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If a culture develops a belief that killing the weakest of its citizens is morally preferable in order to protect itself from other cultures (you're only as strong as your weakest link, right?), then is it still wrong? Or  is it ok because that culture in particular has deemed it morally right?

No, I don't actually believe that murder is ok in any culture. And neither do you (I hope). Quite a few people in this day and age, however, claim beliefs about reality which actually conflict with their moral beliefs, to the point that if they truly lived consistently with their beliefs, the above society would be totally acceptable. Many, many people claim moral beliefs with their intellect which conflict with the moral beliefs they actually demonstrate in the way they live their lives. This is an interesting paradox, and one which very much gets taken for granted these days. Let us not grant it so easily here. 
From a morally relativistic perspective, it would absolutely be the case that our hypothetical people group is correct in mandating their own version of morality. From a morally absolute perspective, absolutely not. The vast majority of people will acknowledge that murder is objectively wrong in this scenario, even to the point of imagining in their minds that this people group MUST be isolated from civilization or else have existed thousands of years ago because this is simply not a right perspective in our supposedly "morally progressive" society. Let's be honest, we're all picturing some cannibalistic tribe on an island in the middle of nowhere. Of course, though, this was precisely the moral perspective of Adolf Hitler just 60 years ago, fully immersed in "civilization," when he convinced so many people to kill all of the Jews, handicapped, and others who he determined to be "weak" and "imperfect." Really, any genocide fits into this moral description, from Stalin to the Rwandan genocide just less than 20 years ago. Many are still going on today. We are not so separated from this hypothetical culture as we might be tempted to think.

Everybody agrees that this culture is wrong. But on what basis? The interesting dilemma here is that everybody agrees on a morally objective judgment of this situation, but probably half of the current generation claims to believe in moral relativism. The other interesting dilemma is that many of these same people who agree on a morally objective assessment of, for example, Hitler, also claim that there is no God. 

You're probably asking "What on earth does the existence of God have to do with making morally objective judgments?" Well, the answer is actually "Everything." See, the problem is that you can't actually consistently believe in objective morality if you don't believe in God. The two (though I can hear you protesting) are mutually exclusive.

What I mean is this: if there is truly no God, then morality is merely a human construct, imagined and not real at all, for the express purpose of the preservation of our genes. In other words, evolutionary biology must become our "god" if there is no actual supreme guiding force, which means that everything in life is meaningless, purposeless and only exists to keep our race going. Of course, I can imagine several scenarios, not the least of which is the one which began this blog post, which suggest that murder could actually be beneficial to the preservation of a group of people, not to mention an individual. Such situations have played themselves out repeatedly throughout history, and are almost always decried as evil and intolerant from a modern perspective. However, this is an inconsistent claim if one does not believe in God because from the standpoint of evolutionary biology, there is no basis for which to say that such murder is wrong. Ironically, to claim that such murder is wrong and to carry out punishment upon the murderer is an admission to the truth of objective morality. It's a claim that "our" morality is "better" than that of the murderer's, and is therefore not relative at all. But again, if there is truly no God, there is no basis for which to make this claim. We are simply another example of trampling on somebody else's culturally correct moral views if morality is actually non-existent and therefore relative.

One might then profess that simply because morality is not really there, that does not mean we can't act morally, or for the general "best interests" of all people everywhere. But again, on what basis can you determine what are their "best interests?" What you are then saying is that you don't believe murder is inherently wrong, but you will live the rest of your life believing it is. It is like saying you don't believe there is a monster hiding under your bed, but you will sleep for the rest of your life with the lights on. Why will you live this way? Because everything in the core of your being tells you that murder is wrong, even though your worldview says otherwise. You are living in conflict with your beliefs, and claiming that your morality is better than those of others who supposedly have just as much a right to it as you do. Ironically, if there truly is no God and no objective morality, you are actually being intolerant by saying that your views of what is right and what is wrong are better than those of murderers (or anybody else who does anything you don't agree with). The only consistent way to live here is to believe that there is a God and therefore objective morality, an entirely consistent perspective with everything your sense of morality tells you about the world we live in, or to believe that there is no God and believe that morality is relative, therefore not having a foundation for which to challenge anybody's moral choices, ever.

Despite these realities, as mentioned near the beginning of this post, many who do not believe in God live as if they acknowledge objective morality, and many who believe in moral relativism do not live consistently with this view either. It seems quite apparent to all of us that murder is wrong, as is stealing or sleeping with another man's wife or another woman's husband. Yet, if this is true, then morality is indeed objective, and God must indeed exist by necessity. Otherwise, it is all just an illusion, a belief  in right and wrong formed on the basis of nothing except natural selection and the preservation of your genes.

The flip side to this moral conundrum is that when you are "wronged," if there is no God and therefore no objective morality, then you haven't actually been wronged at all and there is again no basis for which to say you have been. In the eyes of that other person who wronged you, they may have been doing something they viewed as morally right (as messed up as that may seem). What makes your subjective morality better than theirs? How, in this case, could a rape victim ever claim to have been wronged if there is no actual objective standard of right and wrong for them to appeal to? That seems horribly wrong to me. Where does this intense hurt and cry for justice come from in our hearts if morality is merely a construct and has nothing really to do with what is true?

Another problem with this view is that relative morality isn't actually morality at all - it's selfishness disguised by natural selection. It's about the preservation of yourself and your genes, and therefore excludes what is best for other people unless it just so happens to coincide with your own best interests. Even if you end up serving others' best interests, that is not morality in any sense of our contemporary definition. It's simply pure selfishness - the exact opposite of what we would deem "morally correct behaviour." Motives have absolutely every bit as much to do with moral goodness as the actions themselves.

Despite the fact that many reading this will protest vehemently, there is not really any way around this moral conundrum. You cannot simply escape from it by claiming that morality is only a result of natural selection unless you are fully willing to accept the consequences of that claim. To try and claim that morality can be objective and valuable apart from the existence of a higher power who created us and designed us that way is incredibly shaky ground to stand upon, and certainly not the most believable hypothesis in light of our sense of justice and belief that selflessness is actually something higher to be aimed for and attained in our society. The belief that altruism is simply another result of natural selection is not a belief in altruism at all - it is only a belief in pretending to be selfless in order to benefit yourself.

The purpose in writing this is not to convince people to a certain belief system. It is to challenge what you have taken for granted and to get you to think about the inconsistencies of the way you live and what you may currently believe.

What do you believe about morality?
Kevin
4/4/2012 05:06:04

Great article Wes!

Reply
4/4/2012 12:59:27

“Really, any genocide fits into this moral description, from Stalin to the Rwandan genocide just less than 20 years ago. Many are still going on today. We are not so separated from this hypothetical culture as we might be tempted to think.

Everybody agrees that this culture is wrong.”

Interesting that you choose genocide as the example to which all of us can find common moral ground, thus alluding to moral law; and then stretching this to a “law-giver”. If I remember, this very same moral law creator mandated several genocides in the Old Testament. That’s the real interesting part.

However, let’s go back to the argument. In your hypothetical culture, everyone agrees that the genocidal destruction of the weakest members of the society is morally reprehensible. And the dilemma created is that we shouldn’t all (read: majority) agree if moral relativism is true? What part of moral relativism suggests that it’s impossible to have commonality for one (or many) morals? We all have different favourite flavours (relativity), but everyone can agree sugar is sweet – and sweetness itself is still relative. This “dilemma” doesn’t suggest what you’re insinuating.

Not everyone thought Hitler was wrong. Even to this day, there are people who believe the Nazi party should and will rise again. Are the people who disagree with the “objective moral position against Hitler” broken?

“See, the problem is that you can't actually consistently believe in objective morality if you don't believe in God. The two (though I can hear you protesting) are mutually exclusive.”

Since I’m sure you meant they are not mutually exclusive, I’ll go with that. Otherwise, there’s nothing to discuss. I disagree that one cannot both acknowledge objective morality and reject the claim of there being a god; I do this every day. I know, the argument has been stated outright: my morality is subjective because I’m not god. I get that position. I just think it’s wrong.

I believe there are moral truths to be known. I take the position that facts can be learned and known about human well-being. I very much align my position with Sam Harris and his book The Moral Landscape. And, there may not yet be a scientific way to prove a moral truth, but that does not suggest god is the answer.

“In other words, evolutionary biology must become our "god" if there is no actual supreme guiding force, which means that everything in life is meaningless, purposeless and only exists to keep our race going.”

Man, I loath this argument. With no god, life is “meaningless”. Why does there need to be an afterlife to give meaning to life? Why can’t the search for truth in this life be a meaning? Why can’t love in this life be a meaning? Why can’t the joy I get from helping someone I care for have meaning? This claim is wrong. To suggest that loving someone in this life is meaningless because once you die, it was all for not is just ridiculous. We only have evidence of this life. We have no legitimate evidence of anything but this life – nothing before and nothing after. So why would anyone live for “the next life” when there’s nothing to suggest it’s anything but a human construct – wishful thinking. Something built entirely to satisfy our sadistic need for “justice” in a clearly unjust world.

“However, this is an inconsistent claim if one does not believe in God because from the standpoint of evolutionary biology, there is no basis for which to say that such murder is wrong.”

I can’t tell if this is ad hominem, or straw man, or what. Regardless, it’s a false statement. Here’s why: You’re taking the position that people who believe in evolutionary biology think that it’s morally correct. This is not always the case. While evolution is a fact, and occurs in nature, it doesn’t mean the biologists think it’s “fair”. In fact, nature is often unfair. This is precisely the age-old (albeit weak) non-theist argument: “if there’s a moral god, why is there so much suffering in the world?”.

Nature is cruel. Natural disasters, disease, children with cancer… nature is anything but ethical. This applies to evolution as well. But knowing it’s a fact and thinking it’s fair (or moral) are two completely different things. Besides, genocide can hardly be described as “biological evolution”. If you really want the point, I know I’ll have a hard time arguing that “humans are a part of nature, so anything they do – including genocide – is a natural part of evolution”. I don’t like it, but it’s a moot point, so if you want it, take it.

I say it’s moot because the followup was that there’s no way to justif

Reply
4/4/2012 13:04:07

I say it’s moot because the followup was that there’s no way to justify murder is wrong – and yet we have. Natural phenomena and premeditated murder are not comparable. An environment can favour one trait over another and cause a slow drift in a population. This does not suddenly mean “murder is fine”. I refuse to take the position that “murder is never justified” because the question becomes “by what authority do I make this claim?”. All I’m doing is rejecting your position that you can jump from a belief in evolution to “no proof murder is wrong”. Independent of evolution and your god, moral truths could be found. There are facts to be known about human well-being and human flourishing. This suggests there are facts to be known about morality. We also have developments in neurology and neuroscience specifically in the area of morals. It’s no longer just a philosopher’s or theist’s domain.

“But again, on what basis can you determine what are their "best interests?"

Well, I’d start with facts. That’s always a good place to begin. Your entire paragraph (which I don’t want to repost) on us believing our morals are “better” than the murderers is based on the premise that 1. It isn’t relative to suggest our morals are better than his/hers, and 2. That objective reality cannot exist without god.

Premise 1 is false. Comparing our morals to the murderer’s morals is the definition of relativity. Premise 2 is false because there’s no proof god exists and there is proof that morals are universal. There is evidence that animals show similar behavior to humans for some morals (the ones humans might notice) such as compassion for a suffering animal. So, based on your logic, either god instilled these morals into the animals or they’ve adopted a human construct. I say neither. It’s evidence to suggest morals are universal, or at least evidence enough to suggest we can’t rule it out. Still no hard evidence suggesting it’s god’s construct (by the way, which god? And why? I’m kidding – that’s entirely rhetorical.)

“It seems quite apparent to all of us that murder is wrong, as is stealing or sleeping with another man's wife or another woman's husband. Yet, if this is true, then morality is indeed objective, and God must indeed exist by necessity.”

I’ll go back to the beginning. A majority agreeing on one or many morals does not prove moral objectivity. And moral objectivity does not prove god. Not having a reasonable explanation is not the precursor for “it must be god!”.

What about the people who think it’s ok to kill? Obviously some people think this. What about those who think that steeling is ok? Or cheating or lying or infidelity; are these people broken for being born with an alternative view to “god’s moral law”? Did god make them broken?

“The flip side to this moral conundrum is that when you are "wronged," if there is no God and therefore no objective morality, then you haven't actually been wronged at all and there is again no basis for which to say you have been.”

I’ll play devil’s advocate for a second. Ok, so my personal views of being wronged are entirely subjective. So what? What if that’s the way things are? Other than you being extremely unhappy at the apparent lack of justice in nature, so what? We’ve already determined that life still has meaning, that people can experience joy, that love exists, that life goes on. So if our realities are subjective and propagation of species as well as personal genetics is the driving force, so what? Does that render the search for truth and understanding pointless? Are we wasting our time trying to build a space-station and staring at the stars all night? Not at all. Learning, itself, is so incredible. Just the act of learning something new, of figuring something out, is so rewarding in and of itself.

So even though I’m not convinced that morals are relative, even if they were, it changes nothing about life or society. We’ve still created a justice system for the apparently lack of one in nature. We’ve still managed to flourish as a species. We’ve still managed to diagnose and treat medical problems to prolong the one life we’re sure of. Because that life has meaning, irrespective of what may come next.

5/5/2012 04:05:22

Not sure that replying to this will be altogether helpful, and I think I've said most of this already, but...

"Interesting that you choose genocide as the example to which all of us can find common moral ground, thus alluding to moral law; and then stretching this to a “law-giver”. If I remember, this very same moral law creator mandated several genocides in the Old Testament. That’s the real interesting part."

False. Genocide is determined by somebody who takes a massive amount of lives and has no right to. In other words, the lives are not their own. If God exists, he gave us our lives. They are absolutely his right to take if we are abusing them. This is not genocide.

"However, let’s go back to the argument. In your hypothetical culture, everyone agrees that the genocidal destruction of the weakest members of the society is morally reprehensible. And the dilemma created is that we shouldn’t all (read: majority) agree if moral relativism is true?"

False. Sorry man, but you’re not reading carefully enough. This is not what my post says. I have nowhere claimed that moral relativism cannot be true. I have stated the logical necessity of God if it is not true. And I have stated that people do not live as if moral relativism is true, regardless of what they proclaim with their mouths and brains. I have also stated that despite our agreement in this case, we would actually be living in moral objectivity in order to determine that this is wrong, not moral relativism. There is no escaping this because the dilemma is that if moral relativism is true, we have no right to enforce our morals upon somebody else. We have just arbitrarily decided to do so. It is, in fact, at least in some way, arbitrary because we have no actual basis for deciding that something is right and wrong other than what we are told by instinct and some guiding principles which are again arbitrary without an objective standard to stand upon.

"What part of moral relativism suggests that it’s impossible to have commonality for one (or many) morals? We all have different favourite flavours (relativity), but everyone can agree sugar is sweet – and sweetness itself is still relative. This “dilemma” doesn’t suggest what you’re insinuating."

Exactly. Favourite flavours are relative issues. The fact that sugar is sweet is not relative; it is objective. Some issues are relative issues, and some are not. They cannot and should not be confused. Morality is not a relative issue. Something is either right or wrong, regardless of what you believe.

"Not everyone thought Hitler was wrong. Even to this day, there are people who believe the Nazi party should and will rise again. Are the people who disagree with the “objective moral position against Hitler” broken?"

Yes (in a manner of speaking).

"Since I’m sure you meant they are not mutually exclusive, I’ll go with that. Otherwise, there’s nothing to discuss."

This doesn’t make sense. Mutually exclusive means they cannot exist together. I very much meant that believing in objective morality and atheism are mutually exclusive.

"I disagree that one cannot both acknowledge objective morality and reject the claim of there being a god; I do this every day. I know, the argument has been stated outright: my morality is subjective because I’m not god. I get that position. I just think it’s wrong."

On what basis could you say that your morality is not subjective? What standard can you apply to?

"I believe there are moral truths to be known. I take the position that facts can be learned and known about human well-being. I very much align my position with Sam Harris and his book The Moral Landscape. And, there may not yet be a scientific way to prove a moral truth, but that does not suggest god is the answer."

By logical necessity, there cannot be such moral truth without an objective standard. What is the objective standard if there is no standard for our existence?

"Man, I loath this argument. With no god, life is “meaningless”. Why does there need to be an afterlife to give meaning to life?"

The afterlife is not really what I’m referring to here. At all.

"Why can’t the search for truth in this life be a meaning? Why can’t love in this life be a meaning? Why can’t the joy I get from helping someone I care for have meaning?"

They can be, but they are subjective meanings you have created for yourself and have no actual bearing on objective meaning. Meaning is objective, regardless of what you believe about it. You can create and enjoy your “own” purpose. That doesn’t make it objectively real. It is a logical fallacy to claim otherwise.

"This claim is wrong. To suggest that loving someone in this life is meaningless because once you die, it was all for not is just ridiculous. We only have evidence of this life. We have no l

5/5/2012 04:14:47

"This claim is wrong. To suggest that loving someone in this life is meaningless because once you die, it was all for not is just ridiculous. We only have evidence of this life. We have no legitimate evidence of anything but this life – nothing before and nothing after. So why would anyone live for “the next life” when there’s nothing to suggest it’s anything but a human construct – wishful thinking. Something built entirely to satisfy our sadistic need for “justice” in a clearly unjust world."

This is an unevidenced and biased assumption. No need to get into it here though.

"I can’t tell if this is ad hominem, or straw man, or what. Regardless, it’s a false statement. Here’s why: You’re taking the position that people who believe in evolutionary biology think that it’s morally correct. This is not always the case. While evolution is a fact, and occurs in nature, it doesn’t mean the biologists think it’s “fair”. In fact, nature is often unfair. This is precisely the age-old (albeit weak) non-theist argument: “if there’s a moral god, why is there so much suffering in the world?”

"Nature is cruel. Natural disasters, disease, children with cancer… nature is anything but ethical. This applies to evolution as well. But knowing it’s a fact and thinking it’s fair (or moral) are two completely different things. Besides, genocide can hardly be described as “biological evolution”. If you really want the point, I know I’ll have a hard time arguing that “humans are a part of nature, so anything they do – including genocide – is a natural part of evolution”. I don’t like it, but it’s a moot point, so if you want it, take it."

What you’ve said here is actually irrelevant to my point. I have no problem saying that evolution is not always ethical. I’m saying you have no basis or standard for which to say murder is wrong if all we have to appeal to is natural selection. I’m not taking the position you have given to me.

"I say it’s moot because the followup was that there’s no way to justify murder is wrong – and yet we have. Natural phenomena and premeditated murder are not comparable. An environment can favour one trait over another and cause a slow drift in a population. This does not suddenly mean “murder is fine”. I refuse to take the position that “murder is never justified” because the question becomes “by what authority do I make this claim?”. All I’m doing is rejecting your position that you can jump from a belief in evolution to “no proof murder is wrong”. Independent of evolution and your god, moral truths could be found. There are facts to be known about human well-being and human flourishing. This suggests there are facts to be known about morality. We also have developments in neurology and neuroscience specifically in the area of morals. It’s no longer just a philosopher’s or theist’s domain."

Your points are not really relevant to mine. Moral truths cannot be found without an objective standard. Again, you can believe whatever you like, but there is no intrinsic link between what you believe and objective reality. I believe there are facts to be known and discovered – but they literally cannot be objectively assessed without an objective standard for which to apply to. Again, logical necessity.

"Well, I’d start with facts. That’s always a good place to begin. Your entire paragraph (which I don’t want to repost) on us believing our morals are “better” than the murderers is based on the premise that 1. It isn’t relative to suggest our morals are better than his/hers, and 2. That objective reality cannot exist without god.

"Premise 1 is false. Comparing our morals to the murderer’s morals is the definition of relativity."

No, it isn’t. The definition of relativity is that your truth can be true for you while mine can be true for me because there is no objectivity. Once you compare anything, you’re in the realm of objectivity. Premise 1 is irrefutably true. It’s undisputable fact.

"Premise 2 is false because there’s no proof god exists and there is proof that morals are universal."

Proof for universal morals can just as easily be applied as evidence for God’s existence as it can for natural selection.

"I’ll go back to the beginning. A majority agreeing on one or many morals does not prove moral objectivity."

No, you’re right, it doesn’t. I haven’t made such a claim. I’m saying that if it is objectively true, if you believe that it is objectively true, you have no basis for which to say so without the existence of an objective standard, which I am saying is God.

"And moral objectivity does not

5/5/2012 04:20:12

"And moral objectivity does not prove god."

Moral objectivity does not prove God, but moral objectivity cannot exist without God. Different statements.

"What about the people who think it’s ok to kill? Obviously some people think this. What about those who think that steeling is ok? Or cheating or lying or infidelity; are these people broken for being born with an alternative view to “god’s moral law”? Did god make them broken?"

I’m not really sure this is the most relevant issue in this conversation. It involves more than what we are presently talking about (i.e. natural inclination toward evil, desensitization to moral good, etc.).

"I’ll play devil’s advocate for a second. Ok, so my personal views of being wronged are entirely subjective. So what? What if that’s the way things are? Other than you being extremely unhappy at the apparent lack of justice in nature, so what? We’ve already determined that life still has meaning..."

Not objectively.

"So if our realities are subjective and propagation of species as well as personal genetics is the driving force, so what? Does that render the search for truth and understanding pointless?"

Yes. If that's all our reasoning and thinking exists for, we can't really even rely on it.

"Learning, itself, is so incredible. Just the act of learning something new, of figuring something out, is so rewarding in and of itself."

I’m glad you believe that. What you believe is still not instrinsically linked to objective reality.

"We’ve still managed to flourish as a species."

Questionable, depending on your definition of flourish.

"We’ve still managed to diagnose and treat medical problems to prolong the one life we’re sure of. Because that life has meaning, irrespective of what may come next."

Subjectively, sure.

Sandra
7/31/2013 07:29:49

You believe in something because of the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. When you have to see yourself as the murder victim, rape victim etc., it opens your heart to compassion and love for yourself and others. We can only live from the heart. The mind is to cold and dispassionate.

Yamez
4/6/2012 14:34:40

Hey, some good reading here in post and comments. I must weigh in here and focus on a single point. Moral Relativism vs. Absolute Morality is a big one. Facades concealing this same debate include Pro-Choice vs. Pro-Life, Euthanasia of the Elderly and perhaps more topical for this discussion, the now largely defunct debate over whether there is a master race of humans.
Wading into debates such as these can be dangerous. Therefore I will make clear that I have no delusions regarding any right by any human being including myself to aspire to control over the thoughts or views of another. That said, I believe Moral Relativism to be a dangerous thing. I am supported in my belief by this poster's allusion to a certain guiding mantra of the Third Reich. Aryanism of course, was much more a European event than just a German one. The confidence expressed by the greater German intelligentsia about the superiority of the white race was echoed throughout the intellectual communities of the Western World, right up until and into WWII. The British policy of appeasement prior to the outbreak of war had much to do with feelings of empathy among the British for the National Socialist's views on many things, including a belief in a master race, that all Germanic peoples belonged to. Hitler in turn, well aware of this British sentiment envisioned a great alliance between his empire of the continent and the empire of the sea. Of course, it became very unfashionable to be associated with Nazis following that onset of war. The decision to view non-Aryans as less than human was made by Western Civilization at large many decades before the National Socialists used that popular opinion as part of a platform. I feel the important point to make here is that the Nazis were not doing wrong in their own eyes, because they did not see the occupants of their gas chambers as human at all. I'll add here that the same status of non-human has been granted by our contemporary intelligentsia to unborn children, with similar pseudo-scientific support given for this recent demotion in status. Following the erasure of a person's identity as human, the ingredient required to cause a culture to accept violence against fellow humans seems to be the instinct to protect oneself against a perceived threat. These two offered events certainly have innumerable distinctions. However, binding them together, in addition to the similarities here demonstrated, is the fact that these are macro-cultural movements supported by intra-culturally invented moral systems. A culture of people is deciding what is right and what is wrong.
Relativism does not refer only to differences in positions of morality from person to person, as discussed by Jeffrey Gilchrist, but also for any given person, dependant on circumstances. For instance I may decide not to kill the man offering me a share of his snack, but change my mind when he is slow to respond to my request for seconds. Ridiculous though this scenario may seem, put yourself in a different time and place where food may have more importance; the moral relativist may wrestle with their convictions over whose life is more important. What really are the consequences of murder given that no one is watching and the consequences of letting the snack possessing man live may mean death for you. Perhaps there is the threat of repercussion from other people... but what if no one finds out. There is nothing assumed in the assertion that people will harm each other in times of need. What could drive a person to murder? Self-preservation of course. But what could keep someone from killing in a desperate time, why a code of morals, indeed. What's to stop a person with no belief in God and an absolute law from altering their moral code to suit a new situation? Will you kill a person to survive? It's an important question to ask oneself. I shall not.

Reply
4/8/2012 00:27:52

You asked: "Where does this intense hurt and cry for justice come from in our hearts if morality is merely a construct and has nothing really to do with what is true?" I think this is really the heart of your article.

First, I want to point out that some constructs are well-entrenched, quite complex, and integral to our social lives, so I wouldn't start out by saying that anything is "merely" a construct. If morality is a construct, it's an important construct. Similarly, when you use phrases like "nothing except natural selection," it diminishes the significance of natural selection. If we indeed evolved, then evolution is of profound importance and complexity. There's no "nothing except" about it.

If morality has developed through an evolutionary process and is partially hard-wired in our brains, then it has everything to do with "what is true," since it's a biological/psychological fact about human beings. If our moral opinions and ideas are a kind of elaborate construct that spins off of this biological/psychological fact, then it's still somehow based upon this fact. There may still be a way of evaluating whether one's moral beliefs are right or wrong.

Your question could be turned around back at you: "Where does this intense hurt and cry for justice come from in our hearts if morality is merely a fact about the cosmic order and has nothing really to do with how we think or feel?"

Reply
4/8/2012 17:25:18

Hi Tucker!

Thanks for your comments, first of all. Secondly, I actually would say that this particular phrase is perhaps not quite the foundational point of my post. The point is really that there is no real foundation for which to make objective moral judgments or have objective moral convictions without an objective standard for them outside of ourselves. Yet, we live as if there are such objective moral judgments to be made. The sentence you've picked out is kind of secondary, although still, I think, extremely important.

Having said that, to address your first point, my wording is not meant to diminish the significance of what I am talking about at all. It is, however, telling of my thoughts about natural selection and constructions as sufficient explanations for these things.

Morality existing as part of the evolutionary process and being true as a fact is completely separate and distinct from telling the truth about reality. I think you are confusing what is meant by "what is true" here. Of course, if morality were simply a function of natural selection, it would be "true" in the sense of being a fact. That does literally nothing, however, to help us evaluate moral right from wrong. As I believe I have demonstrated in my post, there is no such foundation and no such existence of "right" and "wrong" without an objective standard to depend upon. It is just serving its evolutionary purpose and cannot really be depended upon for moral truth-telling.

I think turning the question back on me actually further illustrates my point. When I read your version of the question, it sounds so illogical to me that it points me back to my original conclusion. To my thinking, your question reinforces my own.

Feel free to let me know your thoughts!

Wes

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4/18/2012 03:40:37

Not sure what you mean when you say that "if morality were simply a function of natural selection, it would be 'true' in the sense of being a fact. That does literally nothing, however, to help us evaluate moral right from wrong." Why not? What is it that you think we need, in addition to facts, to help us evaluate right and wrong? You say we need an objective standard, but isn't that (hypothetical) standard itself understood to be a fact? So how does it help us evaluate right and wrong, in a way that ordinary facts wouldn't?

Secondly, to recap, I suggested taking the framework of your question and substantially changing the content to repurpose it like this: "Where does this intense hurt and cry for justice come from in our hearts if morality is merely a fact about the cosmic order and has nothing really to do with how we think or feel?" You said this question strikes you as "illogical." I'm not sure why. What I mean is this: Right now where I am, it is sunny and warm. This material fact does not entail that I have to feel any particular way about the weather. Normally, I love beautiful spring days, although this morning I had a headache and was sensitive to light so I was less enchanted than usual. I can't change the weather, but my reaction to the weather is rather up to me. So, if it is a fact that "well-fed people ought to provide for those who are hungry" (or some such moral maxim or standard), I need to acknowledge that truth, and arguably I need to obey it, but I need not feel emotionally moved in any particular way by it. If I happen to feel an "intense hurt and cry for justice" in my heart it has to do with my personality and present condition and isn't mandated by the objective moral standard itself. The moral maxim only says that I have to feed the hungry, much as the government tells me to pay my taxes; it doesn't - and in fact, can't - require me to feel any particular way about it. It is the person who sees morality as objective, not the one who sees morality as subjective, who will have difficulty explaining where moral feelings come from and what justifies them.

4/18/2012 04:07:29

Hey again, Tucker!

For some reason, my comment is being inserted above yours instead of below it. Hope that's not too confusing - for some reason, your comment doesn't have a 'Reply' button showing.

"if morality were simply a function of natural selection, it would be 'true' in the sense of being a fact. That does literally nothing, however, to help us evaluate moral right from wrong."

I think you're confusing what I am saying in this sentence. If morality were simply the product of natural selection, of course that would be a fact in and of itself. Morality existing as a product of a system 'designed' only to preserve one's genes, however, cannot be a standard for truth itself. This is why it does literally nothing to help us evaluate moral right and wrong. If morality stems only from natural selection, it is not necessarily even intended to help us determine what is true. Not only that, but because there is no objective standard, there is no such thing as moral right and wrong in this scenario. It literally could not exist. Even whatever natural selection 'told' us about morality would not be objectively moral. We could choose to live that way, but we could never actually say or determine what is true - only what we have evolved to believe is true. There is a massive difference between the two, though we can easily ignore it and pretend as if the problem doesn't exist. The issue is not needing anything more than facts - this is why I think you've confused what I've said. The issue is that natural selection cannot provide an objective standard for morality - it can only lead us to believe what is necessary for our survival, regardless of whether it is actually true or not. This can go so far as to make irrelevant even our intellects since they could in fact exist only to make us believe whatever will help us survive, and could be completely useless for actual truth. In which case none of our comments here hold any relevance within a framework of natural selection as a worldview.

'If I happen to feel an "intense hurt and cry for justice" in my heart it has to do with my personality and present condition and isn't mandated by the objective moral standard itself."

This is an interesting and good point. I think the important part here is not so much how you feel, but rather what you know. Regardless of how I feel at any particular moment about injustices in the world, I 'know' that they are wrong. I may feel particularly moved to do something about them at some times, and not so much at others, but my feelings do not affect my knowledge and beliefs about what is right and what is wrong. You may not feel particularly good about the sunny day outside, but you still know it's a 'nice' day. I think you are right to point out that feelings can vary based on circumstance. Let me alter my point to focus on one's knowledge of what is right and wrong (and the feelings that sometimes go along with that knowledge under the right circumstances) rather than focusing in on the emotions themselves.

"It is the person who sees morality as objective, not the one who sees morality as subjective, who will have difficulty explaining where moral feelings come from and what justifies them."

Not at all. The person who sees morality as objective has no difficulty at all explaining where morality (and thus moral feelings) comes from. The person who views morality as subjective cannot consistently live this way unless they are willing to accept that their moral feelings are equally as valid as Hitler's or anybody else's in a truly subjective moral environment.

4/18/2012 04:08:47

Oh, it inserted in the right place after all. Excellent.

4/22/2012 11:56:33

OK, there are different things we might mean by "the fact of morality."
- A meta-ethical fact: Morality is constituted by principles guiding human social life that have evolved over time. (This is a statement about what morality itself is.)
- An anthropological or descriptive relativist fact: People speak and behave in ways that we would describe as moral or immoral. (This is a statement about what people actually do.)
- A simple, specific moral fact: Stealing is wrong. (This is a prescriptive statement about how we should act in a specific situation.)

Regarding the first one, a meta-ethical claim along the lines of "Morality is constituted by principles guiding human social life that have evolved over time," I hear your concern that it implies that moral principles may have evolved only because they are useful/meaningful and not because they are true, and therefore it implies that objective moral truth is nonexistent and not to be pursued. As a pragmatist, I'd respond by asking: what would it mean for something to be morally true beyond its being useful and meaningful? When we evaluate the truth of a moral claim, it seems to me that we examine its consequences and its comprehensibility/likability and that's about it. There's no access to any objective truth beyond that.

The distinction and/or the overlap between moral knowledge and moral feeling would be a good subject for another post! Yes, sometimes I subconsciously sense that something is right or wrong even when my emotional floodgates are shut. We all compartmentalize emotionally to some extent to get through the day, but decreasing emotional involvement doesn't always mean relinquishing intellectual awareness. I'm intellectually concerned for my neighbors' welfare even when I lack the emotional energy to talk to them about their problems. On the other hand, one could argue that if a person is completely and permanently emotionally shut down, that person is sociopathic and doesn't have the capacity to really understand right from wrong because they lack the capacity to care, and caring is fundamental to morality. That would imply at least some necessary overlap between moral knowledge and moral feeling, even if they aren't identical.

5/5/2012 04:30:19

Hey bro!

"When we evaluate the truth of a moral claim, it seems to me that we examine its consequences and its comprehensibility/likability and that's about it. There's no access to any objective truth beyond that."

A valid thought, but an incredibly biased one. Your statement assumes that there is no objective truth, really. It assumes there is no God to establish such objective truth as a standard for our existence. Without that assumption, your statement is not really valid. If there is such a God, then of course objectivity relies upon his character and not just simply upon its consequences. If there is no God, then your scenario is probably more realistic. The assumption kills the point without further discussion and evidence for it.

I like your last paragraph quite a bit.

6/3/2012 01:19:05

In that sentence, my assumption wasn't that God doesn't exist (although I happen to think he does not), but rather more specifically that God doesn't reliably reveal any moral truths to a significant population of people, which leaves us unable to use such allegedly divine truths in our moral debate. Different sacred texts worldwide say different things and their true believers believe them. This doesn't mean that one isn't right and the rest aren't wrong. But how would a neutral third party begin to judge which is the true divine revelation and which are the false ones? It would be difficult...no thanks to people's diverse and fallible perceptions of what God is telling them.

In other words, even if God exists and has moral opinions that amount to moral laws for us, there is the problem of how we can access that information. Many people, when asked how they know what moral choice to make, will say, "Jesus said..." "Allah said..." and so forth. That sort of justification is a conversation-ender if the person you're talking with doesn't share your faith.

Interfaith and secular dialogue about morality has to take a more pragmatic approach to examine the consequences and comprehensibility/likability of a moral claim. It must omit direct appeals to the mind of God.

At which point, I personally conclude: If this pragmatic approach allows us to talk about morality, maintain moral beliefs, and act upon them, there is no need for the faith-based discourse. It's an extra add-on that distracts from the more significant and interesting thought process.

6/3/2012 01:45:19

In that sentence, my assumption wasn't that God doesn't exist (although I happen to think he does not), but rather more specifically that God doesn't reliably reveal any moral truths to a significant population of people, which leaves us unable to use such allegedly divine truths in our moral debate. Different sacred texts worldwide say different things and their true believers believe them. This doesn't mean that one isn't right and the rest aren't wrong. But how would a neutral third party begin to judge which is the true divine revelation and which are the false ones? It would be difficult...no thanks to people's diverse and fallible perceptions of what God is telling them.

In other words, even if God exists and has moral opinions that amount to moral laws for us, there is the problem of how we can access that information. Many people, when asked how they know what moral choice to make, will say, "Jesus said..." "Allah said..." and so forth. That sort of justification is a conversation-ender if the person you're talking with doesn't share your faith.

Interfaith and secular dialogue about morality has to take a more pragmatic approach to examine the consequences and comprehensibility/likability of a moral claim. It must omit direct appeals to the mind of God.

At which point, I personally conclude: If this pragmatic approach allows us to talk about morality, maintain moral beliefs, and act upon them, there is no need for the faith-based discourse. It's an extra add-on that distracts from the more significant and interesting thought process.

7/23/2012 02:17:39

Hey again, Tucker!

Sorry for the delay, man. I've been out of the country for a while.

If you can reliably come upon objective truths without consulting God's word (whichever "holy book" that may be), then you are still engaging in the faith discussion even if it be unintentionally since these truths are still objectively based in God's character. However, the danger of course is inventing your own moral truths which are not objectively true. They may still be pragmatically functional to you, but they also may certainly be false.

The discussion of God and faith cannot be an extra add-on which distracts only because it is difficult to assess. We may rightly conclude that it is difficult to take all of the ideas and beliefs and books out there about God and somehow sift through them to an objectively agreeable result about who God is and what his objective moral truths are. However, this does not mean that we should not engage in such a practice. Difficulty is often the only means to reality and truth. To avoid this road at all costs is to simply give up and say "Well, that looks hard, so I'll just pretend like it doesn't matter." But it does matter. Not just for this discussion of morality, but the implications are for all of reality.

You may have reasons for not believing in a God, but I will still maintain that you most likely live as if there is objective moral truth and thus a God in practice. Personally, I have found that engaging with the different "holy books" out there does actually reveal quite a difference between them in terms of what makes sense, what aligns with my personal experiences and those of others I know and trust, what I see playing out as truth in reality, and what has happened historically. I do personally believe it is quite possible to discover what God is really like through this process of engagement with the Bible and others. It is not impossible. If there truly is a God out there, then he will make it possible for people to know who he is and to know him.

Wes

Erik Johnson
4/9/2012 06:50:04

Interesting post, I am a little short for time, and I will come back to comment again, but I just wanted to make a comment on one particular statement.

"As I believe I have demonstrated in my post, there is no such foundation and no such existence of "right" and "wrong" without an objective standard to depend upon. It is just serving its evolutionary purpose and cannot really be depended upon for moral truth-telling."

I think are clear that you make the presupposition (explicitly) that your "foundation" is a metaphysical creator. Arguing against this point is really moot because it is not "objectively" verifiable. The "standard" on which we base our morality is likely part of our own development in human evolution, first as a useful means in society to organize ourselves in groups, then later as explanations for the unexplainable, metaphysical feelings we experience or are in awe of.

So I am not entirely sure how you can start from this position, I think you will fall into "infinite regress" as they say, it is non-foundational, there is no one foundation one can point to beyond our evolution, and beyond that, there is no "objective" God that we can rely on. We can look to our books of religion, spirituality, etc, for some guidance in these questions, but I think ultimately, morality is an intersubjective exercise. Intersubjective in that we together determine it out of our own conception of ethics and morals (regardless of our religious affiliation). Intersubjective, rather than simply a "third party" or "objective" standard is I think the only verifiable solution to such a conundrum. This isn't to make a argument for moral relativsim at all, I can say I think that certain practices are immoral based on my own subjective viewpoint, but for society as a whole to appeal to something beyond the intersubjective seems to me at least, to not be based on something we can collectively verify with evidence as "truth-telling" or any standard of truth for us to reasonably understand from all affected.

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Erik Johnson
4/9/2012 06:52:13

* from an all affected principle

Sorry, in a rush! :)

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4/9/2012 07:09:44

Hi Erik!

Thanks for your comments! I think your description actually is equivalent to moral relativism. To say that from your subjective point of view, you can determine what you believe to be immoral, and to suggest that this can be different from somebody else's point of view but still have both people be correct is absolutely moral relativism.

Your proposal of an "intersubjective" formulation of morality intrigues me. However, I don't think that this proposal really gets at the heart of the matter at hand. The point of the post is ultimately that regardless of whatever we may decide collectively in society, none of it is actually objectively true without an objective standard. We can certainly agree upon certain "moral" judgments without such a standard, but there is literally no basis for which to say that what we have agreed upon is an accurate reflection of truth. That is to say, without such an objective standard outside of ourselves, there is no way to even know what is morally correct from an objective standpoint. We can live as if we can know, and even claim that we know, but we can't really. The only way this is actually possible is with an objective standard.

As for objectively verifying the existence of a God or creator, I do absolutely believe this is possible. I think there is an entire world of evidence for this point, but that is perhaps best saved for another post altogether. The point here is that regardless of what you believe, morality must depend upon something other than us, or else it is contrived and not morality at all.

Let me know your thoughts!

Wes

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Erik
4/9/2012 08:26:28

Interesting reply! However, it begs a question, what is truth? Further, how can we verify it "outside ourselves"?

You state: "...basis for which to say that what we have agreed upon is an accurate reflection of truth. That is to say, without such an objective standard outside of ourselves, there is no way to even know what is morally correct from an objective standpoint. We can live as if we can know, and even claim that we know, but we can't really. The only way this is actually possible is with an objective standard."

If we cannot attain this objective truth and we can only live as if we know it, does this not obliterate the distinction between right and wrong? And if this is the case, does it not also fall victim to "moral relativism" since you cannot make a judgement, approvingly or otherwise on a practice, without the fabrication of our notion of "truth" and so measuring things against that conception?

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4/9/2012 13:21:48

Hey Erik,

That's precisely it. Your last paragraph there is a great summary of my point. If there is no such objective truth, or as you say, if it is unattainable, then that does absolutely obliterate the distinction between right and wrong. What you have said is precisely what I mean. However, we don't live as if that is the case (even though it clearly would be without said objective standard). The very fact that everything in our being screams to the contrary, I think, is actually evidence to support the existence of this objective standard, which I believe is best explained to be God.

Wes

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Tim
5/7/2012 10:10:44

Great article and excellent responses Wes.

I really enjoyed the article, it is interesting to think about how so many people assume their sense of morality is true justice. For example: Many people believe that murderers deserve the death penalty. But why was is not acceptable to kill the murder victim, and it is now acceptable to kill the murderer? If we apply a relative moral system than deciding whether or not to execute the murderer is contextual. It will depend on local culture, perhaps if it was accidental, if it was malicious or random, what alternative punishments entail (it costs more money and resources to keep prisoners in jail)? Even if we decide it is moral to kill the murderer, others may, and will, disagree; no one can be right and thus it the decision does not hold any weight. Executing the murderer may temporarily sate someones desire for vengeance ('justice') but perhaps logically keeping him alive would be more useful? It depends on context once again.

However, if we apply an objective moral law than deciding whether or not to execute the murderer is no longer a choice. Whether or not the murderer is executed will depend on moral law and the knowledge of those who are 'doing justice'. If we know that the murderer did kill the victim then he should be dealt with according to what the objective moral law dictates for known murderers. If the moral law says murderers are to be killed than the murderer should be executed. If the moral law says to hug and kiss the murderer until he is a better person than he should be treated as such. What is most interesting here is that if we have no concrete proof that the accused is the murderer then he cannot be held accountable as a murderer via objective moral law (assuming the moral law does not say accused killers should be punished). It is however possible for a person to be imprisoned based on speculation, not simply because of moral relativity, but; because even with an objective moral law (I believe there is one) people who do not believe it, have not heard of it, or simply don't like some of it (pick and choose what to abide by) are not very likely to abide by an objective moral law.

Interesting to think about, although I suppose my theoretical scenario wrapped back around to reality. No one has to agree with the last little bit, but it wouldn't do you any harm to consider it either folks.

Thanks for the mental food to chew on. Keep on thinking, and the communicating what your thinking too, communicating is nice :)

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5/14/2012 03:59:33

Here's another interesting article which expands a little bit on my own thoughts: http://powertochange.com/blogposts/2012/04/10/torturing-toddlers/

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dave
5/31/2012 00:07:43

If you are going to base your morals and ethics on God's word, which God are you going to choose?

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7/23/2012 02:02:26

Hi Dave!

Sorry for the delay in responding - I have been out of the country for a while.

I don't believe that basing morals and ethics on God's word is actually discussed anywhere in my blog post. It seems that you are bringing an assumption into the discussion that is actually not the basis for my argumentation. We have discussed why it is logically and philosophically impossible to have objective truth without the existence of God, and we have discussed how the vast majority of people live as if objective truth (and thus God) exists, even if they argue otherwise. We have not discussed that morality is based on God's word, but rather on God's character and being.

That being said, you bring up a perfectly valid question. How do we know which God most accurately represents the real one? Our own sense of morality (generally, although we can become desensitized to it) tells us quite a bit about God since that is how we are able to know moral truths in the first place. I do personally believe that God has also given us his word in order for us to be able to know who he is, and I believe the Bible is his word (but not that morals originate there). I believe this for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is that the Bible is actually real and honest about the fact that we have all failed morally and are in need of God's help, which he sent through Jesus' death on the cross on our behalf to rescue us from ourselves. I do also think that the Bible does teach moral truths which represent the objective morality which actually exists in the world. However, the basis for the existence of objective morality is not the Bible or any other "holy book." It is God's character himself, and his word is how we can come to know him (and objective morality) better.

Let me know if you want me to clarify anything I've said.

Wes

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Eric
4/7/2013 11:33:25

Hello, Wes. I stumbled upon your blog today, specifically the entry "Thank You Jesus For Helping Me Find My Car Keys." I am an atheist, but I completely agree with what you wrote in that entry and was excited to find a Christian with whom I could potentially have a constructive debate. But when I came across a statement in your "Born This Way" entry which linked me to this one, I have to say I was a bit offended. It actually makes you sound like you've never spoken to an atheist before or tried to consider an atheist's perspective.

I'll begin assuming your statement, that without belief in a deity there could be no basis for morality, is true. Bizarre as that statement is, we'll go with it for a sec. But I'd like you to also keep in mind that from an atheist's point of view, there is really no reason to believe, for instance, in the god of Abraham. If there were any logical reason to believe in that particular god, there would be no leap of faith involved, and said leap of faith is central to Christianity. My point is that you can't really call me unreasonable for assuming there is actually no god. Anyway, if the alternative is arbitrarily selecting a god to believe in and corresponding scripture by which to orient my moral compass, is that really better than no morals at all? I don't see how.

But let's get back to the topic of whether one can have a moral standard without belief in a deity. Like I said, your choice to subscribe to the morals laid out in the Bible is arbitrary. There's no way around it. It's so random that you would assert it's the ONLY way when there is no reason whatsoever to choose it. Your example of murder as (pretty much) universally agreed upon as "wrong" does more to suggest that morality is transcendent of religion than it does to support your claim. Especially since you presumably don't abstain from eating shellfish (or if you do it's a matter of taste) or trouble yourself to wear only clothes made from a single type of fiber. The Bible is pretty explicit in its stance on those two issues.

We all kinda know what is good and what is bad, and we even know which parts of our holy books to completely ignore. That's because it is so abundantly obvious that "bad" is suffering, and "good" is happiness, contentment, etc. But it does get tricky when one must weigh whether one suffering is greater or more important than another, such as choosing between your own life and another's. In a case like this, I would personally say that it's morally acceptable to sacrifice the other's life for your own, although perhaps morally SUPERIOR to sacrifice yourself. This is my opinion, sort of. It's what I believe, based on my own logical reasoning, is the objective truth. I don't KNOW it's the objective truth, but if I didn't think it was then it wouldn't be what I think. My point is that, while it may take another millennium or more or forever for humanity to come to a consensus on morality, to seek the truth is much more admirable and useful than to RANDOMLY CHOOSE a creed to follow. And even if it's a more complicated one, I think suffering versus happiness is AT LEAST as legitimate a moral standard as a book, which was probably written by men inspired by their own ancient ignorance and not by a divine being.

I feel like this comment may come off as a little hostile in tone. But I must admit the phrase "a *little* hostile" would be an accurate description of my reaction to your position. But you must understand that you are accusing me of having no moral standard, which amounts to no morals at all when paired with your belief that there is in fact an objective morality and that it is the one you recognize. For your information, I am a stand up guy. I'm even an Eagle Scout, despite the fact that I'm an atheist. My morals are based on logic and extremely, EXTREMELY important to me. As you might guess, the majority (though not all) of my friends are atheists and they are like me in this way. I recognize that by following (some of) the guidelines in the Bible, you are trying to be a good person. You're not trying very hard, but you're trying a little bit at least. The least you could do is talk to maybe one atheist, or read a snippet of any atheist's opinion on the matter before you assert that I'm just stupidly fumbling around in the dark or something.

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Wes
4/7/2013 13:35:47

Hey Eric!

Thanks for your thoughtful comment! I am glad to hear that you liked my "Thank You God.." article. And I'm glad that you are thoughtfully engaging with this one as well. I would like to point something out though about your comment, which is very simply that you seem to have read some assumptions into my perspective that (whether true or not) were not represented by what I wrote in this post. What I mean is that you've assumed that I am arguing we cannot BE moral without personally subscribing to a particular God or belief system. This is nowhere represented in what I have written and so I believe you have slightly misunderstood my points. I am not by ANY means suggesting that someone cannot be morally good without a particular belief. What I am saying is that moral goodness cannot exist objectively without the existence of a God. It has nothing to do necessarily with what anybody personally believes. So...

"Anyway, if the alternative is arbitrarily selecting a god to believe in and corresponding scripture by which to orient my moral compass, is that really better than no morals at all?"

This is what I mean. I am not arguing that you must select a God to believe in in order to orient your moral compass. This gives me little to respond to in your comment because you are arguing with a point I have not made. Do you see the distinction I am making here?

"We all kinda know what is good and what is bad, and we even know which parts of our holy books to completely ignore. That's because it is so abundantly obvious that "bad" is suffering, and "good" is happiness, contentment, etc."

This is precisely my point. We all kind of know what is good and bad. Everybody, regardless of what they believe personally, has access to this general common understanding. But without the existence of a moral standard, to claim that there is a such thing as objective moral goodness would be illogical in the highest degree, as has been explicitly stated by many, many atheists in both the fields of science and philosophy. Many recognize that the necessary implications of naturalism are actually that moral objectivity does not actually exist regardless of whether we perceive that it does, nor even inherent human value.

"But you must understand that you are accusing me of having no moral standard..."

What I need you to understand, Eric, is that this is precisely what I am NOT saying. I understand how you could feel a bit hostile if you think that is my point, but it very simply isn't. I would caution you against reading assumptions like this into the perspectives of others, and against assuming that I am not aware of or do not talk with atheists (daily) about these exact things. (I actually find it a bit insulting considering how untrue that assumption is). I am not in any way, shape or form saying that you do not have a moral standard. What I am saying, and what many atheist philosophers agree with me on, is that if naturalism is true, there are no objective moral values and they are just figments of our imagination or functions of natural selection. What I am saying is that an atheist belief combined with a belief in objective moral values is, in fact, paradoxical. I believe you can absolutely be good and have access to what is morally good without subscribing to a belief in God. I am merely pointing out that if you believe your concept of moral goodness is objective and not subjective, then this does actually point to the existence of a moral standard.

NOW, if you want to get into why I specifically believe in the Bible personally, we can absolutely have that conversation! But that discussion actually has very little to do with my post on morality.

Please let me know if this makes sense to you. Thanks again for posting and I look forward to further discussions with you!

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