Is God the Final Arbiter of Morality?

Ciao skeptics,

In today’s post, I am going to be talking about an argument which originally I could not find a problem with, due to the fact that it had all the bases covered. I knew there was something wrong with the argument, but I couldn’t find any holes with it. First though, some background.

In Ethics & Faith a fortnight ago, the topic for the lesson was morals, and I thought to my self how easy it would be to sweep the room, seeing how immoral the old-testament god is. I brought up the old idea asking whether or not killing 1 to save 100 is moral. He told me that killing the 1 to save 100 was immoral, and that he would do nothing, due to the fact that his bible told him to never murder. I then proposed the point that if killing 1 to save 100 is immoral, then god wiping out 2 whole cities, Sodom & Gomorrah, to stop them from a bit of rape and blasphemy must be magnitudes more moral. What he said next is the argument which stuck me up, he told me that god is the final arbiter of morality, what he says goes, and that his ways are higher than our ways.
I’d heard many Christians say before “God’s ways are higher than our ways”, but I had never heard the murder of the old-testament god justified by this cop-out. Basically telling me that god writes the rules, he can do whatever he wants because what he says goes, and that the definition of morality is god.

I immediately had to think about this one, and I could not find anything wrong with it, if you accept that god writes the rules. But both of the eventual holes I found with the argument came about during more recent discussions with the school father.

The first comes about due to a story about Jesus. When Jesus is growing up, he goes fasting in the desert for a while, and is tempted by the devil, so that he can experience the ways of humans. When I was reminded of this story, I had a light-bulb moment. If Jesus is god, and god can justify his actions due to the fact that he is god, then why doesn’t Jesus succumb to temptation and do what the devil says. I mean, it’s not a sin when Jesus does it, because god writes the rule book. Jesus can do what ever he likes, turn the stones into bread, because he can write a loop-hole in the rule book which allows him to do it. After thinking “So god can write and re-write the rules when he likes then… that reminds me of something I know” I had a second argument against this excuse of god.

The second inspirational moment I had was during school worship, when our Father told us (and god) that God is worthy of much worship and praise. Any god who can do what they want, when they want, even if it is against the rules they write, is definitely NOT worth praise!

Anybody who has ever been outside around children has met somebody who changes the rules when they like to suit them. There are people like that who still act that way into their adulthood. When you spend some time with them, you get very angry at them, and have some thoughts about them which can be summed up with “Hypocrite!”
Now imagine that this person is your god! If you knew that your god could kill you right now, as well as the rest of your family and friends, for no particular reason, and justify it by saying “Well, I write the rule book, so I can do what I want.” I wouldn’t want to spend the rest of eternity with this bloke, living by his rules, which could change at any time, whenever he wants to do something the rules don’t allow him to.

God, if he is allowed to do whatever he likes, because he writes the rules, is not going to be a very good god to live with, and is a god who I would not call god. He would be the sort of guy who would say “Do as I say, not as I do.” which is a huge sidestep on morality.

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Sports Superstition

Hello there, skeptical brothers-in-arms,

Today I am going to be blogging about some of the superstitions in sports, some of their implications, and how people continue to believe their superstitious rituals actually affect their game. I will start by listing some of the common superstitions held by professional sports people.
In baseball, when a pitcher is hot, nobody is allowed to talk to him. During play-off runs or winning streaks, many sportsmen wear the same socks or underwear, without washing them, for every game. Sportsmen often have lucky charms or rituals of some sort, and there are plenty of performance enhancing jewelery options out there for any sportsperson, from wrist bands to necklaces.

That list is just a list of superstitions, I’m not writing to you all today to tell you that superstitious beliefs are ridiculous, all of my readers should know that all ready. I’m going to tell you why some people persist with their beliefs, and how they can see evidence when there really is none.

One of the most influential effects on sport superstition is, you guessed it, the placebo effect. Studies have been done on the Power band, one of the most famous performance enhancing items around (before its many law-suits), has had tests done on it. The results of which showed that a person could reach almost 5 centimeters closer to the ground, upon the wearing of a Power Balance band. Now, to any unscientific layman, this would sound like an astounding proof of the power of the Power Balance band. But, if you are familiar with the scientific method, you will know that tests must be blinded. These tests where not blinded, the test subjects knew wether or not they were wearing the Power Balance band, and they knew the hypothesis, that Power Balance bands will show an increased effect.
Any scientist looking at these results would say Wow, the placebo effect is really that strong! This effect is also known of in other sports, where players and coaches have their own rituals. If you can put yourself in the mindset of a player, who, for the last 5 years of his playing career, has always gotten up out of bed on the right side, every game day, and then one day, he accidentally gets out of bed on the left side. If I knew that was one of my rituals, I would start to get anxious, and nervous. Anybody can figure out that a baseball pitcher who is more worried about what side of the bed he got out of this morning than whether to throw a fastball or a splitter, is not going to play as well, he is not focusing on the game.

All of these rituals that sportsmen perform, might actually have an effect, but it is not how they think. Instead of warding of evil spirits, they are really just providing a comforting motion to perform to themselves, when there are 50 000 plus fans screaming yours and your teams names. These rituals provide something to calm the body down, in the nervous and high adrenaline sports arenas of today. Psychology has strange effects on humans.

Do atheists believe in invisible intrinsic morals?

Hello to everyone on the world-wide web,

Today’s post will be talking about an argument I read on a Christian blog a few days ago, I will give you the context of the argument. The blog topic was about ‘how to convert an atheist.’ and It was a list of about a dozen simple ways to persuade an atheist to convert to Christianity. It started with simple ones like “Take your atheist to a Christian event, and make them see how much happier they will be with god.” (Obviously for the softest Atheist in all existence), and “Ask them about why they are an atheist, it will make them feel comfortable when you ask questions about their religion.”, and “Make sure not to use biblical quotes when talking to the atheist, this is just silly.”
You know, some of those  obvious and common sense ones, but one tip struck me at first, it went like this, “Ask why, if they do not believe in an invisible god, then why do they believe in invisible morals?” and I thought this was a very interesting statement, so I will delve into why I believe there a morals, and why I don’t rape and pillage all the time because I do not have to impress any deity to get into heaven.

A common question raised by Christians is “What do you base your morals on if you have no deity to listen to?” This is a good question, and I always answer them with something similar to this. My moral judgement is based on past experience, common sense, possible future consequences and how actions affect others. If its my mother asking the question then she will respond with a scoff and “Like you consider others consequences!”

It is true mum, that my judgement is not always clear, but neither is a Christian’s. I don’t believe that morals are invisible, there do seem to be some underlying basic common sense rules that any human can come to realize, without needing a deity to give it too them, and these are best outlined in the UN’s declaration of human rights. These rights were written by many different people across may different countries and many different religions, and settled on something which is really just a lot of common sense.

It is also true that, being an atheist who knows that they only get about 80 years on the earth and have to make the most of it, they will probably not do something which  will abruptly bring somebody’s life to an end or to drastically change it. If you know that the man on the other end of the gun you are holding will not continue to live, and not fully experience life, if you pull the trigger, I am a whole heap less likely to kill that man, because he only has this life on earth and I would not want to finish it for him. Another thing stopping me from being a very antisocial, non-law-abiding citizen is laws and a social life. If I acted like what Christians think atheists would act like, then I would have no friends and be spending my life in jail.

I will leave you with a quote from Carl Sagan, “For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.”  Carl Sagan, an astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist and science popularizer of some note.

An argument from beauty

Today, I had an Ethics and faith lesson with our school father (I go to an Anglican school) and he reminded me of an argument that I have been hearing for a long time. It’s actually three arguments, the first is, “Why is there something rather than nothing?”, the second is “Why do humans and other animals exist?”, and the third is “The earth is so beautiful, it can’t have happened by chance.”His answer to all of these questions is that there must be a supreme being or god who designed it intentionally for us, so it is beautiful and appealing to us. All of these arguments are of the kind ‘post hoc, ergo propter hoc’, and I have covered that in my brief of logical fallacies which can be found on the home page. I will answer these questions in my blog post today.

The first argument, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” This can be explained easily with chance. Simply, there is only one way in which there is nothing, null and void, but there are infinite ways in which something can exist, and seeing that 1/∞ = 0, (1/2 = 0.5… 1/10 = 0.1… 1/100 = 0.01) it just has to happen. No god is needed to explain everything because something must happen. It would be more surprising if there was nothing, and we would need to have a god to explain it, but there would be nobody around to ask the question, and that leads me to the next argument.

“Why do humans and other animals exist?” This is the second question asked by my Ethics and Faith teacher. He says that there must be a god who put life on a planet to explain this. There isn’t a need for this. It has been estimated that there are about 150 billion galaxies in the known universe. There are also anywhere from 10 million to 200 billion stars in a galaxy, I will take an average of 100 billion stars in a galaxy. That comes out at about 15 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 (15 000 billion billion stars.) That means about that many rocky planets, so that means a lot of possibilities for life. The odds are slim for an individual planet, but with that many dice-rolls 10 heads in a row is not un-common.Once there is some sort of self-replicating organism, then evolution takes over and does its thing.

Now, the third argument. “The world is so beautiful, this can’t have happened by chance.” First of all, yes there is beautiful things like rainbows and forests and mountains, but there are equally bad things like some fish species or snakes or spiders and other animals which may kill you, not to mention all of humanities problems. There is as much beautiful stuff as there is not beautiful stuff. This is because the definition of beautiful is ‘the top 50% of things in the world on a scale of beautifulness’. There will always be beautiful things. But just for my teachers sake let’s try and explain why some things are so beautiful. Our subjective grading of what the most beautiful things are is taken from a data set of one.

Say the world was a little less beautiful than what it is, we would still think of the most beautiful things as ‘the most beautiful things’ and the least beautiful things as ‘the least beautiful things.’ If the world was a little more beautiful than what it is, we would still have the same titles for the most beautiful and least beautiful things. We get used to what is beautiful and what is not because we grow up in our world, not another world.

What I’m essentially saying is that things are the way it is because they are the way they are, and we wouldn’t be asking these questions if the world was different. I will leave you with a quote from Richard Dawkins, “The theory of evolution by cumulative natural selection is the only theory we know of that is in principle capable of explaining the existence of organized complexity.” Richard Dawkins, Evolutionary biologist, skeptic, atheist and author of some note.

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