Why is God-based morality superior?

God-based morality is not good morality. It cannot be. Firstly, despite all the arguments that there cannot be morality unless it is God-based, there are no tenets of God-based morality. If there were any, they’d remain unknowable. Secondly, there’s no way for us to distinguish good from evil on the God-based narrative. Thirdly, what possible metric can one be using to establish God-based morality as superior?

Take any religious “objective morality”. That is, any objective moral construct that a religious person believes is rooted in their God. It can be Christian/Biblical, Muslim/Koranic, Hindu/Vedas, Jewish/Rabbinic objective morality; it doesn’t matter, so we’ll refer to this group as “Religious Objective Morality”. None of them have any tenets; there is nothing you can know is good or bad from the Holy Texts. The Abrahamic dependence on shouting “The Ten Commandments” at this stage is an impotent defence; although it says not to kill, in a lot of other places God requires killing. The preference one way or another for which commands are preferable is an entirely subjective call. People superimpose their own conscience onto the text to filter the good from the bad, such a distinction is not inherent in the books. Religious texts are authored by men or are a rather subjectively collated anthology of censored books.

Despite Caroline Smith’s belief that a pre-1940s culture was more religious and therefore better equipped and more confident in their morality―and that such confidence would have given people the strength of conviction to stop an ISIS of the time―such an assertion is false. The Christian Mediterranean did not have the strength of conviction to stop the encroaching Islamic Conquest in the 8th century. Perhaps the Mediterranean Christians did not know whether to love or to kill their new neighbours. How would they have known? There is nothing obvious in the Bible about what to do that isn’t contradicted somewhere else. (The bitter irony is that ISIS does have the strength of their moral convictions and I don’t know how one can use Religious Objective Morality to say they’re wrong.) And that is the first major downfall of Religious Objective Morality: actually distinguishing between the morally good and the morally bad is subjective.

Despite the human limitations to Religious Objective Morality―the idea that it is objective, but we don’t know what it is―the religious maintain that, regardless of our ignorance, such an Objective Morality exists. That makes it superior to any secular morality. Many religious people will implore this discussion to move away from the content of the Holy Books, and to God’s nature. Although God’s nature is unknowable, conceding to move the conversation this way does allow each religious person to ignore the horrors present in their Books. But God’s nature is unknowable. This leaves Religious Objective Morality open to a bigger criticism than a woolly or subjective distinction between the good, the bad and the ugly: the content of the “morally good” and the “morally evil” could be swapped around and no religious person can be properly equipped to tell the difference. This has lead to a lot of people thinking they are acting according to God’s nature when, in fact, they are making it up as they go along, incapable of really knowing what God considers evil, and what God considers good.

Perhaps I am showing an unjust lack of charity to this particular system of basing good and evil in God. Perhaps it’s practical failing―not being knowing and thus having no practical use―is imagined. Perhaps we can know God’s nature. There must be something “from the very definition of God” we can use here. I have expressed my distaste with using a religious Book to define God before: it is meant to be God’s word and I don’t trust anyone, God included, to be honest about their guilt or possible wrongdoing. Nor do I trust God’s followers to be honest about Its slights. I, therefore, do not trust the religious Book when it says something like “God is good”. That’s like trusting a ‘not guilty’ plea from a defendant or their lawyer before evaluating the evidence. It’s a nonsense approach.

A more reliable way of defining God is using the Ontological Argument: a maximally great being. Anything less than a maximally great being is a magical faery or a lower-case “god” (like the Greeks believed in). Part of this definition―”a maximally great being”―includes ‘moral perfection’. What does that mean? There are a few option: circularly make “moral perfection” and “God’s nature” synonymous, leading to a content-free definition that remains practically unknowable; call on an external arbiter of morality, to which God conforms; or, having been made in God’s image, we just sort of know through our conscience.

Our conscience is something to explore. But it is flawed as a way of knowing God or morality. A long time ago Caroline Smith spoke of the “universal innate apprehension of the moral law”. She used it as evidence for God. But we can turn it on its head and use it as a method for understanding God, if we assume God’s existence (which we must to evaluate Religious Objective Morality). However, I argued then, as I shall again, that such a universal understanding of morality doesn’t exist; our consciences are not universal. There are sociopaths, psychopaths, misogynists, homophobes and ISIS. Universal morality would be something to behold, and perhaps an understanding of God could be reached in such a world where that existed. But it doesn’t, not here.

Finally, and most pertinently (to the question of why God-based morality is superior), what metric are you using to establish that Religious Objective Morality is superior to secular moral ideas? If God-based morality is better because it best reflects God, then that’s circular: that is how it’s defined. You might as well say it’s best because it is itself. It’s meaningless. Secular morality is superior because it generates knowable content; it has utility and can be meaningfully followed. Some forms of secular morality are objective and measurable. Secular morality has aims in keeping with what society needs. By what metric can you say God-based morality is better?

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34 thoughts on “Why is God-based morality superior?”

      1. how are the ten commandments objective? The first three are irrelevant and the remaining seven there are several instances where their god helped them break a number

        1. And religious people themselves often state some of them are irrelevant. Like keeping the Sabbath Holy.
          It’s like talking to CleverBot. They forge the last thing they said so that they can get around the new question. That’s why the Turin Test is so problematic: to convince a anyone they are talking to a real person, all you have to do is look at the low bar of conversation set by some people.

        2. I’m not holding my breath. I’ve been blogging about this stuff for years and have made little to no headway in the moral argument with the religious.

        3. Maka,

          Objective reality must necessarily have a source that is greater than man.

          For the atheist, God is replaced by the all-knowing, all-powerful, omnipresent, State.

          Therefore, justice for the atheist is defined as Thrasymachus defined it in Plato’s, “Republic,” as the advantage of the strong.

          The advantage of the strong is brutal tyranny which is what atheism must necessarily lead to since its source of morality is not greater than man.

          The literature on political philosophy by Enlightenment philosophers such as John Locke and Charles de Montesquieu are highly recommended since they do a good job of explaining how justice (the knowledge and social implementation of good and evil) can be built into a society based on human nature which itself is an objective standard for ethics.

        4. Alla,

          Let’s start with the obvious, that man is the top of the food chain.

          If all men are created equal, again that is obvious, who among us has the authority to make rules for us?

          God has that authority. The State has that authority.

          The atheist whose intellect is necessary dim as a result of believing the atheist creed, can’t tell the difference between God and the State.

          That is why all atheist regimes are tyrannies.

        5. Alla,

          I don’t do stupid. When you get stupid you defeat yourself.

          I’ll answer your question again and because I have respect I will assume intelligence, not stupidity.

          “God has that authority. The State has that authority.”

        6. Your new technique of accusing people who notice you’re dodging questions “stupid” is noted.
          However, this is the last time I will ask, and if you don’t answer this time the conversation is dead. What do you mean “greater than man”? (Examples are not answers.)

        7. Alla,

          You ask, “What is objective reality?

          I define objective morality and your reply is, “What is objective morality?”

          That’s you being stupid, not me using some sort of rhetorical tactic.

        8. I never asked what objective reality is. I can read through the comments to confirm i never asked that. So can all the readers. I asked what you mean by “greater than man”.
          This is what happens when you comment here: (1) you make some comment with at least 1 sentence or clause that isn’t clear (2) I am what you mean (3) you talk about something else (4) i ignore your red herring and ask what you mean again (5) you tell me you’ve already answered me.
          Litter that process with your pretensions to The Truth(tm) and you have a full description of what happens here. What is your objective?

  1. The atheist, in making this argument, uses the logical fallacy of establishing himself the authority for his own argument.

    Here, the atheist in his own words, arguing with himself and losing:

    “God-based morality is not good morality.”

    This is a hallucinated alternate reality since it is common knowledge that all civilizations in human history grew up and flourished due to God based morality.

    There is not one civilization in human history that grew up around atheism.

    The argument on killing is truly simple minded and betrays the basic moral blindness of atheists.

    It is totally absurd to claim that all killing is the same therefore the God’s command, “Thou shalt not kill,” “is an entirely subjective call.”

    Such a claim denies the existence of the entire Western Heritage which grapples with and solves such conundrums as the just war or when it is ethically correct to kill someone.

    My goodness! Our entire justice system is built on our understanding of the Ten Commandments and the ethics put forth for all of mankind in the Bible.

    And unfortunately the atheist used simple mindedness and moral blindness to support his original claim that, “God-based morality is not good morality,” which itself is a hallucination, with no basis in the world we live in.

    The atheist would have us believe that the mass murder of Jews is no different than a police officer killing a rampaging criminal who is a deadly threat to the community.

    1. I reckon about 30% of the 10 commandments look as if they relate to US law.
      I also reckon, given that most of the law does not easily relate back to the 10 commandments and very few of the commandments relate to law, that the area of overlap is a coincidence.

      The rest of your comment is impotent verbiage.

      1. Alla,

        So much of basic ethics depends on personal virtue. That is what the other 70% is all about.

        You can’t have a just society if the people are not virtuous.

        Judeo-Christian ethics are fully covered in the Bible especially, the Book of Leviticus.

        If you eliminate the rules concerning God and so forth, and leave only those that concern governance and personal behavior, it becomes clear that Judeo-Christian ethics are normative for all mankind.

        And how about for once addressing the my counter claims.

        Why does the atheist hallucinate alternative realities, leave out 2500 years of history and expect the result to be credible?

        1. Alla,

          The political philosophy developed during the Enlightenment is taught in every accredited graduate in the United States.

          Ditto for the Western Heritage starting with Homer and Plato.

          There again, you exemplify the atheist hallucinating an alternate reality just so atheism can somehow work out.

        2. Alla,

          I am showing you the difference between the logical fallacy you use, establishing yourself as the authority for your own argument, and what I do, cite the teachings of the Academy.

        3. You’re not citing anything. You may have an actual argument in your head, although given your perpetual inability to articulate an actual argument, i doubt it.

      2. Alla,

        When the atheist calls well known facts, “impotent verbiage,” the deadly nature of atheism becomes apparent.

        With due respect, you are peddling stupid since the reality we can see with our own eyes obviates every claim you make in this post.

        The question remains: Do we believe stupid, or what we can see with our own eyes?

      1. You do love to say “Western Civilisation” and never explicate what you mean. Even when we’re talking about the content of a book, there you are, repeating “Western Civilisation”…

        1. Alla,

          An educated person understands what I mean by Western Civilization.

          What I have presented here is Political Philosophy 101 from the first semester of graduate studies in political science.

          Western Civilization is a freshmen undergraduate course at most universities.

        2. Perhaps. But you present it as a clear one dimensional entity. You also present it as if it were relevant to the evaluation of Yhwh.
          It’s like bringing trigonometry into the conversation. It’s not necessarily simple, it’s not relevant, and it doesn’t matter that you first look at it at a young age.

  2. You should not offend your conscience then by asking questions of sources you do not intrinsically trust. I wouldn’t, for instance. (Is this a microcosm of God-based moral superiority at work? I dunno. Or care.)

    Few things…

    (a) Secular morality has aims in keeping with what society needs. (b) By what metric can you say God-based morality is better?

    (a) I don’t have the faith in secular morality you do, obviously. To me, here in the States anyway, “secular morality” looks more like the rich getting richer and fattening the pockets of politicians along the way. No matter how many speeches Obama (an already pocket-fattened politician anyway) makes to the contrary. The new motto of America is rapidly deteriorating into: Work hard all your life and get screwed over at the end. That’s about as far as secular morality is demonstrably capable of going. I also find secular morality aesthetically repugnant in prominent places. A glaring instance of it is in the advertising industry, which is a repugnant industry particularly for its very violation and unimaginative manipulations OF aesthetics. I get a queasy sensation just watching the horrid thing attempting to sell itself at me (in places I frankly do not even ask for or desire such) by manipulating reality into something twisted before me. There is even the despicable insinuation that I should often find such “desirable.” Well, I don’t because that generally tends to suck and is boring anyway. And of course, that’s all to make someone rich by preying upon someone else’s wants/needs. In conclusion, can you actually say that secular morality (which I actually insist we keep absolutely separate from “atheism” so as the conversation doesn’t deteriorate) is not perennially deteriorating and corroding? I can’t believe you’re that naive. Not merely is secular morality corrosive but it is, from my perspective, largely and widely an aesthetic disgrace. Perhaps ethics and aesthetics need to be kept separate…? Mmmm, not so sure about that. Is it so far out there to posit that secular morality is a kind of aesthetic rape we commit of nature? Perhaps my bias is showing through too strongly…

    (b) The truth. But in fairness, you’ve already said you don’t trust that.

    I don’t like the Argument from Morality, personally. I hate how it tends to cloud matters with poorly selected Dostoevsky quote-mine-mash-ups. (Another aesthetic rape in the name of morality; this time oft committed by Christians I gleefully add!) The other reason is because it widely misses (at least) the whole point of Christianity which is actually a tad greater than “morality.” The whole point of Christianity is Man becoming a god. This is what makes Christianity not just morally superiority but superior to morality. By the same token it’s absolutely no justifiable excuse (ever) for acting as though one is “superior” to morality and therefore morality (common or secular) is not also binding on one.

    1. You appear to have confused “secular morality” with “economics”. The confusion of secularism with economics, in an attempt to denigrate both simultaneously, is something I’d check yourself for. It’s becoming on vogue, but doesn’t address the conversations it’s aimed at.

      1. On the contrary, I have exactly found them so confused. (Not to mention confusing and thriving on that confusion.) But to imagine these as categories with immaculate seam down the middle is tantamount to remaining willfully pie-eyed. Shall there be ethics to our economics? is an important question. A real question. A question that cannot help but entangle them. And the results exhibited are something of an eyesore. And the fact is that the world we live in exhibits prominent signs that the more power and money one acquires entitles and enables one more freely to blur (or even utterly blot) the ethical with leverage obtained from economy. Then it becomes merely a matter of what appearances one is capable of sustaining and for how long.

        1. The problem is simple. You are stating that economics can be thought of as an ethical or moral system (which i doubt, but I’ll accept for now) and suggesting it is -the- secular morality. Even if i accept that it is a moral structure, it is -a- secular system.

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