Is God necessary for absolute morality?

From: user 9.
Sent on: Monday, July 29, 2013 8:46 AM

Respectfully,

Posted: 27 Jul[masked]:45 PM PDT

Christians and other religious people often argue that God is required for absolute morality. The agument usually goes something like this:

1.If there is no God then there is no absolute morality
2.If there is no absolute morality then morality must be relative
3.If morality is relative then evil is only a stance and thus does not really exist

Does anyone have any good counter arguments?

Bobwundaye

Why should absolute morality exist. God is required for 6 day creation. That doesn't mean it happened or exists.

28-Jul[masked]:16 AM

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Jos Gibbons

God making rules doesn't provide more absolutism than me making rules. Consider the Euthyphro dilemma. If things are good because He says so, that's arbitrary (because He had no prior obligations to make certain choices, so there's nothing to respect about them objectively); if He says things are good because they are, He relies on an external standard to which we can appeal in principle. Don't fool for the "being good is his nature" response, either. Is X good because it's in God's nature, or vice versa? It just moves the problem along one notch!

28-Jul[masked]:46 AM

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Angra

If that's all that is offered, one may simply ask them to both explain what they mean by the premises, and defend them. Otherwise that, why would one need a counterargument?

If you're thinking of a specific argument (in the sense of 'arguing a case', not in the sense of a formal argument) someone makes in support of the premises you present, the reply would depend on the argument in question.

28-Jul[masked]:01 AM

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petermead1

I've thought about this question quite a bit. First off, you need to define what morality is in order to proceed with the discussion. When dealing with morality, there are no absolutes. Therefore, I would disagree with their initial premise because I can demonstrate that morality is innately relative whether there is a god or not. Murder may be wrong, but what if we're talking about someone who has committed unspeakable crimes, (i.e. murdered millions of people) many people would agree that it is somehow justified. It is difficult to define, but to me morality is the rational assessment of unique circumstances that is designed to achieve a state of harmony, happiness and progress for all of those involved. Even that definition is somewhat lacking. Secondly, an absolute declaration from a supreme dictator (God) of what is and is not wrong doesn't even remotely fit my description of what morality is. If you're basing your actions off of what someone else is telling you to do whether you agree or disagree, you're not exercising your own discretion. You're simply following orders or rules. That's not morality. It's mindless obedience.

Fortunately, the human race has an intuitive sense of what is and is not moral. There may be discrepancies, but we can all eventually reach a consensus on what fairness and justice are. It is imperative that we cooperate. It is necessary for our continued survival.

Here is your counter argument:

  1. Ask them to define the terms "good" and "evil" without using a synonym of either word.
  2. Present them with a scenario in which a "man murders another man." Ask them if they think that action is "good" or "evil." If they respond with either, they have already committed a fallacy. Based on that, they couldn't possibly have enough information to evaluate whether or not it was moral. What if the man committing the murder was mentally ill or suffered from a mental disability? What if he was being coerced? What if the man he murdered was attempting to hurt someone else who was defenseless? etc. This clearly demonstrates that morality is based on unique circumstances, not absolutes.
  3. Ask them to think of a moral action that a religious person can carry out that an atheist cannot. Likewise, ask them to think of an immoral action that a religious person can carry out that an atheist cannot. The latter is effortlessly accomplished.
  4. Present them with an absurd moral dilemma in which they have received a gruesome, horrific mandate from their god. For example: ask them if they would slaughter their entire family (including the extended portion) and children by slitting their throats with kitchen scissors and then proceeding to dine on their entrails on live national public television if their god told them to do so. If they decline, (which I really hope that they do) then they concede that morality is not absolute because they have just employed their own judgement.

Plus, who really gives a shit if it morality is absolute or not? It exists. It's not perfect, but it works. Good luck!

28-Jul[masked]:12 AM

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David W

In reply to #4 by petermead1:

I've thought about this question quite a bit. First off, you need to define what morality is in order to proceed with the discussion. When dealing with morality, there are no absolutes. Therefore, I would disagree with their initial premise because I can demonstrate that morality is innately relativ...

Thanks for your thoughts, they make a lot of sense.

28-Jul[masked]:19 AM

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Angra

In reply to #5 by David W:

I would recommend not to deny that there is absolute morality, but rather ask them to clarify if needed. That murder is immoral is tautologically true if we understand 'murder' in the moral sense. Whether killing a person is immoral (for another person) is another matter. It depends on the case. But that does not suggest that there is no absolute morality, in any usual sense of the term. It only means that the category 'A person kills a person' is too broad, and that not all possible (or even actual) behaviors in that category are immoral. Now, if you consider the category 'A person tortures another person exclusively for fun', then you won't find any exceptions. So, that's always immoral. But none of the above is a problem for absolute morality, at least in any usual sense of the term.

28-Jul[masked]:30 AM

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David W

In reply to #6 by Angra:

In reply to #5 by David W:

I would recommend not to deny that there is absolute morality, but rather ask them to clarify if needed. That murder is immoral is tautologically true if we understand 'murder' in the moral sense. Whether killing a person is immoral (for another person) is another matter....

I guess another question that could be asked is if there is a god, how do we know what he/she considers to be moral? Christians may answer "it's in the Bible", but anyone who has read the Bible knows it's full of highly questionable morality. And it often contradicts itself.

28-Jul[masked]:45 AM

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bellap

I refer to Kohlberg's theory of moral development which contains 6 stages of moral development. The first stage is Heteronomous morality, in other words, morality is linked to punishment. The reason I mention this theory is because the base end of the theory (stage 1 Heteronomous morality) is akin to fear and punishment, people behave morally because they are afraid of being punished or shunned by others. This level of morality is reflective of the morality practiced by many religions. Behave the way god wants you to, otherwise you will be punished. The higher end of the Kohlberg's morality scale is stage 6 universal ethical principles - moral standards are based on universal human rights. Religious morality does not bear any resemblance to stage 6 principles, in fact it appears to oppose them if you take into account it's views on homosexuality. It does however bear resemblance to stage 1, therefore it is fair to say that religion is at the base end of morality.

28-Jul[masked]:55 AM

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David W

In reply to #8 by bellap:

I refer to Kohlberg's theory of moral development which contains 6 stages of moral development. The first stage is Heteronomous morality, in other words, morality is linked to punishment. The reason I mention this theory is because the base end of the theory (stage 1 Heteronomous morality) is akin t...

Thanks, that sounds interesting, I will look into it some more.

28-Jul[masked]:59 AM

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downshifter

Don't argue on their terms. Look them square in the eye and tell them morality is relative. If they don't want to believe it, point them to the international news and have them look at how people behave in different cultures. If they still don't believe it, hand them a history book.

Studies have been done that demonstrate how sometimes cooperation can be more beneficial than competition, which would be a naturalistic explanation of morality. But it's still relative: sometimes selfishness works for you. We're social because, statistically (and therefore evolutionarily) it worked out better for us to cooperate.

But tell that to a Lord murdering a few of his peasants to get their land, or their daughters, or whatever. Or going on the customary cattle raid and killing the owners of the cattle who try to stop them. Cannibals who eat their enemies (yes, cannibals exist). Fathers who enlist their sons and cousins to murder their daughters who they feel have shamed the family. They'll probably say that they are perfectly moral.

For me, the question of whether or not morality is relative came under my consideration of the simple question, "Did Hitler think he was moral?" The only answer that I could ever come up with was, "Yes."

If they ask why don't you go around killing people if you think that way, tell them because that's how you were raised.

There is certainly a "nature" aspect to morality. But I don't think we yet know the line between nature and nurture when it comes to morality. So debates about absolute morality boil down to the God of the Gaps argument.

28-Jul[masked]:14 AM

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Pauly01

1.If there is no God then there is no absolute morality

Agree. In the words of red from shawshank, it's just a made up word

2.If there is no absolute morality then morality must be relative

Agree. Morality has changed through out the years of human civilisation.

3.If morality is relative then evil is only a stance and thus does not really exist.

Totally Agree. I don't believe in evil.

Morality to me is about being fair and just , it's a construct devised ,

so that we can all get along , it supports a cohesive society ,

so that we can recognise our common humanity in each other ,

so we treat other people the way we wish to be treated.

so that we fulfil that innate desire to do the right thing. It's existential as well...

28-Jul[masked]:25 AM

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Uriel-238

Well, evil doesn't exist on a cosmological or even geological scale. No matter how much we torture each other or kill people with drones or in showers, the universe is not going to miss us. The Earth isn't going to miss us much. Such heinous deeds are our shame, and ours alone. Even Dawkins points out the horrific fate that wasps consign to caterpillars they use as hosts for their broods, a process on which we depend lest the caterpillars devour all our crops.

Evil exists on the social scale. There are some acts which are regarded as wrong by all cultures and all peoples, and that is about as absolute as it gets. So yeah, outside of humanity, morality is relative. But I wager that the religious folk justify their lack of concern for the mice who inhabit the walls of their home, or the limited welfare that we offer to our livestock. Even religious morality is relative, and favors humankind over other creatures.

The fallacy in their argument is the notion of true absolutism. Our relative morality extends to all human peoples -- that is, those mores that are truly global, such as reciprocity and protection of the meek. (The sexual frigidity of biblical faiths are pretty unique to them.) -- But that is because these mores are instinctive, and not just to us, but mammals that also pack or herd. No god is needed to tell us these basic rules.

I find the notion of divine-administrated justice to be especially distressing due to the fantasy that God corrects for those injustices we fail to remediate. When rich murderers walk and poor gamers get incarcerated for sarcasm on Facebook, that's up to us to fix, or endure the shame that evil people walked free while benign people were imprisoned. This is one of the ways that religion serves as a narcotic to deter necessary change.

28-Jul[masked]:34 AM

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Pauly01

Here's what wikipedia has to say

"Evil is profound immorality.[1] In certain religious contexts evil has been described as a supernatural force.[1] Definitions of evil vary, as does the analysis of its root motives and causes.[2] However elements that are commonly associated with evil involve unbalanced behavior involving expediency, selfishness, ignorance, or neglect.[3]"

Evil exists on the social scale

So inexact is the term , it's not worth using. It's not a meaningful term and open to wild speculation.

In reply to #12 by Uriel-238:

Well, evil doesn't exist on a cosmological or even geological scale. No matter how much we torture each other or kill people with drones or in showers, the universe is not going to miss us. The Earth isn't going to miss us much. Such heinous deeds are our shame, and ours alone. Even Dawkins points o...

28-Jul[masked]:42 AM

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scientific_philosopher

I couldn't agree more with Uriel-238! Many people believe that without religion, the planet would descend into immoral chaos. The reality is that the majority of heinous crimes committed against people on this planet across all of recorded history had their roots on religious beliefs, but the ability to distinguish right from wrong does not require any religious beliefs. In addition, animals who are incapable of understanding our human concept of religion show clear evidence of understanding moral behavior and distinguishing between right and wrong. The explanation of morality does not require any supernatural source, or belief in the divinity of a man born of a virgin. Our morals are based on reality. Rational or good actions increase prosperity, happiness, and psychuous pleasures. Irrational or bad actions undermine those values. While each individual's life and values are unique, certain basic actions never change in terms of good or bad actions. The rightness or wrongness of those basic actions do not vary according to opinion, or from person to person, or from generation to generation, or from culture to culture, or from solar system to solar system. Universally good or bad actions are objectively based on the biological nature of human beings and are definable in absolute terms. But other actions are amoral and cannot be judged in terms of good or bad because they are a matter of personal preference determined by individual differences.

Universal morals are objective. They are not based on opinions of the author or anyone else. Universal morals are not created or determined by anyone. No one can deem what is moral and what is not moral. The same moral standards exist for each and every human being throughout all locations, cultures, and ages. Those standards are independent of anyone's opinions or proclamations. Moreover, two and only two black-and-white moral standards exist. Those two moral standards are:

Any chosen action that purposely benefits the human organism or society is morally good and right.

Any chosen action that purposely harms the human organism or society is morally bad and wrong.

Feelings and emotions, on the other hand, cannot be considered as standards, absolutes, or morals. A person's life-style, desires, needs, and preferences can vary greatly without altering that person's character or without making that person morally right or wrong. Still, moral absolutes do exist. And following or violating moral absolutes determines a person's character and self-esteem. The two moral absolutes essential for prosperity and happiness are:

Integrated honesty for knowing reality Integrated efforts for increasing productivity

Habitually violating either of those two moral absolutes precludes genuine prosperity and happiness. Related to those absolutes are the following moral issues:

Honesty, Self-esteem, Individual rights


Sacrifice, Use of force, Ends justifying the means

Objective morals are based on reality, reason, logic. Subjective "morals", on the other hand, are based on unreal, arbitrary feelings or wishes. All such unreal "morals" require force, deception, or coercion to impose them on others. Subjectivism, mysticism, existentialism, and "do your own thing" are all attempts to deny objective morals by implying that no standards exist and everything is of equal value (thus denying objective morals and values). That's the very essence of Religion, it tries to apply its own moral principles to the rest of humanity, not for humanities benefits but rather to subjugate and control it.

28-Jul[masked]:43 AM

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Peter Grant

No, unfortunately absolutism is also possible without God and many relativists are also theists. Neither absolutism nor relativism can ever be truly moral, real morality is based on science.

28-Jul[masked]:02 AM

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We(e) free

My response to this claim to exclusive moral rights is to advise the person to consider the billion or so godless Buddhists. In their two and a half thousand years their godlessness did not cause them to dissolve into a miasma of beastiality and barbarianism. On the contrary, many of their societies appear to have been much higher on the morality and fairness chart than most European societies of the same era.

28-Jul[masked]:34 AM

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Jumped Up Chimpanzee

Christians and other religious people often argue that God is required for absolute morality.

There's so much nonsense in this position.

When religious people argue that God is required for "absolute morality", what they mean is that morality is just a list of arbitrary rules dictated by a leader, that everyone must follow.

The question is, why should anyone CARE about following such rules? An arbitrary set of rules has no meaning.

The reason why we care about morality is that we understand what morality means. It's about how the actions of intelligent beings affect the world around them for the wellbeing of others and themselves. That's why we care. And religious people know this deep down, which is why they challenge people on this issue.

If "absolute morality" means anything, it is the pathway to the best possible state of wellbeing. As Sam Harris argues in The Moral Landscape, there may be many such pathways (many "peaks" on the moral landscape) and while they may exist in principle, it may not be easy in practice to determine what they may be.

In any case, it's always worth reminding any religious person that there is no voice booming instructions down from the sky. Every single moral instruction that allegedly comes from God actually comes from people who claim to be speaking on God's behalf, so there is no way of proving that any instructions attributed to God are for real.

28-Jul[masked]:37 AM

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Sjoerd Westenborg

In reply to #15 by Peter Grant:

No, unfortunately absolutism is also possible without God and many relativists are also theists. Neither absolutism nor relativism can ever be truly moral, real morality is based on science.

Agreed with the first sentence. The latter raises some questions for me.

Absolutism may in practice never be moral (Hitler concluded: "Gas the gypsies." Allah says: "Stone adulterous wives." etc.) but in theory it's results could be. What if Hitler was a moral genius who used his authority to design and implement a legal system that maximises happiness and health for all involved*, irrespective of time and place?

The same with relativism. I believe that by adhering to overarching principles of fairness and maximising happiness, but taking into account specific circumstances, it is in principle possible to find the most moral judgement in any given case. Granted, we're not perfect and will therefore most likely fail in this endeavour, but relativism is not to blame for that.

Which brings me to my final point, which is science's role in all of this. I fail to imagine how science could form the basis of moral principles. It is, however, the most perfectly suited tool we have to help us determine exactly how to reach a certain goal, such as achieving a maximum amount of happiness, or how to fulfil 'good Hitler's' perfect laws.

*provided this is what you mean with "truly moral".

28-Jul[masked]:56 AM

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Peter Grant

In reply to #18 by Sjoerd Westenborg:

Agreed with the first sentence.

Cool.

The latter raises some questions for me.

Then I shall try to answer them.

Absolutism may in practice never be moral (Hitler concluded: "Gas the gypsies." Allah says: "Stone adulterous wives." etc.) but in theory it's results could be. What if Hitler was a moral genius who used his authority to design and implement a legal system that maximises happiness and health for all involved*, irrespective of time and place?

Highly improbable.

The same with relativism. I believe that by adhering to overarching principles of fairness and maximising happiness, but taking into account specific circumstances, it is in principle possible to find the most moral judgement in any given case. Granted, we're not perfect and will therefore most likely fail in this endeavour, but relativism is not to blame for that.

It's a solipsistic ideology. I'm only a moral relativist where space aliens are concerned.

Which brings me to my final point, which is science's role in all of this. I fail to imagine how science could form the basis of moral principles. It is, however, the most perfectly suited tool we have to help us determine exactly how to reach a certain goal, such as achieving a maximum amount of happiness, or how to fulfil 'good Hitler's' perfect laws.

Science, unlike ideology, is based on reality. It is therefore the best tool we have at our disposal for understanding subjective experience, which is what happiness is all about.

*provided this is what you mean with "truly moral".

My conception of truth is rational, non-absolutist and evidence based. Logic is useful, but only "true" in the most trivial sense.

28-Jul[masked]:27 PM

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Red Dog

I want to try and answer your question because I think its a really interesting one but first I want to say why I think the whole argument is flawed from the start (not knocking you but a general flaw I see in theists who make these kinds of arguments all the time)

Its a type of argument that goes "If X isn't true" (usually X is "God exists" but I've seen other examples) then Y will be true about the world and Y is an unpleasant fact to live with.

I hope putting it in those terms makes the flaw obvious: there are lots unpleasant facts about the world! So just saying something might be true if God doesn't exist is no argument at all that She does exist. Its a rather bizarre (to me) mind set that exists even in many western intellectuals that frankly I've found totally baffling ever since I was first exposed to William James in college.

28-Jul[masked]:27 PM

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Red Dog

Here is my answer: All morality requires one or more fundamental axioms. I mean that in the same way a logician uses the term. Any moral system requires one or more foundational truths that you don't justify. This is what Hume first described in a way that is now called the Is Ought problem. To jump that divide from Ought to Is you need one or more foundational truths about morality.

Examples: "the goal of morality is to maximize human well being" (Harris) Or "the goal of morality is to do God's will" (most religions) or "the goal of morality is to ensure fairness" (Rawls) or "the goal of morality is the categorical imperative, treat others the way you would want to be treated" (Kant)

Once you have a foundational moral axiom you can make all sorts of inferences about how to maximize well being, ensure fairness, or do God's will. However, as the small excerpt above shows there are all sorts of candidates for foundational moral truths and doing God's will is just one of them. And as we consider the question of which foundational truth works best it seems a reasonable thing to ask is how sensible is the foundation itself. And if the moral foundation is based on a concept (God) that we now have overwhelming evidence is nothing but a holdover from our pre scientific worldview and doesn't exist its not much of a foundation.

28-Jul[masked]:56 PM

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Peter Grant

In reply to #21 by Red Dog:

The difference lies in whether your axioms form part of an ideology or a method. Methodologies evolve, ideologies stagnate.

28-Jul[masked]:07 PM

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phil rimmer

In reply to #22 by Peter Grant:

In reply to #21 by Red Dog:

The difference lies in whether your axioms form part of an ideology or a method. Methodologies evolve, ideologies stagnate.

It is also the informational deficit of ideologies that confound their utility. Moral choices are often between "evils", not between an "evil" and a "not-evil". The RCC perpetrates more evil by offering a no-bid solution, mandating inaction rather than taking the lesser evil choice. It lacks any moral look-up table to decide the issue and certainly wouldn't dream of allowing a moral calculus to minimise harm (or God's wrath or whatever.)

(The RCC gets to win every time here. Catholics decently do their best more often than not, choose a lesser evil rather than the [in my view] greater evil of doing nothing at all and thereby compound their guilt and dependency on the Church.)

The only decent religious ideology I know is that of the Quakers, who make the moral focus the individual's (God given) conscience (or Inner Light) that should be used at every available opportunity. Well as an ideology it sure looks like a method to me. Its only improvement might be that it would be used better if it/we were better informed about the experiences of others and the consequences of our actions.

28-Jul[masked]:57 PM

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fabi11975

There s no god and not absolute morality, it s just eviddence. For. Exemple, death penality is moral in saoudian araby, not in France, homosexuality is immoral in many religion, but have allways exist in community of men (ptiest is in many relgion only men, what about our sexuality), in many country have gun is not morality security. If some absolute morality exist (i dont think), it s must be thinking for better aliving, scientist education and progress and thinking about limit of morality. Fabien M, french athee.

28-Jul[masked]:40 PM

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crookedshoes
  1. If there is a god, it needs to effectively communicate what humans must do to stay moral.
  2. Since this god thing has not ever once put forth even a shred of communication or even evidence that it exists.....
  3. Then, determine morality on your own and live according to what you intellectually deem appropriate.

It works without god. In fact, it works better without god because the morality that is generated is sincere and not simply an arbitrary code of conduct to adhere to because "sky police" are watching. If you are nice to your little brother because Santa is watching, then you are not REALLY being nice. It is the difference between intrinsic morals and extrinsic morals. I vote for intrinsic.

28-Jul[masked]:54 PM

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Roedy

Civil law is fine-tuned over time so it stays relevant, introducing new rules and dropping old ones. Religious law has no way of changing. It becomes progressively sillier and more irrelevant. In contrast, civil law changes to accommodate the moral standards of the current mix of the population. It is certainly imperfect, but it rarely gets as out-of-sync with reality as a religion does. It is absolute in that judges impose it a more or less uniform way. With religion, 99.9% of the rules are ignored, and the remainder are interpreted by individual believers in a way that excuses their own bad behaviour and magnifies the bad behaviour of others.

The Christian religion adds all manner of nonsense to basic morality which actually discourages moral behaviour: e.g. from Deuteronomy 5:7

  • "jealous god" intolerance of other religions
  • no statues/images/junky Jesus jewelry. (the commandment is vague and ignored)
  • no Sunday shopping (hardly a fundamental).
  • requirement for burnt offerings. Just a waste of meat.
  • no yeast in your bread (a major sin).
  • no cooking a kid in its mother’s milk. (hardly one of my big temptations)

Religion is mostly just irrelevant superstition, nothing whatsoever to do with morality.

Usually religions give lip service to non-violence, honest and generosity, but when you read the fine print, they command genocide, theft of land and spreading the lies of the religion.

Believing the only reason to behave is an ogre will torture you after you die is building your morality on sand. When you eventually lose your fear of the imaginary bogey man, you will become a monster yourself, morally broken by a life in service to an imaginary ogre.

For how to develop a rational morality, see the work of Lawrence Kohlberg

28-Jul[masked]:55 PM

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Kaiser

The fact that varying moral codes exist amongst those who put their deepest beliefs in the very same supernatural creature should be sufficient at debunking this one.

28-Jul[masked]:13 PM

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Timothy McNamara

"Only a Sith deals in absolutes" - Obi-wan Kenobi.

28-Jul[masked]:49 PM

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MAJORPAIN

My apologies if someone has said this already...Your god is needed only to ENFORCE your (church's) idea of morality.

Before there were laws that governed a people, to get fairly savage human beings to behave one had to invoke an all seeing all powerful being who would punish you for all eternity if you didn't behave. After all, I can't keep an eye on you 24/7 and you may try to have sex with my 13 year old daughter when I'm not looking (thus spoiling my chance to auction her off at a good price), and now we're back to the money. It always come down to the money with the church.

28-Jul[masked]:37 PM

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canadian_right

Most Christians don't believe their god provides absolute morality as most Christians cherry pick which parts of the bible are good and should be taken literally, and which parts have been superseded or should be taken metaphorically.

How many Christians do you know who gather up their neighbours to stone to death people not observing the Sabbath? How many Christians are beating their slaves? How many Christians are executing their children if they talk back?

The Christian god said, promoted, commanded, and did many things that are obviously evil. If you are looking for absolute morality you can't find it in the bible.

28-Jul[masked]:12 PM

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canadian_right

Why would one want absolute morality? In my opinion there is nothing more dangerous than a person who knows the one and only TRUTH as they can now justify any action.

Morality isn't objective the same way the theory of gravity is objective. Morality can be objective once you define it to mean something that can be observed and measured, for example morality means promoting the well being of humans, or morality means never directly harming humans. The morality we have is due to many factors, including the fact humans are social animals, the state of our technology and knowledge of science, the state of our political structures and culture.

If you can agree on a few "moral axioms" then you can work towards an objective, but not absolute, morality. Unusual situations do require applying common sense to morality. It is wrong to kill, but I would kill a person who was about to kill an innocent. On the other hand I don't believe that evil acts can be excused by "it's part of my culture". A culture that routinely subjugates and abuses women is a culture that needs improvement.

28-Jul[masked]:24 PM

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Aztek

Qualia Soup's educational video

Qualia Soup makes great videos and I can't explain this any better than he does in 13 minutes. If you need more to chew on, he has also made parts two and three for the video. At 6:55 in the video I linked to is explained why we should not follow an absolute authority, but I strongly recommend that you watch the whole video.

28-Jul[masked]:58 PM

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Skeptic

My answer would be of course it's relative. Ask them which God they chose to get their morals from. Then ask them which rules they chose to adhere to and which ones were ignored. Their subjective choices show morality is relative to one who's doing the choosing.

28-Jul[masked]:39 PM

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matty

1.If there is no God then there is no absolute morality...

This is merely a standpoint derived from the brain which is associative by nature and the details one prescribes to a moral existence conform to the already existing formation of the brain, defined by the DNA makeup of the individual as it is the person that is or isn't moral not a book or god they believe in, these are merely details of thought. Thus morality is form of anthropomorphism and has it's source in the observer not the observed or dare i say it the human not the god.

Points 2 and 3 are derivatives of a fallacy.

For what its worth my perception of morality is that if it harms no-one do what you will. so Rock On fellow human :)

28-Jul[masked]:44 PM

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achromat666

In a nutshell, all the points made by petermead1 in comment 4 pretty much sums up my viewpoint on the initial question, but what the idea also infers (and wants the person being asked to essentially agree to) is that good and evil are something other than human constructs. Which is in and of itself a fallacy.

If a predator kills a prey in the wild it's not pleasant, but its not evil. The predator is using the result of countless years of evolved behavior to survive. It's part of the reason it's here for us to discuss. So, animals don't require a sense of good and evil, they have an evolved sense or self preservation and instinct.

So the only creatures that bother to ask these questions, the only animals to ponder its own nature are humans. We create whole cloth stories about how things came to be over our 100 or more thousand year stay on this planet in every part of the world and in the course of civilizing have to make moral choices about how to coexist.

That's what this is all about. The notion that 'things being morally relative is bad' is a big part of the problem. We constantly demonstrate our sense of relative moral value. We've done it millions of times over the long haul as society and people in general have evolved in our separate cultures. The separate cultures themselves provide you a key to how the moral relative idea actually works. Examine how things are permissible in one culture but forbidden in others. Examine the parts of the world where slavery, child marriage and prostitution, misogyny and countless other horrors are not only allowed but encouraged and you have a perfect window as to how relative morality truly is.

Here's what bothers me most: we presume a perfect state of something where it cannot exist. When you assume something is abosulte you assume that thing is perfect in that state (the assumption in this case of god representing an absolute and therefore perfect good). The problem is there is no perfect tribe, no perfect culture, no perfect people to derive our virtues from. There is no ancient culture where all things were perfect and they and nature were perfectly harmonious. And there is of course no perfect book from which to derive such things. It is at best a disturbing fiction.

Absolute morality is a myth. And absolute morality, if it could exist, could only be enforced by one who possesses absolute authority. Which for many theists I think better represents what they may actually be seeking. Claiming absolute authority to impose the will of whoever wants control in the name of an unknowable and impossible ideal.

28-Jul[masked]:24 PM

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Nitya

A good example of the changing nature of what constitutes moral behaviour (on a small scale), is our attitude to smoking and racism. A couple smoking in a car with children or worse,a baby, would be unconscionable. The sight of a heavily pregnant woman openly drinking alcohol would also elicit cries of condemnation. So too, would an openly racist remark especially if it's made by someone in the media or a public figure. Ten years ago these misdemeanors would have passed unnoticed.

In parts of the world blasphemy is punishable by death! The extreme differences in our moral sensibilities is obvious at a glance.

28-Jul[masked]:32 PM

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Alan4discussion

1.If there is no God then there is no absolute morality

There is no absolute morality. There is only a delusion of absolute morality in the mind of the dogmatist!

2.If there is no absolute morality then morality must be relative

That is correct. The moral philosophy is in deciding relative to what! (The golden rule, avoiding suffering and using science to inform predicted outcomes would be good starters.)

3.If morality is relative then evil is only a stance and thus does not really exist

Evil is often an undefined term, but used by theists usually means going against their gods or the interests of their religious organisation. Quite often it is used without any moral consideration other than "US" (our tribe/clique) "good" - the opposing population "evil".

(Hence it is possible to have two opposing armies committing atrocities, but with both behaving "morally" - having "god on their side"!)

evil is only a stance and thus does not really exist

This is just an arrogant repeat assertion, that there can be no morality without their (version of) god, so they deny that all other moral philosophies are moral philosophies. -
That is the delusion of dogmatic "absolute morality". (There are only two views on this: "Ours [as spoon fed to us for unthinking acceptance,] and the evil wrong one".)

28-Jul[masked]:43 PM

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downshifter

As a side bar: A few posts here leave the impression that a "good start" for morality is something like the Golden Rule, or maximize happiness a la Harris. It's worth pointing out that these are just as relative as any other basis for morality, and are a reflection of our times and culture today.

29-Jul[masked]:41 AM

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Skeptic

In reply to #38 by downshifter:

As a side bar: A few posts here leave the impression that a "good start" for morality is something like the Golden Rule, or maximize happiness a la Harris. It's worth pointing out that these are just as relative as any other basis for morality, and are a reflection of our times and culture today.

And even Harris admits as much.

29-Jul[masked]:09 AM

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Cairsley

It does not really make sense to speak of absolute morality. Something is absolutely true if it is true regardless of any qualifications or conditions - that is the meaning of 'absolute' in this context, the meaning it has for philosophers and grammarians (and is not to be confused with the political meaning of the word). In discussions of morality one may speak of absolute good or evil, but by that one would be referring to something that is good or evil without qualification. For example, one might argue, as Immanuel Kant does, that lying is evil absolutely, that is to say it is evil without possible exception and regardless of any conditions or qualifications. This does not mean that it would never be right to lie, for situations arise in which a choice has to be made between two or more evil options and the relative evils of the options have to weighed to determine which option would be the least evil. So, even if one accepts moral absolutes in this philosophical sense, one still has to deal with relative moral values to sort out how best to act in certain situations. I mentioned the political sense of the term 'absolute', because that does taint some people's thinking in moral discussions, especially where religion may be lurking in the background. When one speaks of "absolute morality", one has to make one's meaning clear, because we are, I am sure, all familiar with the traditional Judaeo-Christian (and no doubt Mohammedan) notion of morality as a divinely revealed code of behavior to be followed by humans in order to find favor with God and attain to happiness by God's grace after death. There is nothing absolute about this kind of religious moral code in the philosophical sense, but it is an instance of an imaginary political absolutism, of a law supposedly laid down by a ruler of absolute power and authority to be obeyed by his subjects, however incidental and even inconsistent its contents may be.

29-Jul[masked]:22 AM

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Pascendi

Here's a way to put the Euthyphro dilemma: "Does God say that an action is right because it is right, or is it right because He says so? Either way, the standard to use to tell right from wrong seems God-independent." But if God is infinitely and perfectly good, and if the moral standard follows from his nature, that solves the dilemma.

29-Jul[masked]:46 AM

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Nitya

In reply to #41 by Pascendi:

Here's a way to put the Euthyphro dilemma: "Does God say that an action is right because it is right, or is it right because He says so? Either way, the standard to use to tell right from wrong seems God-independent." But if God is infinitely and perfectly good, and if the moral standard follows f...

Hi Bill. I see you're venturing further afield! Good on you. I also see that your concept of god is a he, and has a personality ( or nature). Of course I don't hold your views, but I'm pleased to see you branching out and stating your case.

29-Jul[masked]:18 AM

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Zeuglodon

In reply to #41 by Pascendi:

Here's a way to put the Euthyphro dilemma: "Does God say that an action is right because it is right, or is it right because He says so? Either way, the standard to use to tell right from wrong seems God-independent." But if God is infinitely and perfectly good, and if the moral standard follows from his nature, that solves the dilemma.

No, it doesn't. Firstly, by what criterion do you determine that a god is even slightly good, never mind "infinitely" and "perfectly" good? Much less how does the logic of what looks to me like your word salad offering even add up? It's like arguing objectively efficient medicine exists because it follows naturally from an infinite and perfect healthiness. In other words, a non-sequitur.

29-Jul[masked]:23 AM

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Alan4discussion

In reply to #41 by Pascendi:

Here's a way to put the Euthyphro dilemma:
"Does God say that an action is right because it is right, or is it right because He says so? Either way, the standard to use to tell right from wrong seems God-independent." But if God is infinitely and perfectly good, and if the moral standard follows from his nature, that solves the dilemma.

A little analysis shows the assumed assertions and circularity of this argument.

  • "Does my subconscious ego say that an action is right because it is right, or is it right because my subconscious ego says so? Either way, the standard to use to tell right from wrong seems * subconscious ego-independent." But if my subconscious ego is infinitely and perfectly good, and if the moral standard follows from my subconscious ego's* nature, that solves the dilemma.

This simply claims that whatever the brain's god-spots say is "good", is "good" because the individual's brain's god-spots are "infinitely and perfectly good", by nature. (Whatever that vague unevidenced claim is supposed to mean!!)

Basically it says, "Morality is whatever my brain subjectively comes up with!" - without defining "good" or any sort of moral philosophy.

that solves the dilemma.

Err no! It just hides the unaddressed issues in circular verbosity.

29-Jul[masked]:18 AM

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achromat666

In reply to #41 by Pascendi:

Here's a way to put the Euthyphro dilemma: "Does God say that an action is right because it is right, or is it right because He says so? Either way, the standard to use to tell right from wrong seems God-independent."

So one can arbitrarily establish this without proving that such an entity exist and demonstrating which variety of god we are referring to? Something can actually be god dependent without proving god?

But if God is infinitely and perfectly good, and if the moral standard follows from his nature, that solves the dilemma.

There's a lot of if here, and a lot of question begging. If god is anything depends solely on a god existing, and as has been mentioned on numerous occasions at this site, even agreeing on any concept of god is impossible to reach a consensus for. So proving is impossible, as the qualities assigned to said deity are impossible.

It is also interesting to note that the same god definition issues also have problems because under most circumstances he is supposed to embody basically everything. Put an omni prefix in front of a given term and someone has associated it with the definition of god (omnibenevolence, omnipotence, omniscience, etc). The very ideas themselves contradict each other.

And finally, how can the very entity that by all accounts created 'evil' be exempt from it?

You make the solution sound simple when in fact there is nothing simple about this dilemma, except that it is simply wrong.

29-Jul[masked]:12 AM

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ikinmoore

Morality does not require a God. Personally, I do not believe in eatinng animals or wearing Leather. I do not believe in Slavery but I do believe in the statement that everyone is Equal in Law. I believe in treating animals and fellow humans as kindly as you would want it done to you. I would like to know where in the Bible those beliefs come from. Thinking about it, why should I worship the Sky daddy of the Bible when this "God" murdered millions in the OT. What moral code is he Preaching when he doesn't set an example of his kindness ! The only evil one in the Bible was "God".

29-Jul[masked]:06 PM

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SaganTheCat

absolute morality is a red herring so I suspect you do need a concept of god.

I've no counter argument to the 3 points because I agree; morality is relative. it's immoral to go charging down the road and bowling a defenceless blind man to the ground, fracturing bones, causing extensive bruising not to mention frightening his dog but relitively speaking, it's immoral not to when he's about to get run over

the notion of absolute morality is the end of morality. if there is a law based on "absolute morality"that says you must/must not... and you believe there are exceptional circumstances that would be for the greater good, then the the greater good is immoral.

of course it's relative, the bible has loads of laws. apparently thats where morality comes from? yet most of the laws in it are ignored by even the most ardent fundamentalist. they pick and choose the ones that fit their own, personal belief in morality

evil doesn't exist.

selfishness exists fear exists mental illness exists misguided loyalty exists

evil is just a word used when someone does something we don't like.

absolute morality is a concept used to stiffle true humane morality

29-Jul[masked]:23 PM

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crookedshoes

I watched the US TV show "60 Minutes" last evening and one of the stories centered on Yale University's "Baby Lab". In a nutshell, preverbal infants, even kids so young that they can't really move (like 3 months old) have a sort of "pre-programmed" morality.

In one series of experiments, they showed kids a puppet show of a helpful stuffed bunny and a harmful stuffed bunny. Kids, at a rate of 80% or higher choose to play with the helpful bunny. HOWEVER, if the child is first presented with a choice of cheerios or corn flakes, then shown the two stuffed animals and one of the stuffed animals chooses the same cereal as the child, THEN, the child will side with the stuffed animal that chose the same cereal, no matter if the stuffed animal was nasty or not.

There's much more behind it, but just to illustrate the point, if morality is hard wired, and god is NOT..... then.......



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