• God is a consequentialist

    So here is an essay that I wrote earlier this year. I am posting it to see what you think, but also because I am writing a post on a connected idea based on a  paper by Stephen Maitzen on how morality presupposes atheism. Fascinating stuff. Anyway, comments below please.

    Morality is one of the cornerstones of any philosophy. This is because almost every action one can conceive of has a moral dimension. When we eat, is what we eat morally or ethically sourced? When we buy a product, maybe a car or similar, are we making a morally good decision to do so or could we make a better choice in our method of transport? Is a sum of money better spent on charity or donated directly to the end user? These and infinite other choices are faced every moment of every day by every person in the world to one degree or another. Thus any and every religion, which purport to have a prescriptive or descriptive interest in the actions of its adherents, is inherently entangled with notions of morality.

    This crossover is something I aim to investigate in this essay. In particular, I look at claims of morality from proponents of Christianity, most notably philosophers such as William Lane Craig, who make claims that God is the grounding entity of objective morality. During the course of this essay, I will look to show that God is, in fact, through the evidence shown in his actions (permissive or direct) of recent times and from the bible itself, a moral consequentialist. This idea will then be contrasted with the idea that Christians claim that God is the arbiter of objective morality, and without whom objective morality could not exist. This is used both an argument for God or for objective morality depending on which direction one looks at it. Finally, I will conclude that God is either not an adherent to objective morality, or he values moral actions on the consequences which they create over and above any intrinsic value which they may or may not imbue. In effect, this conclusion will seek to undermine such claims that either God exists, or that he is the arbiter of objective morality.

    However, let us first look at defining terms within the discipline of moral philosophy, from morality itself through to objective morality and consequentialism.

    Firstly, let us deal with the definition of morality itself. As the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy claims, morality is one of two things[1]:

    1. descriptively to refer to some codes of conduct put forward by a society or,

    a. some other group, such as a religion, or

    b. accepted by an individual for her own behavior or

    2. normatively to refer to a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons.

    Though there are two definitions here, I will be using the second definition, the one of normative morality for two reasons. Firstly, I will do so because by normative ethics (and though there are some nuanced differences that can be argued, I will use ethics and morality interchangeably here), one means a code of ethics which, as R.M. Hare claims, is “universalisable”. This is crucial because this implies that the code can and should be understood by all rational persons, unlike, say, moral relativism or moral nihilism (the beliefs that facts can differ from society to society or that moral facts, or morality as a whole, does not exist at all, respectively)[2].

    One could argue that I am using a form of circular reasoning, or question begging, since I am denying any form of moral non-realism or anti-realism here, in favour of an assertion that there are moral facts. In a sense I am doing this, and I will not particularly seek to defend this stance philosophically. I am assuming moral realism, the belief that an action can be right or wrong, and that these constitute moral facts, because I am seeking to tackle views of theists who themselves believe in moral facts. Thus I am looking to tackle theists on their own grounds. In a sense, it is almost irrelevant as to whether this position is tenable or not.

    Secondly, I will use a normative definition of morality, as opposed to a descriptive one, because such a code attempts to rationally prescribe how one should act, which a descriptive code (by its definition) cannot do. This, again, fits into the mode of arguing that theists themselves adopt – claiming that humans should act in a particular way, and this duty is grounded in God. In this way, actions can be moral or immoral, good or bad, and there is some kind of framework or mechanism with which one can value such actions. In simple terms, an action which is moral (as opposed to immoral) can be seen as good, and one which is immoral can be seen as bad. We should strive to do that which is good. As mentioned, there is much that can be said about this, but for the sake of this essay, I shall leave it at that.

    Next, let us look at objective morality, what is meant by the term, who argues for and adheres to it, and why.

    William Lane Craig is a prominent American philosopher, theologian and Christian apologist, presently working as research professor at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, California. He has written many papers, journals, books and essays but is just as well known on the debate circuit where he has a formidable reputation as a debater for the existence of God and has debated many prominent philosophers and academics of many different disciplines. Heralded by many Christians as being a thinker who epitomises a faith defended by reason and academia (such that one of his most famous books is called A Reasonable Faith), he often uses what he calls The Moral Argument to propose a proof for the existence of God. The argument is formulated as follows:

    1) If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.

    2) Objective moral values and duties do exist.

    3) Therefore, God exists.[3]

    As we can see, this argument proves that God exists if we first allow for the truth of premises 1 and 2, that objective moral values rely on the existence of God for their own ontology. Moral deontologists, who believe in objective moral oughts on their own merit, such as the Categorical Imperatives of Immanuel Kant, would beg to differ with this claim. The second premise claims that objective moral values do exist. Let us investigate what this claim entails.

    Now objective is a very slippery and difficult term since it can be applied in so many contexts. Objective, in this case, is defined by Craig himself (2008, p. 173):

    To say that something is objective is to say that it is independent of what people think or perceive…

    … To say that there are objective moral values is to say that something is good or evil independently of whether any human being believes it to be so. Similarly to say that we have objective moral duties is to say that certain actions are right or wrong for us independently of whether any human being believes them to be so.

    The problem that Craig seems to fall into in his writing is not really establishing the value system of this ‘objective morality’ other than by asserting that it comes from (finds its locus in) God. In other words, he claims that theism is the only pathway towards an objective morality without establishing a value code for said morality. There seems to be no explanation as to how one can value separate actions and compare them to each other and yet there is an implicit understanding that acts can be more or less good or bad than other acts. For example, is raping a small child more morally reprehensible than stealing a loaf of bread, or not giving a beggar some money, or kicking the beggar? All of these actions, for one who adheres to objective morality, must surely have different moral worth, different moral value? Craig provides no method of comparing, no formula with which to calculate moral worth or value of any given action.

    In A Reasonable Faith, Craig refers to the thinking of moral philosopher William Sorley to try to clarify matters (p.105):

    Where, then, does objective moral value reside? Sorley answers: in persons. The only beings that are bearers of intrinsic moral value are persons; non-personal things have merely instrumental value in relation to persons. Only persons have intrinsic value, because meaningful moral behavior requires purpose and will.

    However, Craig is not clear on whether actions count as things which can hold moral value. It seems, though it is perhaps not explicitly stated, that actions have intrinsic moral value; that is to say, they have moral value in and of themselves, without needing to make reference to anything else. Such actions, in a moral sense, might be seen by the theist as being non-derivative, acting as an axiom that cannot be reduced to anything else.

    Craig, in his other writing[4], admits that “human beings do possess intrinsic moral value” such that there is intrinsic moral value within humanity. This goodness is seen in relation to God himself. As Paul Copan states in his book with Craig (Copan (2007) p. 91):

    We would not know goodness without God’s endowing us with a moral constitution. We have rights, dignity, freedom, and responsibility because God has designed us this way. In this, we reflect God’s moral goodness as His image-bearers.

    Such intrinsic moral value in people and their actions (as opposed to their moral sense and understanding of moral actions) is echoed in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (p. 431-446), where Mark D. Linville states:

    Moral agency is thus what we might call a dignity-conferring property.

    If such an argument is to succeed at all, one requirement is that morality itself must be of intrinsic rather than instrumental value.

    Now, as mentioned, this doesn’t really allow us to compare actions against other actions to decipher a comparative moral worth. Instead we have a claim that moral worth lies in the actor, the agent. This is predominantly because Craig denies the Platonic existence, the abstract existence, of ‘good’. He argues[5] that goodness must reside in God or the person doing the action (as opposed to the action itself). Either way, then, there is intrinsic moral value whether it be in the action itself or in the agent. This intrinsic moral value is nonrelational or non-derivative. This could be either in the form of the action holding an intrinsic, non-instrumental value[6], or in the form of the agent and their intention which is based on a reflective nature in relation to God himself.

    For the purposes of this essay, I am not all that interested in whether this, as a moral theory, holds in light of any criticism (other than any I may duly give), only that it is held by many Christian philosophers and apologists.

    Now let us turn to an alternate view of morality known as consequentialism. This theory, as one might guess, implies that moral worth is conferred by the consequences to an action, as opposed to the action itself. These normative properties are themselves universalisable; they are moral facts and mean that any such theory is a moral realist theory, despite how it may intuitively appear. There are different kinds of consequentialism, but we will look here at how moral rightness can be derived from the consequences of an action, or indeed the intentions behind said act. In this way, consequentialism theoretically has the characteristic of being able to compare moral actions. If the consequences are measureable, then one can determine whether the rape of a child is worse than stealing a loaf of bread.

    The most common version of consequentialism is utilitarianism, in one form or another. Classic utilitarianism, which was championed by the likes of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill in the 18th and 19th centuries, claims that an act is good if the total amount of good minus the total amount of bad resulting from the act creates a net good. The intrinsic value that is necessitated from any comparable moral system is pleasure (with the antithesis being pain). The utility needs to be intrinsic because the nature of an intrinsic characteristic is that it is non-derivative. This means you cannot see it in terms of anything else. For example, one might buy Fair Trade tea instead of normal tea. This is because the Fair Trade tea commands a higher price which is fed back to the original farmers and workers, paying for schools and education for their children which in turn gives pleasure to the families. The money and services provided for the workers are further derived into pleasure. Pleasure, often seen as happiness, is seen as intrinsic because you can no further derive it. When someone talks of reasons for doing something, one can always continue asking the why question (such as “why is that good?”), as one might do in the above example. We don’t stop asking “why” at the point where it is stated that the tea commands a higher price (that would not make the act ‘good’). However, when one is greeted by the answer “because it makes him happy” and then follows this with a “why”, the answer becomes tautologous such that “it makes him happy because it makes him happy”. This tautology is not fallacious since the feeling of pleasure or happiness is pleasurable. This pleasure is an axiom that cannot be further reduced. Rational and sane people would rather feel happy than sad because happy is a positive feeling – it feels good to be happy. This is the basis of utility and utilitarianism, at least as far as original utilitarian Jeremy Bentham was concerned.[7]

    The idea of consequentialism can clearly be seen in the famous Trolley Problem[8]. Utilitarians would invariably flip the switch[9] so that the trolley would go along the track that would kill only the single person as opposed to the five people, since less pain would result. The theist believing in objective morality of the sort previously mentioned would not do so since this would be using a human as a means to an end. The human is imbued with moral dignity and cannot be morally instrumental. Craig says that no human being has the authority to take an innocent human life. Such an action is tantamount to “playing God”[10]. This is a clear distinction between the two moral systems.

    This rather simplified look at the two separate (albeit objective) moral codes will suffice for the purposes needed here. The next aspect of morality to visit is the action of God himself. Throughout the bible there are countless examples of deaths, injuries and actions that can be seen in a moral light, from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah to the sacrifice of Jesus himself. I am going to take one event from the bible and one event from more recent times and investigate them further.

    Firstly, let us look at the global flood involving Noah. I will assume a literal understanding of the Genesis passage which narrates the event, though I am cognisant of symbolic and other interpretations of the passage. In this passage (Genesis 6-9), God is revolted by all the sin committed by humanity and sends down a flood to kill all of humanity bar eight and all animals bar two of each kind (Genesis 6:7):

    So YHWH said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the ground, man and beast and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

    The classical interpretation of the characteristics of God is that he is at the same time omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent. His all-loving characteristic is one with which we find most interest in this context. Let us look at the act of destroying all the world’s population bar eight and all the world’s animals bar two of each kind. Is this an act that could be said, in and of itself, to be benevolent? Surely not. Surely such destruction of people apparently endowed with moral dignity and of animals with no moral value per se must not have intrinsic moral goodness. So how can such an act be seen as being morally good, if not in the intrinsic value of the act? The context is everything here. There are two ways of looking at this. The first is retribution. Humans could have been so sinful as to deserve almost entire eradication. Aside from this being an incredibly unlikely scenario (let us assume that this might be the case), this retributive punishment is incoherent with the death of a myriad of morally unaccountable, yet sentient, animals. Furthermore, retribution actually offers little in the way of constructive usefulness past a sort of deterrence which could be achieved in other ways without so much death, I wager. It could be argued that retribution has some moral value itself, but only insofar as it pertains to gaining pleasure for the agent. It would be easier to argue that catching the thief and putting him through successful rehabilitation would be a morally greater course of action than a retributive one.

    The second way of looking at this is that God was trying to achieve a greater good in this seeming ‘evil’. Perhaps God needed to do this potentially harsh act in order to achieve a particular (all-loving) end. If this is the case, then God (whose acts can only be seen as morally perfect) is using this event and the lives of all those who perished to achieve an end. This is clearly a form of consequentialism. The moral value of the event was not in the event itself, but derived from the consequences, even though we might not know what these were. As is often cited as an answer for difficult moral dilemmas involving God, who knows the mind of God? God moves in mysterious ways!

    Let us look, then, at a more recent event. The tsunami of 2004 has some poignant parallels with the global flood event. The world was shaken by the sheer force and fallout of such a massive natural phenomenon. Some 280,000 people died, as well as entire ecosystems and potentially billions of organisms perishing. God, with his classic characteristics, would have known this was going to happen and would have had the power to stop it. Being all-loving, all we can possibly conclude from his permissive will is that the tsunami must have served some greater good in order for it to be permitted by an omnibenevolent Creator deity.

    It is difficult to second guess such reasons for allowing destruction of this magnitude. It could be a combination of reasons, seen by theologians as theodicies, or theories which seek to answer the Problem of Evil[11], such that it might seek to be character-building or soul-building (the Irenaean Theodicy) for the survivors (or even those who perished). The generally accepted maxim by Christian philosophers is that we cannot know the mind of God and he has his reasons (that perhaps we do not have the capabilities to understand) but that there must be a reason or a greater good to come from such suffering. In a debate with Jeffrey Jay Lowder, Phil Fernandes (a philosopher of religion and theologian) stated[12]:

    “A theist … would have to argue that this is the greatest possible way to achieve the greatest possible world… God often uses evil and human suffering to draw people to himself. Now God’s ways and thoughts are far above our understanding and even the Scriptures state that. At best atheistic arguments show that limited minds can’t fully understand why God allows so much evil…”

    This sort of rationalisation is commonplace, and William Craig has also reached similar conclusions when talking of the Problem of Evil in debates and also in his writing[13]:

    Again, such an assumption is not necessarily true [that an omnibenevolent God would prefer a world without evil]. The fact is that in many cases we allow pain and suffering to occur in a person’s life in order to bring about some greater good or because we have some sufficient reason for allowing it. Every parent knows this fact. There comes a point at which a parent can no longer protect his child from every mishap; and there are other times when discipline must be inflicted on the child in order to teach him to become a mature, responsible, adult. Similarly, God may permit suffering in our lives in order to build us or to test us, or to build and test others, or to achieve some other overriding end. Thus, even though God is omnibenevolent, He might well have morally sufficient reasons for permitting pain and suffering in the world.

    This is a clear exposition of the notion that the moral value of God’s decisions is being evaluated by an analysis of the consequences.

    Therefore, we have a situation whereby theists claim an objective, intrinsically-based moral system, and yet we have clear evidence and acceptance by those same theists that God employs a consequentialist moral system himself with at least a great deal of actions. One must remember that by accepting that there are successful theodicies, such as the free will theodicy, then one accepts that the consequences justify the action. In other words, theodicies (by their definition) are consequentialist. Where does this leave us? Well, there are two options.

    Firstly, this moral consequentialism could be mutually exclusive with regards to any other moral code. Thus there might, given the evidence for divine consequentialism, be no objective morality such as is suggested by the likes of William Lane Craig. This would entail that theists ‘had their ideas of morality all wrong’. This would require some serious rethinking from said philosophers since they often criticise atheism from a moral standpoint, denigrating philosophies such as consequentialism and utilitarianism as being inferior to a morality grounded in God. For example, David S. Oderberg states (2007, p. 5):

    I have given a number of fairly abstract reasons why consequentialism is on the face of it unintuitive and unmotivated. But I also think it is straight out false, and not only false but an evil and dangerous theory – a view I am not alone in holding.

    Alternatively, such moralities are not mutually exclusive but can be used in conjunction with each other. Thus an act might be intrinsically morally good as well as being consequentially good. However, a major problem presents itself here. What happens when one morality delivers a ‘good’ verdict whilst the other a ‘bad’ verdict? This consequentialism evidenced in God’s ‘reasoning’ is clearly more meaningful, more valuable, than any intrinsic moral value. Let us look at the events of both floods – one directed by God and one permitted by God (such an ‘act’ is often seen as a moral omission) and even designed into the system. God has allowed or directed these similar events causing widespread pain, suffering and death, involving both humans and animals, and seemingly rationalises these acts by valuing the consequences (greater good) of the acts over the suffering of the acts themselves. In other words, the moral value of the consequences of these acts outweighs any potential intrinsic value which may be claimed of the acts. This implies that intrinsic moral value, if it does exist, is effectively meaningless or valueless since it is consistently, through the bible and history, trumped by value of the consequences.

    In fact, by God allowing every single bit of suffering, every single death, that has ever happened to any human being or animal since the Big Bang (or Genesis Creation) we can see that on every single occasion God has been consequentialist. The consequences of every single piece of suffering must (if God is all loving, powerful enough to have it otherwise and knowledgeable enough to know how to have it otherwise) outweigh the intrinsic ‘badness’ of the suffering. Thus, even if intrinsic moral values exist as well as consequentialism, it seems that consequentialism trumps intrinsic moral value every time suffering is allowed to happen.

    There are many guises to such moral consequentialism because every ‘choice’ God made in designing the world had a moral dimension. As I wrote in The Little Book of Unholy Questions (p. 124-7) as a direct question to God:

    297. Couldn’t we all have been photosynthetic organisms, using sunlight and inanimate molecules to make our energy thereby avoiding the need to kill other animals for survival?

    … There is no reason why, from an all-loving point of view, animals should exist by necessarily killing other animals and plants.

    Of course, for the purposes of this essay, we don’t need to know what the greater goods are, just that they exist such that we know that God acts, as a morally prefect being, and the acts are morally valued by their consequences, their greater goods. Having pitted these two moralities against each other and seen that consequentialism appears to come out as the winner, let us look at some possible objections.

    Objections

    Some claim that God has the right, through his maximal authority, to intervene consequentially (using humans as a means to an end in a way that humans ought not do), thereby sort of sidestepping this form of morality. In David McNaughton’s paper Is God (almost) a consequentialist? Swinburne’s moral theory, McNaughton looks at noted Christian philosopher Richard Swinburne’s approach to god’s moral dimensions. McNaughton points out, against consequentialism (and switching the trolley track) that we humans do not have the right to interfere in another’s life, either for their own good or the good of another. This is based on the notion that we do not have the ‘authority’ to do so. However, as he states, carers do have this right, whether in the guise of parents, a care home or even the state. But does this right get God out of a moral corner?

    If it is wrong for us to harm others for good ends, how could God make it permissible and even obligatory by his commands? The answer is that for Swinburne the only reason why we may not do these things for good ends is that we lack the authority. Since God has that authority, he can authorise us. So the underlying structure of Swinburne’s moral theory is much less deontological than might at first appear. This is made clear in his proposed amendment to Kant’s famous second formulation of the Categorical Imperative: ‘It is … permissible to use someone for the good of others if on balance you are their benefactor, and if they were in no position to make the choice for themselves’ (1998, 233).[14]

    Whilst McNaughton seems to conclude that God is almost a consequentialist based on a distinction of rights, to me this is a red herring. Whether one has the right to use a consequentilist morality or not is neither here nor there when the evidence clearly points to the fact that such a code is being employed. Both Swinburne and (to a lesser extent) McNaughton are trying to derive deontological[15] duties from the rights of humans and apply these to humanity and God. However, it seems they fall into a trap of slippery slope fallacy of being unable to define when an act remains a deontological act, and when it slips into consequentialism (McNaughton 2003 p. 9):

    Sometimes harming someone is morally acceptable. For example, to save them from worse harm, or when inflicting a justified punishment, or when the person harmed is a willing volunteer seeking to achieve some considerable good. But it is generally accepted that it is wrong seriously to harm innocent people, without their consent, even when it is done for the general good.

    There seems to be no discernible way or separating consequentialism from a greater deontological duty past an appeal to intuition. Thus claims of divine consequentialism hold in light of a failure to properly establish that God really does have the moral authority to cause a great deal of harm for a supposed moral duty, and how this is not, in fact, consequentialism.

    Perhaps a more robust defence comes from William Lane Craig himself. The intrinsic moral value of people is a reflection of God’s nature and moral actions are appropriated through divine commands. Divine Command Theories are moral theories which derive moral obligation as such[16]:

    According to the version of divine command ethics which I’ve defended, our moral duties are constituted by the commands of a holy and loving God.

    … On divine command theory, then, God has the right to command an act, which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been sin, but which is now morally obligatory in virtue of that command.

    Now there certainly seems to be a circularity to this approach – morality is defined by the command, and yet we have no independent benchmark against which to judge the goodness of such commands. In this way, we cannot decipher whether something is good or not, or whether a command is right because of its goodness or merely because it was commanded by an entity deemed good. This is explained further in the following paragraphs and with P. Wesley Edwards’ quote. Space does not permit a critique of Divine Command Theories (DCTs) and their circularity, but for reference, see Wesley Edwards (2004).

    Craig’s approach is to establish our morality in a reflection of God’s commands (such as “Love thy neighbour”), but to deny God the same moral obligation[17]:

    Since God doesn’t issue commands to Himself, He has no moral duties to fulfil. He is certainly not subject to the same moral obligations and prohibitions that we are. For example, I have no right to take an innocent life. For me to do so would be murder. But God has no such prohibition. He can give and take life as He chooses. We all recognize this when we accuse some authority who presumes to take life as “playing God.” Human authorities arrogate to themselves rights which belong only to God. God is under no obligation whatsoever to extend my life for another second. If He wanted to strike me dead right now, that’s His prerogative.

    However, I would contest this sort of approach for several reasons. Initially, it is problematic in a pragmatic sense, as Wesley Edwards states[18]:

    As we’ve seen, when confronted with what would normally be considered crimes against humanity, the theist will respond in various ways, none of them satisfactory: “We are His creations, and He can do as He pleases,” or “God is good regardless of His actions, just in ways that are beyond us.” Stripped of our own ability to know an evil deed when we see it, we now have to first ask: “Who did it?” One is reduced to saying, “I don’t know if it was evil until you first tell me whether or not God did it. I’ll even do the deed myself, no matter how bloody or genocidal, if you first convince me that God ordered it.” Uncritical obedience to orders ultimately becomes the only criterion of moral behavior, even when the rule is infanticide, such as illustrated in Gen 22:2 where Abraham is told to slaughter his own son. Indeed, Abraham’s willingness to blindly follow orders – even with the tortured, frightened screams of his own child in his ears – is held up as the supreme example of moral “goodness” we should all follow.

    If it is true, as some theists claim, that “God communicates to us our sense of judgment for determining right and wrong,” then shouldn’t we naturally sense moral beauty in these O.T. [Old Testament] atrocities, since they were sanctioned by God? Fortunately, few do. But even if our moral instinct is one of revulsion, we are told to remember that good is defined by God. Anything He does is good by definition, no matter what: healing sick children or having them ripped apart by wild animals. Curiously, many Christians have often complained at this point that “things were different in the Old Testament.” In other words, their “absolute” morals were different in the past. Such a view ironically turns their absolutism into a rather extreme form of moral relativism.

    Please excuse the long quote, but I think Wesley Edwards points out the flaws to Craig’s approach with clarity and force. As well as DCTs being circular in nature, they suffer the issues of not being particularly good pragmatic guides of how to act morally since we are unable to fathom exactly what would be morally commanded by God and how to comparatively rate different actions morally. There is an epistemological issue with how we would know how and if God had communicated a command to us and so on.

    Furthermore, Craig tries to drive a wedge between moral obligation and a moral ‘good’ such that God is exempted from obligations or moral duties / oughts. However, this does not exempt his actions from being morally valued. Craig would say that the value is necessarily good, since it comes from God’s nature but this is begging the question. Moreover, the moral value (which may well be good, and necessarily so) seems to still be derived, in so many cases (as I have exemplified) from the consequences of the actions. From every design facet to every death in the bible, to every unit of pain and suffering experienced in the world, God must be valuing his own actions and omissions on the basis of their consequences. I can see no way around this conundrum.

    To conclude, despite various potential objections, it seems apparent that the moral value derived from the actions of God have their basis in the consequences of those actions, and not in their intrinsic morality (if this exists at all). Either the objective morality claimed by theists does not exist, or it is consistently trumped by the consequences of the actions. Whether the consequences are defined with a classical utility – or something else, such as justice or love – is neither here nor there, as this can be discussed elsewhere. What is apparent is that if this is the case, then theists might do well to adjust their own moral philosophy, or to explain why the moral code of God is different from our own, if God is supposed to be the moral benchmark against which we all act, and whose moral nature is reflected in our own personal moral dignity.

    Notes

    [1] Definition of Morality, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/morality-definition/ (retrieved 28/12/2011)

    [2] This is oversimplifying matters, necessarily, as I could also introduce ideas of moral and / or reasons internalism and externalism here. For further reading, I would advisw seeing Williams (1981) p. 101-13.

    [3] Craig (2008) p. 172

    [4] “Subject: Abortion and Presidential Politics”, http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6351 (retrieved 30/12/2011)

    [5] For example, Moral Values and Abstract Objects http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=9138 (retrieved 28/01/2012) where he says, “It follows, then, that the Good cannot be an abstract object, since there are no uncreated abstract objects. So on my view neither numbers nor moral values are abstract objects. Rather I take the Good to be a concrete object, namely, God Himself. God Himself is the paradigm of Goodness.”

    [6] An example of instrumental value would be money which is not valuable in and of itself, but construed by the person(s) doing the valuing such as society or the individual.

    [7] As Jeremy Bentham (1789) p.1 said, “Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do. On the one hand the standard of right and wrong, on the other the chain of causes and effects, are fastened to their throne. They govern us in all we do, in all we say, in all we think …”

    [8]The original problem runs like this: Suppose that a judge or magistrate is faced with rioters demanding that a culprit be found for a certain crime and threatening otherwise to take their own bloody revenge on a particular section of the community. The real culprit being unknown, the judge sees himself as able to prevent the bloodshed only by framing some innocent person and having him executed. Beside this example is placed another in which a pilot whose aeroplane is about to crash is deciding whether to steer from a more to a less inhabited area. To make the parallel as close as possible it may rather be supposed that he is the driver of a runaway tram which he can only steer from one narrow track on to another; five men are working on one track and one man on the other; anyone on the track he enters is bound to be killed. In the case of the riots the mob have five hostages, so that in both the exchange is supposed to be one man’s life for the lives of five. – Philippa Foot, The Problem of Abortion and the Doctrine of the Double Effect in Virtues and Vices (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1978)(originally appeared in the Oxford Review, Number 5, 1967.)

    [9] It is interesting to note that, according to the philpapers results[9], a large majority of 68.2% of philosophers would flip the switch as a utilitarian would.

    [10] Slaughter of the Canaanites, http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5767 (retrieved 21/12/2011)

    [11] There are many formulations of this and I have selected this one:

    1. God exists.

    2. God is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good.

    3. A perfectly good being would want to prevent all evils.

    4. An omniscient being knows every way in which evils can come into existence.

    5. An omnipotent being, who knows every way in which an evil can come into existence, has the power to prevent that evil from coming into existence.

    6. A being who knows every way in which an evil can come into existence, who is able to prevent that evil from coming into existence, and who wants to do so, would prevent the existence of that evil.

    7. If there exists an omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good being, then no evil exists.

    8. Evil exists (logical contradiction).

    (The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “The Evidential Problem of Evil”, Nick Trakakis)

    [12] On September 26, 1999 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Jeffery Jay Lowder, then President of Internet Infidels, Inc., and Phil Fernandes, President of the Institute of Biblical Defense, debated Naturalism vs Theism.

    [13] The Problem of Evil, William Lane Craig, http://www.bethinking.org/advanced/the-problem-of-evil.htm (retrieved 01/01/2012)

    [14] McNaughton (2003), p. 27

    [15] The belief that moral obligations or rules drive reasoning for moral actions.

    [16] Slaughter of the Canaanites, William Lane Craig, http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5767 (retrieved 01/01/2012)

    [17] Slaughter of the Canaanites, William Lane Craig, http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5767 (retrieved 01/01/2012)

    [18]Does Morality Depend on God?, P. Wesley Edwards, http://www.freethoughtdebater.com/FDoesMoralityDepend.htm (retrieved 01/01/2012)

    Bibliography

    Bentham, Jeremy (1789), The Principles of Morals and Legislation

    Copan, Paul and Craig, William Lane (2007), Passionate Conviction: Contemporary Discourses on Christian Apologetics, B&H Publishing Group: Tennessee, Nashville,

    Craig, William Lane and Moreland, J.P. (2003), Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, IVP Academic: Illinois

    Craig, William Lane (2008; 3rd Ed), A Reasonable Faith, Crossway Books: Wheaton, IL

    Craig, William Lane and Moreland, J.P. (2009), The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, Wiley-Blackwell: New Jersey

    Grayling, A.C. (2003), What is Good?, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson

    Hare, R.M. (1963), Freedom and Reason, Oxford: OUP

    McNaughton, David (2003), “Is God (almost) a consequentialist? Swinburne’s moral theory”, http://fsu.academia.edu/McNaughtonDavid/Papers/237505/Is_God_Almost_a_Consequentialist_Swinburnes_Moral_Theory

    Oderberg, David S. (2007), “Why I am not a Consequentialist”, a talk delivered at the University of Lisbon

    Pearce, Jonathan M.S. (2011), The Little Book of Unholy Questions, Fareham: Ginger Prince Publications

    Swinburne, Richard, (1998), Providence and the Problem of Evil, Oxford: Clarendon Press

    Wesley Edwards, P. (2004), “Does Morality Depend on God?”, http://www.freethoughtdebater.com/FDoesMoralityDepend.htm

    Williams, Bernard (1981) “Internal and External Reasons”, in Williams’s Moral Luck, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

    General websites:

    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy – http://plato.stanford.edu/

    Leadership University / Dr. William Lane Craig – http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/

    Reasonable Faith / William Lane Craig- http://www.reasonablefaith.org

    Category: MoralityPhilosophy of Religion

    Tags:

    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce

    5 Pingbacks/Trackbacks

    • Morality for me boils down to simply, “Do not harm”. What is the basis of morality? My answer, rationality. No one can begin to understand morality apart from rationality which is why lions are not wrong when they kill. They simply cannot reflect upon their behavior. It’s only when we have the rationality enough to reflect own own behavior with an eye towards shaping it can morality exist. Morality does not exist apart from rational beings who reflect upon their behavior. Can I defend this absolutely? No, probably not, it just seems this to
      me, aside from evolutionary reasons are what make us uniquely human.

      When a Christian is told something is wrong they refer to a cosmic enforcer. When an atheist thinks about right or wrong they do so with rationality and evaluate it with regard to harm/consent/consequences.

    • hardlyever

       Thank you so much for this. I find the issue of morality so complicated and, because my conversations with theists usually demonstrate to me the shallowness of their understanding of their own morality beyond rote talking points, I find myself unable to even suss out what exactly it is that I’m arguing against. The final sentence in your essay brought to me a much needed and appreciated clarity on the subject. Now, when I engage with theists on the matter, at least one of us will understand what we’re talking about.

      • Thanks for the feedback, hardlyever! Morality is a tough one. My own opinion changes often. Sometimes I think that I am an error theorist (kind of like it is an illusion we have just mistakenly adopted) and that I am also a moral nihilist (it doesn’t really exist, we just construct morality). Other times I think it does in a sort of consequentialist manner – such that it is a universally subjective quality. It doesn’t ‘exist’ in some Platonic dimension, but given sound minds , good education and sound logic, we would all come to agree what would be morally good and morally bad. Perhaps it is all of these three.

        • hardlyever

          I’ve never understood the idea of objective morality – in fact the more I investigate it, the more I realize I don’t understand morality in general. But, if the idea is that it is a morality that exists independently of our perspective on it, is that not just an assertion, with no way to be demonstrated? If there is such a thing,then how would we know what it is , and whose list of objectively moral facts could be shown to be true? Please forgive me if this a “101” question; I’m beginning to see that that’s the class I’m in. And, I’ve got to start somewhere.

          • Absolutely. That’s what this blog is all about, and I can’t promise to even know the answer myself. People argue to toss over objective morality. The problem is, what does objective mean? Does it mean there is a dimension or reality or location where these abstract ideas exist? I am, I think (!), a conceptuialist where these abstract ideas exit in the mind of the conceiver, but nowhere else. This means you cannot have objective in the way that some claim. As hinted at below, I think a universal subjectivism makes sense to me. Whether that can be defined as objective is another question.

            • The Thinker

              I just wrote a large blog addressing objective morality without god. In it I make the following points:

              Morality is the distinction between right and wrong as it relates to conscious beings, with right actions being those that intend to positively affect conscious beings, and wrong actions being those that intend to negatively affect conscious beings when it cannot be avoided.

              Morality is founded in nature itself, in the real experiences that affect conscious beings, and where our intentions and the effects of moral actions hold the objective foundation. Good morals like love, kindness, fairness and generosity would have the same exact affect towards living things without god and are therefore good in and of themselves.

              In order to justify any set of morals rationally, you have to make a case demonstrating why they’re good, productive or beneficial to conscious beings and whether or not they seek to avoid unnecessary misery. When doing so, we will be able to establish to what degree they increase human welfare and well-being, or decrease suffering and misery. This becomes part of the objective standard.

              Evil can be scientifically defined to be a quality that lacks empathy or compassion.

              Different circumstances will lead to different ways to prevent unnecessary harm and increase well-being and happiness, therefore moral absolutism is not the same as objective morality and is not necessary to have an objective moral standard and can even be counter.

              Since morality can only exist when living conscious beings exist, morality is axiomatically tied into the well-being of conscious beings, and so logically, the greater the consciousness of the beings, the greater the severity of moral concern. From this we can derive that we ought to concern ourselves with the welfare of conscious beings since we are capable of moral responsibility.

              The divine command theory of ethics that many theists subscribe to neglects the unnecessary harm they can cause in some situations.

              Moral commandments that are issued by god may not appeal to what is in our best well-being at all, indeed many actually increase unnecessary harm.

              If the theist is expected to choose revelation over reason, and purposely do what will knowingly result in more harm, less well-being, and a reversal of moral progress because he thinks it will make god happy and offer him reward in the afterlife, morality becomes a mere game where people are only looking out for the pursuance of pleasure, and therefore goodness itself cannot be founded in god.

            • interesting. Do you have a link?

              “When doing so, we will be able to establish to what degree they increase human welfare and well-being, or decrease suffering and misery. This becomes part of the objective standard.”

              Of course, this presupposes that utilitarian ethics is the correct value system for morality,. Though I agree here, it relies on the brute fact, the axiom, that this is the case, no?

            • The Thinker

              I don’t rely entirely on utilitarianism, although I lean towards it. If you think of morality only in terms of numbers, individuals will start to think like they’re just worker bees who can be sacrificed at will for the state and this can diminish individual human value. So we by no means have to commit to strict utilitarianism, but rather approach morality with a toolbox to address each issue on a case by case basis.

              My link is below, it’s a heavy read but please tell me what you think. I really attack divine command morality hard on this one and take the accusation of consequentialism on too.

              http://www.atheismandthecity.com/2013/02/a-case-for-secular-morality-objective.html

            • “Moral commandments that are issued by god may not appeal to what is in our best well-being at all, indeed many actually increase unnecessary harm.”

              Of course, the theist denies this, claiming that God’s moral commands will always result in an eventual good that outweighs the bad. We just don;t get it etc.

    • JohnM

      So, in other words… There is no right and wrong… No evil. And no good. 

      There’s just some people who consider some things inappropriate to do..  And you a free to disagree with them, if you like..

      Or is raping and torturing a little innocent child to death, Evil and wrong, regardless of what you and I think? (Aka. Objectively wrong..)

      • Two fallacies for the price of one! Shifting of the burden of proof and red herring.

        John, what you need to do here is to establish how morality is grounded objectively in God, Since this is your position we are attacking, you must defend it. You cannot, for the sake of logical coherence and good argumentation, defend a position merely by attacking another.

    • JohnM

      There’s no burden of proof. I’m not making any claims. I’m just asking you..

      Is there something above us.. such as an objective moral law, that defines something to be wrong or right, regardless of what we think?

      Can there be multiple valid opinions, regarding what is wrong and right, when it comes to raping and torturing an innocent little child to death?

      Is it just right or wrong, depending on what we as individuals think?

      What if a human being makes up his mind about it being perfectly moral to rape and torture an innocent little child to death…. What authority do you then have, to tell him, that your opinion is above his in the matter?

      • Andy_Schueler

        There’s no burden of proof. I’m not making any claims. I’m just asking you..

        No, you are not “just asking”, because you are not interested in any answer that anyone on this blog might give – your stupid questions have been answered at least a dozen times by three different people in the last “rape thread”.
        Read and try to understand the material that we suggested, provide the clarifications that  we asked for regarding what “objective morality” is or stfu. 

      • Nerdsamwich

        What if God told him to? Who are you to countermand the Almighty?

    • [[Is there something above us.. such as an objective moral law, that
      defines something to be wrong or right, regardless of what we think?]]

      “Above” us? No

      [[Can there be multiple valid opinions, regarding what is wrong and right,
      when it comes to raping and torturing an innocent little child to
      death?]]

      In any moral theory I have ever heard proposed (See ‘Normative Ethics’ or ‘The Limits of Morality’ by Shelly Kagan), rape and torture are always wrong. Does that answer your question? Anytime humans have gotten together to discuss morality these have been deemed wrong.

      [[Is it just right or wrong, depending on what we as individuals think?]]

      What else is there if we can’t “think”? How can something ever be wrong if we can’t “think”?

      [[What if a human being makes up his mind about it being perfectly moral to rape and torture an innocent little child to death]]

      I just answered that, every moral theory proposed by humans (that is taught in any university) has deemed this to be wrong.

      [[What authority do you then have, to tell him, that your opinion is above his in the matter?]]

      Since both of these are not just moral issues but legal issues, the one doing such crimes would be punished by the law, verdict to be determined by the state.

    • JohnM

      John Grove :

      In any moral theory I have ever heard proposed … rape and torture are always wrong.

      Ok.. So these things just are wrong.. And if someone thinks otherwise, he’s wrong..

      Therefore you and Shelly Kagan agree, that these things just are objectively wrong.. And that objective morality exist.

      But what actually makes these things wrong? Clearly, these things are not influenced by what you and I think, as they stand above what you and I think.

      If I were to say “But I think its Ok to do so”..  And you reply “ But you hurt other people “… And I say.. “But I think it’s Ok for me to hurt other people”… What would you reply?

      Where is the wrongness coming from? A law would be an obvious answer..  But is human law really where the wrongness is coming from? If we as human beings made a law, that proclaimed it to be perfectly ok to rape and murder small children, would that law then make it moral to do so? Or would the law itself be imorral?

      • [[Ok.. So these things just are wrong.. And if someone thinks otherwise, he’s wrong..]]

        Yes. There has never been a rational defense for these acts since morality boils down to “do not harm”

        [[Therefore you and Shelly Kagan agree, that these things just are objectively wrong.. And that objective morality exist.]]

        I wouldn’t say “objective” as the Christian does.

        [[But what actually makes these things wrong?]]

        I already answered that, it harms.

        [[If I were to say “But I think its Ok to do so”..  And you reply “ But
        you hurt other people “… And I say.. “But I think it’s Ok for me to
        hurt other people”… What would you reply?]]

        What you say is not a rational defense as I said morality boils down to “do not harm”. That is the core of morality. So you are trying to justify harm when that is in opposition to the core of morality.

        [[Where is the wrongness coming from?]]

        The awareness of the difference between right and wrong is innate in human beings (except psychopaths), and it can found and even noticed being observed and enforced and upheld in societies where Christianity has never yet penetrated.

      • [[f we as human beings made a law, that proclaimed it to be perfectly ok
        to rape and murder small children, would that law then make it moral to
        do so? Or would the law itself be imorral?]]

        It would still be wrong. It is as Kagan says, the moral contract is not a popularity contest. The social contract system is not a matter of opinion, but a matter of fact.

    • Andy_Schueler

      If we as human beings made a law, that proclaimed it to be perfectly ok to rape and murder small children, would that law then make it moral to do so? Or would the law itself be imorral ? 

      Morality is differentiating between actions that are “right” and those that are “wrong” – what “right” and “wrong” is depends on your premises. Your premises are “whatever my God commands is right” and “my God exists and revealed himself in the Bible”. Based on that, you classify genocides, infanticides, rape and torture as “right” as long as you believe that your God commanded these actions.  

    • JohnM

      Andy_Schueler :

      Morality is differentiating between actions that are “right” and those that are “wrong” – what “right” and “wrong” is depends on your premises. Your premises are “whatever my God commands is right” and “my God exists and revealed himself in the Bible”. Based on that, you classify genocides, infanticides, rape and torture as “right” as long as you believe that your God commanded these actions.

      If rape is objectively wrong..  Wouldn’t it make it wrong for everyone, regardless of who they are?

      Why would it be moral for God to command anyone to rape someone?

      Why would it be moral for you to rape someone, if God commanded you to do so?

      As for taking a life..  I understand that the bible considers God the giver of life..  Why would it be wrong for the giver of life, to also take the life?

      Or to put it in another way.. If it’s my garden.. and I allow some plants to grow there.. Am I not entitled to also cut the plants down, when I think that it’s appropriate? It’s my garden after all.. And the plants are there, because I allow it..

      • [[If rape is objectively wrong..  Wouldn’t it make it wrong for everyone, regardless of who they are?]]

        Apparently god has no issues with rape (Judges 21:10-24, Numbers 31:7-18,
        Deuteronomy 20:10-14, Deuteronomy 22:28-29, Deuteronomy 22:23-24, 2 Samuel 12:11-14)

        http://www.evilbible.com/Rape.htm

      • If you use the bible as a guidance, and God countenanced slavery, then you are going to get yourself in trouble. If you think along the lines of a Divine Command Theory, then there are sorts of things in the OT which you would now deem immoral. How do you explain this? 

      • [[Why would it be moral for God to command anyone to rape someone?]]

        God commanded to wipe out entire nations and didn’t frown on rape too much.

        [[Why would it be moral for you to rape someone, if God commanded you to do so?]]

        Why indeed from your viewpoint?

        [[Why would it be wrong for the giver of life, to also take the life?]]

        I guess in if this is the situation it wouldn’t matter, might makes right, right? This is what you are arguing? The fact that he can makes it right?

      • Andy_Schueler

        If rape is objectively wrong..  Wouldn’t it make it wrong for everyone, regardless of who they are?

        If by “objectively” you mean that there are “moral laws” that exist outside and independently of human minds – you would have to demonstrate first that these moral laws indeed do exist, and second, for this to have any relevance, you would also have to prove that there is a way to access (i.e. know and understand) these moral laws.
        If you cannot do that, any talk about “objective morality” is moot. 

        Why would it be moral for God to command anyone to rape someone?

        Depends on your premises, if you believe that every alleged command of God directly or through his alleged prophets is right, than Moses was “right” / moral in ordering his soldiers to murder all Midianites except for their virgin girls, which they should rape instead:
        “15 “Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. 16 “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people. 17 Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, 18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.”
        Numbers 31:15-18

        As for taking a life..  I understand that the bible considers God the giver of life..  Why would it be wrong for the giver of life, to also take the life?

        If your premise is that whatever your God does is “right” than it obviously would not be wrong at all – God torturing and murdering as much as he pleases would be entirely “right”, by definition.

        Or to put it in another way.. If it’s my garden.. and I allow some plants to grow there.. Am I not entitled to also cut the plants down, when I think that it’s appropriate? It’s my garden after all.. And the plants are there, because I allow it..

        This is might-makes-right reasoning, and could just as well be used to argue that Hitler was entitled to murder the Jews because the third Reich was his empire and if he doesn´t want to allow the Jews to live anymore he´s entitled to murder them. 

    • JohnM

      John Grove :

      There has never been a rational defense for these acts since morality boils down to “do not harm”

      Why is it wrong to harm? What makes it wrong?

      Also, keep in mind that Doctors actually harm their patients.. during operations..

      What you say is not a rational defense as I said morality boils down to “do not harm”. That is the core of morality. So you are trying to justify harm when that is in opposition to the core of morality.

      I’m not trying to justify anything. I’m asking you, where the wrongness is coming from. And you seem to have no rational defence.. All you have is a dogmatic phrase.

      But let me ask you this.. Do you think that Doctors does any harm, when they perform abortions?

      The awareness of the difference between right and wrong is innate in human beings (except psychopaths), and it can found and even noticed being observed and enforced and upheld in societies where Christianity has never yet penetrated.

      Oh.. So it’s like a moral law written in our hearts..  Sounds familiar.

      But who and what put it there?

      • [[Why is it wrong to harm? What makes it wrong?]]

        Because morality boils down to “do not harm”.

        [[Doctors actually harm their patients.. during operations.]]

        Because the doctor is trying to prolong life so in this special case it is consensual for the person to live or to live more meaningful. (Fixed broken arms, repaired ligaments). Come now, these are juvenile questions.

        [[I’m not trying to justify anything. I’m asking you, where the wrongness
        is coming from. And you seem to have no rational defence.]]

        Above and beyond rationality and our ability to be a social people who created rules to live with one another I don’t know. It is as Sam Harris stated in his book, just think on the worst case of misery and morality is trying to avoid that.

      • [[Oh.. So it’s like a moral law written in our hearts..  Sounds familiar.

        But who and what put it there?]]

        Evolution and the fact that we are a social species. Morals are an emergent property of evolution, rather than some absolute truth. Morality is nothing more than a suite of behaviors which facilitate social cohesion among animals.

        Morality can easily be explained from our evolutionary past modulated by culture. As a social primate species we evolved a deep sense of right and wrong in order to accentuate and reward reciprocity and cooperation, and to attenuate and punish excessive selfishness and free riding. As well, evolution created the moral motions that tell us that lying, adultery, and stealing are wrong because they destroy trust in human relationships that depend on truth-telling, fidelity, and respect for property. It would not be possible for a social primate species to survive without some moral sense. On the constitution of human nature is built the constitutions of human societies.

      • Andy_Schueler

        Oh.. So it’s like a moral law written in our hearts..  Sounds familiar.But who and what put it there?

        There is no “moral law” that humans are naturally aware of – healthy humans (and many other species) naturally have a sense of justice, fairness, and empathy. This, together with cultural factors (tradition, authority etc.) leads to the development of laws and norms, which change over time. 

    • So to sum up. JohnM believes in a morality where “Might makes right”, whatever god commands is god (Be it raping, murdering someone or genocide). It becomes right because god is all powerful.

      While we as atheists, think about morality with regard to rationality
      and evaluate it with regard to harm/consent/consequences.

    • I would encourage all of you to consider this peer reviewed paper called:

      Normative Ethics Does Not Need a Foundation: It Needs More Science

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3068523/

    • JohnM

      John Grove:

      So to sum up. JohnM believes in a morality where “Might makes right”

      No. That is not my position. Why would you think that?

      whatever god commands is intrinsically good

      That is not my position. Why would you think that?

      Why indeed from your viewpoint?

      Why it would be wrong for me to rape someone, even if God commanded it?

      Because it’s wrong to rape someone.

      It becomes right because god is all powerful.

      Wrong doesn’t become right, even if God commands it.

      What’s right, is right. And what’s wrong, is wrong.

      Murder is murder. Murder is wrong.

      For it to be moral, it would have to be something other than murder.. For example, a legal slaying, commanded by the giver of life.

      I guess in if this is the situation it wouldn’t matter, might makes right, right? This is what you are arguing? The fact that he can makes it right?

      No. Murder is by definition an unlawful killing.

      Do you know of any laws, that bans the giver of life, from also taking life?

      God commanded to wipe out entire nations and didn’t frown on rape too much.

      I have read bible, about The giver of life, taking life away from wicked and sinful nations.

      But rape? No. It isn’t there.

      Kant wrote that the very basis of morality was respect for one’s own autonomy and the autonomy of others – which goes beyond the concept of the Golden Rule or “do unto others.” If you in any way take the power of choice away from someone, you have committed an immoral act. If you impose your will on another person, you have committed an immoral act.

      But again.. Why? Why is it wrong to take the power of choice away from someone? Why is it wrong to impose your will upon another person? What makes it wrong?

      You’re still just throwing dogmatic claims around.

      Because the doctor is trying to prolong life so in this special case….

      Oh.. So there are actually cases where the “do not harm” rule, does not apply?

      What if someone considers it a special case that, that they would like to rape someone? You know.. for the good of making sure their genes survives..

      And what about Kant’s rule? Is it immoral to put someone in prison? Or are there cases where this rule also does not aplly?

      It is as Sam Harris stated in his book, just think on the worst case of misery and morality is trying to avoid that.

      What if someone consider people who have not been raped recently, miserable?

      What if someone considers it immoral, that they’re not currently pregnant?

      Your moral theory seems to be full of holes… for some reason..

      Evolution and the fact that we are a social species. Morals are an emergent property of evolution, rather than some absolute truth. Morality is nothing more than a suite of behaviors which facilitate social cohesion among animals.

      Oh.. So that is why rape and murder is so common in the animal kingdom. And we’re just animals right?

      So why is it wrong for me to murder and rape, when it’s perfectly fine for a lion or a gorilla?

      • [[So why is it wrong for me to murder and rape, when it’s perfectly fine for a lion or a gorilla?]]

        Rationality. A lion cannot reflect upon its behavior and we can. It’s not that difficult to answer.

      • Andy_Schueler

        I have read bible, about The giver of life, taking life away from wicked and sinful nations.But rape? No. It isn’t there.

        “15 “Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. 16 “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people. 17 Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, 18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.”Numbers 31:15-18

    • JohnM

      Also.. Notice how quiet Jonathan have gone.. Do you know why?

      Because he, unlike you 2 fools ( and Sam Harris ), actually understands the implications of what you’re saying.. He knows, that the path that you guys are on, only leads one place… and that’s a moral lawgiver.

      Without a moral lawgiver, there can only be “universal subjectivism”. And “abstract ideas” about wrong and right, “that only exit in the mind of the conceiver.

      • [[Without a moral lawgiver, there can only be “universal subjectivism”]]

        You just contradicted yourself. When I asked you why is it wrong to rape someone even if god commanded it you said, “Because it’s wrong”. So wrongness occurs irrespective of any lawgiver.

      • Andy_Schueler

        Also.. Notice how quiet Jonathan have gone.. Do you know why?Because he, unlike you 2 fools ( and Sam Harris ), actually understands the implications of what you’re saying.. He knows, that the path that you guys are on, only leads one place… and that’s a moral lawgiver.

        No.

        Without a moral lawgiver, there can only be “universal subjectivism”. And “abstract ideas” about wrong and right, “that only exit in the mind of the conceiver.

        Yes. Morality is indeed subjective. For example: you believe that stealing something from the cookie jar is just as wicked as Hitler´s genocides and pretty much everyone else disagrees. 

    • [[Why it would be wrong for me to rape someone, even if God commanded it?

      Because it’s wrong to rape someone.]]

      But why is it wrong?

      [[Wrong doesn’t become right, even if God commands it.]]

      Ok, now your thinking, good job.

      [[What’s right, is right. And what’s wrong, is wrong. Murder is murder. Murder is wrong.]]

      But as you keep asking us, why is it wrong?

      [[For it to be moral, it would have to be something other than murder..
      For example, a legal slaying, commanded by the giver of life.]]

      But you just stated that god commanding something doesn’t make something right.

    • The only fool here is the one advocating divine command theory.

    • JohnM

      John Grove :

      You just contradicted yourself. When I asked you why is it wrong to rape someone even if god commanded it you said, “Because it’s wrong”. So wrongness occurs irrespective of any lawgiver.

      Logic failure.

      Orders does not change laws. Orders are subject to law.

      It would be wrong, if God ordered something, which was against his own moral law.

      Rationality. A lion cannot reflect upon its behavior and we can. It’s not that difficult to answer.

      Why does ones ability to reflect, make something wrong?

      But why is it wrong?

      Because God created man and woman, so that they would marry, and be become one unity, one flesh. Not so that they would sleep around or rape random females.
       

      Ok, now your thinking, good job.

      I’ve never said otherwise.. So good job yourself.

      But as you keep asking us, why is it wrong?

      Yes. Because obviously, the objective moral law, that I’m using, is not an option to atheist..

      You’re in a catch 22.. You have conceded that the things that we read in the bible about morality are true.. You have conceded that there are things that wrong and right, rather than universal subjectivism.

      Yet these things cannot exist without a moral lawgiver…  And now we’re just waiting for you 2 fools to realize that.

      • [[Because God created man and woman, so that they would marry, and be become one unity, one flesh.]]

        Do you have evidence for this assertion or is it just a blind faith proposition?

    • [[Do you know of any laws, that bans the giver of life, from also taking life?]]

      Once again, you are advocating”Might makes right” without thinking.

      [[I have read bible, about The giver of life, taking life away from wicked and sinful nations.]]

      What makes something ‘wicked’ and sinful’? Can you explain?

      [[But again.. Why? Why is it wrong to take the power of choice away from someone? Why is it wrong to impose your will upon another person? What makes it wrong]]

      This is like having a discussion with a moron. I can play the same games as you are with respect to anything you say. God says we are special. But why does god saying we are special make it special. Because we have a soul. But why does having a soul make us special. You see, you finally have to to end it by saying, our ability to reflect and shape our morality makes us unique.

      [[Oh.. So there are actually cases where the “do not harm” rule, does not apply]]

      Yes, this is why secular people do not use the word “objective”.

      [[What if someone considers it a special case that, that they would like to rape someone? You know.. for the good of making sure their genes survives..]]

      You mean if this were the last female alive and we wanted to perpetuate humans? I am guessing at that stage we are doomed anyway and morality makes no difference, extinction is all there is.

      [[And what about Kant’s rule? Is it immoral to put someone in prison? Or are there cases where this rule also does not aplly?]]

      In that case it is necessary to restrain them for the protection of society. Your thinking problem is you are thinkking in absolutes and to use a little irony, there are no absolutes. At least I know I am being ironical.

      [[What if someone consider people who have not been raped recently, miserable?]]

      Well since you admitted wrong is something irrespective of any god commanding it, you answer that and get back to me.

    • JohnM

      Andy_Schueler :

      JohnM: I have read bible, about The giver of life, taking life away from wicked and sinful nations.But rape? No. It isn’t there.

      Andy:

      “15 “Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. 16 “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people. 17 Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, 18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.”Numbers 31:15-18

      *sigh* In order to raise them as their own daughters, of course. Not to rape them…

      They would have been very young girls.. Only paedophiles would want to do that..   Seriously.. What kind of perverted, sick and degenerated mind, do you actually have, to get such thoughts from reading that text?

      Disgusting!

      • Andy_Schueler

        *sigh* In order to raise them as their own daughters, of course. Not to rape them…

        :-D 
        Right, murder the little boys but keep the girls for yourself, unless someone already fucked them, in that case murder them as well! 
        Obviously, they wanted to raise them as their own daughters!

        They would have been very young girls.. Only paedophiles would want to do that..   

        Right, because soldiers never rape girls in wars. Moron.

        More rape-endorsement by your imaginary friend:

        20 So they instructed the Benjamites, saying, “Go and hide in the vineyards 21 and watch. When the young women of Shiloh come out to join in the dancing, rush from the vineyards and each of you seize one of them to be your wife. Then return to the land of Benjamin.22 When their fathers or brothers complain to us, we will say to them, ‘Do us the favor of helping them, because we did not get wives for them during the war. You will not be guilty of breaking your oath because you did not give your daughters to them.’”

        Judges 21:20-22

             If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father.  Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her.

        Deuteronomy 22:28-29
        Let the rapist marry his victim so he can fuck her against her will until she dies, that´s biblical morality for you ;-). 

            Thus says the Lord: ‘I will bring evil upon you out of your own house.  I will take your wives while you live to see it, and will give them to your neighbor.  He shall lie with your wives in broad daylight. You have done this deed in secret, but I will bring it about in the presence of all Israel, and with the sun looking down.’

        2 Samuel 12:11
        Your imaginary friend is quite the pervert isn´t he ? Raping women is not enough, their husband has to watch – Yahweh is quite the sick fuck isn´t he ? ;-)

         “When you go out to war against your enemies and the LORD, your God, delivers them into your hand, so that you take captives, if you see a comely woman among the captives and become so enamored of her that you wish to have her as wife, you may take her home to your house. But before she may live there, she must shave her head and pare her nails and lay aside her captive’s garb.  After she has mourned her father and mother for a full month, you may have relations with her, and you shall be her husband and she shall be your wife.  However, if later on you lose your liking for her, you shall give her her freedom, if she wishes it; but you shall not sell her or enslave her, since she was married to you under compulsion.” 

        Deuteronomy 21:10-14
        Kill her parents, abduct her, shave her head, wait a month and then, fuck her! 

            When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are.  If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her.  And if the slave girl’s owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter.  If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife.  If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment.

        Exodus 21:7-11
        Yeah, that damn slut better please the man that bought her as a slave! Amirite !?

    • [[but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.]]

      Uh yea sure JohnM. Pay attention to the context.

    • You exegete the bible as bad as you argue with others.

    • JohnM

      What makes something ‘wicked’ and sinful’?

      Truth is perfection. Truth is just.

      Lies is lack of truth. Lies are unjust.

      Sin is lack of righteousness. A flaw in ones character.

      And the flaw in men’s character, is seen when compared to the perfection of God’s holy nature.

    • [[And the flaw in men’s character, is seen when compared to the perfection of God’s holy nature.]]

      Which requires rationality to evaluate the comparison right? For how can we examine right or wrong apart from rationality? How can we make the comparison apart from rationality? Ok let’s compare:

      1. God drowns the whole earth. In Genesis 7:21-23, God drowns the entire population of the earth: men, women, children, fetuses, and perhaps unicorns.
      Only a single family survives. In Matthew 24:37-42, gentle Jesus approves of this genocide and plans to repeat it when he returns.

      2. God kills half a million people.
      In 2 Chronicles 13:15-18, God helps the men of Judah kill 500,000 of their fellow Israelites.

      3. God slaughters all Egyptian firstborn.
      In Exodus 12:29, God the baby-killer slaughters all Egyptian firstborn children and cattle because their king was stubborn.

      4. God kills 14,000 people for complaining that God keeps killing them .
      In Numbers 16:41-49, the Israelites complain that God is killing too many of them. So, God sends a plague that kills 14,000 more of them.

      5. Genocide after genocide after genocide.
      In Joshua 6:20-21, God helps the Israelites destroy Jericho, killing “men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.” In Deuteronomy 2:32-35, God has the Israelites kill everyone in Heshbon, including children. In Deuteronomy 3:3-7, God has the Israelites do the same to the people of Bashan. In Numbers 31:7-18, the Israelites kill all the Midianites except for the virgins, whom they take as spoils of war. In 1 Samuel 15:1-9, God tells the Israelites to kill all the Amalekites – men, women, children, infants, and their cattle – for something the Amalekites’ ancestors had done 400 years earlier.

      6. God kills 50,000 people for curiosity.
      In 1 Samuel 6:19, God kills 50,000 men for peeking into the ark of the covenant. (Newer cosmetic translations count only 70 deaths, but their text notes admit that the best and earliest manuscripts put the number at 50,070.)

      7. 3,000 Israelites killed for inventing a god.
      In Exodus 32, Moses has climbed Mount Sinai to get the Ten Commandments. The Israelites are bored, so they invent a golden calf god. Moses comes back and God commands him: “Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.” About 3,000 people died.

      8. The Amorites destroyed by sword and by God’s rocks.
      In Joshua 10:10-11, God helps the Israelites slaughter the Amorites by sword, then finishes them off with rocks from the sky.

      9. God burns two cities to death.
      In Genesis 19:24, God kills everyone in Sodom and Gomorrah with fire from the sky. Then God kills Lot’s wife for looking back at her burning home.

      10. God has 42 children mauled by bears.
      In 2 Kings 2:23-24, some kids tease the prophet Elisha, and God sends bears to dismember them. (Newer cosmetic translations say the bears “maul” the children, but the original Hebrew, baqa, means “to tear apart.”)

      11. A tribe slaughtered and their virgins raped for not showing up at roll call.
      In Judges 21:1-23, a tribe of Israelites misses roll call, so the other Israelites kill them all except for the virgins, which they take for themselves. Still not happy, they hide in vineyards and pounce on dancing women from Shiloh to take them for themselves.

      12. 3,000 crushed to death.
      In Judges 16:27-30, God gives Samson strength to bring down a building to crush 3,000 members of a rival tribe.

      13. A concubine raped and dismembered.
      In Judges 19:22-29, a mob demands to rape a godly master’s guest. The master offers his daughter and a concubine to them instead. They take the concubine and gang-raped her all night. The master finds her on his doorstep in the morning, cuts her into 12 pieces, and ships the pieces around the country.

      14. Child sacrifice.
      In Judges 11:30-39, Jephthah burns his daughter alive as a sacrificial offering for God’s favor in killing the Ammonites.

      15. God helps Samson kill 30 men because he lost a bet.
      In Judges 14:11-19, Samson loses a bet for 30 sets of clothes. The spirit of God comes upon him and he kills 30 men to steal their clothes and pay off the debt.

      16. God demands you kill your wife and children for worshiping other gods.
      In Deuteronomy 13:6-10, God commands that you must kill your wife, children, brother, and friend if they worship other gods.

      17. God incinerates 51 men to make a point.
      In 2 Kings 1:9-10, Elijah gets God to burn 51 men with fire from heaven to prove he is God.

      18. God kills a man for not impregnating his brother’s widow.
      In Genesis 38:9-10, God kills a man for refusing to impregnate his brother’s widow.

      19. God threatens forced cannibalism.
      In Leviticus 26:27-29 and Jeremiah 19:9, God threatens to punish the Israelites by making them eat their own children.

      20. The coming slaughter.
      According to Revelation 9:7-19, God’s got more evil coming. God will make horse-like locusts with human heads and scorpion tails, who torture people for 5 months. Then some angels will kill a third of the earth’s population. If he came today, that would be 2 billion people.

    • It doesn’t cut the philosophical muster. He is plainly a tyrant, nothing more.

    • JohnM

      John Grove:

      [[but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.]]

      Uh yea sure JohnM. Pay attention to the context.

      That’s the equivalent of saying “every female teenager”. It’s an age thing.

      So spare me your sick thoughts.

      • [[That’s the equivalent of saying “every female teenager”. It’s an age thing]]

        No, it specifically refers to virgins who never had sexual relations with a man. That was the criteria to save them for themselves. Obviously to have sex with them. That is the words. That is the context.

    • JohnM

      John Grove:

      Ok let’s compare:

      I love when weak debaters resort to copy pasting Atheist “how to argue” forums.

    • [[:-D 
      Right, murder the little boys but keep the girls for yourself, unless someone already fucked them, in that case murder them as well! Obviously, they wanted to raise them as their own daughters!]]

      LOL, unfortunately we atheists can read the bible better than theists. Theists simply explain away what they don’t like about the bible. Too funny!!

      • Andy_Schueler

        Theists simply explain away what they don’t like about the bible. Too funny!!

        Yeah, this is sometimes quite hilarious, I still remember JohnM trying his best to defend Psalm 137 :-D

    • JohnM

      More ignorant bible reading.. Keep it coming guys :)

    • JohnM

      No, it specifically refers to virgins who never had sexual relations with a man. That was the criteria to save them for themselves. Obviously to have sex with them.

      As obvious as the existence of pink elephants are to drunkards.

      Don’t you get it? You’re interpretation is just a product of your own sick mind.

      • Andy_Schueler

        Right, murdering boys of all ages and keeping all the girls that had not been fucked yet obviously means that they want to raise them as their daughters!
        And they didn´t do this with male children because only female children are innocent or [insert random bullshit here].
        And “save for yourself” obviously means “raise her as your daughter” because [insert random bullshit here]
        And “girl who has never slept with a man” OBVIOUSLY does NOT mean  “girl who has never slept with a man” but rather “all young girls”. I repeat, this can´t possibly mean that a sixteen year old girl that was already married has to be murdered while a sixteen year old virgin has to be raped – the text might clearly say that, but it OBVIOUSLY means something completely different because [insert random bullshit here].

        You’re interpretation

        Again, it´s “your” you idiot, it´s really not that difficult…

    • Andy, the Lord has delivered JohnM into your hands, LOL 

    • JohnM

      Thank you for once again sharing your sick,  perverted and degenerated thoughts with us.

      And please keep it going, guys.. Let’s try and make all forget, what this discussion was really about..  Let’s try and make all forget, that you 2 fools actually conceded several important points, and trapped yourself in a catch-22.

      Because if you can’t handle, it, you can always change topic and post random crap, right?

      Again, it´s “your” you idiot, it´s really not that difficult…

      Thanks for correcting my typos. You always do that at a certain point. It’s a bit like a poker tell sign.

      • Andy_Schueler

        Thank you for once again sharing your sick,  perverted and degenerated thoughts with us.

        Coming from you, that´s a compliment. Thanks!

        Let’s try and make all forget, that you 2 fools actually conceded several important points, and trapped yourself in a catch-22.

        Maybe you should look up “concede” and “catch-22”, you don´t seem to understand what those words mean.

    • When all else fails, change the subject. Your killing me!!

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