. So, when I start a new game, I rack the balls, chalk my cue, then give the cue ball a healthy poke. A fraction of a second later when the cue ball is speeding away but has only traveled an inch, events are in motion that are going to determine the final lie of the object balls in precisely one of a virtual infinity of different combinations. In cosmological terms, then, the cue ball smacking the triangular formation of balls is sort of like Big Bang. At some blink in time a fraction of a second later while the balls are still clunking and smacking into the cushions and into each other is like where we find ourselves now in space and time. At some point, many seconds later on the pool table when the last ball rolls to a stop, or billions of years from now in the universe when all molecular motion grinds to a halt, the end of possibility as we know it will have arrived.

Since I am just one small subset of the cosmic dust set in motion at Big Bang, I believe myself in the here-and-now to be on the rails of destiny. I believe my conscious self has no access to a "free will" steering wheel. If I can't change the past and only observe the now, odds are good that I can't change the future either. To have free will I need to be able to make decisions that isn't controlled by the shape, size, color, and receptivity, etc. of the axons, neurons, and other synaptic thingamajigs that define the functioning of my brain.

Forever is an awful long time though, and if I can exist once in a trillion eons, maybe I'll fall together again somewhere closer in time and space to Raquel Welch when she reappears. ;-)

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