Moral argument

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Jesus and Mo lampoons one of the problems with the moral argument.

The simplest form of the moral argument is as follows:

  1. If God does not exist, morality does not exist.
  2. Morality exists.
  3. Therefore, God exists.

This is a deductively valid argument, which is to say if its premises are true its conclusion cannot be false. The key question is whether or not the premises are true.

The first premise is by far the most often-disputed premise in the argument. While many religious believers take the first premise for granted, the reasons for thinking it true are not clear, and there are some serious objections to it.

Contents

Arguments for the first premise

Famous atheists rejected morality

Though this line of argumentation is popular among religious apologists, it clearly commits the fallacy of appealing to authority, and that is not its only problem. Many nontheists who have rejected conventional views of morality have done so on grounds independent of their views on the existence of God. Also, it requires selectively quoting authorities, because many nontheists--indeed, many theists--have rejected the first premise of the moral argument. Finally, it is trivially easy to construct a similar argument against theism, for example: "John Calvin did not believe in free will, therefore 'If God exists, free will does not exist,' but free will does exist, therefore God does not exist." Even if Calvin had good arguments for his stance on free will being entailed by theism, non-Calvinistic theists will not be swayed by the mere citation of Calvin's authority, nor should they be.

Hitler and Stalin were atheists

Main article: 20th century atrocities

The basic fallacy of this argument is similar to the one in the first, though it could be considered an example of guilt by association rather than an appeal to authority. Furthermore, the historical accuracy of the argument can be questioned. Hitler's theistic proclaimations are well documented,[1] and anti-religious quotes attributed to him are apparently inauthentic. He seems to have held to basic doctrines of Christianity, in spite of rather unorthodox changes, such as his belief that Jesus was an Aryan and Paul corrupted Christianity with proto-Bolshevism. Stalin was an atheist, but given that this is one of many beliefs he held, it is unclear why his actions should be attributed to his atheism. For example, though many would be surprised by this, Stalin opposed mainstream theories of evolution on the grounds that they were too capitalistic. Stalin's rejection of evolution could just as easily be named the source of his crimes as his rejection of God, and indeed his rejection of evolution arguably sheds more light on the ideological dogmatism at the heart of the Soviet regime.

If God does not exist, humans are just animals

One snappy response to this argument is "Humans are animals whether or not God exists," which has indeed been the consensus view among taxonomists since Aristotle. Though this point may seem trivial, but beneath it is the deeper point that it is hard to see how God's existing or not existing changes the status of humans. If the theist insists on claiming that human beings are worthless on their innate attributes alone, it is hard to see how God could change this situation.

Moral law requires a Lawgiver

Though we sometimes use the same words to talk about moral principles and human legislation, closer inspection calls into doubt the claim that there is a strong analogy between them. Human laws can be changed if the government wills it and follows correct procedures, but moral principles are typically thought to be unchanging. Also, it is possible to have a bad human law, but it is impossible to have a bad moral principle. In response to this second argument, it could be claimed that amoral laws are analogous to acts of a lower body that violate acts of a higher body which the lower body is responsible. This seems intuitively wrong, however: the wrong in a national law relegating part of the population to sub-human status seems very different, and more serious, than the wrong in a local law that contradicts a state

God's rewards and punishments needed to make morality in one's own self interest

Usually, this argument is not stated so baldly. A more typical statement is "we admire people who sacrifice their lives for others, but if there is no God who rewards self-sacrifice, then such people are being stupid." When the underlying assumption is stated explicitly, most people recoil. Most people do not believe that the ultimate maxim by which we should act is "look out only for your own self interest." Though such a view is technically an ethical theory (known to philosophers as ethical egoism), it is not what most people mean when they talk about morality. It seems that if ethical egoism is true, then the second premise of the moral argument is false, at least in the normally understood sense.

Absolute morality requires an absolute standard

Statements of this argument are often unclear, but it seems to rest on an equivocation of the term "absolute," in much the same way that the Lawgiver argument rests on an equivocation of the term "law." The two relevant senses here are "applicable in all cases" (a characteristic typically applied to moral principles) and "omnipotent, omniscient, etc." (a characteristic typically assigned to God). There is no reason to think that the first sense entails the second sense.

Arguments against the first premise

The Euthyphro dilemma

This is perhaps the most famous objection to the second premise. The Euthyphro dilemma is found in Plato's Euthyphro, in which Socrates asks the question, "Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?" In layman's terms this would be, "Is that which is good commanded by God because it's good, or is it good because God commands it?" Both options are problematic for those who would claim morality is dependent upon God.

If God is free to decide what is good, and it is good by virtue of his decree, then God has no higher standard to answer to. Therefore his will may be seen as genuinely arbitrary. Although God once decreed that murder and theft are morally wrong, he might have declared the opposite just as easily, so then murder and theft would be right. This makes morality arbitrary, not what most theists mean to say in articulating the second premise of the moral argument.

If right and wrong are inherent to the action, regardless of God's decree, then God has nothing to do with the process. God doesn't set moral standards; he follows them, and is therefore irrelevant to morality (except to the extent that he can tell us things which we could not figure out for ourselves.)

An effective summary of the argument was given by Bertrand Russell:

"The point I am concerned with is that, if you are quite sure there is a difference between right and wrong, then you are then in this situation: is that difference due to God's fiat or is it not? If it is due to God's fiat, then for God himself there is no difference between right and wrong, and it is no longer a significant statement to say that God is good."

Why I Am Not a Christian

One perceived way to get out of the dilemma is to say that, although God has the freedom to command immoral acts such as rape, he would never do such a thing because it goes against his character or nature.

In response, Michael Martin has argued that this doesn't solve anything because the dilemma can be reformulated in terms of God's character: "Is God's character the way it is because it is good or is God's character good simply because it is God's character?"[2] The structure of this modified dilemma is exactly the same as before, and it appears to be if anything harder to escape.

Moral truths as necessary truths

Richard Swinburne, a theistic philosopher, has argued that moral truths cannot depend on God because moral truths are necessary truths, existing in all possible worlds, including ones where God does not exist. This objection of Swinburne's was cited by Jeffery Jay Lowder in Lowder's debate with Phil Fernandes.[3] Keith Yandell, another theistic philosopher, raised a similar objection in his comments on the Craig-Flew debate.


Main article: secular morality

Finally, it can in general be claimed that there is a specific, well-founded theory of morality that leaves God out of the picture. This is a complex topic and is dealt with in full by the above-linked article. One thing is worth noting here: some theists appear to think that it constitutes a valid link in the moral argument to simply demand a secular theory of morality without giving any reason to think that theistic theories are more likely to be sucessful. This is clearly fallacious, and debaters should not fall into this trap. Meta-ethics, like most areas of philosophy, has unresolved debates, but pointing to an unresolved philosophical debate is no argument for the exstience of God. To show that the moral argument is unsuccessful, one need only show that we should not accept the second premise. Full development of secular theory of morality may be helpful here, but it is not necessary.

Why Christians Cannot Account for Morality

Attribution of this article: Strong Atheism.net [4]

There are many reasons why Christianity is immoral, amoral, disgusting, and does not pertain to morality at all. However, I want to focus specifically on accounting for the existence of morality. Two specific points : moral autonomy and basic assumptions. p(cont).

1. As much as presuppositionalists rant against moral autonomy and freethought, we are all morally autonomous – at least, every single person able to read this blog and understand it. Ironically, we simply have no choice in this matter. Whatever standard of morality we follow, was chosen on the basis of one’s values. When the Christian asks us to surrender our moral autonomy to follow Christian doctrines, he is asking for a contradiction. To follow Christianity itself, or to continue to follow it (in the cases of childhood brainwashing) is a choice.

Christianity, then, is inscribed within a larger moral context, of which it is but one little subset. CHRISTIANITY CANNOT BE THE “FIRST CAUSE” OF MORALITY. Insofar as the Christian must, then, borrow from our secular worldviews in order to make the decision of following his religion, he is contradicting himself, and cannot account for that decision by using Christianity. Thus Christianity cannot, and necessarily so because it is a religion and not a necessity, account for its own moral validity.

The Christian decides to surrender his will on the basis of his corrupt values of submission, sacrifice, faith and opposition to the natural – just like the atheist decides to affirm his will on the basis of his own values of rationality, honesty and support for the natural. And all these values can be rationally evaluated, putting the action of “following Christianity and sacrificing some of one’s values” on an inferior moral ground to “following one’s personal values fully”.

Of course, the presuppositionalist attempts to deny moral autonomy because to do so automatically puts Christianity on such inferior moral ground. As for all collectivism, Christianity is counter to the individual, therefore sacrifice must be glorified in itself, beyond moral autonomy itself, in a higher realm of thought or ontology (the latter, in the case of God and so-called “divine morality”). p(cont).

2. Christianity cannot account for the most obvious natural-moral assumptions we hold. Assumptions such as :

•that genocide is evil.

•that we are not guilty for the crimes of our ancestors, and born evil.

•that the worth of a man is not based on his beliefs, but on his actions.

Each of these basic assumptions is contradicted by fundamental Christian beliefs. The assumption that genocide is evil, is contradicted by the Flood, the Plagues, and the Old Testament genocides are ordained by a perfectly good god. The assumption that we are not guilty of our ancestors’ crimes (and by extension, that we are separate individuals with separate actions) is contradicted by original sin. And the assumption that the worth of a man is based on his actions is contradicted by the standard of faith for salvation.

In each case, to affirm the obvious natural-moral assumption is to deny the truth of Christianity. These are all direct contradictions and there is no wiggling room for the Christian. So either the Christian rejects natural morality, which is absurd, or he keeps the contradiction, which is dishonest, or he rejects Christianity, which is the most reasonable position to take. p(cont).

3. There are many stages of morality. The first kind is order-based morality : the parents or teachers give orders, and we obey. This is a necessary stage in our development : pretty simple, so I don’t need to explain it. The second stage is natural morality.

Where does natural morality come from ? Part of it comes from biological evolution, as our attitudes and feelings are initially set because of evolutionary goals. Another part of it comes from the common observations we make as we grow up, and our process of maturation – our recognition that other minds exist, and that those minds have their own values, and later in life as a recognition of the needs of living in society together. We got them from the loving relationship we had with our parents, and later in life from the trust and love we have for other people. We get them still from our yearning for peace and plenty in ourselves, our family, our society, our world. All of these things are natural and don’t require a religion or doctrine. Teenage rebellion is also in this category, as an affirmation of one’s independence and a reaction to the previous order-based morality.

Natural morality gives us the independence, love of peace, honesty and reason we need to “graduate” to the next stage, which is rational morality. This third stage is based on the recognition that human actions have causal, measurable effects that can be used to evaluate our actions. Some of these are already present at earlier stages – for example, we learn pretty quickly that we must eat, and that not eating is bad, although we may not completely understand the whole process. But to follow rational morality is to explicitly understand the causal links between our actions and their effects, through both science and our observations of life in society.

There are four basic types of values in rational morality : physical values, spiritual (mental) values, social values and political values. There are also many virtues such as purpose, honesty, rationality, benevolence, non-coercion, Trader Principle, and so on.

Are there further stages of morality ? I think so. In my opinion, a further stage would be to be able to model social institutions and even human nature itself, with the aims of using this as a springboard for higher forms of thought. But for the moment this resides more in the realm of science-fiction.

There are many reasons why Christianity is immoral, amoral, disgusting, and does not pertain to morality at all. However, I want to focus specifically on accounting for the existence of morality. Two specific points : moral autonomy and basic assumptions. p(cont).

1. As much as presuppositionalists rant against moral autonomy and freethought, we are all morally autonomous – at least, every single person able to read this blog and understand it. Ironically, we simply have no choice in this matter. Whatever standard of morality we follow, was chosen on the basis of one’s values. When the Christian asks us to surrender our moral autonomy to follow Christian doctrines, he is asking for a contradiction. To follow Christianity itself, or to continue to follow it (in the cases of childhood brainwashing) is a choice.

Christianity, then, is inscribed within a larger moral context, of which it is but one little subset. CHRISTIANITY CANNOT BE THE “FIRST CAUSE” OF MORALITY. Insofar as the Christian must, then, borrow from our secular worldviews in order to make the decision of following his religion, he is contradicting himself, and cannot account for that decision by using Christianity. Thus Christianity cannot, and necessarily so because it is a religion and not a necessity, account for its own moral validity.

The Christian decides to surrender his will on the basis of his corrupt values of submission, sacrifice, faith and opposition to the natural – just like the atheist decides to affirm his will on the basis of his own values of rationality, honesty and support for the natural. And all these values can be rationally evaluated, putting the action of “following Christianity and sacrificing some of one’s values” on an inferior moral ground to “following one’s personal values fully”.

Of course, the presuppositionalist attempts to deny moral autonomy because to do so automatically puts Christianity on such inferior moral ground. As for all collectivism, Christianity is counter to the individual, therefore sacrifice must be glorified in itself, beyond moral autonomy itself, in a higher realm of thought or ontology (the latter, in the case of God and so-called “divine morality”). p(cont).

2. Christianity cannot account for the most obvious natural-moral assumptions we hold. Assumptions such as :

•that genocide is evil. •that we are not guilty for the crimes of our ancestors, and born evil. •that the worth of a man is not based on his beliefs, but on his actions. Each of these basic assumptions is contradicted by fundamental Christian beliefs. The assumption that genocide is evil, is contradicted by the Flood, the Plagues, and the Old Testament genocides are ordained by a perfectly good god. The assumption that we are not guilty of our ancestors’ crimes (and by extension, that we are separate individuals with separate actions) is contradicted by original sin. And the assumption that the worth of a man is based on his actions is contradicted by the standard of faith for salvation.

In each case, to affirm the obvious natural-moral assumption is to deny the truth of Christianity. These are all direct contradictions and there is no wiggling room for the Christian. So either the Christian rejects natural morality, which is absurd, or he keeps the contradiction, which is dishonest, or he rejects Christianity, which is the most reasonable position to take. p(cont).

3. There are many stages of morality. The first kind is order-based morality : the parents or teachers give orders, and we obey. This is a necessary stage in our development : pretty simple, so I don’t need to explain it. The second stage is natural morality.

Where does natural morality come from ? Part of it comes from biological evolution, as our attitudes and feelings are initially set because of evolutionary goals. Another part of it comes from the common observations we make as we grow up, and our process of maturation – our recognition that other minds exist, and that those minds have their own values, and later in life as a recognition of the needs of living in society together. We got them from the loving relationship we had with our parents, and later in life from the trust and love we have for other people. We get them still from our yearning for peace and plenty in ourselves, our family, our society, our world. All of these things are natural and don’t require a religion or doctrine. Teenage rebellion is also in this category, as an affirmation of one’s independence and a reaction to the previous order-based morality.

Natural morality gives us the independence, love of peace, honesty and reason we need to “graduate” to the next stage, which is rational morality. This third stage is based on the recognition that human actions have causal, measurable effects that can be used to evaluate our actions. Some of these are already present at earlier stages – for example, we learn pretty quickly that we must eat, and that not eating is bad, although we may not completely understand the whole process. But to follow rational morality is to explicitly understand the causal links between our actions and their effects, through both science and our observations of life in society.

There are four basic types of values in rational morality : physical values, spiritual (mental) values, social values and political values. There are also many virtues such as purpose, honesty, rationality, benevolence, non-coercion, Trader Principle, and so on.

Are there further stages of morality ? I think so. In my opinion, a further stage would be to be able to model social institutions and even human nature itself, with the aims of using this as a springboard for higher forms of thought. But for the moment this resides more in the realm of science-fiction.

The Impossibility of Theistic and Christian Moral Principles

Attribution of this article: StrongAtheism.net [5]

It is usually argued that only religion can justify the existence of moral principles. As I have demonstrated in ‘The Case for Objective Morality’, atheistic systems are compatible with the existence of morality, because moral principles are based on the existence of causal principles and their use in evaluating the contexts in which we exist.

In the context of Materialist Apologetics, however, we may very well ask if theism is compatible with moral principles. We may also like to ask whether Christianity specifically is compatible with moral principles.

First, we must establish the fact that moral principles are necessary. Human needs establish moral principles, since a need dictates an action to be taken to control or eliminate it, and principles supporting those actions. For example, we need to eat , and we need principles of agriculture, raising livestock, preparation, and so on.

Amongst our category 1 presuppositions, we must include the necessity of biology, the necessity of sentience, and the necessity of a transcendent knowledge base, all necessary facts which entail necessary moral principles. And of course, part of those presuppositions is also the necessity of value assignment, that is to say moral principles.

Having established this, we must now look at what Materialist Apologetics has to say about moral principles in the theological worldview. We can express the general strategy of Materialist Apologetics in this form:

Posit X is a feature of human understanding.

1.X is necessary or has a necessary part.

2.If theism is true, then divine creation obtains.

3.If divine creation is true, then all in the universe is contingent to God’s act of creation, and nothing in the universe is necessary.

4.If theism is true, then no X can be necessary or have a necessary part. (from 2 and 3)

5.Theism is false. (from 1 and 4)

In this case, moral principles are necessary, minimally because of the category 1 presuppositions we have seen before. But Christians, and most reasonable people, would also hold many other moral principles. For instance, we would pretty much all agree that gratuitous suffering, if it is the result of an action, is evil. Most of us think that murder is evil (although few are so consistent as to realize that this also makes war evil). The existence of moral principles is, in fact, an important part of presuppositionalism. So we can safely presume that the theological worldview includes moral principles.

So in this case, moral principles are necessary. But if that is so, then by (4), theism is incompatible with moral principles.


Another argument can be made on the basis of the Apathetic God Paradox (see the article with that name), to prove that theism is specifically incompatible with moral principles. This is the fact that divine creation makes it impossible for there to be a causal foundation of moral principles. Indeed, the notion of divine creation makes it impossible for there to be any causal foundation whatsoever. This means that there is no possible justification in theism for the existence of moral principles.


Another argument we can use here is a rephrasing of the ‘Argument from Moral Autonomy’. This argument goes like this:

1.If any being is a god, it must be a fitting object of worship.

2.Worship is a kind of relationship between a worshipper and an object of worship. The relationship between man and god is infinitely asymmetrical.

3.The believer must seek the god’s will and adapt his behaviour to that will. He must regard himself as being made to fulfill divine purposes, and that all events around him are the product, directly or indirectly, of the god’s will. (from 3)

4.Worship requires the fundamental abandonment of one’s role as an autonomous moral agent. (from 2 and 3)

5.Either a human being is (or should be) an autonomous moral agent, or he isn’t (or should not), therefore…

a.If he is, then he cannot worship. (from 4)

b.If he isn’t, then he could never justify worshipping.

6.It follows from both that there are no circumstances under which anyone should worship. (from 5)

7.No being could possibly be a fitting object of worship. (from 6)

8.Therefore, there cannot be any being that is a god. (from 1 and 7) We can rephrase this argument to disprove the possibility of moral principles, in the theistic perspective, in this way:

1.God is a fitting object of worship.

2.Worship is a kind of relationship between a worshipper and an object of worship. The relationship between man and God is infinitely asymmetrical.

3.The believer must seek God’s will and adapt his behaviour to that will. He must regard himself as being made to fulfill divine purposes, and that all events around him are the product, directly or indirectly, of God’s will. (from 3)

4.Worship requires the fundamental abandonment of one’s role as an autonomous moral agent. (from 2 and 3)

5.The justification of moral principles demands one to be autonomous.

6.The theistic perspective is incompatible with moral principles. (from 4 and 5)

In this case, we have added (5). But it is easy to see why (5) is true. To be able to justify moral principles demands one to be able to evaluate and defend moral facts. But someone who has surrendered his moral autonomy cannot make any such evaluation or defense by definition. While the theist may be able to say the sentence “I have moral principles”, he is utterly unable to understand what this means or implies, since the totality of his moral reasoning is fundamentally delegated to his god.

A last argument is validated by the premises that a god would consider humans especially important and would intervene in their lives. These premises are supported by elements of the Argument from Moral Autonomy (which tells us that an object of worship would have an especial importance in human lives, which implies divine intervention) and the Argument from Scope (which tells us that a god would give especial importance to knowledge-possessing beings).

But if you refuse these premises, then consider this arguments as a rebuttal of Christian moral principles specifically. For the sake of simplicity, I will use “God” to discuss it, but this does not assume that the argument is only relevant to Christianity.

My premise is that theism is an example of an emergency situation. It is usually acknowledged that an emergency situation is one where our life is endangered, without any easy way of resolving the situation. Examples of emergency situations are always temporary, such as shipwrecks, kidnapping, and so on. While the existence of God is not a temporary situation, it is still a threat to one’s life.

We can express the argument in this form:

1.God’s power is infinitely higher than ours.

2.God has complete control over the believer’s life. (from 1)

3.There is no inherent reason to believe that God will not affect our lives negatively.

4.God’s existence is an emergency situation. (from 2 and 3)

5.Believing in God denies moral principles. (from 4)

(3) may seem to be a questionable premise, given omnibenevolence. But most theologians already concede that God may effect evil for a higher goal, as a rationalization against the Problem of Evil. In this sense, the argument is really a variant of the Problem of Evil, and should be seen as such. Thus we can add a premise to this effect:


0.Natural and human evil exist, and contradict a god’s omnibenevolence.

Given this, (3) would inevitably follow from (0).

What therefore can we can say about the actions of a believer under the threat of theism? His actions are really a reaction to a perceived threat, much like someone who has been threatened of death. A person under such a threat has to take abnormal actions to defend himself from a danger that could come from anywhere. Note that our argument does not presume that believers actually think that God is a threat to their life, but only that it is objectively justifiable to say so. And if it is, then theism logically implies an emergency situation, whether the theist actually recognizes it or not.

The believer might reply that we are surrounded by individuals who might decide to kill us, and yet we do not act as if we are in an emergency situation. But it is important to differentiate both cases. We know from induction and simple psychological observation that most people do not have the desire to kill us, or to effect such a result. Given (0), we have no logical reason to believe the same about a hypothetical god. I do not feel that I am under threat of violence by being surrounded by sane individuals. But I should feel under threat of violence if I am in a universe controlled by a non-benevolent being.


There are also a number of arguments that address Christian and Biblical pretenses of moral principles specifically. I will end by pointing out three such arguments.

The first is that the eternal benefit of salvation in Christianity is achieved not by works, but by belief. This is the reverse argument from the argument on emergencies I have described. In this case, we start from the premise that God wishes to reward believers infinitely.

Given this, morality becomes irrelevant, and the believer is not held morally responsible for his actions. Even the worst criminal or tyrant is saved, if he professes belief in his heart before dying. Since any moral blame one can attribute the criminal is irrelevant compared to the infinite moral weight of salvation, no one can attribute moral blame to any Christian criminal, if his belief is correct. Therefore, the Christian has no grounds for his belief in moral obligation.

Also, the existence of an eternal afterlife denies moral principles, which are based on the finiteness of our lives. We need moral principles because our lives are finite and demand concerted rational action in order to preserve and enrich them. Without such limits, moral principles lose all meaning. But if nothing can help further the individual’s potential of survival, because of this eternal afterlife, then moral principles cannot exist from a Christian perspective.

The second problem is that the Bible contradicts itself on fundamental structural issues related to morality:

One should retaliate to evil in an equal manner: Deuteronomy 19:21 Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. One should let evil men continue their evil: Matthew 5:38 You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Our moral judgments must put the interest of others on the same level as ours: Leviticus 19:18 ‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. Our moral judgments must put the interest of others above ours: 1 Corinthians 10:24 Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.

Here are some other specific major contradictions in the Bible on the subject of morality:

•God makes incest a crime: Leviticus 20:17

◦If a man marries his sister, the daughter of either his father or his mother, and they have sexual relations, it is a disgrace. They must be cut off before the eyes of their people. He has dishonored his sister and will be held responsible.

•God blesses an incestuous union: Genesis 17:15-16

◦God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

•God makes graven images a crime: Exodus 20:4

◦You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

•God orders the making of graven images: Exodus 25:18

◦And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover.

•God orders to honour one’s father and mother: Exodus 20:12

◦Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

•God came to Earth to turn children against their parents: Matthew 10:35-36

◦For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.

•Don’t eat fat or blood: Leviticus 3:17

◦_‘This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live: You must not eat any fat or any blood.’_

•What you eat cannot be sinful: Matthew 15:11

◦What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’ These are only a few of the major moral contradictions of the Bible. Together they show that Christian morality contradicts itself routinely on major principles.

As a last problem, most Christians would claim that Christianity upholds moral principles such as love, justice, peace, and so on. The Bible, and the facts of Christian belief, do not justify such claims, show that Christian morality cannot be followed by most Christians.

Does the Bible support human rights? Jesus and his disciples encouraged slavery (Matthew 10:24-25, John 13:16, 1 Peter 2:18-20, Ephesians 6:5-9, Colossians 3:22-24), the Bible supports capital punishment for all kinds of actions such as cursing or hitting one’s parents (Leviticus 20:9, Exodus 21:15), being a witch (Exodus 22:18), bestiality (Exodus 22:19, Leviticus 20:15-16), breaking the Sabbath (Exodus 31:14, Numbers 15:32-36), adultery (Leviticus 20:10), homosexuality (Leviticus 20:13), worshipping other gods or hate God (Deuteronomy 6:14-15), Deuteronomy 7:9-10), and so on and so forth.

Does the Bible promote “family values”? As I pointed out before, Jesus said he came to Earth to divide families (Matthew 10:35-36) and said that men should leave their families to preach (Luke 18:29-30). The Bible forbids relationships between relatives (Leviticus 20:17) and between men (Leviticus 20:13), and makes the man the head of the household (1 Peter 1-3). In short, the only family values being promoted are the kind of family that Christians want.

Does the Bible support capitalism, economic and scientific progress? Jesus said that only the poor may go to Heaven (Mark 10:25) and supported taxation (Luke 20:24-25). As we have seen, he also supported slavery, and so does the Bible. Christianity is based on faith and doctrine, which are both anti-science, and has opposed scientific discoveries and still does today. The Bible itself says to reject worldly education (1 Corinthians 1:19,26-27) and proposes as doctrine a great number of anti-scientific beliefs, starting from the belief in the Creation of all things, down to beliefs about genetics (Genesis 30:37-43) or medicine (Leviticus 14:33-57).

It is difficult for an impartial mind to see the Bible as anything more than hate speech. I do not know if many Christians share the Bible’s position on these issues. But the fact that most Christians do not agree with these positions proves that the Christian moral system cannot be followed, and therefore is useless as a standard.

God also provides a moral example. God encourages genocide, while forbidding killing. God demands people to follow the Sabbath, while Jesus claims it is not needed. According to the Bible, God’s omnibenevolence includes wiping out the entire population of the Earth, killing his own followers a number of times, advocating capital punishment for all kinds of victimless crimes, and condemning unbelievers to eternal torment, even though the obviousness of its existence is unavailable to most people.

These facts come to bear on the matter because the Christian claims that God’s conduct is the best possible, and as such it presents an example of the highest standard that a Christian should maintain. That example seems to be one of almost infinite and cruel evil, from a rational perspective.

Other formulations of the moral argument

Normativity of morality

This formulation of the moral argument relies on the assumption of normativity, that is to say, that the awareness of morality is a more or less universal experience among humans. Most people recognize that, for example, murder is wrong. From there, a theist claims that this universal awareness must come from some ultimate source, which is God.

To put it concisely:

  1. It appears to human beings that moral normativity exists.
  2. The best explanation of moral normativity is that it is grounded in God.
  3. Therefore God exists.

This version of the moral argument may sometimes be used by theists as red herring when responding to arguments about the moral nature of God. For instance, a person who points out the inherent cruelty of exterminating 99% of the earth's population, as in the story of Noah's ark, or takes issue with the apparent Biblical support of slavery and rape, may quickly expect to be countered with this claim:

"You recognize mass murder/slavery/rape as a bad thing, so you must have some standard to judge that against. If there was no God, then you'd have no rational reason to say that those things aren't good."

Counter-apologetic responses to normativity

  1. Although the awareness of SOME sort of right and wrong is apparently universal, many specific details differ across cultures and time periods. In the case of slavery, for example, the practice was once universally accepted in the southern United States, and many anti-abolitionists even quoted the Bible to justify the practice. (See the main slavery article for more details.) This indicates that morality has a strong cultural component to it, and is tied up in evolving notions of secular morality.
  2. Other human perceptions also have the appearance of being normative. For instance, most people agree that chocolate is "delicious," while dirt is "not delicious." By the same reasoning as the argument from normative morality, it could be said that there must be some ultimate standard for deliciousness, and that standard must be God, the ultimate tasty treat. We could use a similar argument to prove that God is the definition of the perfect homosexual lover.
  3. The fact that there may be an abstract standard of perfect goodness that an individual strives to achieve, does not indicate that this standard represents an existing object. For example, bowling a perfect game would yield a score of 300. However, even if no one in history had ever bowled a 300, this would still be the highest attainable score according to the rules of the game. It is quite possible to have a theoretical ideal, yet not have any concrete instance of that ideal. Therefore, we could say: "Yes, this thing that you call 'God' could be our standard for morality. However, this tells us nothing about whether or not God exists."

References

  • Stan W. Wallace, ed. Does God Exist?: The Craig-Flew Debate. Ashgate, 2003.
  • Richard Swinburne. The Existence of God. Oxford University Press, 2004.
  • Richard C. Carrier. 'Hitler's Table Talk: Troubling Finds.' German Studies Review 26.3 (Oct 2003): 561-76.

External Link


v · d Arguments for the existence of god
Anthropic arguments   Anthropic principle · Natural-law argument
Arguments for belief   Pascal's Wager · Argument from faith · Just hit your knees
Christological arguments   Argument from scriptural miracles · Would someone die for a lie? · Liar, Lunatic or Lord
Cosmological arguments   Argument from aesthetic experience · Argument from contingency · Cosmological argument · Fine-tuning argument · Kalam · Leibniz cosmological argument · Principle of sufficient reason · Unmoved mover · Why is there something rather than nothing?
Majority arguments   Argument from admired religious scientists
Moral arguments   Argument from justice · Divine command theory
Ontological argument   Argument from degree · Argument from desire · Argument from the origin of the idea of God
Dogmatic arguments   Argument from divine sense · Argument from uniqueness
Teleological arguments   Argument from design · Banana argument · 747 Junkyard argument · Laminin argument · Argument from natural disasters
Testimonial arguments   Argument from observed miracles · Argument from personal experience · Consciousness argument for the existence of God · Emotional pleas
Transcendental arguments   God created numbers · Argument from the meaning of life
Scriptural arguments   Scriptural inerrancy · Scriptural scientific foreknowledge · Scriptural codes
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