“Christian’s are good, Atheists are bad, and shame on you…..”
How many times has this been the stereotype of every discussion on morality between the believing and the non? How many times have the definitions been stripped from those who don’t follow what we believe our “team” ought to do?
“He’s not a real Christian. A real Christian wouldn’t do that.”
“He’s not a real Atheist. He’s too compassionate.”
“He’s not a real dog. A real dog plays fetch.”
Yet none of this has anything to do with what the moral argument for Deism is all about! I see this argument constantly straw-manned again and again (and again), to where the Deist argues “Without God we have no reason not to sin” and the Atheist responds “Are you saying I would sin without belief in God? I don’t, and in fact, you do more.”
So let’s put aside all this ugly stereotyping and distractions from the real argument, take a look at what the moral argument actually is, and lets jump into each defining point to make sure it is sound. W.R Sorley, Scottish Philosopher, shortened the argument into the following.
- If morality is objective and absolute, God must exist.
- Morality is objective and absolute.
- Therefore, God must exist.
So lets take a look at premise 1. in depth.-
- “If morality is objective and absolute, God must exist.”
There are not many Skeptics who would actually argue against this point. In fact, Mackie, Dawkins, Sartre, and numerous others concede this point. “It is pretty hard to defend absolutist morals on grounds other than religious ones.“- Richard Dawkins.
Yet I have heard recently objections towards an objective morality staying objective if God has made it. (It would be subjective because it is God’s opinion)- Yet to take on such an argument, you’d have to misrepresent the definition of God. If God is all knowing and all good, how could his opinions not be the absolute truth? If He did create the very existence of moral values, how is his interpretation of morality anything but objective?
And let us try to conceive of any other means by which an objective morality could be made apart from opinion. If what a man “ought to do” or “ought not to do” isn’t ground in a “who says so”, then how can one just happen to exist? Just because an idea is generally agreed upon doesn’t mean that that idea is objective. This is why most Atheistic philosophers DO actually boil down morality to our desires and what we think will lead to them in a healthy way.
2. “Morality is objective and absolute.”
This is the most controversial point of the argument. For what reason do we think morality is actually objective and absolute? After all, there are many disagreements between what is right and wrong; many grey areas. Who has the right to say what is a part of the objective morality and what isn’t?
I’d actually like to argue that idea behind the concept of morality itself is what qualifies it as being “objective.”- and to do that, first let’s look at the implications of a world without objective morality.
The most important question to ask when it comes to determining the possibility of an objective morality is the “why” question. Why is this wrong? Why is this right? The argument can only be reduced to human desire, or God’s desire. There are no other alternatives. Let us try this experiment-
“We should not murder eachother”- why?
“Because murder is wrong”- why?
“Because it violates a person’s rights” – why does that matter?
“Because…” and eventually you’ll reach a point where a person admits “Because that’s what I want it to be like” or “That’s what we all want.”
But why are your desires more important than mine? Should I desire to kill and the majority desire I not kill, why should I listen to the majority? Better yet, what if I convince the majority to let me kill? Why is life better than death, or healthy progress better than destruction? And if a person naturally desires life, what is wrong with skewing them to desire death?
In fact, when we predicate morality on man’s desires, the system begins to fall apart. All right and wrong become based on fluctuating desires, which we have no reason to slave ourselves towards anyway.
Yet the one who answers the “why” with “God says so” says a great deal more about the situation that those who take morality to be the opinion of the majority. The one who says “God says so” is saying things more like “It goes against your reason to be” or “It goes against the most important opinion”.
And here is why I say that subjective morality goes against the concept of morality: man doesn’t actually believe that morality is just an opinion. “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis covers this dilemma right off the bat. “Man acts as if there are rules that everyone ought to follow (paraphrased.). When we say people shouldn’t murder, we mean more than “we don’t like that”, we mean that person is acting apart from how a man should act. Yet why should a man act in any certain way? Who gets to say so? Man or God?
3. Therefore, God must exist.
This one doesn’t need to be argued. If the above two points are true, this one is an obvious truth.
With all that considered, what I find about the skeptic approach is that in the end, it’s all a grabbing of ghosts. Man wants to throw away their ability to have an objective morality, and wants to keep it too. We grab onto the what we think was solid ground in skepticism, and we grab onto our ideas of true morality, and the two vanish in our hands. When we try to have both, we can have neither. We become the kid with 5$ in the toystore who thinks somehow we can walk out of that toystore with our 5$, a new toy, and no rules broken.
After all, that is what we want, and why “shouldn’t” we have what we want?