Fear Of Whales

Tales of a reluctant minister

The Death of the Moral Argument

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One of the ambitions I had when I started this blog over 7 years ago was to write a series which would trot out all of the Classical apologetic arguments for the existence of a God: Cosmological, Axiological, Teleological, Noalogical, and Ontological. I have a list of future blog topics, and they have been on there forever. Today I wonder if I may have waited too long.

I believe the moral argument is dead.

Arguments have arisen on the internet and elsewhere, Atheists and non-believers have embraced moral objectivism, tackled the moral argument head on, and, in my opinion, triumphed over it. They did not therefore disprove the existence of God, instead the removed one major arrow from our traditional quiver of arguments purporting to prove it.

Brief Refresher: The moral argument goes something like this

1. If no Objective Moral Lawgiver exists, no objective morality exists

2. Objective morality does exist

Some Objective Moral Lawgiver does exist

The classic response by secularists which was very weak and unsatisfying, was to deny the second premise. The claim that no objective morality exists effectively stymies the argument, but at the cost of granting the Apologist the moral high ground, and inviting him to proceed to attempt to “prove” objective morality through references to human atrocities which the critic is then forced to shrug at.

We could never definitively prove objective morality, but we won a lot of crowds through inductive arguments that objective morality really seemed right and relativism seemed icky. The Critics kept using it because it had never (strictly speaking) been “defeated” it just lost them a lot of debates.

maxresdefaultBut recently, folks like Sam Harris have taken to upholding objective morality on atheistic grounds. They have built consistent systems that begin with a common understanding of the definition of the word “morality” such as “greatest good for the greatest number” or “most helpful for the survival of the species or group” (not new ideas, just newly popular in this context) They proceed from there to build systems of moral rules that are similar and comparable to those systems produced by theistic models. Hitler can be universally, really bad, slavery can be objectively wrong, God does not have to exist to hate it in order for the system to be consistent.

The new apologetic response is to insist that while such a system can be constructed, it cannot be sourced. Why should morality mean “Greatest good fro the greatest number” if it just means that to you, then it’s relative, if it should mean that to everyone than you need a Lawgiver.

The response is true but it is irrelevant. a Consistent idea does not need a source. I don’t have a source for half the things a believe. Logic, reason, historical facts. Someone told me that they were true, and I believed them, since then nothing has disproven the beliefs I adopted, they seemed to work, they satisfy me. That’s how I came to believe that B goes “bu bu bu” god didn’t tell me, someone who believed it did, and it worked.

If I say “morals are objective” you can choose to believe me, then if nobody disproves that, I become your Objective Standard for moral law. And that’s fine. My fallibility has nothing to do with my capacity to guess right, and once you believe it it is rational for you to keep believing it.

Oh well, moving on


Written by RyanGaffney

February 25, 2015 at 9:39 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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