Do objective moral values exist for believers?

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Do objective moral values exist for believers?

Post  Orion on Mon Feb 15, 2010 11:04 am

I hear a lot of people saying 'without a belief in God, how can you have objective morality?'.

Atheists will then explain where their morality comes from, a complicated subject that can involve much discussion. But it seems that in the very act of taking the question seriously the atheists are giving it too much credit.

The problem is that I've never had anyone be able to explain why it makes any difference to the question if you DO believe in God. The assumption is that if a God exists, an 'objective morality' must automatically follow. How come? Can anyone explain why the existence of objective morality has anything to do with the existence of a deity? So what if a God exists - why would His own particular morality be 'objective'? How would we know if his morality was 'the right one' if his own standards are the only ones we could use to judge him?

Would it be impossible by definition for a God to be evil or a dictator? What if all the attributes that we assign to Satan, and all those attributed to God were swapped over - would Satan then be the good one? Or would God be 'the good one' regardless of any of his actions. Is there any act that you could conceive of a God doing that would stop him being 'all good', or would he remain good whatever action he carried out? Is every deed he carries out 'good' by definition, in a similar way to Nixon's belief that a president cannot break the law because anything he does is by definition lawful?


Last edited by Orion on Mon Feb 15, 2010 11:16 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Do objective moral values exist for believers?

Post  Neon Genesis on Mon Feb 15, 2010 11:14 am

I don't see how proving the existence of God proves morals are subjective, either. It is merely asserted that they are and God proves it somehow yet the bible has the most subjective moral values ever. In one passage, God forbids murder but in another passage God commands the murder of non-Isrealites. If Christians think God's morality is absolute, they should re-read the book of Leviticus and ask them why they don't stone people for eating shrimp or wearing clothes made from mixed fabric. If a god does prove the existence of objective morals, it's obvious to me at least that the bible isn't it.

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Re: Do objective moral values exist for believers?

Post  Daneel Olivaw on Mon Feb 15, 2010 3:29 pm

That, if I'm not mistaken, is the essence of Euthyphro Dilemma.
Let's assume that there's a being that created the universe called God and who, by his nature (as William Lane Craig would say it), conforms his behaviour with some set of morals or some moral code. And let's assume that there's another being called John who by his nature behaves in accordance to another moral code. Why is God's morality the objective one?
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Re: Do objective moral values exist for believers?

Post  Orion on Mon Feb 15, 2010 6:18 pm

I had a long email conversation with an apologist (Frank Turek) about this, and he gave a surprisingly complicated justification for God's morality being the right one. It seemed based on WL Craig arguments and also CS Lewis ideas. It involved assertions like 'Evil is just the absence of good', and 'evil acts are perversions of moral ones'. But assertions are all they were.

Plus, ultimately his argument could have equally been used to explain why, say, my morality was better than Hitler's, meaning that God become redundant in giving the morality meaning.

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Re: Do objective moral values exist for believers?

Post  snafu on Wed Feb 17, 2010 5:17 am

Props to orion for starting this thread. An equally valid way to attack the problem. I'm surprised it hasn't received more posts.
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Re: Do objective moral values exist for believers?

Post  MisterChristopher on Wed Feb 17, 2010 11:58 am

No.

Did I win?
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Re: Do objective moral values exist for believers?

Post  Daneel Olivaw on Wed Feb 17, 2010 2:14 pm

Orion wrote:I had a long email conversation with an apologist (Frank Turek) about this, and he gave a surprisingly complicated justification for God's morality being the right one. It seemed based on WL Craig arguments and also CS Lewis ideas. It involved assertions like 'Evil is just the absence of good', and 'evil acts are perversions of moral ones'. But assertions are all they were.

Plus, ultimately his argument could have equally been used to explain why, say, my morality was better than Hitler's, meaning that God become redundant in giving the morality meaning.
I would say that even if you succeed in proving that god's morality is the right one, that doesn't mean that god's morality is "objective" in an way. No more than if you could prove that Joe's morality is the right one.
Also, any debate that involves choosing between moral codes involves some kind of meta-ethics. Where do those meta-ethics come from? From god?
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Re: Do objective moral values exist for believers?

Post  Objectivitees on Wed Feb 17, 2010 3:13 pm

The assumption is that if a God exists, an 'objective morality' must automatically follow.

Actually, you have the argument exactly backwards. The assumption is that if objective morality exists, god must. (not God exists, therefore objective) The logical argument flows from the idea that morality can only be either objective or subjective. (the third law of Logic, the Excluded middle) If one or the other is not obtainable in reality, the other must obtain. Theists contend that subjective nature does not obtain, therefore an objective nature must. They claim this by making the argument that the consequences of a subjective nature to morality results in absurdities of logic and irrationality. They reject that which is irrational on the grounds of Logic. Since all humanity accepts the validity of Logic as an assumption, (an a priori foundation for knowledge) Theists demonstrate a valid argument for God. The nature of God, thus becomes a different question. (In other words, what God is like is not determined by the same argument that establishes existence.)

Maybe this (you frame the question backwards, and assume the goal is not what it is) is why you don't understand the argument I am making in the thread on morality?

So what if a God exists - why would His own particular morality be 'objective'?


Because certain attributes of God are determined by ontology, not belief in a set of books, or what they say... as you wrongly assume Theists claim.


The short answer to your question is that objective morals exist for both, believers and non-believers.
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Re: Do objective moral values exist for believers?

Post  Orion on Wed Feb 17, 2010 5:44 pm

Objectivitees wrote:The assumption is that if objective morality exists, god must.
And that's all it is - an assumption. Why is that any more logical than to say 'if objective morality exists, god can't?

In fact, given that the morality the bible God changes throughout the book, that points AWAY from objective morality.

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Re: Do objective moral values exist for believers?

Post  Objectivitees on Wed Feb 17, 2010 10:49 pm

And that's all it is - an assumption.

Once again you aren't paying attention. The fact that assuming subjective morality leads to absurdities, therefore only objective morality can be assumed.
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Re: Do objective moral values exist for believers?

Post  Orion on Thu Feb 18, 2010 6:40 am

Objectivitees wrote:
And that's all it is - an assumption.

Once again you aren't paying attention. The fact that assuming subjective morality leads to absurdities, therefore only objective morality can be assumed.
Ironically, it is you who is not paying attention, and it seems not even to your OWN posts. You said: "The assumption is that if objective morality exists, god must."

So when I said 'That's just an assumption', the referred to assumption isn't that objective morality exists, it is the assumption that, given an objective morality, a God must exist. This was quite clear in my reply. If you had said 'The assumption that objective morality exists', then my reply would have been referring to that. But the assumption you were referring to in your post was clearly that 'God exists', with objective morality being an 'if', a given.

In other words:
"The assumption is that, given x, God must exist", with x being objective morality.

My reply was that even if, for the sake of argument, we allow you your given, the assumption you make based on it is simply that - an assumption. So I wasn't questioning in that post your point about the existence of an objective morality.

And all this was quite clear in my post.

Now if someone misunderstands my post, my general rule is to offer a simple clarification. This helps a serious discussion move along. But you didn't just misunderstand my post, you chose to throw in petty 'once again you aren't paying attention' snide remarks. I suspect that a key factor in you not understanding my post was your haste to score points.

But I guess it enabled you to avoid responding to the actual content of my post.

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Re: Do objective moral values exist for believers?

Post  Neon Genesis on Thu Feb 18, 2010 8:03 pm

Objectivitees wrote:


Because certain attributes of God are determined by ontology, not belief in a set of books, or what they say... as you wrongly assume Theists claim.

Then perhaps you can explain to me what is the absolute moral standard of Deuteronomy chapter 13
If anyone secretly entices you—even if it is your brother, your father’s son or* your mother’s son, or your own son or daughter, or the wife you embrace, or your most intimate friend—saying, ‘Let us go and worship other gods’, whom neither you nor your ancestors have known, 7any of the gods of the peoples that are around you, whether near you or far away from you, from one end of the earth to the other, 8you must not yield to or heed any such persons. Show them no pity or compassion and do not shield them. 9But you shall surely kill them; your own hand shall be first against them to execute them, and afterwards the hand of all the people. 10Stone them to death for trying to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 11Then all Israel shall hear and be afraid, and never again do any such wickedness.

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Re: Do objective moral values exist for believers?

Post  Daneel Olivaw on Fri Feb 19, 2010 9:33 pm

Objectivitees wrote:
The assumption is that if a God exists, an 'objective morality' must automatically follow.

[color=darkblue]Actually, you have the argument exactly backwards. The assumption is that if objective morality exists, god must. (not God exists, therefore objective)

Then we are looking at different argumetns or different theists. The one and only william lance craig says that objective moral values come from god. Although the argument for the existence of god may be that "if objective morality exists, god must", the idea is that hose values are objective because they come from god.
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Re: Do objective moral values exist for believers?

Post  thecatslunch on Sun Feb 28, 2010 9:11 am

If someone says 'morality is objective' what exactly do they mean? Is it objective like the existence of an apple is objective? Well, no. Morality is abstract idea. Can ideas (of any sort) be said to be 'objective'?

Furthermore is theistic morality objective because it is an idea that is (in Winnie the Poo terms) A Good Thing and hence held by God, or is any idea held by God, by definition, A Good Thing? What I mean is, does morality exist apart from God and God chooses it because it is good, or could God (at least in principle) decide any old thing is immoral or moral simply by divine fiat? The first possibility seems fraught with theological difficulty. If Good exists apart from God and God CHOOSES to be good, then we must ask where does morality come from and why is God subject to it. This would seem to be a blow against the omnipotence of God. If morality is defined by God, then morality is a subjective idea in the mind of God. If God has a mind in any sense of the word and the Bible seems clear in asserting He does, then God's interior experience of mind and the concepts it holds must be, by definition subjective.

In either case, a theist saying 'morality is objectyive' is not actually saying anything internally consistent.

As to the argument that holding morality is pragmatic, culturally and evolution based leads to inconsistent behaviour, let's practice the same argument with another concept: Art. Is Art objective? I would argue it isn't given differing views and opinion about what art is from individual to individual. Does that make my liking a Van Gogh inconsistent or illogical? Is my appreciation of the painting somehow diminished? Of Course not.

It seems to me both Art and morality share many features not the least of which is that they are creations of the human mind in society.
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Re: Do objective moral values exist for believers?

Post  Orion on Sun Feb 28, 2010 9:33 am

The argument that humans who follow a morality are being irrational fails. And it fails even if you accept theists' most nihilistic view of 'atheist thinking'.

Some people argue that atheism means that humans are basically selfish, only looking after their own interests. If that were true, it would still be rational for atheists to go along with a system that benefits us all. And if even if we just evolved to be good, and the only reason we do good is because we'd feel guilty if we didn't, then a selfish person who doesn't want to feel bad is still choosing the most rational option if he does good.

Others say that without God, we're basically just gene replicators, trying to pass on our genes to the next generation. Again, if this were true, our 'morality system' is still the best way to do this. My children are more likely to survive in our society than in one without a system of morals.

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No such thing

Post  NedStark on Wed Mar 24, 2010 10:32 am

There is no such thing as objective morality. Even if a god existed that dictated a moral law, it would still be subjective (god being the subject). Something that is objective is something that exists outside the realm of mental contemplation. If it exists regardless of someone thinking about it, then it is objective. If someone argues that morality could not exist if God could not exist, then they are actually arguing FOR its subjectivity.

The mistake a lot of people make is conflating "subjective" with "arbitrary." Morality might be subjective, but that doesn't mean it's based on nothing. We don't condemn murder and theft for no other reason than we just feel like it, we condemn them because they cause measurable harm and threatens group cohesion. On that note, subjective morality is actually superior to the idea of objective morality, because it forces us to think about why we make the rules that we do. If morality were objective, then being a moral person wouldn't be an admirable trait at all. It would just be part of our makeup. Nothing to condemn or praise about it at all.

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Re: Do objective moral values exist for believers?

Post  2buckchuck on Thu Sep 16, 2010 7:33 am

Although many theists want to argue that atheism is just another religion, it's pretty evident to me that atheists vary widely in their beliefs, precisely because we try to think things through for ourselves. We have little unity except the trait that we disbelieve in a deity. There are no atheist 'sacred' texts written by atheist 'gods' (a contradiction). There's no uniformly-accepted atheist dogma, no common atheist rituals, no places of atheist 'worship'. Atheists think for themselves and so often disagree about many things.

The theists are right about one thing. If we reject their deity, we also reject the absolute morality that flows from the acceptance of a deity as the absolute moral authority. We can argue about how 'correct' the theist morality is, but theists believe that their morality comes directly from their infinitely moral deity.

In fact, some theists say that atheist morality is arbitrary and varies according to personal choice among atheists. Given the argumentative nature of atheists, there's probably some truth in that - but - as has been said in various ways already, I think atheist morality is in fact a reflection of what's good for the survival of a society. If we behaved in violent, brutal ways to each other all the time, with no care for what harm we might do - if we lied to each other all the time, if we constantly stole from one another, our society would simply collapse. We humans survived by working together in harmony (for the most part), not against one another.

My question to the theists would be: can you define your 'absolute' morality, when your deity not only sanctions but encourages genocide, fratricide, violence against homosexuals, misogyny, slavery, rape, torture, pillaging, infanticide, and so on - as documented in the bible and the qu'ran? If your deity says it's o.k. for you to commit these deeds, but at the same time issued you a set of commandments that say you're not supposed to do those things, how do you choose? Is there one standard for your deity (who is claimed to have carried out a planet-wide mass extinction - the biblical flood) but another one for you? Do as I say, not as I do? I think we'd consider that immoral and hypocritical.
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