Monday, September 13, 2010

Refuting the Refutation: Part 4 - The Moral Argument

Getting back to the Arizona Atheist's attempt to refute Dr. William Lane Craig's arguments for the existence of God, we now come to one of the most troublesome arguments for atheists to deal with; the moral argument. This argument is elegant in its simplicity in that it shows that if God doesn't exist, there is no basis of objective morality, a morality that would apply to all people no matter the time or majority opinion. But most atheists make profoundly moral assertions.

The argument is deductive, and follows the form of modus tollens.
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.

To start here, AA attempts to simply get rid of the second premise by asserting that there aren't objective morals, but that morality is relative. AA cites a book that is explicating the history of slavery in the new world. The author describes briefly that St. Thomas Aquinas accepted some sort of slavery that was the basis for the attempted future enslavement of American Indians. Apparently AA is trying to imply that Aquinas was a-ok with slavery and this shows that objective morality is indeed an illusion. While I will shortly defend Aquinas' view, I must stress that this example does nothing of the sort. Simply offering examples of people who thought a certain moral abomination was morally good does not prove in any sense that morals are relative or that what that person did was right in any way. All showing past moral abominations does is show that moral abominations happened in the past.

Aquinas' view on slavery is far more subtle than AA is letting on here. Part of the reason for confusion is the ambiguous nature of the word "slavery." What exactly was Aquinas referring to? Aquinas is not referring to a slavery based on racial subjugation, but is referring to servitude in which one person has authority over another. Professor Hector Zagal from the Mexican Catholic institution, the Panamerican University, writes,
the Greek doulos, the Roman servus and the Medieval servus do not have the same meaning for the simple reason that the Aristotelic doulos is contextualized in a pro-slavery society and the Thomistic servus in a feudal society. We must not forget that feudal servitude is not equivalent to Greek slavery, since when Moerbeke translated for Saint Thomas the term doulos for servus, he was making a literal translation without considering the social context.1
In other words, Aristotle's slavery (which Aquinas is analyzing) is not the same thing as Aquinas'. Zagal goes on,

Thomas considers servitude something just, yet he distinguishes two kind of justice: justice simpliciter and justice secundum quid. Servitude is not just simpliciter, since all men are equal by essence, even more since all men have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. Human nature is not predicable equivocally for every  individual. Servant are as humans as their masters. Every man is truly a human person and, subsequently, is an individual substance of rational nature with an eternal destiny that is loved personally by the Creator. Attending to human nature considered in itself, all men are equal and, because of that, there is no preeminence of one over the other. The master as participant of the human nature has no domain over the servant. Servant and lord are essentially men.2

So Aquinas clearly didn't approve of the early American kind of slavery that atheists always anachronistically read into pretty much every historical setting.

AA then again reveals his ignorance about logic when he states, "This is a perfect example of my claim in my paper Against the Gods that just because all of your premises are true, it doesn't mean your conclusion is true, ie. god exists." AA needs to take an introductory class in logic. I do not say this to be mean or nasty or to insult him in any way! It is simply true. AA needs to understand how logic works. If the premises are true in a logically deductive argument, then the conclusion is true whether anyone likes it or not. That is why he needs to attack the truth of one of the premises. If he admits that the premises 1 & 2 are true, then he isn't an atheist.

He then immediately says, "This moral argument does nothing to prove god because there clearly is not any objective moral standard that we can call upon." Ok, so this is the premise he wants to attack; number 2. But this statement is baseless. It isn't clear that there is no objective morality. He says simply because most people believe in doing the right thing doesn't prove there's a god. No one is claiming that is how the argument works. The argument is deductive; unless there is a God, there is no right and wrong. Then he says that evolution created our moral intuitions. If that is true, then morality is relative, and saying it's wrong to kill babies for fun has no meaning. If morality is relative, then it's simply a matter of personal preference how one acts. Some people prefer to love their neighbors, others prefer to eat their neighbors. There's no moral value to any of those acts.

However, I think we all know that objective morality does exist. It's always wrong to torture people for fun, No matter what culture you're in. No matter what time period. As I've pointed out before any argument that can be given against objective morality, a parallel argument can be given against the external world. But I apprehend these moral realities just as I apprehend the reality of the external world. Why should I let those whose moral sense is deficient make me question the existence of an objective realm of morality? I don't question the external world's existence because there are color blind people.

He then moves on to the Euthyphro dilemma, which really hasn't ever been an issue for Christian theists, and Plato, who himself was a moral realist, in no way "demolished the moral argument." AA claims that splitting the horns of the dilemma by positing that God's nature is the good doesn't work, but then doesn't say why. He simply ridicules the notion. Sorry, AA, ridicule isn't argument. He says, "God is simply "good" by nature, and therefore he wouldn't command anything immoral? Right. Is that why many people have claimed to hear god speak to them, and they then commit horrible atrocities?" What does that have to do with anything? Because some people do evil and claim God told them to that proves God did it? Sorry, but the weakness of AA's argument here is glaring.

He then moves on to a better question. In essence, he asks if God is good, then how do we go about knowing this good nature? Well, we are made in God's image, so innately we would have some sense of what His moral attributes are. We can also find out what God's duties to us are from His special revelation in the Bible. AA mentions this, but then brings up the incidents in the Bible where God orders the killing of people. Why is this a problem for God? God says that murder, which is unjustified killing, is evil. If God commands someone to kill someone else, that killing is justified. God orders the killing of people for just reasons. God has the power over life and death, so while it is wrong for us to kill willy nilly, God can take the life of anyone He wants. I go into quite a bit of detail in this combox discussion.

In assailing God for these killings, AA has revealed that he actually does believe in objective morality. If he doesn't, then what is he complaining about what God did for? Maybe God just wanted to kill someone. Who is AA to tell anyone else what they are doing is wrong? After all, right and wrong really don't exist. He says, "Even though morality is relative, it does not mean we can do whatever we wish. We still have a responsibility to our friends and family and there are various secular moral systems that have been developed throughout history that can guide us through this morally relative world." If we have a responsibility to our friends and family, then AA has pinpointed a moral reality that is objective, unless he's willing to admit that this is not an objective imperative, to which I'd ask why he brought it up in the first place. If this family responsibility is objective, then by the deductive reasoning of the moral argument, God exists.

He says, "After all, even religion's morality is relative. It's dependent upon god's commands." He's either being dishonest or still doesn't get it. If morality is based on God's nature, then it is objective. It is a real reality that exists independent of any of us. If God created us, then we are obligated to follow His moral nature or face the consequences. Also, the moral duties God gives us are not arbitrary, but flow directly from His moral nature.

So, AA has shifted back and forth to wanting a moral objectivity when it comes to assailing God, to denying moral objectivity. But he's failed at giving us any reason to think morality is relative, he's failed at refuting the theistic response to the Euthyphro dilemma, and he's failed at refuting this argument in any way.


1 Hector Zagal, Aquinas on Slavery: An Aristotelian Puzzle, http://www.e-aquinas.net/pdf/zagal.pdf, 5
2 Ibid. 6

20 comments:

Tony Hoffman said...

You: "God has the power over life and death, so while it is wrong for us to kill willy nilly, God can take the life of anyone He wants."

Then morality isn't objective, you moron, it's relative. If it's okay for God to kill anyone he wants, but not for us, then morality depends on the situation, doesn't it? If I'm God, I get to do one thing. If I'm not God, I am bound by different moral laws. Sorry, but that's the definition of moral relativity.

bossmanham said...

Hey, Tony, are you able to comment without the ad hom? God is the dispenser of moral duties to humanity. He is not subject to moral duties. If we decide to unjustly kill someone, it is murder. If God decides to end someone's life, it is a justified killing, ie not murder.

God is the ontological source of moral laws. They constitute His nature, so it is logically impossible for Him to do evil.

No moral relativity here. God is the objective source. He dispenses moral duties to us. He is not subject to moral duties. Read up before you spout off.

Tony Hoffman said...

Your explanation makes no sense. Either objective morality is the same for all agents, or it is not objective.

If I say that you ought not do something because it is wrong, but that I may do it myself because for me it is right, in what sense am I referring to objective morality?

bossmanham said...

Your explanation makes no sense. Either objective morality is the same for all agents, or it is not objective.

Where did I say it was different for anyone? If God is the ontological source of morality, then He isn't bound by any outside source, He IS the source. Ergo, He would not act against His character. That doesn't mean that He is bound by the same moral duties as we are, since He dispenses the moral duties, and these duties flow from His moral goodness.

The rule makers in the NFL aren't bound by the same duties as the players on the field are. They dispense the duties. That doesn't mean that there aren't a set of objective rules that football players are subject to.

If I say that you ought not do something because it is wrong, but that I may do it myself because for me it is right,

That isn't what is being proposed. God says it is wrong for us to take lives unjustified, because that is murder. If the One who dispenses moral duties chooses to take a life, that is His prerogative. But that isn't murder, because murder is unjustified killing. God is never unjustified when He decides to take a life.

Tony Hoffman said...

You: “Where did I say it was different for anyone?”

In your comments here. God can kill against someone’s will, we cannot. Different.

You: “If God is the ontological source of morality, then He isn't bound by any outside source, He IS the source. Ergo, He would not act against His character. That doesn't mean that He is bound by the same moral duties as we are, since He dispenses the moral duties, and these duties flow from His moral goodness.”

You’ve read the Bible before, right? God kills people against their will. God forbids us from doing the same. Different moral rules for different agents. Not objective.

You: “The rule makers in the NFL aren't bound by the same duties as the players on the field are. They dispense the duties. That doesn't mean that there aren't a set of objective rules that football players are subject to.”

I think you are confusing “written down” with objective. Objective generally means that it would exist even without us, or if we were changed with someone else, etc.. Without us, 2 + 2 would still equal 4. But the rules of football are not only subject to interpretation (holding, the tuck rule, incompletions, etc.) in a way that 2 + 2 = 4 is not, but it’s easy to imagine the rules of football changing slightly or drastically. (Have you ever watched an NFL game from 30 or more years ago? Very different rules back then.)

I thought that was your best try so far, but it’s pure sophistry.

You: “God says it is wrong for us to take lives unjustified, because that is murder. If the One who dispenses moral duties chooses to take a life, that is His prerogative. But that isn't murder, because murder is unjustified killing. God is never unjustified when He decides to take a life.”

Different rules for different agents. Not objective. It’s like saying that if you and I add up 2+2 it will equal 4, but if God does it he’ll get 5. Even if you believe it, there goes the objectivity of Math.

bossmanham said...

In your comments here. God can kill against someone’s will, we cannot. Different.

The distinction is not in if it's against the person's will, it is whether the killing is justified. Remember, murder is an unjustified killing. If we accepted your definition, then killing in self defense or war would be murder, since neither those who are attacking you nor the opponent in war dies willingly.

You're also missing the distinction between moral values and moral duties. God is the source of moral values who we measure acts agaist to see if they are good. Moral duties are the specific requirements that exist in light of the ontological existence of moral values. He dispenses moral duties but is not subject to them in the way we are.

I think you are confusing “written down” with objective. Objective generally means that it would exist even without us, or if we were changed with someone else, etc.

The rules of the NFL are such that they exist and are true no matter what any player says. They are an objective source by which football is played. Of course it isn't a perfect analogy, as the rules of football can be altered and are subject to human whims (not based in our character) but it's just an example to help clarify a subject.

I thought that was your best try so far, but it’s pure sophistry.

That's an interesting assertion, but your failure to understand 1) the definition of murder and 2) the distinction of moral values and duties do not reflect on me. How about you try harder than the ad hominem attempts made so far?

Tony Hoffman said...

You: “The distinction is not in if it's against the person's will, it is whether the killing is justified. Remember, murder is an unjustified killing. If we accepted your definition, then killing in self defense or war would be murder, since neither those who are attacking you nor the opponent in war dies willingly.”

And how do we know that God’s killing is justified? Using our objective morality detectors we “know” that killing infants is wrong, right? That’s pretty much universal, one of the things that a Christian might say points to confirm the argument that morality must be objective. But then God orders the killing of infants, and we have to say, “Oh, turns out that the thing we all thought was wrong is actually good. But wait a minute, how do we know that morals are objective if the majority of us would think something was wrong, but as it turns out God tells us that it’s not?”

Because (poof) morality cannot be objective under the Christian God. Sorry, there’s too much in that book of yours to make a credible argument that objective morality exists, what with all the morally reprehensible things that God does. You can’t have it both ways.

bossmanham said...

And how do we know that God’s killing is justified?

Because all have sinned and deserve that punishment. Further, God is the creator and sustainer of the creation and has no duty, no outside compulsion, to continue sustaining it or any individual life. It is His free choice to do so, and His own self-restraint based in His loving and just nature. If God is completely just, then your question is just a category mistake.

Using our objective morality detectors we “know” that killing infants is wrong, right?

Killing infants unjustified (aka murder) is wrong, yes, because it's murder. Killing babies for us is almost always wrong, since there would never be a time, sans a divine command, that it would be justifiable to kill a baby, even if it's an inconvenience.

But then God orders the killing of infants, and we have to say, “Oh, turns out that the thing we all thought was wrong is actually good. But wait a minute, how do we know that morals are objective if the majority of us would think something was wrong, but as it turns out God tells us that it’s not?”

Because God doesn't continue to command said thing.

Because (poof) morality cannot be objective under the Christian God. Sorry, there’s too much in that book of yours to make a credible argument that objective morality exists, what with all the morally reprehensible things that God does. You can’t have it both ways.

I note the blind unbacked assertions and await the presentation of argument and evidence.

Tony Hoffman said...

“Further, God is the creator and sustainer of the creation and has no duty, no outside compulsion, to continue sustaining it or any individual life. It is His free choice to do so, and His own self-restraint based in His loving and just nature.”

By this logic, it is not immoral for a mother to kill her infant. Creation = no moral duties?

“If God is completely just, then your question is just a category mistake.”

Not sure what you mean here. I gather that you’re a subscriber to Divine Command Theory. But my question is epistemological. Your position is patently tautological (If god is just, his killing is just), and I was curious if you had a way of knowing that your God is completely good. Don’t worry, though, most DCT aren’t troubled by their tautological thinking, and I’m guessing you won’t be troubled by it either.

“I note the blind unbacked assertions and await the presentation of argument and evidence.”

Actually, it’s your claim that objective morality exists through the Christian God. I am not making an argument, I am raising objections.

But here’s your chief problem; it appears that you want objective values to exist, and you want to believe in your magic sky man. But when it comes to what should be one of the easiest things for you to arrive at – the statement of an objectively immoral act, you write:

“Killing infants unjustified (aka murder) is wrong.”

Do you see your problem above? You can’t bring yourself to make a statement about objective morality without inserting a word that allows you to escape to a relative scale. Even in an argument like this you have to insert “unjustified” to modify killing infants. Would you care to make an argument for the justified killing of infants?

It appears to me that you are more of a moral relativist. Which I think makes you a more reasonable person. But it also means you are probably not as much of a moral objectivist as you’d like to think you are.

Tony Hoffman said...

“Further, God is the creator and sustainer of the creation and has no duty, no outside compulsion, to continue sustaining it or any individual life. It is His free choice to do so, and His own self-restraint based in His loving and just nature.”

By this logic, it is not immoral for a mother to kill her infant. Creation = no moral duties?

“If God is completely just, then your question is just a category mistake.”

Not sure what you mean here. I gather that you’re a subscriber to Divine Command Theory. But my question is epistemological. Your position is patently tautological (If god is just, his killing is just), and I was curious if you had a way of knowing that your God is completely good. Don’t worry, though, most DCT aren’t troubled by their tautological thinking, and I’m guessing you won’t be troubled by it either.

“I note the blind unbacked assertions and await the presentation of argument and evidence.”

Actually, it’s your claim that objective morality exists through the Christian God. I am not making an argument, I am raising objections.

But here’s your chief problem; it appears that you want objective values to exist, and you want to believe in your magic sky man. But when it comes to what should be one of the easiest things for you to arrive at – the statement of an objectively immoral act, you write:

“Killing infants unjustified (aka murder) is wrong.”

Do you see your problem above? You can’t bring yourself to make a statement about objective morality without inserting a word that allows you to escape to a relative scale. Even in an argument like this you have to insert “unjustified” to modify killing infants. Would you care to make an argument for the justified killing of infants?

It appears to me that you are more of a moral relativist. Which I think makes you a more reasonable person. But it also means you are probably not as much of a moral objectivist as you’d like to think you are.

Tony Hoffman said...

“Further, God is the creator and sustainer of the creation and has no duty, no outside compulsion, to continue sustaining it or any individual life. It is His free choice to do so, and His own self-restraint based in His loving and just nature.”

By this logic, it is not immoral for a mother to kill her infant. Creation = no moral duties?

“If God is completely just, then your question is just a category mistake.”

Not sure what you mean here. I gather that you’re a subscriber to Divine Command Theory. But my question is epistemological. Your position is patently tautological (If god is just, his killing is just), and I was curious if you had a way of knowing that your God is completely good. Don’t worry, though, most DCT aren’t troubled by their tautological thinking, and I’m guessing you won’t be troubled by it either.

“I note the blind unbacked assertions and await the presentation of argument and evidence.”

Actually, it’s your claim that objective morality exists through the Christian God. I am not making an argument, I am raising objections.

But here’s your chief problem; it appears that you want objective values to exist, and you want to believe in your magic sky man. But when it comes to what should be one of the easiest things for you to arrive at – the statement of an objectively immoral act, you write:

“Killing infants unjustified (aka murder) is wrong.”

Do you see your problem above? You can’t bring yourself to make a statement about objective morality without inserting a word that allows you to escape to a relative scale. Even in an argument like this you have to insert “unjustified” to modify killing infants. Would you care to make an argument for the justified killing of infants?

It appears to me that you are more of a moral relativist. Which I think makes you a more reasonable person. But it also means you are probably not as much of a moral objectivist as you’d like to think you are.

Tony Hoffman said...

“Further, God is the creator and sustainer of the creation and has no duty, no outside compulsion, to continue sustaining it or any individual life. It is His free choice to do so, and His own self-restraint based in His loving and just nature.”

By this logic, it is not immoral for a mother to kill her infant. Creation = no moral duties?

“If God is completely just, then your question is just a category mistake.”

Not sure what you mean here. I gather that you’re a subscriber to Divine Command Theory. But my question is epistemological. Your position is patently tautological (If god is just, his killing is just), and I was curious if you had a way of knowing that your God is completely good. Don’t worry, though, most DCT aren’t troubled by their tautological thinking, and I’m guessing you won’t be troubled by it either.

“I note the blind unbacked assertions and await the presentation of argument and evidence.”

Actually, it’s your claim that objective morality exists through the Christian God. I am not making an argument, I am raising objections.

But here’s your chief problem; it appears that you want objective values to exist, and you want to believe in your magic sky man. But when it comes to what should be one of the easiest things for you to arrive at – the statement of an objectively immoral act, you write:

“Killing infants unjustified (aka murder) is wrong.”

Do you see your problem above? You can’t bring yourself to make a statement about objective morality without inserting a word that allows you to escape to a relative scale. Even in an argument like this you have to insert “unjustified” to modify killing infants. Would you care to make an argument for the justified killing of infants?

It appears to me that you are more of a moral relativist. Which I think makes you a more reasonable person. But it also means you are probably not as much of a moral objectivist as you’d like to think you are.

bossmanham said...

Tony, I don't know what Blogger's problem is, but it seems as if your comment isn't getting through here. It's in my email, though, so I'll post it here and then respond.

Tony Hoffman said...
“Further, God is the creator and sustainer of the creation and has no duty, no outside compulsion, to continue sustaining it or any individual life. It is His free choice to do so, and His own self-restraint based in His loving and just nature.”

By this logic, it is not immoral for a mother to kill her infant. Creation = no moral duties?

“If God is completely just, then your question is just a category mistake.”

Not sure what you mean here. I gather that you’re a subscriber to Divine Command Theory. But my question is epistemological. Your position is patently tautological (If god is just, his killing is just), and I was curious if you had a way of knowing that your God is completely good. Don’t worry, though, most DCT aren’t troubled by their tautological thinking, and I’m guessing you won’t be troubled by it either.

“I note the blind unbacked assertions and await the presentation of argument and evidence.”

Actually, it’s your claim that objective morality exists through the Christian God. I am not making an argument, I am raising objections.

But here’s your chief problem; it appears that you want objective values to exist, and you want to believe in your magic sky man. But when it comes to what should be one of the easiest things for you to arrive at – the statement of an objectively immoral act, you write:

“Killing infants unjustified (aka murder) is wrong.”

Do you see your problem above? You can’t bring yourself to make a statement about objective morality without inserting a word that allows you to escape to a relative scale. Even in an argument like this you have to insert “unjustified” to modify killing infants. Would you care to make an argument for the justified killing of infants?

It appears to me that you are more of a moral relativist. Which I think makes you a more reasonable person. But it also means you are probably not as much of a moral objectivist as you’d like to think you are.

bossmanham said...

By this logic, it is not immoral for a mother to kill her infant. Creation = no moral duties?

By what logic? First off, a mother is not the locus of morality. Second, the mother is under the morality that God's character and nature impose in light of her being made in his image, as is the child. Third, the mother is not necessary to sustain the child in being. The analogy fails on multiple levels.

Not sure what you mean here. I gather that you’re a subscriber to Divine Command Theory. But my question is epistemological. Your position is patently tautological (If god is just, his killing is just), and I was curious if you had a way of knowing that your God is completely good. Don’t worry, though, most DCT aren’t troubled by their tautological thinking, and I’m guessing you won’t be troubled by it either.

I've been under the impression that we're talking about moral ontology, not moral episemology. Part of the way of knowing God is good is from the basic definition of God; the One whom which no greater can be conceived. If God were not perfectly just, then I could conceive of a greater being. By definition, He must be so or doesn't exist. Just like a triangle must have 3 angles that add up to 180 degrees.

Actually, it’s your claim that objective morality exists through the Christian God. I am not making an argument, I am raising objections.

Which would require some sort of argument. Otherwise they're just assertions and I have no reason to consider them. *I don't like your position* *oh, sorry...next!*

Do you see your problem above? You can’t bring yourself to make a statement about objective morality without inserting a word that allows you to escape to a relative scale. Even in an argument like this you have to insert “unjustified” to modify killing infants. Would you care to make an argument for the justified killing of infants?

It's pretty obvious that killing isn't always wrong. That's why one must qualify it. Murder is the shorthand way of saying "unjust killing." That's what murder is. Murder is ALWAYS wrong; objectively.

It appears to me that you are more of a moral relativist. Which I think makes you a more reasonable person. But it also means you are probably not as much of a moral objectivist as you’d like to think you are.

It appears to me you didn't think this through enough.

Tony Hoffman said...


Me: By this logic, it is not immoral for a mother to kill her infant. Creation = no moral duties?



You: By what logic?


Um, yours. You wrote:


“Further, God is the creator and sustainer of the creation and has no duty, no outside compulsion, to continue sustaining it or any individual life.”


I read your paragraph quoted above to contain the premise: The creator and sustainer of a creation has no moral obligation to that creation. So that looks like it’s your logic. So I think my question is valid. You seem to agree by addressing it a bit below.


First off, a mother is not the locus of morality. Second, the mother is under the morality that God's character and nature impose in light of her being made in his image, as is the child. Third, the mother is not necessary to sustain the child in being. The analogy fails on multiple levels.


And the mother cannot be the locus of morality because… I think if you could ask any infant where morality comes from, they’d say, “Mom.”

Your second statement is odd to me. If my child is made in my image (and I would say he/she is), do I have no moral duty to my child? You seem to repeat these theological statements without any heed for how they would apply in a non-tautological sense.

I don’t know what you mean by “necessary to sustain a child in being.” This seems like the kind of theological statement that comes from trying to make sense of the Christian God from a Platonist perspective. But I would say that if a mother were on a dessert island with her infant, she would be necessary to sustain her child. Under what I understand of your logic, she is then free to kill her child if she so chooses. This seems like an undesirable consequence of your logic.


I've been under the impression that we're talking about moral ontology, not moral episemology. Part of the way of knowing God is good is from the basic definition of God; the One whom which no greater can be conceived. If God were not perfectly just, then I could conceive of a greater being. By definition, He must be so or doesn't exist. Just like a triangle must have 3 angles that add up to 180 degrees.


So the answer is no, you don’t have a way of knowing whether or not God is actually good that isn’t tautological?


Me: Actually, it’s your claim that objective morality exists through the Christian God. I am not making an argument, I am raising objections.


You: Which would require some sort of argument. Otherwise they're just assertions and I have no reason to consider them. *I don't like your position* *oh, sorry...next!*


This is vacuous. I’ve done nothing but give you reasons to reconsider the validity of your premises. Go ahead and find an example of my expressing an objection based on personal preference. I’ll wait here while you look them all up…


It's pretty obvious that killing isn't always wrong. That's why one must qualify it. Murder is the shorthand way of saying "unjust killing." That's what murder is. Murder is ALWAYS wrong; objectively.


It’s pretty obvious you’re dodging my challenge. Specifically, I asked, “Would you care to make an argument for the justified killing of infants?” Why won’t you make that argument?


It appears to me you didn't think this through enough.


Hmm. I am thinking through how it is that objective morality even makes sense from a Christian perspective. I am not taking a position on morality (I am agnostic about moral reality). I wonder if you would consider that you appear content with a moral apologetics that doesn’t seem to make sense.

bossmanham said...

Um, yours

No, not mine.

The creator and sustainer of a creation has no moral obligation to that creation.

Just because God has no moral duties doesn't mean He doesn't act in accordance to His moral nature. His actions aren't totally random, but are reflections of His nature. What you inferred ("Creation = no moral duties") doesn't at all follow.

No you are correct that God has no "obligation" to us other than what He has chosen to place Himself under.

And the mother cannot be the locus of morality because…

Because she is created and morally finite.

Your second statement is odd to me. If my child is made in my image (and I would say he/she is), do I have no moral duty to my child?

The duty from God, yes. Parent-child relationship, while somewhat similar to the God-human relationship, nonetheless is not a 1-to-1 correlation, mainly because of God's identity as the locus of morality.

You seem to repeat these theological statements without any heed for how they would apply in a non-tautological sense.

I ham aware of the implications of my statements.

I don’t know what you mean by “necessary to sustain a child in being.” This seems like the kind of theological statement that comes from trying to make sense of the Christian God from a Platonist perspective.

Earlier I mentioned that God has no duty to sustain us in being, though He does. With the mother is not so. The child could remain in existence without the care of the mother, yet the mother has a moral duty. This isn't analogous to God.

But I would say that if a mother were on a dessert island with her infant, she would be necessary to sustain her child.

Not in the sense that God is. If the mother died the child would remain in existence; in life for a time and then continued in the afterlife.


Under what I understand of your logic, she is then free to kill her child if she so chooses. This seems like an undesirable consequence of your logic.

You must have missed the whole moral duties talk then. That's odd since that's what the whole discussion has been about...

So the answer is no, you don’t have a way of knowing whether or not God is actually good that isn’t tautological?

He can also reveal it to us, but I the tautological definition is sufficient for thinking people.

This is vacuous. I’ve done nothing but give you reasons to reconsider the validity of your premises

You've brought up thought experiments which I've answered and said how much you didn't like the position, but no reasons to reconsider anything. I was responding to this statement "Because (poof) morality cannot be objective under the Christian God. Sorry, there’s too much in that book of yours to make a credible argument that objective morality exists, what with all the morally reprehensible things that God does. You can’t have it both ways."

That is an unbacked assertion that you haven't provided any argumentation for. Even if my responses here weren't sufficient to answer some of your questions, you'd still need to provide an argument to show that objective morality existing in God is incoherent in some way. Until you do that, the statement remains an unbacked assertion.

It’s pretty obvious you’re dodging my challenge. Specifically, I asked, “Would you care to make an argument for the justified killing of infants?” Why won’t you make that argument?

I thought you'd have caught on. When and only when God commands it.

I wonder if you would consider that you appear content with a moral apologetics that doesn’t seem to make sense.

It's pretty coherent in my mind, and in the minds of most of the top Christian philosophers of our time and times past, and even many atheist philosophers would concede that moral objectivity would exist if theism were true.

Why should I listen to random-online-blog-commenter-guy over them?

Tony Hoffman said...


Me: It’s pretty obvious you’re dodging my challenge. Specifically, I asked, “Would you care to make an argument for the justified killing of infants?” Why won’t you make that argument?


You: I thought you'd have caught on. When and only when God commands it.


So… Morality is objective under the Christian God, but that doesn’t mean you can tell me that something like killing infants is morally wrong. (Some things are “just wrong.” We just don’t know what for sure.) It would be morally right to kill infants, you admit, if God commanded it. So, even though you say your morality is “objective,” that doesn’t actually mean you know when something is morally right or wrong (because you admit that God might command you otherwise) which, of course, makes Christian morality subjective.

I’ve spent more than enough time here. I appreciate the continued engagement, but you need to apply more intellectual rigor to your beliefs to make for a mutually beneficial discussion.

bossmanham said...

So… Morality is objective under the Christian God, but that doesn’t mean you can tell me that something like killing infants is morally wrong.

Murdering them is morally wrong.

It would be morally right to kill infants, you admit, if God commanded it

Yeah, because then it wouldn't be murder.

So, even though you say your morality is “objective,” that doesn’t actually mean you know when something is morally right or wrong (because you admit that God might command you otherwise) which, of course, makes Christian morality subjective.

God would never command the murder of anyone. I would argue that's logically impossible.

I’ve spent more than enough time here. I appreciate the continued engagement, but you need to apply more intellectual rigor to your beliefs to make for a mutually beneficial discussion.

With all due respect, you haven't shown that there is any deficiency in what I believe. You can't even distinguish between murder and killing.

Tony Hoffman said...


You: “Murdering them is morally wrong.”


You understand that you are speaking mostly in tautologies, right? You’re basically saying that killing infants is wrong when it’s wrong. That’s not really an argument.


You: “God would never command the murder of anyone. I would argue that's logically impossible.”


Because… (wait for it), anything God does is good because anything God does is good! You’re not defending your position, you just appear to be burying your head in the sand.


You: “With all due respect, you haven't shown that there is any deficiency in what I believe. You can't even distinguish between murder and killing.”


I understand what you think. I just believe it’s intellectually vapid.

I think it’s ironic that you believe I cannot distinguish between murder and killing, when you are the one who believes that murdering infants (such as happens in the Bible with the Canaanites) was not murder because God ordered it.

I can see why you believe that you’re adept at defending the moral argument. This phenomena actually has a name: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning–Kruger_effect

bossmanham said...

You understand that you are speaking mostly in tautologies, right? You’re basically saying that killing infants is wrong when it’s wrong. That’s not really an argument.

Tony, how many times have I defined murder? If a killing is not justified it is murder, and that is wrong. There are times when killing is not murder. That isn't a hard concept to grasp.

anything God does is good because anything God does is good! You’re not defending your position, you just appear to be burying your head in the sand.

No, because it's logically incoherent for a perfectly good being to do evil. Where's the argument beyond the ad hominem ridicule? Show me why I'm wrong. Don't just assert it.

I understand what you think. I just believe it’s intellectually vapid.

Why? Because it includes *gasp* God? A concept you just personally don't like? Come on, man.

I think it’s ironic that you believe I cannot distinguish between murder and killing, when you are the one who believes that murdering infants (such as happens in the Bible with the Canaanites) was not murder because God ordered it.

If you have a divine command, then you have a morally justifiable reason to do something. Since only unjust killings are murder, this is not a murder.

It's a fairly simple argument:

1) Unjustified killing is murder
2) A divine command to kill gives us a justifiable reason to kill.
3) ∴ a divinely commanded killing is not murder.

Show me why I'm wrong. Ridicule isn't an argument.