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.


Moral Relativism – An Overview

Hello skeptics of our local cluster,

Today’s post is going to be about moral relativism, and how it is a secular replacement for the morals of the bible. As an atheist, I am often asked this question or similar “As an atheist, where do you get your morals?”, and I often give a condensed description of moral relativism to them. Religious people often object to atheism because a set of morals are not set out by a deity, and it seems to be without any set of morals, but most atheists are moral (less than 1% of prisoners in the US are atheist), so there must be some morals which we all seem to follow, or something like it. But without a concrete basis for our morals (god), there has to be another way to make moral decisions.

The moral system which I choose to live by are those of moral relativism. At its core, moral relativism is basically just the aim to reduce harm, and this seems to be a logical decision to make. There is no gold standard of morality in moral relativism, as there is in most religions, just a sliding scale of ‘immoral things’ on the far left, over to ‘moral things’ over on the far left. By always just choosing the option which causes the lest harm, you are keeping yourself open to doing anything, so long as it is the right thing to do.

I asked my religion teacher during a lesson about evils, if it is morally right to kill 1 person to save 100 hundred people. I gave the story of a man who had a boy, and worked operating a train draw bridge over a canyon. One day, there was a train which approached, but the man noticed that his son was playing in the large gears of the bridge, there were only two choices the man could make, lower the bridge and save the lives of the hundreds on the train, and kill his son, or keep the bridge up, kill hundreds on the train, and save his son. To my surprise, my teacher said that he would not kill 1 to save 100, and he said that god is the ultimate decider on the right thing to do. This is a circular morality with no clear way to make decisions, because one cannot simply ask god every time a decision has to be made, and even if you could, science is of the opinion that you are hearing your own thoughts reflected back on you, dressed up in gods voice.

Another question asked by champions of absolute morality is “Is it absolutely morally wrong to rape a child and enjoy it?”, and to that I answer “no”. If somebody says to you, with a gun in hand, “Rape this child and enjoy it or I will kill both of you and your families”, you sure as hell will rape that child, and maintain a smile throughout. That’s the great thing about moral relativism, its flexible to all decisions, just make sure to reduce harm. In my above hypothetical, a Christian would run into a wall, as both paths result in some sort of immorality, either raping a child or being responsible for the deaths of at least a dozen people. A moral relativist has an easy decision, because death is of the utmost importance.

Moral relativism is a great moral system, as it never runs into any paradoxical hypotheticals, and it is a good (better) alternative to absolute morality which is championed by so many religions of today.

Why is heaven not that appealing to me?

Hello there skeptical people all over the world,

Today I am going to be blogging about the prospect of heaven, and how, if it is how the bible sets it out to be, it probably wouldn’t be such a nice place to live in.

In the bible, heaven is defined as the place where god dwells. Obviously, this is not the only place god in present, remember, god is everywhere, and in everything. But heaven is the place where he is the ruling spirit, and the devil is not allowed to come into. This also means that there is no sin in heaven, and it is supposedly the happiest place that could ever exist. Imagine the greatest place you could be in, well, heaven would be better than that.

Now, hell is not mentioned in the bible as much as heaven is, but according to most Christians, we can get a pretty good idea of what it would be like. Apparently, People who say to god, “I don’t want to have you in my life”, god says to them, “OK, here is your wish, you can live without me, for the rest of eternity”, This would be a place full of only sin and torture and the devil and a lot of bad things. Quite a lot of bad things.
If you stopped reading here, it would sound like a very simple choice, to go with heaven, but I don’t think it is quite that simple.

Think of the whole idea of the church, to stop people from sinning. Sin is not a very good thing to do, and without it we would all live sinful lives. It also seems that a lot of very enjoyable things in life are sinful. Adultery, being proud, blasphemy and over-indulgence are all considered sins. So it also follows that if heaven is a sinless place, then there would be a lot of things that you would miss out on. Hell would be a place with all of these things still included. So a place which is sinless might not be all that much of a hoot.

Lets also consider the people who would be dwelling in these two places. In heaven you have people like
your local pastor (mine freaks me out), your mother-in-law, your neighbor, your religious ex, Hitler and Benny Hill. Also consider the fact that if somebody like me makes it into heaven, they will be pointing at me and saying, “I told you so!”
Lets consider the sort of people who you would be expecting to be in hell. Most good comedians, your atheist friends and Christopher Hitchens. I would much rather be sitting around with those guys for eternity than Benny Hill.

I will leave you with a quote from Christopher Hitchens, “By trying to adjust to the findings that it once tried so viciously to ban and repress, religion has only succeeded in restating the same questions that undermined it in earlier epochs. What kind of designer or creator is so wasteful and capricious and approximate? What kind of designer or creator is so cruel and indifferent? And—most of all—what kind of designer or creator only chooses to “reveal” himself to semi-stupefied peasants in desert regions?” Christopher Hitchens, a famous atheist and author of some note.

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.