In my last post I dealt with the second premise of the moral argument for god’s existence–that morality is objective and absolute–by explaining that we are not born with a moral code and that the idea of objective moral values is a contradiction in terms.
Non Sequiturs and Circular Reasoning
Now let’s back up and take a look at the first premise of the argument which says: “If morality is objective and absolute, god must exist.” Just for the fun of it, let’s pretend this is true. Christian apologists say that if objective moral values exist, God must exist. But why? What does one have to do with the other?
In part 1 I jokingly claimed that if beauty is objective and absolute, unicorns must exist. At first glance there appears to be a connection between the two ideas since unicorns are supposed to be beautiful, just as there appears to be a connection between objective morality and god since god is supposed to be moral.
But there is no connection. Even if beauty were objective, it wouldn’t say anything about the existence of unicorns. And even if morality were objective, it wouldn’t say anything about the existence of god. It’s a non sequitur.
You might ask, “If objective moral values exist, where else could they possibly come from?” Maybe they don’t come from anywhere. Maybe they are just facts of nature like the laws of logic. Or maybe they are a type of spiritual force like karma. Or maybe they come from many different gods. Perhaps there is a different god for every type of moral action–the god of love, the god of compassion, the god of kindness, etc.
Does all this sound ridiculous? It should. But why are these ideas are any less valid than the idea that objective moral values come from a single god? And what test can we perform to figure out which theory is true? I’ll tell you: There isn’t one because I made it all up, just like theologians do.
The worst thing about this argument is that if objective moral values are defined as coming from god, then the argument is circular. You can’t use something that implies the existence of god to prove the existence of god. It would be like saying, “These hoof prints were made by unicorns, therefore these hoof prints prove unicorns exist.”
Before we could say the hoof prints were made by unicorns, we would first have to prove that unicorns exist. And before we can say that objective moral values come from god, we first have to prove that god exists.
Divine Command Theory
The funny thing is that Christians try to use morality to prove not just any god, but the god of the Bible. Yet the Bible doesn’t seem to agree with the morality of the average Christian. This is a book that says rape victims must marry their rapists, it’s okay to beat your slaves as long as you don’t kill them, and that people should be executed for trivial crimes such as blasphemy and working on the Sabbath. If Christians get their morality from God, how come God appears to have a standard of morality very different from that of Christians?
At one point, God orders the slaughter of women and children. And incredibly, apologists such as William Lane Craig actually defend passages like this. WLC makes several ridiculous points, but I want to focus on two in particular:
1. He says, “If we believe, as I do, that God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation.” You see, those children would have grown up to become evil pagans who would die and go to Hell, so killing them was a mercy. Here’s a thought experiment that reveals the insanity of this idea.
According to Christian morality, sacrificing oneself to save the lives of others is a very noble act (Jesus himself did it). Now imagine there is a scientist who intentionally develops a virus that kills every small child on the planet. If Christianity is true, the scientist will go to Hell if he doesn’t repent of this sin and mean it.
But the scientist knows that. Although he believes the Christian doctrine, he develops the virus anyway because he is willing to go to Hell in order to ensure the salvation of every child on Earth. Doesn’t that make him the most noble man alive? This is just one example that illustrates why the idea that small children automatically go to Heaven is both nonsensical and dangerous.
2. According to WLC, “On divine command theory, then, God has the right to command an act, which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been sin, but which is now morally obligatory in virtue of that command.” In other words, no matter what God does or commands, now matter how evil it might seem, it must be good because God commanded it. But wouldn’t this make morality completely subjective? If morality is just whatever God says it is, how can it be objective?
Even if you claim it is still objective because God has reasons we don’t understand, it is still subjective from our point of view. Today murder is wrong, but tomorrow it might be right if God wills it (after all, God must have his reasons). This is a very dangerous idea.
Divine command theory has resulted in countless religious atrocities throughout history. How many infidels have been killed because God required it? How many witches have been burned because God ordered it? How many homosexuals have been executed because God demanded it? There are even men who have raped children after telling them that God wills it.
Of course, you could respond by saying that these people weren’t really following God’s will, that they were liars who merely claimed to be acting on behalf of God. But that’s the whole problem, isn’t it? We never hear directly from God. We only hear from humans who claim to speak for God.
How are we supposed to know which ones are truly God’s messengers? And before you say, “consult the Bible,” there are two things you should keep in mind: 1) Some of the atrocities I mentioned are in the Bible, and 2) The Bible was written by men claiming to speak for God.
In part 3 I will talk about yet another contradiction in the idea that morality comes from god.