Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How is God the Basis for Objective Morality?

Luke at common sense atheism has posted a transcript of his ongoing discussion with Alonzo Fyfe, the originator of the hip and cool online meta-ethical theory of desire utilitarianism, about morality, theism, and atheism. I responded as such (their words in italics and colored):

I imagine somebody telling a parent who loses belief in God, that without their belief they just aren’t going to care anything about the welfare of their child. It’s absurd.

What does this have to do with the theistic pov?

Tell me, when you lost your belief in a God, did you suddenly become indifferent to the welfare of your friends and family? Did you acquire this urge to rape and kill just for the fun of it?

Is this what Mr. Fyfe thinks Craig's position is? I have other thoughts on what is absurd.

But that’s just silly. Losing a belief in morality doesn’t suddenly change our desires.

But it may give you the justification to fulfill certain desires you normally wouldn't, like unbridled sexual activity or making a superior race of people by systematically eliminating those who most people desire to eliminate.

Obviously, someone doesn’t have to believe in God or even believe in morality to act morally. However, it still might be the case that God is necessary for morality to really exist.

Which is why we theists always clarify "The question is not: must we believe in God to live moral lives? There's no reason to think that atheists and theists alike may not live what we normally characterize as good and decent livess" (Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008: 175). The question is do moral values actually exist in the absence of God?

I mean, think about it: How it is that morality could be grounded in the attitudes of a timeless, spaceless, supernatural being who is defined as being the opposite of everything we know and understand?

1) We're made in His image. 2) Moral values would actually exist in said being. 3) All would be subject to said omnipotent and omnipresent creator and sustainer.

That’s just crazy and incoherent, or at least it’s way harder to justify that than other theories of morality based on less controversial and confusing features of our world. So adding God to the picture doesn’t help give us objective morality, it just makes everything way worse.

Luke, this is a bald assertion lacking argumentation. I just gave three reasons this would ground OMV's. You need to construct an argument to support this assertion.

Why does God’s disapproval make it wrong for me to eat pork? If God doesn’t like pork, that’s fine, I’m not going to force him to eat any. But if they’re saying that I shouldn’t eat pork because God doesn’t like it… How does that work?

Because it goes against the objective morality that is a necessary property of said God (assuming eating pork is actually wrong). It's quite similar to why, on a purely state institutional level, it is incumbent on you not to serve foodstuffs that the state has deemed illegal. If the state doesn't like serving cat to people, and has written it down in law, then it is objectively against the law to serve said cat.

look, if a perfectly good God allows all the suffering we see around us, that implies that maybe we’re wrong about the idea that we should be preventing suffering.

Should we prevent all suffering? I think it is incumbent on us to prevent needless suffering that we actually could prevent. Who says God allows needless suffering? Who says He could prevent it given human freedom?

I can think of several reasons to allow some suffering to occur.

Let’s say I look out my window and see my neighbor’s daughter drowning in the pool. Am I supposed to know that I should rescue her?

Well dur. Life is intrinsically valuable since said girl is made in God's image. If she hasn't done anything to merit drowning in the pool (like mercilessly killing an innocent person or something) then it's a no brainer WHY you should save her.

Maybe God has a reason to drown her. If she does drown, that’s what they’ll say.

Or maybe we'll say it was her own fault for drowning? Assuming she is old enough to be responsible. If not, then it is the parent's fault for no being vigilant.

Further, you're assuming that these kinds of evils won't be rectified in the afterlife.

So if I rescue this girl, then I would be thwarting this higher purpose that everybody would be claiming that God must have had, and everything would be ruined just because of me.

You must assume that God caused her to drown for this to be the case. However, God is not subject to the duty that we are with regards to life. He has the right, as the creator and sustainer of life, to take it in any way He deems it necessary. We don’t have that right. He has given us moral duties as it pertains to protecting life.

Besides, if I, as a mere mortal, have no way of understanding God’s infinite wisdom or why he does things, then I have no way of knowing whether or not to save the girl. It wouldn’t be the first time God killed a child.

And Mr. Fyfe has lapsed into the confusion of moral epistemology with moral ontology, as is so common.

It’s worth reminding people that God-based morality is a subjective moral theory, because it’s grounded in the attitudes or nature of a person: namely, God.

But if God is the ultimate reality in which moral values have their ontological basis, then they would apply to all. Especially seeing as we're made in His image.

Well, like I said, God-based ethics grounds morality in the attitudes of a person. That’s what subjectivism is.

First, the morality is grounded in the person of God, and His attitudes would flow from that. Second, if all are made in his image and are subject to God, then this morality IS objective, just as the federal laws of the single institution of the United States government would be objctive for those subject to it.

Individual subjectivism grounds moral value in the attitudes of each individual

Except the analogy falls apart since individuals aren't subject to other individual's personal opinions. We would be subject to the laws of a lawgiver, would we not?

Yeah, so it is universal it’s just not objective.

Um, so it being true of God's character that murder is evil and the duty to not murder applying to all those made in His image wouldn't be objective?

Right. Well, for me, whenever I hear people talk about God and morality, the problem that I have always had with it is that there is no God. God doesn’t exist.

Then objective moral values don't exist. Just because Mr. Fyfe thinks his morality is important doesn't mean it extends beyond himself. For something to be objective, it must extend to all people. All people don't have the same desires. All people are made in God's likeness, and all people are subject to God's moral character.

There's your objectivity.


Anonymous said...

You'd probably enjoy studying The Truth Project from Focus on the Family.

bossmanham said...

I've heard of it and do think it's a good resource.

Rhology said...

It's crazy how empty these guys' theories are.
And how often they say "without their belief they just aren’t going to care anything about the welfare of their child. It’s absurd" and stuff like it. It amazes me that ppl can't follow the argument to the point that they say stupid things like this.

And Fyfe is held in very high esteem by most Internet atheists I've met.

commoncents said...


Common Cents

bossmanham said...

And Fyfe is held in very high esteem by most Internet atheists I've met.

Yeah. Except his entire following is just internet. I don't think he's published his meta-ethical theory to be peer reviewed by other philosophers, which I think is kind of silly. Apparently he wants to get a following before having it eviscerated. It's just like any other consequentialist, feeling based theory from what I can tell.