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Good God! Can There Be A Moral Law Without A Moral Lawgiver?

We'll be discussing the argument for the existence of God based on morality. We'll cover questions like:

  • Does a moral law require a moral lawgiver?
  • What morality are we obligated to obey if there is no God?
  • and many more

Join us and explore the possibilities!

Join or login to comment.

  • Dan W.

    Here's the argument in the form that Jason presented last night (in premise/conclusion format) with some comments from him:

    P1: If God exists, then objective moral facts and obligations exist
    P2: If God does not exist, then objective moral facts and obligations do not exist.
    P3: But objective moral facts and obligations do exist
    C: Therefore God exists. As we saw last night, most accept P3 -- in fact those who denied P3 interestingly ended up relying on it throughout the evening. Since nobody challenged P1, this suggests that P2 would be the premise that many theists and nontheists might want to debate further. As mentioned, not all theists endorse P2.

    August 14, 2013

    • Ken K.

      I think P4 and P2 are similar, except the wording seems to define who has the burden of proof. Saying "Objective moral facts and obligations are not dependent on any god existing" is putting the burden on the theologian (where I think it belongs) - I think might be what Julie is suggesting.

      August 15, 2013

    • Jason

      I agree that this argument is relevant. One way of looking at it is just to see it as an attempt to deny P2 in the original argument -- in fact, just, P4 in your argument, if true, would do that. This connects up to my claim that maybe morality is like math.

      August 15, 2013

  • Gina

    It is stated below (Since nobody challenged P1)
    Several people did challenge P1 at the meetup. Those who study the morals of people all around the world know that objective moral facts and obligations do not exist. Therefore P1 is false to begin with.

    August 15, 2013

    • Ken K.

      Is it true, then, that P1 could have been sort of reworded: " If objective moral facts and obligations do not exist, then we do not know that God exists"? Maybe this is what Julie is saying. I think the definition of "objective moral fact" is a tricky term to navigate. I have expressed my opinionated weakness of considering "Thou shalt not kill" or "Thou shall not have homosexual sex" as moral facts. But I do believe in the concept of moral facts, given the considerations of competing moral goods. I understand some people call this moral particularism. This is what allows us to distinguish what I might consider some killing to be morally good. Julie might be intending to make this distinction, maybe not :) Thus, although I might reject "Thou shalt not kill as a moral fact"... I might accept "Thou shall be able to kill oneself when in great suffering during a terminal illness" as a moral fact.

      1 · August 15, 2013

    • Jason

      Thanks Ken: Perhaps Julie was saying something like that, I am not sure. I just think that would involve a rather different argument.

      Yes, these terms can be tricky, as you say. But by objective moral facts I have in mind something rather minimal: namely, that some actions, in some contexts, are morally right or morally wrong, whatever people think about them. In that sense, I think moral particularists (who deny general moral principles) can accept moral facts.

      August 15, 2013

  • Dan W.

    Thanks everyone for coming and participating last night. Everyone had something valuable to contribute, which is excellent.

    I did my best to keep us on track through the main part of the discussion, but it was obvious that many people were more eager to discuss specific moral and ecclesiastical positions and at precisely 9:01 the floodgates opened and I led the charge in my typical bombastic manner. I hope I didn't offend anyone and you should all know that I hold you all in the highest regard.

    [continued in replies]

    August 14, 2013

    • Dan W.

      [continued from main post]
      Unsurprisingly, I have a thought on the matter (I'll again leave it to you to let me know how much water it holds). It seems to me that the eagerness to move to particular moral positions might be summed up like this:

      "If I can't stomach the particular morals of your religion, what difference does it make if there is a God? I wouldn't obey him anyway - and where would that get me?" or something like that.

      But just like all truth, if God does exist it should be stomached, no matter how inconvenient. And if God is truly Goodness itself, what seems like a difficulty now will resolve itself as we take the necessary steps to understand that font of goodness.

      See you next month.

      :D

      August 14, 2013

    • Ken K.

      I think lurking behind the question of existence is the question of intelligibility and relevance. When someone wants to know how a god might communicate a moral good, that ... to me, defines whether this god is intelligible or relevant. If a god is simply given all good attributes, that seems special pleading. I only heard one answer to that question meaningful last night - "the Bible" (though we didn't have time to dig through this answer or other answers). I would assume other answers include theologians, revelations, etc. Even C.S. Lewis, when speaking general God arguments, claims that we know good from bad, that God communicated these morals by placing them within us... that this knowledge is readily accessible and cannot come from matter. I find both of these claims problematic... so some might just be hungry to hear other compelling ways a god might point us to moral goods.

      August 14, 2013

  • Ken K.

    FYI: Where Moral Law rubber hits the road (I cannot find the Minnesota Catholic Voters Guide online yet, but it is similar to the following summary at http://www.votecatholic.us/?page_id=16 ):

    " Bishop Thomas Paprocki, Diocese of Springfield Illinois — “One might argue for different methods to address the needs of the poor, to feed the humgry and to solve the challenges of immigration, but these are prudential judgements not intrinsic evils… You need to think and pray very carefully about your vote, because a vote for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your own soul in serious jeopardy.”

    August 14, 2013

    • Ken K.

      Here’s the conclusion of a statement by the Catholic bishop in Maine, Rev. Richard Malone:

      “…A Catholic whose conscience has been properly formed by scripture and Church teaching cannot justify a vote for a candidate or referendum question that opposes the teachings of the Church. The definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, open to the birth of children, is a matter of established Catholic doctrine. Any Catholic who supports a redefinition of marriage—or so called “same-sex marriage”—is unfaithful to Catholic doctrine.

      August 14, 2013

    • Dan W.

      Please don't respond yet. These are being moved to http://www.meetup.com...­

      August 14, 2013

  • Ken K.

    FYI: Where Moral Law rubber hits the road (from our local paper):
    "Also, since Ken K. likes to use statistics, I would like to clarify something important. The number of practicing Catholics (i.e. those who faithfully adhere to the teachings of the Church) who support Mr. Obama is ZERO percent. The doctrine of the Catholic Church stands for the defense of the culture of life - the Truth is non-negotiable. The Catholic population in this country known as CINOs (Catholics In Name Only) do tend to vote for Obama - hence the skewed statistics concerning the Catholic vote."
    http://www.cannonfalls.com/main.asp?Search=1&ArticleID=22373&SectionID=3&SubSectionID=3&S=1

    August 14, 2013

  • Ken K.

    Sorry for spamming :) Final thread on Moral Law re: Catholic declaration of objective and absolute:

    This groundbreaking CD set by Tim Staples is an expansion of Catholic Answers’ acclaimed Voter’s Guide for Serious Catholics. And it will help you vote in an informed manner consistent with Catholic moral teaching and fundamental human rights. All five moral issues discussed on these CDs—abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research, human cloning, and same-sex “marriage”—have been definitively declared by the Church to be objectively and absolutely immoral. And you, as a faithful Catholic, are required to vote against all five and—with only rare exceptions—to vote against politicians who support any of them."
    http://www.catholic.com/radio/shows/how-to-vote-like-a-catholic-7359

    August 14, 2013

    • Ken K.

      Finally, as I recall this page has almost the exact language used in the Minnesota Voters Guide:

      "3. If I think that a pro-abortion candidate will, on balance, do much more for the culture of life than a pro-life candidate, why may I not vote for the pro-abortion candidate?

      If a political candidate supported abortion, or any other moral evil, such as assisted suicide and euthanasia, for that matter, it would not be morally permissible for you to vote for that person. This is because, in voting for such a person, you would become an accomplice in the moral evil at issue. For this reason, moral evils such as abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide are examples of a “disqualifying issue.” A disqualifying issue is one which is of such gravity and importance that it allows for no political maneuvering."
      http://www.ewtn.com/v...­

      August 14, 2013

    • Dan W.

      Please don't respond yet. These are being moved to http://www.meetup.com...­

      August 14, 2013

  • Dan W.

    Please don't post side discussion comments here. I'd like it to be an online extension of the main topic.

    August 14, 2013

  • Ken K.

    By "moral law", I am assuming we are not talking about any particular set of laws (e.g. do not kill, do not lie, do not have same-sex relationships)... but are talking about the "thing" that is claimed to provide us with the indication of what is "right and wrong"?

    July 22, 2013

    • Ken K.

      Moral obligation may be a more basic question, but I am unsure it is some sort of precursor. I think we can discuss the morality of starving children in the world independent of whether there are moral obligations. After all, doesn't awareness of the former produce the latter - perhaps largely because we do not like immoral people?

      July 23, 2013

    • Dan W.

      It seems the near universal difficulty is the avoidance of the question "Do I have this or that moral obligation?" for the preferred "Don't *they* have this or that moral obligation... ?"

      To avoid this we should begin with the "meta-ethics" which should answer "Do I have any real moral obligations at all? And if I do, how do I determine them in such a way as to avoid the common pitfall of self-justification common to believers and unbelievers alike.

      Through this exercise it *may* be possible to see, though not directly, our core question of God's existence.

      July 23, 2013

  • Ken K.

    FYI: Assuming nothing comes up that prevents me from attending, I drive in from the far SE, meaning I can slightly alter my route without adding many miles and pick someone up along almost anywhere in the Twin Cities. Let me know if you want to carpool (I could also toss in $ to carpool in your vehicle).

    July 18, 2013

  • Chad W.

    Good proof for the morality of God...Jesus isn't a communist like that monkey :)

    1 · July 18, 2013

  • Ken K.

    An interesting snippet to examine: Contrast Jesus and "The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard" (Matthew 20:1-16) to monkeys that similarly get unequal rewards. Jesus says "I am not being unfair to you, friend"... while the monkey disagrees. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HL45pVdsRvE

    July 18, 2013

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