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Why Naturalistic Atheists Can’t Account for Morality

November 3, 2009

bizarro_atheists

Here are a series of common atheist assumptions I’ve heard as to how morality can be accounted for, along with my rebuttals: (There are more to come)

1. “Majorities determine what is right and wrong.”

Rebuttal:

a. This assumes that majority opinion, or popular consensus, determines morality, yet just begs the question because we then need to know by what standard majorities get to determine anything. In other words, what determines that majorities get to determine morality?

“Because the majority is in one place does not mean they’re in the right place” ~ Sen. Eric Adams, a Brooklyn Democrat on same-sex marriage.

b. If it were the case that majorities determine morality, however, then what is considered morally right is subject to change, thus nothing can really be considered moral or immoral at all times. Either the majority could change it’s mind, or the minority could one day kill all the majority and become the majority. “A” could be immoral on Monday and then be voted to be moral by Tuesday.

(You may be like Brian Sapient and say “but they would never do that” or “they can’t do that”. But this would 1. appeal to the supernatural because you’re saying nature “ought” to not do something, and 2. goes back to (a) because it’s being assumed that majorities must only vote “A” and never against it, thus YOU’RE now determining what majorities ought to vote and you’re inadvertently making yourself the standard of morality.)

c. The majority could someday decide that majorities do not determine morality. But again, this would take us back to (a). This assumes there is a standard, apart from the majority, which determines that majorities get to determine anything.

d. When we examine this claim under the microscope, we see that majorities are only good at telling us the majority opinion, nothing else. Popular consensus only accounts for popular consensus, period. It can’t determine what ought to be correct behavior, thinking, and intention any more then drawing moral opinions out of a hat can.

e. What if the majority is 50/50? There’s no way we’d know which side we should listen to. If there was a tie breaker, such as paper-rock-scissors, then what is moral or immoral would be determined by chance.

f. What if the majority hasn’t made up it’s mind on a given issue? Then we’d be free to commit that act until it was deemed immoral.

g. What if the majority determined that eating vanilla ice-cream in any way on Tuesdays was immoral. Then we’d have to conclude that it was absolutely immoral in all circumstances.

h. What if the majority determined that it’s an immoral thing to determine what is moral and immoral? That would mean we should no longer listen to majorities. But we’d have to listen to them to know we shouldn’t listen to them. This goes back to (a) again. Why are we listening to majorities?

i. If majorities determine what ought to be right and wrong then right and wrong are being determined by chance because people would only be voting one way or another in accordance to what their physiological make-up forces them to which nature has randomly brought about.

2. “Each individual person gets to decide what is morally right and wrong for themselves.”

Rebuttal:

a. Then if a person feels it’s OK in their own eyes to molest children and murder then it is OK. If this were the only standard of morality then we’d be inconsistent to arrest these people. Instead we’d have to first ask them “is what you did morally OK to you?”, and we could only arrest them if they said “No”.

b. One person could say “when I murdered that guy it was OK”. Another person could tell them “when you murdered that guy it was wrong.” Which person is more right? No one would be more correct because each person is right in their own eyes and we have to accept that.

c. If a person said that it was morally wrong for them to eat ice cream on Tuesdays, and that this action was punishable by death, then they would be upholding justice by hanging themselves if they forgot and ate ice cream on Tuesday.

3. “Morality is determined by that which helps us survive as a species.”

Rebuttal:

a. Again, this is begging the question because what is the bases by which we determine that surviving is moral?

b. All species die, therefore, according to this logic, it is also morally right to die. In fact, even moreso because we are dead way longer then we are alive. In this sense, it is more natural for species to die, then stay alive.

c. According to this logic, we are allowed to murder others so long as our rate of murder does not exceed the optimal rate for survival (whatever that is).

d. According to this logic, we can do all kinds of things which Scripture says is immoral, i.e. adultery, homosexuality, lying, pride, idolatry, stealing, pedophilia, and even beating others up so long as our species is still surviving.

4. “All is permissible (there are no absolute morals), yet there are still consequences to your actions which society as a whole has determined.”

Rebuttal:

a. According to this logic, one may murder, but just needs to do so in secret in order to get away with it and avoid the consequences.

b. Some one may not care about the consequences and be provoked to murder because they need a place to live and figure that prison could be their real estate of choice.

c. This logic does not say something is immoral, but simply just states there are consequences to our actions, nothing more. Just like there are consequences to walking on ice, but that doesn’t mean walking on ice is immoral.

5. “We know what is immoral by that which causes unnecessary harm.”

Rebuttal:

a. This begs the question because it assumes that there is a correct standard which determines what kinds of actions are unnecessary. How do we know what types of harm are absolutely unnecessary in all cases? People disagree on what types of harm are necessary and unnecessary, thus there needs to be a bases to say that someone is more right.

“Parnevik clearly is personally wounded by Woods’ “transgressions,” so it’s understandable that he’d tee off on Tiger.” ~ Jay Busbee, blog editor for ‘Devil Ball’, puts the word “transgressions” in quote marks here because who’s to say that affairs are really transgressions? Maybe they’re necessary for someone to temporarily feel good despite the pain they cause the other spouse.

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37 comments

  1. “a. Again, this is begging the question because what is the bases by which we determine that surviving is moral?”

    Who says it is?

    Morals are based on values. Values are completely subjective. However, because humans are very similar, a lot of our values will be the same. Which leads to many similar morals.


  2. Some atheists say that a will/need to survive is a bases for morality, such as on The Atheist Experience when I called in and asked them about it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3H5U9g_SuY

    I say that has nothing to do with morality in the sense of accounting for why things are really right or really wrong, such as I point out under argument#2 with (c) and (d).

    Morals are based on values. Values are completely subjective. However, because humans are very similar, a lot of our values will be the same. Which leads to many similar morals.

    Look at my argument for this under argument#1 with (b) and (d).


  3. I think you should just change the title of this thread to “Why Naturalistic Atheists Can’t Account for an Ultimate Morality based in/on God’s Nature.”

    That way you can have the tautology you so desperately desire.


  4. HA! It would at least have to be based on an eternal, personal, all-good standard. I would call that God though. So what is your standard to account for how we ought to act, think, and intend, so that all is not permissible? Even if you don’t want to acknowledge that God’s nature is the prerequisite, then do yourself a favor and at least acknowledge that Naturalistic Atheism can’t be a prerequisite! OK? Please tell me you have more to offer in an argument than a drive-by clever stinger about the title of my thread.

    And by tautology I assume you mean circular reasoning, in other words, saying something is morally right because it’s right. Sometimes circular reasoning is good, like when you’re dealing with absolutes, otherwise we’d be left with accounting for an absolute by saying it became that way, which is completely irrational!

    Sorry Jim, you evidence your own foolishness.


  5. all is permissible. that is not a point that is up for discussion. it’s irrefutable whether you like it or not.

    every one of your points rests on the assumption that morality needs to be accounted for. it’s an epic and dismal failure on your part.

    here’s a suggestion. don’t try and redefine words based on your presuppositions.

    morality is just a term that represents relationships and assessments of those relationships. simple stuff kiddo.


  6. Ok, so you agree that all is permissible! At least you’re a consistent atheist. But the downside is that you have no consistent bases to be outraged at the Holocaust, school shootings, or even if someone rapes and eats you! Thanks atheism! Alls that’s taking place when someone rapes and eats you is that the relationship with one bag of matter is colliding with another bag of matter. That’s a nice presuposition you have there. Kinda scary though bud! Stay away from my family or I’ll call the police!!!


  7. b.s. i have the same basis that anyone else has. the fact that morality is a convention does not at all remove it’s meaning. you are assuming that there must be an eternal, absolute moral standard in order for morality to have meaning and that’s just not true. all morality needs to exist is beings that can assess cause and effect relationships and apply terminology to represent them.

    life refutes your position and the only thing you have going for you is that you can say, “we’ll all see when we die”.

    that argument just sucks man.

    but if you need a divine mandate to keep yourself from killing and raping then by all means, please, keep on believing.


  8. You seem to not have read my thread above. If morality is a convention who’s convention ought we really listen to and why? There needs to be a real standard. There needs to be an ultimate standard, otherwise there is no standard, everyone is equally right, and all is permissible.

    According to your own definition of morality, you can murder and eat children and be considered morally courageous and the relationship being described is your matter colliding into other matter. That’s the cause and effect relationship taking place. So even this relationship can be moral since it is nothing other then a cause and effect relationship to you. Congratulations sicko.

    Life is on my team, sorry. Did life come from non-life to you or from prior life?

    that argument just sucks man.

    Nice assertion! Now here’s mine: that argument was terrific!

    but if you need a divine mandate to keep yourself from killing and raping then by all means, please, keep on believing.

    You’re not listening. You seem to try to make rational arguments yet you just irrationally represented my worldview. God “accounts” for why we ought to do certain things and why we ought to not do certain things. He is an eternal all-good personal standard. How do you account for why we ought to not murder and eat children for fun?

    You’re the one who agreed that all is permissible. Now it sounds like your riding the fence because you know you shouldn’t murder and rape. Now you’ve got me REALLY confused! Which is it?


  9. “You seem to not have read my thread above. If morality is a convention who’s convention ought we really listen to and why? There needs to be a real standard. There needs to be an ultimate standard, otherwise there is no standard, everyone is equally right, and all is permissible.”

    no, we have definitions for a reason. there does not need to be an ultimate standard. the standard need to be flexible. real life affirms this. “all is permissible” is not the same as “everyone is equally right”. all it means is that people can do and actually do whatever they choose to do. again, life affirms this. the fact that you think it’s clever to challenge the definitions of words like, “right” and “Wrong” does not change what those words mean.

    “According to your own definition of morality, you can murder and eat children and be considered morally courageous and the relationship being described is your matter colliding into other matter. That’s the cause and effect relationship taking place. So even this relationship can be moral since it is nothing other then a cause and effect relationship to you. Congratulations sicko.”

    here’s another example of your ability to forfeit moral autonomy just to attempt to bolster your position. yes i am matter but i’m a specific composite of matter that has person hood, emotion, all that being a person implies. i do good because i want to. it’s part of my nature. you on the other hand, only do good as defined by the constraints of your allegiance to an unchecked ideology. those things that you list are not good because we define them as bad and we are the only context for which definition applies, as far as we know.

    Life is on my team, sorry. Did life come from non-life to you or from prior life?

    this has nothing to do with what we’re talking about. life actually backs my argument up, unequivocally.

    that argument just sucks man.

    Nice assertion! Now here’s mine: that argument was terrific!

    actually, i erred by calling it an argument in the first place. it’s not. at all.

    but if you need a divine mandate to keep yourself from killing and raping then by all means, please, keep on believing.

    “You’re not listening. You seem to try to make rational arguments yet you just irrationally represented my worldview. God “accounts” for why we ought to do certain things and why we ought to not do certain things. He is an eternal all-good personal standard. How do you account for why we ought to not murder and eat children for fun?”

    because that kind of behavior represents a horrible(to us) malfunction. an objectively verifiable brain disorder. it’s wrong to us, the overwhelming majority of people who have ever existed.

    “You’re the one who agreed that all is permissible. Now it sounds like your riding the fence because you know you shouldn’t murder and rape. Now you’ve got me REALLY confused! Which is it?”

    not at all. you just have no ability to process distinction, apparently.


  10. If all is permissible then no one can be more right then anyone else. If someone was more right, then not all would be permissible. So you are permitted to do anything, yet you live your life like you shouldn’t do everything. This is inconsistent and your reason for not doing certain things is arbitrary.

    So on what bases is someone really right or really wrong? The definition I’m using of right and wrong is that there are things we ought to do and ought not do, not just merely what we do. Otherwise we could say eating ice cream is moral. Morality isn’t describing what we do because even eating ice cream and farting describes what we do but those aren’t moral or immoral in and of themselves. A leaf blowing isn’t moral or immoral. Morality only applies to beings created in God’s image. Describing what we do is only describing what we do. That’s all together entirely different then accounting for real morality. On what bases ought you not rape and eat children for fun? On what bases is it really wrong?

    Then you say we should do good. Ok, now you’re question begging. What is your standard of good and why listen to this standard only and no other which might completely disagree? Then you say you have emotions and stuff. So what? This is begging the question again. Others who have emotions too may still completely disagree with what you believe we should do.

    this has nothing to do with what we’re talking about. life actually backs my argument up, unequivocally.

    So where did it come from? Non-life or prior life? I’m still waiting.

    actually, i erred by calling it an argument in the first place. it’s not. at all.

    Nice assertion! Now here’s mine: that was an argument! I could do this all day!

    but if you need a divine mandate to keep yourself from killing and raping then by all means, please, keep on believing.

    No, all that’s required is being created in the image of God who is an eternal personal all-good standard. I’ve already argued why naturalistic atheism can’t account for what we really ought to do and really ought not do.

    because that kind of behavior represents a horrible(to us) malfunction. an objectively verifiable brain disorder. it’s wrong to us, the overwhelming majority of people who have ever existed.

    Some would disagree and say you’re the one with the brain disorder. So who’s more right and how do you really know? Now you appeal to majority rule. I rebutted this in (a) above. And the non-Christian Democrat quoted above answers it for us too. “Because the majority is in one place does not mean they’re in the right place”.


  11. “If all is permissible then no one can be more right then anyone else. If someone was more right, then not all would be permissible. So you are permitted to do anything, yet you live your life like you shouldn’t do everything. This is inconsistent and your reason for not doing certain things is arbitrary.”

    you equivocate way too much. permissibility does not equate to wrongness or rightness.

    “So on what bases is someone really right or really wrong? The definition I’m using of right and wrong is that there are things we ought to do and ought not do, not just merely what we do. Otherwise we could say eating ice cream is moral. Morality isn’t describing what we do because even eating ice cream and farting describes what we do but those aren’t moral or immoral in and of themselves. A leaf blowing isn’t moral or immoral. Morality only applies to beings created in God’s image. Describing what we do is only describing what we do. That’s all together entirely different then accounting for real morality. On what bases ought you not rape and eat children for fun? On what bases is it really wrong?”

    you stating that morality only applies to beings created in gods image is a baseless assertion. i observe morality, observe the necessity for it and through that observation understand that it is part of the natural human relationship. we define it based on our natural inclinations.

    “Then you say we should do good. Ok, now you’re question begging. What is your standard of good and why listen to this standard only and no other which might completely disagree? Then you say you have emotions and stuff. So what? This is begging the question again. Others who have emotions too may still completely disagree with what you believe we should do.”

    i say i should do good. i say anyone who wants to exist is the best and easiest way possible, ought to do good. it’s rational.

    this has nothing to do with what we’re talking about. life actually backs my argument up, unequivocally.

    So where did it come from? Non-life or prior life? I’m still waiting.

    again, this has nothing to do with this conversation.

    actually, i erred by calling it an argument in the first place. it’s not. at all.

    Nice assertion! Now here’s mine: that was an argument! I could do this all day!

    but if you need a divine mandate to keep yourself from killing and raping then by all means, please, keep on believing.

    “No, all that’s required is being created in the image of God who is an eternal personal all-good standard. I’ve already argued why naturalistic atheism can’t account for what we really ought to do and really ought not do.”

    you’ve tried to argue that, but haven’t been successful. i’ve given adequate accounting for it, despite you not liking the answers.

    because that kind of behavior represents a horrible(to us) malfunction. an objectively verifiable brain disorder. it’s wrong to us, the overwhelming majority of people who have ever existed.

    “Some would disagree and say you’re the one with the brain disorder. So who’s more right and how do you really know? Now you appeal to majority rule. I rebutted this in (a) above. And the non-Christian Democrat quoted above answers it for us too. “Because the majority is in one place does not mean they’re in the right place”.

    it doesn’t mean they’re in the wrong place either. and this is a horrible comparison. we’re not talking about a simple majority. we’re talking about an overwhelming majority of every human who has ever existed following these simple, innate, contextually necessary rules. and arguing that a sociopath has any weight at all to an argument that they are right and we are wrong is placing your argument on a rare exception. that’s not rational and doesn’t hold water.


  12. These are your only real arguments so I’ll deal with these:

    you equivocate way too much. permissibility does not equate to wrongness or rightness.

    If one is permitted to eat and rape children for fun, then it’s not wrong. In that sense, it would be right because it would still be OK or allowed. To you this is permitted because you agreed all is permissible.

    you stating that morality only applies to beings created in gods image is a baseless assertion. i observe morality, observe the necessity for it and through that observation understand that it is part of the natural human relationship. we define it based on our natural inclinations.

    My worldview actually accounts for why it’s wrong for humans to kill other humans, and why it’s not wrong for humans to kill animals or for animals to kill other animals. No other worldview accounts for this. It’s not a baseless assertion because I’ve given reasons why. I’m not going to spoon feed you with what they are because I’ve already touched on it. If you honestly don’t know my reasons then honestly ask and I’ll happily give them again.

    You beg the question to say morality is necessary because someone could disagree with you and say it’s not necessary. You have no standard to say who right. Further, people have inclinations to murder. According to your logic, this is moral. If by “moral” you only mean “what we do” then you haven’t defined anything but what we do. Morality deals with what we ought to do or ought to not do. Otherwise murdering is moral, because that’s what some do.

    I like how you can’t answer if life comes from life or non-life. You say it has nothing to do with what we’re talking about even though we’ve changed the subject on other things and have added to the discussion other things. You lose!

    it doesn’t mean they’re in the wrong place either. and this is a horrible comparison. we’re not talking about a simple majority. we’re talking about an overwhelming majority of every human who has ever existed following these simple, innate, contextually necessary rules. and arguing that a sociopath has any weight at all to an argument that they are right and we are wrong is placing your argument on a rare exception. that’s not rational and doesn’t hold water.

    You’re begging the question that any kind of majority makes something right or wrong. On what bases does a majority get to determine these things? Also, the majority could potentially change it’s mind. You’re begging the question that morality can be determined by contextual necessary rules because according to who? I agree that kind of person is wrong, but my overall point is that I can account for why it’s really wrong, you can’t. You’re the one who said all is permissible. So doing horrible things is permissible because that would fall within the realm of “all”. Sorry.

    I’ll give you one more chance to account for morality then I’m ending the discussion. You’ve had your shot to consistently account for it by now but I’ll give you another go at it. Otherwise, I think you’re just trying to prove something which doesn’t make sense because you can’t prove something to nature. 🙂


  13. until you can grasp the distinction between the ideas of “permissible” and “right/wrong” then there’s really no where to go.

    think of it this way. if you’re a kid and your parents tell you not to eat a cookie before dinner do you still have a choice? the universe does not disallow you the ability or the permission to go against your parents wishes. you can give yourself permission to eat the cookie. it becomes permissible. but your ability to do it has no bearing on the rightness/wrongness of the action in your parents eyes.

    do yo get it?


  14. That’s not the context in which I have meant permissible. What you just stated is already a given. The point is that people are permitted to do whatever they want in an atheistic universe because there is no real standard by which they really ought to not do something. If someone tries to say it’s wrong then they are appealing to an arbitrary standard for arbitrary reasons. The atheist can’t provide a bases by which any standard ought to really be followed. Just because we do do that, doesn’t mean we’ve accounted for why we ought to do that. Without accounting for it, there’s no bases to really do it. For the naturalistic atheist, all is matter in motion in the end.


  15. you use the word arbitrary like it has applicability here. moral systems aren’t arbitrary. they’re necessary for continued existence. they were formed for specific purposes based on the context of existence, the only context in which they apply.


  16. Now you’re using “continued existence” as an arbitrary standard which like I mention above on this thread is begging the question. You’re implying that we ought to have continued existence as opposed to not have continued existence, yet there is no bases for why this ought to be the case. And looking at which we do more is actually non-continued existence because nature has us die longer then remain alive.

    Further, Hitler wanted to kill off people because he thought it was conducive to his view of continued existence.

    You’re arguments are with what I’ve already laid out above.


  17. continued existence is not an arbitrary standard. it’s a necessary standard. it has to be there in order for you to even be able to ask these questions.

    and hitler was mistaken. reality proved that. besides, outliers do not make a case.

    the fact that we die says nothing about the fact that existence is the basis from which we do anything.


  18. Now you’re begging the question that it’s necessary for us to ask these questions. Matter in motion doesn’t care if we ask these questions and in fact according to what nature brings about more, that would be halted existence, NOT continued existence, so if you’re even going to use this arbitrary standard it still fails.

    You can’t say hitler was wrong because there is no wrong in a universe of matter banging around. It’s just that the neuron firings in your brain tell you you don’t like it which is just the illusion of wrong. And you’re arbitrarily saying non-outliers are more correct then outliers. It could just as arbitrarily be the other way around.

    And on the flip side, death is the bases by which we don’t do anything… so what? You’re begging the question that it’s somehow necessary for us to live rather then die. According to what standard? Nature’s (since that’s all there is to you)? Yet again, it has us be dead more than live. Again, you’re consulting arbitrary standards for arbitrary reasons. Nice try though, but you haven’t ever had your presuppositions challenged for a minute I can tell.


  19. i can see that you have no clue what’s going on. existence is necessary for this conversation to even be taking place. that’s not even up for debate. and again, it is your claim that humans, being material, are nothing more than rocks. you back it up. cite and source exactly why this is the case, not just because it makes your worldview seem more special than mine.

    i can say hitler was wrong because i understand cause and effect and i understand that the only rational way to live and exist is too live and exist in the best ways possible for each individual who wishes to exist in this context.

    outliers are never the basis for a reasonable argument. you can play these games all you want to get your confidence up but just because sociopaths do exist that does not make our understanding of them arbitrary. in fact, we have very objective methods of identifying and understanding them.

    i’m making a case that in order for us to even talk about morality, existence has to be the basis. without it, there’s no conversation. while we are alive, while we do exist, that is the necessary context, the unavoidable context. unavoidable is not the same as arbitrary, sorry guy.


  20. There’s no standard in a naturalistic universe which determines that this conversation ought to happen. That’s the point. It’s necessary in a cause and effect way, but not in a moral way. Nature doesn’t care what its effects to its causes ought to be and if we’re going to use what happens to be the case as a standard then nature brings about the effect of death more then life, and you still lose.

    I never said we weren’t more complex then rocks. But we are no more special than rocks. That requires the supernatural and an eternal God who is Triune according to my worldview.

    to live and exist is too live and exist in the best ways possible for each individual who wishes to exist in this context.

    That’s your opinion. Someone could equally disagree. There needs to be a standard to say who’s more right if we ought to listen to either one.

    outliers are never the basis for a reasonable argument.

    I agree but I’m talking about outliers in the sense of what is moral (what we ought to do), not merely what is. If morality is merely (what is) that would no longer be morality but ethics. Philosophy 101.

    without it, there’s no conversation.

    Again, you’re giving a mere cause and effect example. Morality deals with more than what is necessary, but “why” it “should” be necessary. In other words, it deals with more then what is, but what should be. That’s the actual argument for morality. That’s the missing ingredient to your worldview. I’m sorry too.

    You try so hard to have supposed intellectually satisfying reasons for dying Christ. This age of empiricism has really clenched you and forced you to worship it instead of Christ, yet it still doesn’t work for you given your arguments and it wont do anything about your sin problem.


  21. morality is just a measure of cause and effect relationships! there is one part of nature that does care, the sentient part. it’s unavoidable man.

    of course we are more special than rocks! are you serious? to us, creatures that form and apply the concept of value. this is ridiculous.

    it’s easy to get ought from the absolutely necessary context of existence. but you have to start with that context for any discussion to be valid. from there it’s just easy. morality depends on context. the word refers to specific relationships and would require a complete shift in meaning if you wanted to argue that an outliers world view was moral. sorry, you just don’t get to change the rules like that. just because some crazy person in a mental home will coat himself with feces because it gets him off, that does not magically make shit smell good.

    yes, morality deals with why and the bare basis of the why is to continue the context.

    it’s really easy though. and what’s wrong with intellectually satisfying? was that supposed to be insulting? also, i don’t worship empiricism. i acknowledge that it is the best method of learning about the world around us.

    i have plenty of reasons not to believe in the man jesus. if he existed, he was nothing more than a man. if i listened to what the bible said, i’d have to go with precedence, with the old testament and acknowledge that if the stories of jesus were true, then he was a false prophet, not a god. and as for sin, i’m completely fine with being imperfect. if the creation fable were true, i was made that way and it’s not my fault. either way, it is what it is, is it not?


  22. No ethics is a measure of cause and effect, not morality. Again philosophy 101. 1. So what determines we ought to listen to the sentient part and 2. Which sentient person ought we listen to? Everyone has differing opinions. You are again just begging the question when appeal to finite standards.

    And many sentient creatures believe that value shouldn’t be attributed to other sentient creatures. Again, you have no bases to be more correct then them.

    Your argument from morality has already been dealt with in my replies and above on this thread. You are only convincing yourself. You are changing the meaning of morality with ethics. You still haven’t corrected that.

    I said “supposed intellectually satisfying”. And no that wasn’t supposed to be insulting but truthful.

    Empiricism can’t account for itself however. I use it, but I also account for it unlike you.

    The NT refers to Christ as God and is taught to be YHWH from the OT. This would make him God, not a false prophet according to Scripture. In creation, Adam and Eve were perfect and sinless, but after the fall became wicked. No it’s not your fault that you are by nature a wicked person but you and I are still accountable. God will punish all sin in us or in us vicariously through Jesus Christ. All who have faith in Jesus and repent can rest assure that Jesus has been punished for their sin so they can go free.


  23. no, ethics is the study of morality. and practically speaking, in our discussion they amount to the same thing. you need a religious presupposition to separate them. and you are the one who is trying to infer that something defined by us can not be real because it was not first defined eternally outside of us. this just doesn’t follow.

    so you’re wrong. all you have laid out is a case for your opinion of what morality would be without god, not what it actually is.

    explain exactly what you mean by this talking point, “empiricism can’t account for itself”. i don’t think your up to giving a detailed analysis of that statement. i’m guessing that it’s more parroting.

    no, that would make him a god according to how you interpret scripture. the messiah was not a god. he was supposed to be a man. i’ll ignore the rest because i didn’t come here for a sermon.


  24. Ethics and morlaity are generally distinguished within philosophy. Ethics looks at social behaviors or “what we do”. It is more subjective. Morality deals with a more objective standard, or “what we ought to do”. Bottom line, you can’t go from “what we do” to determining “what we ought to do”. Naturalism can’t bridge this gap because it offers no all-good eternal standard. God does because He is that standard. There’s nothing in the physical realm which reveals to us what we ought to do. The physical realm only reveals to us what we do.

    What do you mean by “religious”? The word simply means “a set of principles firmly held”. So even you are “religious”. And one can be an atheist and distinguish between ethics and morality. You have no argument here.

    Yes, a standard we “ought” to follow must define what is all-good and must be eternal if we really “ought” to follow it. If it’s not all-good and eternal then there’s no real rights we should really uphold. I’ve given argumentation for my claim, you haven’t rebutted my arguments, but just asserted your opinion. Please come on here to offer counter arguments, not just your assertions.

    Explain the statement “empiricism can’t account for itself”? Is this really that difficult to grasp? It demonstrates that something must account for empiricism. We must ask the question “what best accounts for empiricism to be a reality?” Star dust? God?

    Yes, Jesus would only be a “god” if you interpret Scripture inconsistently. So yes it does depend on how you interpret Scripture. And your inconsistent interpretation would be evidence of your anti-Christ bias, hence why you don’t want to “hear a sermon”. Remember, I said the NT demonstrates that Christ is YHWH. Are you paying attention or do I have to spoon feed? YHWH is NOT “a god”. Check Rom 10:13 and John 12:41 for example.

    What OT text states that the Messiah was only supposed to be a mere man? In fact, we see the opposite. For example, in Psalm 110 David calls the Messaih “my Lord”. According to Jewish thought, someone can’t refer to their offspring as “Lord”. Jesus can still be called “Lord” because not only did he decended from David in his incarnation but was greater than David because of his divine nature. This was even Jesus’ clock stopper in Mark 12:35-37.

    Also, Jesus was crucified for claiming to be the Messiah in Mat 26, especially because he quotes from Dan 7. The context of the passage from which he’s quoting in Dan 7 is refering to the Messiah returning and even being worshiped. Scripture clearly teaches that men are not to be worshiped but God alone.

    And how about Isaiah 9:6 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

    How about Micah 5:2 “From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.”

    The interesting thing about the nature of who the Messiah is, is that there is NO verse in the OT which states “the following passage is about the Messiah:”! Even the word “Meshiach” was not initially used to refer to the Messiah in Hebrew but only of kings. There are different angles (or combinations of angles) by which to discover the identity of the Messiah. 1. Who is the one who will fulfills Israel’s promises? Who is to be their king in the line of David? 2. Who best represents and fulfills all of the OT types. Who is the Psalms ultimate, representative subject? Etc. The Apostles in the NT clearly and consistently show that it is Christ who fulfills all of this! There is no other possibility. And they also clearly and consistently teach that Christ is Yahweh.


  25. “Morality is determined by that which helps us survive as a species.”

    I have never said that. Certainly survival is a part of it, but I like Sam Harris’ idea of the “well-being” of humans or conscience creatures. For all intensive purposes that is what we are talking about when we talk about morals or ethics.

    “a. Again, this is begging the question because what is the bases by which we determine that surviving is moral?”

    Well if you replace surviving with well-being, then it would be silly to say that the well-being of humans(or other life for that matter) is not a basis for morality. If not that then what can it possibly pertain to? Who determines what is healthy? Even though we can not be completely accurate about what it means to say someone is healthy, that does not stop us from practicing medicine. Even though we cannot know in every case what the optimal well-being for everyone will be, that does not stop us from making educated decisions about what the most moral action would be in any given circumstance. There are objectively right and wrong morals….just not absolute….and we may not have enough information or forsight to make the most moral decision. That does not stop us from making progress towards making better decisions in the future.

    “b. All species die, therefore, according to this logic, it is also morally right to die. In fact, even moreso because we are dead way longer then we are alive. In this sense, it is more natural for species to die, then stay alive.”

    All life does die. It is not a decision…let alone a moral one. Maybe it is morally right to die if it is a willing sacrifice for say, your children? All living being live once and die once…so it is about equal. It is not more natural to die…it is natural to live and to die….but what is natural as far as chance and circumstance does not mean that dying is more moral than living. It is not usually a moral decision…it just is.

    “c. According to this logic, we are allowed to murder others so long as our rate of murder does not exceed the optimal rate for survival (whatever that is).”

    You are certainly over simplifying any argument I have ever heard for morality being based on survival. What does it mean to survive? Just enough rice and water to live? Being on the brink of death via illness? What about individual pain and suffering…certainly that has something to do with ethics and morality.

    “d. According to this logic, we can do all kinds of things which Scripture says is immoral, i.e. adultery, homosexuality, lying, pride, idolatry, stealing, pedophilia, and even beating others up so long as our species is still surviving.”

    Well, we can certainly do all sorts of things that “scripture” says is immoral….but is the over all well-being of the most possible life forms being maximized? Is your action causing undue suffering and misery, possibly even death, to happen? Then it is probably not the most moral action. Plus, as far as I know, the Bible doesn’t say anything against pedophilia.


  26. Even though we can not be completely accurate about what it means to say someone is healthy, that does not stop us from practicing medicine.

    And I’ll use your same standard and say the same about pedophilia not being mentioned in Scripture. Scripture uses the term “pornea” (where we get the word porn) which is an all-inclusive word of all types of fornication. The Bible prescribes sexual relations between a man and his wife, so anything outside that context would be adultery at heart (Mat 5).

    I don’t think you get my argument about “nature” having us die. If naturalists are going to base morality off of what nature “does”, then they are refuting themselves because “nature” also evolves us to die. The “naturalist” tries to go from “what is”, to what “should be”, yet can’t.

    You try to base morality on “well being”. Look under argument (5). Well being for who? Some believe it’s necessary for humanity as a whole to thrive by having to deny the well-being of others, ie. abortions, the holocaust, etc. Also, it’s an arbitrary standard for an arbitrary reason. You can’t account for why we “ought” to look out for one’s “well being”. If “naturalism” were true, then it’s just your opinion verses another opinion. No one is more right. Also, some may define “well being” as murdering if they deem that’s what’s best for them.

    But you fulfill my worldview by acting like we “should” look out for others well being, not that we just do (which we don’t anyways). We are all immoral and Christ is poised to judge the world with its secret sins and lawless ways. Nothing will be overlooked. Only those whom repent and believe are right with Christ.


  27. Cameron,

    Despite disagreeing with you point-for-point above, I love the website and I appreciate and respect how much time and effort it takes to defend your point. To boot, despite being an atheist, I respect that you are so convinced of your point that, on faith, you are willing to dedicate this time and effort to demonstrating your values in the first place. That said, I have a big issue with your Argument from Morality (AfM) stance that morality can only be ascribed to acts or choices through God’s endowment. Dr. Craig is one such proponent of this argument, though I believe he lets a weak definition of ‘objective moral duties and values’ underpin his entire syllogism of reductive logic, by which he concludes that a Christian God exists. I will stick to the topic at hand in my response, conceding only that we don’t agree on the existence of a god, God, or gods. However, I postulate below how, even if you believe in God, your moral accountability is an inferior stance to the one(s) posited by naturalistic atheism. If you would like to continue, I’ll gladly entertain you for a round or two, but I don’t want the argument to become circular or counterproductive. To reiterate, I don’t think the topic of discussion here is ‘does God exist?’ but rather ‘can we reasonably assume that moral arbitration rests with God vice naturalism’s personalized stance?’ and further ‘if moral arbitration is objective, does this logically demand a Christian God?’

    Your AfM formulation seems to rest on the presumption that under atheistic naturalism, everything is permissible. If, by permissible, you mean CAN happen, then atheists are right, because your version of morality does not prohibit these acts either (for empirical proof, see every rape and murder and act of genocide in human history that has happened under God’s purview). If, by permissible, you mean ‘morally accountable’ then you have improperly characterized all of the arguments above that advocate an independent arbitration of moral values on a ‘personal’ or ‘human’ basis (majorities are composed of individual people, after all…) Instead of characterizing an atheists formulation for morality above, you are selectively debunking incomplete arguments that disparately characterize several moral formulations, which is a tenuous framework for even a ‘laymen’s’ debate.

    Furthermore, if you hold the second definition of ‘permissible’ to be true, then I would posit that naturalistic atheism has a BETTER mechanism for accountability than Christianity. In your description of the Christian ‘morality’, ultimate accountability rests with Divine justice, inherent in a God that the atheist and many secular moralists would contend doesn’t exist. The atheistic formulation of morality asserts ONLY tangible accountability for ‘immoral’ acts. In a ‘vacuum’, your moral formulation has only abstract circumstances which may not even exist (if atheism is true), and in the naturalistic view, there are tangible consequences in the ‘real’ world, to which everyone can theoretically bear witness. It is simple: atheistic naturalism is contingent on real-world consequences (violation of EITHER majority-held evaluations or personal ones), yours is contingent on countermanding an eternal mind whose existence is deservedly on trial for lack of substantive or mis-attributable evidence. If you ascribe to an ontological principle (which you do on this website), then you admit ‘reality’ is superior to ‘non-existence’, so that my formulation of moral accountability is superior, because it has ‘real’ consequences in this (temporally extant) universe and thus stands on a more stable foundation…I call this reformulation the court case of Rule of Law and Self-Preserving Societies v. Moral Force through Interpolated Stories (still awaiting Supreme Court legislation).

    If God is the ONLY arbitrator of moral objectivity (and I don’t believe there ARE objective moral values, but that’s another discussion), then the only ‘accountability’ mechanism you introduce is divine judgement. I doubt you would (and I certainly don’t) want to live in a world where the evil are allowed to run rampant, and everyone’s ‘accountability’ is contingent upon either divine intervention or eternal paradise, neither of which demonstrably exist. Under a methodological/personal prescription to morality, I take the same approach to ‘moral’ choices as I do being ‘healthy’, ‘fit’, or ‘having a good diet’. If an act or object (duty or value, to wax Craig-ian) stands in contrast to those principles, I can qualify that judgment on an individual basis relative to my accumulated perspective on the concept of ‘morality’ (or ‘health’ in this case)***. Similarly, there is no idealized manifestation of these principles, so I am only aspiring to improve relative to other options. My doctor knows my heart is healthy, though he has never seen a ‘perfect heart’. His textbooks can present an idealized version of a human heart; he can apply his judgments to my heart’s shape and size and conclude it is healthy, despite its uniqueness. I don’t see how, in practice or in theory, you can assume morality is any different. You assume that atheists act as if moral objectivity exists, but I doubt that every decision you make is underpinned by interpreting Divine will (lest eating dinner or walking the dog be reduced to deliberation as to their inherent morality…). I would contend that it is actually YOU, and all Christians by extension, that inherit the same morality as naturalism posits, despite your concerted efforts to ascribe such values to proof of the Divine.

    In a very crude sense, then, morality IS arbitrary, but the circumstances of independently ‘adjudicating’ whether a choice is moral or immoral are still contingent on the spaciotemporal circumstances underpinning the choice: murder certainly wasn’t immoral (by Christian account) when God commanded the slaughter of the Canaanites, nor was slavery rel the Gibeonites, murder again under Joan of Arc’s revelations (or Andrea Yates), nor that of the firstborns of Egypt under God’s own hand, yet a scriptural approach to morality would at least intersect with the Ten Commandments, whereby it is authoritatively immoral (against an objective commandment) to murder. Islamic moralism, based on the same God mind you, would further posit that martyrdom is a moral act by mitigating the deaths of innocents by saying they too will know paradise. Even God himself seems bound by time and space to justify his self-contradictory ‘objective moral’ commandments with subjectively moral ones where appropriate, and surely you don’t believe God is ‘bound’ by time and space?

    Let me reformulate your moral argument, lest you accuse me of being the arbitrary party: “Thou shalt not murder, rape, commit genocide, or molest children, or do anything that secular morality says is an ‘atrocity’ unless God says so, because he is inherently good and such a commandment must be good. Furthermore, I deduce that these are atrocities, even though I cannot possibly use divine morality to account for this convention, because He has broken his own rules on several of His own accounts.” This is just as gross a reformulation of the Christian ethic as you offer of the naturalistic atheist’s above. You may say that it is not ‘surjective’, but it is certainly ‘injective’ (one-to-one), i.e. if you believe God to have commanded you to murder or rape, you must either follow him and ‘moralize’ murder and rape, or disobey his commandment based on your own personal revelation of moral code, whereby you are acting immorally. I say: murder and rape are subjectively IMMORAL principles, and a modernization/secularization of moral principles has disincentivized these behaviors through majority/personally-bred rules of law and self-preservation. If your contention with this formalization of morality is that it doesn’t ‘prohibit’ enough adverse action, then I would direct you to the Canaanites, Gibeonites, Joan of Arc’s revelations, modern Christian protest of homosexuality, pre-martial sex, Midieval torture, indulgences, consenting couples performing sodomy, etc…and contend that my formulation of morality (and modern moral secularists) would not accept ‘God said so’ in light of such heinous acts of violence or discrimination.

    I would like to see you hit two major points: (1) on what basis do you contend that objective morality is realized and (2) how does it necessitate a Christian God; more particularly, how does Christianity account ‘better’ for morality in light of self-improving and self-aware people applying a framework to the same situations (be that law, rule by majority, personal deliberation, etc…)? To hit the minor points, I think Euthyphro’s dilemma is one of the strongest illustrative lessons in the inherent contradictions regarding the concept of ‘God’s goodness.’ How do you mitigate the logical dilemma and still underscore points (1) or (2)? How do you feel about the Kantian idea that secularism can independently account for personally-invariant morality? This idea seems to me to be ‘open and shut’ regarding a plausible explanation for morality outside of a Divine Morality-Giver.

    Practically, I don’t mind several moral tenets that Christians have popularized: no murder, stealing, or perjury; treating others as you would be treated; etc…but given the universality of these appeals, doesn’t stamping them ‘Christian’ and retaining judgment rights kind of trivialize the whole affair?

    Thanks for making it through a long read. I am interested in hearing your responses!

    ***Otherwise, you violate my ‘free will’ to eat accordingly, despite knowing the consequences. As He says in the Good Book: Thou shalt eat a low-carbohydrate, medium-fat diet and exercise regularly, in order to promote physical wellness and personal facility. And lo, refrain from late-night snacking, lest you consume the devil of Fourthmeal, who guides us from Christly high-density lipoproteins.


  28. Thanks for the reply Alex.

    I’m not quite sure what all your assertions are, so hopefully I don’t misrepresent you. When I talk about morality I’m talking about things that are really right and really wrong, universally, and objective yet relative to context (ie. when one molests children for fun, it is really always wrong in that context). Do you believe that it is really always wrong to molest children for fun?

    Thus, intention and context must be taken into account. I believe Kant would also ultimately consider intention which must be in accordance with a certain good goal, but I’d argue he begs the question of what such a good standard is or ought to be.

    Most atheists have a surface level reading of Scripture. Sorry, actually all of them I’ve ever met do. When the Bible says in the 10 commandments “don’t murder”, it uses the word “rashach”. Other contexts, ie. killing animals or killing out of justice, use the word “charam”. It’s like us saying “kill” instead of “murder”. And even if this wasn’t the case, context is what determines it. Even with our contemporary language, accidental killing is still referred to as involuntary man-slaughter in the courts, and a judge determines if it should be penalized or not based on if any ill-motive is determined. If we as finite creatures can use this type of language, how much more could God? Contrary to common atheistic willful misunderstanding of the Bible, God doesn’t do violence, he does justice. There is no genocide upon innocent people, there is capital punishment upon extremely evil people.

    Also, it would be immoral if the Israelites didn’t kill all of the evil Canaanites, who did many evil things including child sacrifices. Similarly, in a modern context, it would be unjust for people not to kill the Japanese (when slaughtering the Chinese), Nazis (when slaughtering Jews), or ISIS (when slaughtering everyone). So your supposed contradiction about “God breaking his own rules” does not hold up. It would only hold up on a very surface level reading of the Bible. Yet, I don’t read atheist’s materials on an extreme surface level, so it’s an unfounded standard to read the Bible that way.

    Joan of Arc’s revelations are not considered special revelation from God. What we consider special revelation is what is in Scripture. So at that time her supposed revelations would have needed to have been filtered in light of Scripture, just like anyone today who claims to hear from God.

    To answer your first question, I’d say it’s most realized by knowing, understanding, and living God’s Word in Christ, by his Spirit, and in a community of true believers. But this is not my primary point on this thread. Even the Bible teaches that unbelievers live like there are moral truths, they just suppress the knowledge of God in unrighteousness, and I’m saying they live as though some things are really right and wrong (regardless of their disagreeing) and that they cannot account for it with their worldview.

    I’ve never argued things are morally right or wrong merely because God declares something. More correctly, I’d argue that real morality is a reflection of God’s eternal nature, being an eternal loving community. Thus, when God commands something, it’s good because he knows all things (thus knows the best outcome) and commands things in accordance to his nature.

    Thus, Euthyphro’s dilemma doesn’t apply because it doesn’t critique that possibility. Further, no one gets to invoke Euthyphro’s dilemma because there is a dilemma with the dilemma itself, namely, it assumes morality to be a reality (hence a dilemma about morality), yet it fails to account for real morality in the first place. If Euthyphro’s dilemma gets to assert morality outright, then why can’t anyone else, thus why even have a dilemma? The original context of Euthyphro’s dilemma was Socrates asking about demi-gods. A finite being does not account for an absolute truth. Christianity does not posit a finite god for morality, but an eternal God.

    When I say account for morality, I’m not saying something is therefore morally right or wrong because in the end there will be accountability (ie. God’s judgment). Naturally, there is God’s judgment if we are created in his likeness (hence why when we kill each other for fun it’s called murder, but animals can do this no problem). Naturally we would be accountable to judgment if God is holy, and our immorality is how good we’re not, and if we’re created to live in a particular right relationship with our Creator and each other. I’m saying an eternal personal community (= attributes of God only found in Scripture) is the bases for morality. Atheism only describes what we do, and has no bases to say why we ought to do something, thus all is permissible in the end.

    When I say all is permissible, I mean that the consistent atheist should believe, thus live, as though any wrong is just an illusion of wrong due to subjective social constructs, and they should ultimately be free to believe anything is acceptable, thus do anything they want. Most don’t believe this, or live like this, however, but they would still be consistent if they did. Rather, they live like they’re from a post-Christian culture, which they are. Who’s to say that society wont eventually be more bestial as we move away from Christian influence? And if we do there’s no bases to say we shouldn’t. I’d argue our society is recently in free-fall towards this direction already.

    Immortality is ultimately breaking, or acting contrary to a relationship which ought to function in a right, beautiful, and truthful way. That relationship is a reflection of how God eternally relates to himself, as 3 in 1. Many atheists gauge animal behavior to try to have a naturalistic explanation for how we ought to relate, yet the consistent atheist would admit they have no standard to say which animal behavior ought to be mimicked and which should not. Maybe mimic the praying mantis who eats the other after sex? Maybe mimic the killer whale eating another killer whale while it’s alive. It’s all just survival of the fittest.

    If one is not convinced that God best accounts for things being really right and wrong, then I’m happy to continue to explain why a worldview which begins with non-morality cannot account for real morality. In fact, the term “morality” shouldn’t even be used once the atheist is no longer trying to account for things that are really right and wrong, because then we’re only describing “what we do” and what we prefer, with only the illusion of right and wrong.

    Technically, God’s judgment would demonstrable when we die, which everyone will do relatively soon. But immorality is also it’s own judgment as it leads to destruction, hence all the destruction we see in the news every day.

    We should not think all of our desires for right relationship ultimately come from nothing. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. The assurance of this is by God raising him from the dead.

    Hopefully I’ve addressed the things you were asking for.


  29. Cameron,

    I’m glad you got back to me! I appreciate the time-intensive reply. As said previously, I may not agree with your point of view, but I certainly identify with the effort that underwrites your convictions. Firstly, I cannot account for all of the other atheists you’ve spoken to, but I read your blog not to post snarky retorts (you will notice this is only my second!) but because I don’t believe in surrounding myself with a bunch of like-minded talking heads to endow my perspective on God’s non-existence with ego. I LIKE hearing your side of the story. I also appreciate that you addressed at least one of my points directly, instead of firing back with irrelevant, scattershot arguments (which is a tactic of most of the Christian theists I’ve talked to). So at least we have some common ground in appreciating a good conversation and trying to separate the wheat from the chaff as far as sound arguments go.

    To begin: you say “When I talk about morality I’m talking about things that are really right and really wrong, universally, and objective yet relative to context (ie. when one molests children for fun, it is really always wrong in that context). Do you believe that it is really always wrong to molest children for fun?

    Thus, intention and context must be taken into account. I believe Kant would also ultimately consider intention which must be in accordance with a certain good goal, but I’d argue he begs the question of what such a good standard is or ought to be.”

    Do I believe that today it is wrong to molest children for fun? Certainly. I also believe that this statement is made with a regard for context and intention (‘just for fun’), just like you do. But don’t context and intention make this moral deliberation subjective by their very nature? If we are going to argue that child molestation for personal sexual pleasure is objectively wrong, no matter how unsettling the nature of such an act today, we must keep in mind that there are plenty of non-Christian, and many theistic societies, that would disagree (West African tribalism, Yemenite Islam, Taliban-controlled Shari’a Law of 1995, erstwhile Scientology, etc…). We are viewing their acts through our ‘post-Christian’ lenses and therefore imposing expectations and subjective opinion onto a situation that we are not evaluating through their experience. Just because I wouldn’t do something and consider it immoral, doesn’t mean that another, somewhere, might be able to justify or rationalize their choice. If you are arguing that objectivity is still retained and these are still wrong, then Kant does provide for this synthetic claim a priori, i.e. he proves that human consciousness can arrive at such objective conclusions without veridical pretext. Your argument, at face value, is an emotional appeal rather than a statement of philosophical analysis. As a result, it overlooks the very concessions that you take into account (context and intention). As an equally emotional appeal, child sacrifices were the modus operandi for factions led by Christian “generals” in the Liberian civil war as recently as 2008.

    To your point about scriptural testament, if God revealed himself today and issued a commandment without scriptural testimony, would you then conclude your experience is hearsay? I don’t see how this strengthens your point.

    You also state: “Atheism only describes what we do, and has no bases to say why we ought to do something, thus all is permissible in the end.” I don’t contend that this conclusion is false, but it does not properly characterize atheism. Outside of God, majority-bred rules of law and the will of self-preserving societies have independently arrived at many of the commandments. The Chinese arrived at their ‘thou shalt not murder’ (read: willfully take another’s life with malicious intent) on the other side of the world from God’s testimony; doubtless pre-Christian societies arrived at the same conclusion before the tablets descended from the heavens; and many atheistic or ‘folk’ religion societies arrived at this diktat out of self-preservation and ‘acting goodly towards others.’ And if all is permissible ‘in the end’, then there is no philosophical reason to reject this other than as an unfavorable emotional appeal. In my original post above, though, I state that absolute morality, even if it does exist, doesn’t necessitate God. The difference between Christianity and atheism, is that one is a worldview and advocates for a moral formulation, and one does not. Atheism is not a dogmatically constructed religious context for viewing intentions and contexts; Christianity is. I ascribe to morality outside of ‘atheism’ as a concept, which I mention above (by secular account through naturalism; rational, self-reflective human minds exist in nature along with killer whales, after all…) Atheism is a philosophical stance, opposed to a central tenet of Christianity that ‘God exists’; it does not ‘replace’ a Christian morality with another construct. It merely intends that such morality be sought elsewhere. There is no ‘is-ought’ gap to be breached because atheism doesn’t imply an ‘ought’.

    “To answer your first question, I’d say it’s [morality] most realized by knowing, understanding, and living God’s Word in Christ, by his Spirit, and in a community of true believers. But this is not my primary point on this thread. Even the Bible teaches that unbelievers live like there are moral truths, they just suppress the knowledge of God in unrighteousness, and I’m saying they live as though some things are really right and wrong (regardless of their disagreeing) and that they cannot account for it with their worldview.”

    This is a good, coherent answer to my first question. It’s well-constructed and embeds a common refutation offered by free-range atheists. Alas, I don’t agree [argument below].

    I believe morality exists as a manifestation of an abstraction, that moral principle is, at heart, a human calculation, a methodology by which we evaluate situations and intentions. I don’t think it is absolute. This is why I demonstrate above that even Christians are split on many moral issues. Therefore, I believe that all Christians, indeed all people, act as if there is only moral subjectivity, not objectivity, as they personalize their choices and act accordingly. You don’t consult God before every choice, nor does every act you commit merit scripture as your moral notary. So you, my friend, are living proof of subjective moral testament. My biggest issue with Christianity is that it robs the individual of his or her moral agency; this isn’t an argument as much as a stance, so you can elicit the context behind my writings above. Similarly, when speaking of moral absolutes outright, you must additionally show that God is responsible for them, not just indicative of them (see my point (2) above). Even Dr. Craig believes that if absolute morality does not exist, then neither does God. So I won’t assume the negative. However, I will demonstrate directly below that even with moral absolutes, the Christian God is not necessary. If BOTH of us are right, then there is a secular means to account for absolute morality AND some god (maybe the Christian one) is responsible, neither one being the sole causal agent. If I am right, then God is irrelevant. If you are right, you still have to demonstrate the objectivity of God’s moral nature and how it ‘commands’ moral imperatives.

    To drive home this claim, I will use an analogue of Plantinga’s Ontological Argument for God’s existence to OUTLINE why, even if God exists, he is unnecessary in the realm of moral deliberation. This is more of a logical, axiomatic exercise than a ‘hard, bijective proof’, but disproof draws a strong burden on the moral theist. God must be both sufficient and necessary for the counter-argument to hold its own weight.

    1. If absolute morality exists, then it must exist in all possible worlds.

    2. Moral absolutes can be accounted for by either an external, transcendent referent, or through secular means.

    2. Because secular account for absolute morality is possible, it exists in some possible world.

    3. Because secular morality does not depend on a transcendent, external referent for existence, the referent’s existence does not account for absolute morality in all worlds.

    4. There are possible worlds whose moral accounting is deliberated by secular means.

    5. In a world where secular morality can account for moral absolutes, an external, transcendent referent may exist, but he is irrelevant to moral principles.

    5. Kantian logic and intersubjective absolutism can account for absolute morality in the actual world.

    6. An external, transcendent referent may exist in the actual world, but his existence cannot be inferred from moral absolutes.

    To color inside some of the lines, I don’t conclude a disbelief in God because of Joan of Arc or the Canaanites or Euthyphro, but these are illustrative examples regarding the existence of God’s word relative to the acts perpetrated by the recipients of these commands (or in Euthyphro’s case, piety ‘begs the question’). If we venture to ascribe unwavering traits (good) to absolute principles we can’t ever understand (God), such as saying ‘God is good,’ then the claimant must step outside of the definition of good and God and demonstrate evidence and veracity of this claim synthetically, not analytically. If this is an analytic claim, I can conclude that “God is a five-sided triangle” and render your argument null, and you can say “No, God is a three-sided pentagon” and render my argument null. Your argument requires that such a claim must have veridical content (which you claim it does via scripture that’s still interpreted through flawed human minds), but it still would not have objectivity across all observers, as the very observers cannot attest to the ‘goodness’ in a resolute manner. As a result, God’s character can only be attested to by inference, a subjective reasoning tool. So by your claims, God may exist, but he cannot objectively account for moral affairs. And by inferring moral claims from God’s existence, you are illogically bridging the ‘ought-is’ gap (order reversed because one precipitates the other here).

    I believe I have demonstrated that, at least, morality does not imply God’s existence and, equivalently, the Christian God cannot be inferred from the existence of morality. At most, your objective rendering of God’s commandments as absolute moral principles still begs the ‘intention and context’ of God’s actions, therefore God is either morally two-sided, or cannot exist under his current postulation as a transcendent, immutably ‘good’ deity.


    • It doesn’t matter if some claim to be Christian, or atheist, because all do all kinds of evil things and seek to justify it. This behavior is actually a fulfillment of Scripture. Only Christ was without sin. That’s not the issue at hand. Bottom line, do you believe some things are absolutely wrong?

      In your previous reply you said you don’t, then later said you do. I’m still confused.

      In terms of Kant, is he recognizing what is moral, or is he accounting for morality? When you speak of subjectivity, you’re talking about knowing what is immoral or moral. My argument is about accounting for absolute moral truths, regardless of knowing what they are yet. It’s pointless to even try to know what they are until you can actually account for absolute moral truths.

      If one ultimately concludes that there is no absolute morality, then for the atheist to even try to use terms like “morality” (especially as an argument pertaining to God’s existence or non-existence) is non-sensical, because what is really meant is “the illusion of morality”.

      Again, it’s easy for atheists to say that there is no such thing as evil, morality, sin, and say that all is permissible on a keyboard while debating a theist, but I’ve never seen an atheist actually live it out. You haven’t gone so far as to say that yet.

      I’m confused with your syllogism. You first say you don’t believe in absolute morality, then on point 2 you argue that it can be accounted for by secular means.

      So you believe that molesting for fun is immoral? So is it absolutely and universally wrong? Are you saying that in the past it could have been OK, or in the future it might be OK?

      Saying you wouldn’t be able to understand God is self-refuting because you’re understanding something about him, namely, that you can’t understand him.

      If we venture to ascribe unwavering traits (good) to absolute principles we can’t ever understand (God), such as saying ‘God is good,’ then the claimant must step outside of the definition of good and God and demonstrate evidence and veracity of this claim synthetically, not analytically.

      This assumes that knowledge can only be obtained by observation, which is self-refuting, because one cannot observe that knowledge can only be obtained by observation.

      Also, whether or not people can observe something and agree on it has nothing to do with accounting for absolute truth.

      Also, you can’t make arguments against me saying that God is good, because you’re begging the question by not accounting for a true good standard in the first place. If you are going to just assert that “good” is a reality, then anyone else gets too also.


  30. Cameron,

    As always, good points. I’ll try and order my refutations and clarify my stances to eliminate any confusion. I’ll jump right in. You state and ask:

    “In your previous reply you said you don’t, then later said you do. I’m still confused.

    In terms of Kant, is he recognizing what is moral, or is he accounting for morality? When you speak of subjectivity, you’re talking about knowing what is immoral or moral. My argument is about accounting for absolute moral truths, regardless of knowing what they are yet. It’s pointless to even try to know what they are until you can actually account for absolute moral truths.”

    I don’t believe there are absolute moral values; I only put forth the argument that even if one DOES believe in such moral absolutism, it cannot be evident of God’s existence. I would posit that, as a consequence, the AfM needs to be taken out of the theists’ debate register because it is at most incomplete, but most likely a failed attempt to use human, personal calculations such as morality as proof of the divine.

    Regarding Kant, he is talking about morality writ large, i.e. a “moral in itself” not a particular moral value. He somewhat comically refers to this as “Selbstmoral” in the original German. His point is that human reasoning can endow a “Selbstmoral” a priori with the same force that theist’s argue can only be derived of God’s existence. Regarding subjectivity, what you are referring to when you say “absolute moral truths” is actually objectivity. If a moral truth is absolute, it is so regardless of “observation”; it would be subjective if that ‘moral truth’ were variant as a value based on observation.

    “If one ultimately concludes that there is no absolute morality, then for the atheist to even try to use terms like “morality” (especially as an argument pertaining to God’s existence or non-existence) is non-sensical, because what is really meant is “the illusion of morality”.”

    If one concludes there is no absolute morality, then there would be no God-as-moral-deliberator–a consequent of your argument. I would therefore not need to use any term pertaining to His existence as an assertion other than “false”. I think your counter here is a little absurd: morality can exist in ‘shades’ and still exist without absolute forms. There is no ‘perfect’ mathematical function or feeling of hunger, but these concepts still exists as manifestations of abstractions.

    “Again, it’s easy for atheists to say that there is no such thing as evil, morality, sin, and say that all is permissible on a keyboard while debating a theist, but I’ve never seen an atheist actually live it out. You haven’t gone so far as to say that yet.”

    I don’t and have never stated that all is permissible with regard to actions and decisions, because they bear consequences on the human (read: natural) condition. Regarding divine judgment or the ‘in the end’ contingent of your constant refutation, I don’t believe there is such a thing, so there is no concept of ‘permissiveness’ outside of moral deliberation itself (a la Kant), i.e. we aren’t dependent on an external referent to evaluate whether a given action (with a given intention and context) is more right or wrong. I stated above that, because your concept of morality is still dependent on your personal experience, you can only look at the Scripture for guidance, not truth, because absolute truth does not exist in scripture (slavery, “killing,” treatment of women, etc…) which I stated in my first post as well. Therefore, even with a (dubious) Divine metric, you live your life through a subjective lens of moral evaluation.

    “I’m confused with your syllogism. You first say you don’t believe in absolute morality, then on point 2 you argue that it can be accounted for by secular means.

    So you believe that molesting for fun is immoral? So is it absolutely and universally wrong? Are you saying that in the past it could have been OK, or in the future it might be OK?”

    Regarding my stance on absolutism, read above. My syllogism was written to say that even IF absolute moral values exist, then God exists (at most) disjoint from their objectivity. I don’t think absolute moral values do exist, but I was using YOUR argument to show that even if I assume your worldview regarding morality, God is not necessary. It is now incumbent upon you to show that God is not only sufficient but NECESSARY to endow moral ‘obligations’ with any substantive force. Why are Christians so split on moral issues if there is an absolute metric in the first place? Is this not demonstrative of the variance of moral arbitration that directly contradicts your stance?

    I believe molesting for fun is immoral, according to me, in the modern world. I demonstrated that not only are there cultures in the present where it IS acceptable, but there are past cultures as well where child molestation occurs free from moral persecution. I can therefore say almost resolutely that it will be OK in the future to SOME rational minds. Again, I think it is immoral, but that’s because I don’t welcome the consequences on my own children, and because our legal structure rightly condones harsh punishments on offenders.

    “Saying you wouldn’t be able to understand God is self-refuting because you’re understanding something about him, namely, that you can’t understand him.

    [My quote redacted].

    This assumes that knowledge can only be obtained by observation, which is self-refuting, because one cannot observe that knowledge can only be obtained by observation.

    Also, whether or not people can observe something and agree on it has nothing to do with accounting for absolute truth.

    Also, you can’t make arguments against me saying that God is good, because you’re begging the question by not accounting for a true good standard in the first place. If you are going to just assert that “good” is a reality, then anyone else gets too also.”

    You have ascribed values to God that are equally contradictory in this blog, namely his omnipotence and omniscience, his ‘perfect’ goodness, and ‘perfect’ love. I will make this one stronger by saying ‘one can only understand characteristics ascribed to God but–per even theist claims–cannot understand the entity of God.’ By this, my claim is no longer self-refuting, but it still allows both of us to say he is or is not eternal, good, omnipotent, etc…

    Knowledge may be obtained outside of observation. However, if something is objectively ‘true’ then it is true regardless of who is evaluating the claim. I use ‘observer’ here to highlight that objective claims, insofar as they can be observed/evaluated/deliberated, will result in identical results from all parties. You can assume an unbiased, equally external Observer instead of an implied human one. Otherwise, such ‘truth’ is not objective. Period.

    This means that ‘absolute truth’ may not be ‘observed’ per se, but it can be accounted for/evaluated by our very argument! Therefore this account must be objective and invariant. To tie this together, Kantian logic and intersubjectivity manage such an objective account outside of God.

    When you say God is good, it begs the same question by your argument, so you can’t say it either. You admit there must be a ‘standard’ and if God is that standard, it is simply an arbitrary analytical claim that may or may not be true, i.e. I say ‘five-sided triangle’ you say ‘pentagon’. If God is not that standard, then you concede to my stance that absolute moral truth can exist separate from his endowment of such values with force.

    To summarize, let’s treat God according to your definition: uncreated, almighty, omnipotent, and so on. Then you haven’t yet demonstrated that he is the ONLY causality behind moral absolutes. If there are any other plausible accounts, then Christianity cannot use the AfM to justify God’s existence. Similarly, you and Christianity continue to deign the atheist camp for refuting these post hoc claims you make about God. Please offer a viable counter that demonstrates that God must be the only account for morality in all possible worlds. To offer a starting point for you from Plantinga’s argument, from which I derived my points, his conclusion is that a maximally great being must exist in all possible worlds, hence the actual world. Also how do you conclude that this almighty entity is the Christian God and not another deity that can account for moral deliberation with the same degree of absolute force? I would ask that you try and refute the IDEAS i present rather than reduce this to a semantic debate.

    It’s been a pleasure so far!


    • Sorry I forgot to include a name here. This was written by Alex.


  31. Alex,

    Life has been busy. I didn’t forget you. I’ll try to simplify my arguments. I believe that arguments should be easy enough to explain to a 5 year old and if they get too complicated then we’re just hiding behind vagueness.

    If you believe that morality is subjective, then all should be permissible. There is then only the illusion of morality for arbitrary reasons, and 2 people could disagree on which illusion they want everyone else to follow and there’s no bases to say who’s more correct.

    Also, I do not reason to God by first seeing that we have absolute morals. People most consistently act as though they know certain things are objectively right and wrong, and only God accounts for that.

    I’m confused what Kant believed. So he believes morality is a priori? If so, so do Christians. If he believes that we can declare what is a priori by fiat then I would refute that.

    So to you molestation is wrong, but again, you have no bases to say your view of consequences ought to be followed over and against the past tribes, or hypothetical future tribes, which had no problem with the consequences. Again, this is all just begging the question, with only the illusion of immorality. So what you’re consistently left with is not being able to say that molestation is wrong. I respect you as a person, but I would also have to say please stay away from my kids.

    So because of this you clearly evidence to me that you act consistently with objective morality, yet can’t account for it. It’s this inconsistency that I see in atheists so often that all the more makes me believe in objective morality.

    Theism best accounts for this, and the God of Christianity best accounts for theism. That’s all I have to demonstrate, and it’s easily demonstrated historically, Biblically, and rationally.


  32. Cameron,

    Thanks for responding…a busy life is a good thing, and I’m glad you didn’t forget our discussion. I could follow your argument even when not simplified for a five-year-old, but I think you just conferred the old Jesuit adage about indoctrinating youth: “give me a child younger than five, and we’ll give you a Jesuit for life.” To your point about child molestation, I don’t do it because I don’t want to and I wouldn’t wish the consequences of those actions on anyone. My moral, rational mind has no desire to do this. Yet you only refrain from doing it because the concept is underwritten by a deity as immoral? And you “divined” this from a Bible scribed in an era in which young teenage women were offered up for marriage before having their first menstrual cycles? Though to this point, you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, so just make sure to sincerely apologize after molesting all those children and the Kingdom of Heaven should be yours! You’ll fit right in with the Jesuits seeking youths…

    More seriously, this is the issue with the Argument for Morality, as I stated in my original post: if there is ANY plausible account for morality other than God, your argument fails. No debate about this one. Craig, Plantinga, and Slick would all agree. Now: I have provided a few accounts, not just one, and all are plausible. Empiricism, Desirism, Intersubjectivity, etc… You might not like the implications of a secular moral construct, but modern ethicists and philosophers have been studying morality for hundreds of years without the need for any God, much less the Christian one. Dozens of societies outside of Christianity have been able to function in a morally sound way. I don’t believe there is objective morality, but as I stated in an above post, THIS DOES NOT MATTER TO THE ARGUMENT. Your argument fails regardless, because other accounts exist at all.

    Your argument boils down from Plantinga’s argument, namely that the Christian God is the best explanation for objective morality, if it exists. This is already a weak premise: he would not be the ONLY explanation even by Plantinga’s premise…but how is the Christian God the BEST explanation? Morality has existed outside of Christian spheres for millenia…any modern work on ethics or meta-ethics would refute your whole argument part and parcel. There are other accounts for morality outside of God, so even if there are objective moral values, they don’t prove God exists.

    Independent of our argument, but so you can understand my perspective: you are committing a logical fallacy by saying “if morality is subjective, then all would be permissible.” This would only be true if all rational minds were willing to commit all acts in any given situation. I believe morality is subjective, but subjective to the moral evaluator. The evaluator would have to be incapable of making subjective judgments in order for you to be correct, but the scale of your argument would still be personal, not universal.

    Like I posited above, I think morality is just a way for rational minds to evaluate situations and claims (or intentions and contexts to comport it to your argument). I don’t believe morality has a “value” outside of a mind’s ability to evaluate it, i.e. it is a human construct (not dissimilar from God in that regard…). This would mean outside of human intellect, there is no morality, no need for an omnipotent deity to inflict moral force. However, again, this has no bearing on our argument, because even if I’m wrong about the existence of morality from a meta-ethical standpoint, there are still explanations apart from God. Two minds CAN and DO arrive at different moral conclusions depending on varied situations. More often than not, sane rational minds will agree, but not always. I think this is far more reflective of the real world than “there are universal rights and wrongs and everyone behaves that way.” The second part especially is pure fantasy completely divorced of the way things are…

    Let me distill this to a five year old’s level if objective moral values do exist: “don’t commit acts of wrong, whether or not God says so.” There are other accounts for morality independent of God, so by the Argument for Morality, the existence of objective moral values does not prove the existence of God. If God does exist, at best, he does so independent of moral formulation. End of story. QED.


    • And Cameron, to be clear, I’m asking you to demonstrate how the Christian God is the necessary and sufficient causal agent to objective morality. (You have offered one faith-based sufficiency that falls far short of necessity).

      I have demonstrated that naturalism is sufficient to account for morality. In addition, treating these moral values as transcendentally ideal a la Kant (requiring no veridical pretext, only an intelligent mind to formulate them), they are necessary within the context of naturalism. Perhaps I wasn’t direct enough: I have shown that a naturalistic formulation completely eliminates the necessity of God in moral formulation.

      Here are your hurdles:

      “God” as moral arbiter faces numerous deficiencies in light of many secular formulations. Indeed, naturalist models such as intersubjectivity and desirism (in fact, most meta-ethical formulations independent of the Christian God) have greater precision, adaptive or unifying mechanisms, predictive novelty, or explanatory scope when compared to the AfM that “God did it.”

      Your explanation lacks precision (re: empirical split on Christian decision as to what objective moral values may be), and it lacks any description of the underlying mechanisms, the adaptive underpinnings that, for instance, make things like slavery immoral in today’s society but permissible in Bronze-Age Judea. All you have to offer is interpretation of values in scripture, which again, have no adaptive component to reflect a modern context.

      Regarding any unifying mechanism, because you cannot authoritatively NAME objective moral values (no one can, but we can posit their existence), you cannot say with certainty that Christianity accounts for them all without ‘special pleading.’ Naturalistic atheism requires no special pleading: intelligent minds can produce transcendental moral ideals without an actualized pretext. Thanks to Kant, Russell, and von Wittgestein, there is ample philosophical demonstration that this is possible without needing to rectify the much harder problems of the epistemology of knowledge or the problem of induction, so please spare me any presuppositionalist/TAG counters, because they hold no weight here.

      Your explanation explicitly lacks scope and precision. Your stance MUST assume, as I pointed out in my first post, that there are NO objective moral values NOT explicitly identified in the Bible and that the Bible also correctly identifies EACH objective moral value ordained by divine command theory. Your formulation’s relationship must be both surjective and injective; your formulation as demonstrated only posits a surjective relationship. If you think it is also injective, then you MUST accept that slavery and genocide are moral commandments via God’s word. This also confers the weak precision with which Christian ethics would identify such objective moral values. Naturalism would account for both relationships with moral objectivity, if it exists.

      Regarding predictive novelty: Christianity works almost directly in reverse. Things were transliterated to scripture thousands of years ago, and apologists today struggle to square these with modern society. Yet no one suggests reverting to slave-owning, calf-sacrificing days of Old Testament yore to better comport to Biblical values. Christianity has done a poor job of predicting moral modalities ahead of its time, but almost all secular formulations–and naturalism is one–explicitly account for this.

      My original point was this, and I would like to echo it now more than ever, even if objective moral values exist, they don’t prove or disprove God’s existence. His weak moral formulation reveals inconsistencies that bring that existence into well-deserved question. Naturalistic atheists CAN account for morality, whether you like it or not, and it is a more complete formulation than Christianity’s. I have demonstrated this to effect. The burden of superior proof is now on you.

      Quod. Erat. Demonstratum.


  33. Alex,

    Bless your heart. Has anyone ever told you you are very dodgy?

    Though to this point, you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, so just make sure to sincerely apologize after molesting all those children and the Kingdom of Heaven should be yours! You’ll fit right in with the Jesuits seeking youths…

    Things were transliterated to scripture thousands of years ago, and apologists today struggle to square these with modern society.

    The Bible was not “transliterated”. It was fist transmitted. Sounds like you only know surface level polemics of the Bible’s origins. Again, that makes you lose credibility in convincing people of your arguments. For thousands of years Jews and Christians have believed in a finite universe based on Genesis 1 and John 1. Ancient Jewish scholars wrote about it. It was only 50 years ago that Naturalists started accepting that fact. Nice try.

    The OT talks about indentured servitude, not modern Western slave trades. It was for a limited duration for people to pay off debts or survive when they had no other way to. So you’re saying they should have just starved to death in ancient times? Lol. These are typical surface level arguments from atheists who aren’t actually critiquing the Bible, only they’re assumptions of it. I see atheists do this ALL THE TIME. They critique the wrong worldview.

    It’s amazing to me how you consider context without blinking when it comes to morality, yet throw it out the window of a moving car when it comes to the Bible. The full context of the Bible does not teach that you can do whatever you want and apologize. Read Matthew 7 and Rom 6 when you get a break from Kant some time.

    The Bible does not condone genocide. 1. you still haven’t shown why genocide is wrong, thus you’re the one who is seemingly using emotional moral pretense to discredit the Bible, the very thing you then turn around and try to pin on me. 2. Given the Bible’s context, it would have been immoral to let those evil tribes continue to do things they were doing. You yourself say that molestation for the fun of it is wrong. What if they were doing far worse to the degree they deserved death for the health and wealth of everyone else? According to Evolution, they were just one stronger tribe that wiped out a weaker one, sort of like animals going extinct. Again, your dodgy-ness is telling.

    You keep challenging me to prove God’s existence with morality. That isn’t the purpose of this post. It’s to show that atheist’s can’t account for it. I get more into proving God in the realm of logic on other blog posts.

    When you say that “other moral systems existed outside of Christianity…” so what? That has nothing to do with my post. It’s that no one can account for morality.

    You challenge the argument for objective morality, but then you turn around and say that Kant can account for it. Then I think you mention that no one can absolutely know what is immoral, but you also believe that molesting children for fun is morally wrong. So which is it? Then you say that Kant accounts for a-priori, but I’d argue he doesn’t ultimately account for it. Kant simply tries to find ways to come to Christian conclusions without Christianity. That’s because he was living in a Christian era. However, one could just as easily apply his same reasoning to justify any socially accepted behavior of any era. Yet, he still begs the question, and so do you, as to why something ought to be ideal, and why that particular ideal and not another, etc.

    I was not using the example of ‘molestation for fun’ as an emotional argument. Even if I was, that still does not preclude a logical answer, which you failed to give. As far as emotions go, if your emotions also tell you it’s wrong, then by what atheistic standard are your emotions comporting to truth? You mention that priests molest as well. I believe that statistically, women teachers seduce boys more than priests do. But looking at priests molesting, according to many atheist’s position, so what? Many atheists have told me “all is permissible”, even here in the comment section of this thread. Or I’ve heard some atheists say “molesting isn’t wrong”, but clarify they themselves wouldn’t do it (assuming they have free-will and will always be able to control their impulses). So your counter-example begs the question of accounting for why it’s wrong.

    You mention context and intention a lot. Christian philosophers and philosophers of science have understood that for centuries, even way prior to the Enlightenment and Age of Reason, that context and intention is to be taken into account with morality. The Bible has shown this for thousands of years before the recent Enlightenment.

    The OP is not seeking to prove God via morality. It is demonstrating that atheists can’t account for morality. You keep bringing up objective morality and the Bible. I wouldn’t first argue as a Christian to an atheist how we can identify what is moral. I would first ask you to account for morality as an atheist; the purpose of the post. It makes no sense to try to pin point what is moral until you can account for it within your worldview.

    I haven’t seen you account for why something is really right or really wrong, or why something ought to happen or not happen in any satisfactory reason. Your best tries with Kant beg the question.

    But regardless, I’d like to hear from you. Please tell me as plain as you possibly can in 1-5 sentences. What is something else that is really and always wrong to you (considering context and intention). Why is it really and always wrong Alex?


    • Cameron! I’m genuinely glad you got back to me. After re-reading your comments, I certainly owe you my account for morality, instead of just critiquing yours. My 5 sentences follow:


      I am a moral reductionist, i.e. I believe that the ‘truthmakers’ of moral propositions are reducible to values in the natural world. For example, the ontological foundation of the proposition (**) ‘altruism is good’ reduces to universal, physical properties. I believe there are two plausible mechanisms by which this reduction may occur or is best approximated: either via (1) Rawl’s social contract theory or (2) Arnhart’s version of desire utilitarianism. It should be evident that both or either of (1) and (2) confer the value of (**). I say ‘believe’ and ‘may’ as any good naturalist should, as evidence to the contrary would gladly influence my opinion.

      A few points to you:

      Some things I’m inclined to think are ‘wrong’ in a sort of static sense (assuming no intention or context or, maybe equivalently, a completely rational moral agent): slavery, genocide, rape, torture, murder. That said, I don’t know that there are absolute wrongs absent situational contexts or intentions. For instance ‘murder is wrong’ may not be a coherent proposition absent an implied consequence (or intention, if you prefer). To go one further, ‘murder is always wrong’ may be a false proposition entirely! I am also aware that we can easily concoct situations that dissolve into moral absurdity like “rape this woman to save the world,” an analogue of “exterminate this population to bring about the greatest good” manifest in God’s purported command.

      If the Bible beat the Enlightenment to the punch, then Greek meta-ethicists beat the New Testament to the punch. Both Sumerian and Egyptian law beat the Old Testament to the same punch. The Bible is not an ‘original’ moral document by any means, nor did it blaze any particularly fresh trails. I don’t see where you’re going with this one.

      I would like to correct your point regarding the implications of evolution on morality. Evolution would not ‘account’ for morality, but rather, at best, assert that our beliefs about morality, our abilities to infer moral values from universal properties, have evolved (I’ve seen many theists willingly ignore this point in debates and philosophical essays). This would not reduce to some de facto state of moral nihilism or moral relativism, which I firmly hold is not a resolute consequence of naturalism. To be fair to you and many other theists, a great many atheists are complete garbage when discussing the intersection of naturalism and morality. To compound my point, Aquinas supported moral reductionism, though likely not in the context of (1) or (2). So at the very least, my beliefs about morality are not out of the ballpark for theists either. This brings me back to my original post: even if there is a God, his existence cannot be inferred from morality or vice versa, even if that was not your original point.

      All Kant has to say on this matter as far as we’re concerned is that humans can rationally arrive at ‘objective morality’ (categorical truths viz. ontologically objective moral values) without veridical pretext. His discussion in Prologemena to Any Future Metaphysics is quite comprehensive. It’s not bulletproof, but it certainly seems to avoid question-begging. You should read it when you get a break from reading the Bible sometime 🙂

      And to your point about me being dodgy, seeing some of your verbal acrobatics on this blog seems a little ‘teapot calling the kettle black’. Tell me more about the morality of ‘indentured servitude’ versus slavery, and how the Exodus account of beating one’s slaves short of death has any more moral rectitude because the servants were only property for a designated period…lol? You could win a game of dodgeball without lifting a finger with those semantic equivocations alone!

      Either way, great to hear from you.



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