Is G-d truly a moral "measuring stick"?

I’ve heard at various times in the wide range of debate topics that go from deists and atheists to Christians and Jews that atheists have no “moral measuring stick” (sometimes phrased as “moral compass”, etc) with which to compare all things through G-d’s goodness.

I’m not entirely decided on this myself.

What are your beliefs on this, and what evidence might there be to bring a conclusion to either end? Thanks!

The question is, where else do you measure it? Apart from God, it would pretty much vary between persons and cultures. Someone could come along and say “this is what morality is”, but that falls apart when a Nietszche comes along and says, “yeah, that’s your morality, and I spit on it”.

If there’s no God then there’s nothing indicating that I have to listen to anyone else’s thoughts regarding morality. Morality has to come from above me to have any authority over me. Without God, the only thing arguably capable of that is the government; which is comprised of other mortal meat-sacks just like me, so their opinion doesn’t count.

The same goes of any other idea. Why should I consider the brain excretions- that is, the thoughts- of someone who is on the same biochemical and cosmological plane as myself? The other guy’s opinion is as qualified as the opinion of a cockroach.

As an atheist I have only the maxim of doing unto others as I might desire done unto me. Naturally this runs into gray areas when considered too broadly…yet it is a feasible means of managing appropriate human interactions…and it might be argued an improved method over that seemingly offered by God, who appears to have a fascinating and varied array of moral trajectories depending upon which chapter of His book one might wish to peruse…

Yet the difficulty must still arise within my very own position…for what keeps me to my word? What innate force ensures that I maintain a preferred view of the Golden Rule rather than to align myself with those who might prefer a survival of the fittest?

Essentially nothing. And this is the source of my difficulty with a purely atheistic mindset. For if I might lack empathy for my fellow man or discover a means to rationalize away a difference of opinion with regards to his/her welfare…what is to stop me…?

I look at it like this:

We all have an innate sense of right and wrong, good and bad. Giving aid to the destitute is good, murdering the innocent is bad.

Now, an idea among Christians (populaized by Thomas Aquinas) is that God is the “Summum Bonum” - The Highest Good. Likewise, good acts bring you closer to God while evil acts lead you farther away from God.

The reasoning is that if God wasn’t the Highest Good, than all Human Morality would be utterly arbitrary and words like “right” and “wrong” would be totally meaningless.

As an atheist I have only the maxim of doing unto others as I might desire done unto me.

Sounds like a good rule. Where did you find it? :slight_smile:

Said rule predates Jesus by nearly 2000 years…yet I will readily admit that it was seemingly best implemented by Christianity…from which society I most likely became aware of the concept. Yet even so, it appears a fairly logical construct learnable without a necessity of too much life experience…

He calls His people to mature and not stifle each other’s growth.

Salt is salt and light is light.

When examples are given, they can catch on.

We have to seek out what can lead us to recognise that there must be a God by examining the evidence which miracles provide and seeking the source of these realities.
Then we can find what He has instituted to lead us to Him.
The evidence that points to God and the means that He has provided for us include miracles such as are recorded of Jesus of Nazareth and His Resurrection; the miracles of healing at Lourdes, approved by doctors, and the miracle of the sun at Fatima.

The reality that God in His Son, Jesus of Nazareth, established His own Church with a Magisterium through St Peter and his successors, with His authority to “bind and to loose” and which teaches without error on faith and morals, is the only reliable “measuring stick” for mankind.

All who do not assent to Christ’s teaching through His Catholic Church will be to a greater or lesser extent deprived of the fullness of His truths.

“When gentiles (non-believers) who have not the law do by nature what the law requires…they show that what the law requires is written on their hearts while their consciences also bears witness ….” (Romans 2 :14-15)

All of mankind is made in the image and likeness of God. It is part of that likeness to naturally have a sense of right and wrong, justice, mercy, etc. Whether someone believes in God or not, we all have a conscience that speaks when doing right or wrong. This is not a social construct. We can feel shame for doing wrong even though society may praise us for it. And we can feel satisfaction for doing right even though society may accuse us of wrongdoing.

Many times we have conflicting feelings about something. Our conscience is telling us one thing, and society or our own desires want the opposite. It is for this reason that God gives revelation and especially the commandments, so that we can KNOW what is right and wrong. The better informed our conscience is, the better it can be formed. The better formed the conscience is, the better it can know what is good, and not just what is perceived to be good.

An unformed conscience will tend to stick with the basics like the Golden Rule. This can provide an acceptable basis for man and society, but it is kind of the “live and let live” or “I won’t bother you if you don’t bother me” attitude. It also has a common selfish aspect which is “if you can’t help me, I won’t help you”. However a formed conscience with God as the “moral compass” will go beyond the Golden Rule because God commands us to actually love one another with specifications of HOW to love one another, which always involves actually doing what is good for the other person, regardless of what we may perceive (correct or incorrect) to be good. Easier said than done.

I believe it was St. Thomas Aquinas who said “when given a choice, man will always choose the good, even if it is only a perceived good”. In order to choose “evil”, we have to justify it by saying there is some sort of “good” in doing that. Having God as the moral compass can tell us regardless of the perceived good or how we can justify something as good, it is still evil so don’t do it. Hitler had to justify doing evil by promoting the perceived good of the human race, but it was still evil.

Another thought: All of creation has laws. Planets and material things are subject to laws of gravity, motion, etc. Animals have specific laws of instincts that they live by. Humans are the only creatures that can actually disobey or go against the laws written in their hearts. All of nature works very well together according to the laws that apply to them. The moral laws are written into our hearts so that we can be the best human person that we can be. The moral laws are for our own wellbeing. When we break them (even if it is unknowingly), we harm ourselves and others (also possibly unknowingly). That is why it is essential to have the Law Giver as our moral compass; so that we can know and do what is good for ourselves and others as well as society as a whole and nature. This leads to a life of joy, harmony, and fulfillment. The less we have the Law Giver of all things as the moral compass, the more likely we are to hurt ourselves and others by going against those moral laws.

More than my allotted 2 cents worth.

Another thought:

Man naturally looks beyond himself for a moral compass. He knows that his own subjective views may be clouded. That is why people will look to others for advice or to see what they think. But other people can only give their own subjective view which may also be clouded. It is kind of like the blind leading the blind. What a person is really looking for is an objective moral compass that goes beyond human blindness. Ultimately that leads to looking towards God as the source.

In determining morality we search for something objectively true and good that is independent of our own whims.
We as human beings are not very good at this, evidence the varying standards we have, resulting in wars and strife of all kinds.

So the question might be, what is it, outside of human whim, that human beings are subject to? If you are going to point to something or someone objective as a standard, what or who is it?

If you point only to yourself as the standard, then you do not have a compass pointing to an objective standard.

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