Theism and Morality


#1

This thread is, in a sense, a response to the frequent charge that atheism entails nihilism, relativism, egoism, or something like that. At the same time this thread is not about that particular entailment. Let’s just put that question on hold and ask ourselves: what does theism have to offer with regards to justifying morality?

So, let’s imagine that God has commanded moral system X. The question: is X moral because God commanded it, or did God command X because it is moral? Did God have some moral justification for commanding X, or is God’s command the moral justification for X?

Now, the second view has God as a sort of master philosopher, examining the universe and in ver infinite wisdom handing out the best possible sort of morality. On this view, theism might be useful, since it would be good to know what the right moral system is, but an atheistic universe would have just as much to offer with regards to justification. Whatever reasons God looked to in commanding X would exist without God - that’s the essential nature of this view. So here, theism has nothing special to offer with regards to moral justification.

The first view is a little more interesting. Ex hypothesi God had no moral justification for whatever moral system God commanded. But what other sort of reason could God have for giving these commands? Note that any sort of reason given cannot justify this particular command; it just explains it (for example, if I make a command, a non-justificatory explanation might be a psychoanalytic one). But I don’t think any such explanation will be forthcoming - feel free to correct me and provide some sort of non-justificatory explanation if you think you’ve got one.

That seems to mean that God did not actually have any reason for commanding the moral system God commanded. God could just have easily commanded anything - God could command us to murder our neighbors, rape our sons, worship Satan, anything. And if that’s the case, can we really say that the system God commanded is a moral system? Doesn’t it seem awfully arbitrary, in a way that an “objective” morality can’t be? So again, theism doesn’t seem to offer us any special way to ground a moral system.

A possible response might run something like this: “It is in the essential nature of God to command moral system X.” But I think that puts us right back into the previous view. Now God has reasons for this particular moral code, and if these reasons can justify God’s commanding it, then it could equally justify X in the absence of God.

I want to stress that though this thread is a response to questions about atheism and morality, we should not spend our time addressing whether atheism entails nihilism or relativism or whatever. That question is besides the point for the moment - we can resolve the issues I’ve brought up without discussing atheism and morality. That’s why the thread is called “Theism and Morality,” after all.


#2

Do communists understand the word “moral” differently to any other atheists?
for example CCP(chicom) and CPSU(bolshevik) declared communists are against homosexual marriage. how come Russian CP, ACLU(run by american communists) so pro-homosexual-marriage. read english.pravda.com and aclu.org to see.
does the word “communist morality” have a fixed meaning?


#3

[quote=abcdefg]Do communists understand the word “moral” differently to any other atheists?
for example CCP(chicom) and CPSU(bolshevik) declared communists are against homosexual marriage. how come Russian CP, ACLU(run by american communists) so pro-homosexual-marriage. read english.pravda.com and aclu.org to see.
does the word “communist morality” have a fixed meaning?
[/quote]

Just to ask… what does this have to do with what I talked about in my post?


#4

[quote=EnterTheBowser]Just to ask… what does this have to do with what I talked about in my post?
[/quote]

Just to show without God, there’s no reason one should stick to a fixed set of morals.

moral relativism = no moral.


#5

[quote=abcdefg]Just to show without God, there’s no reason one should stick to a fixed set of morals.

moral relativism = no moral.
[/quote]

I tried very hard in my OP to say that we really ought to avoid talking about whether atheism entails nihilism, relativism, or egoism. It has nothing to do with what I talked about. If you want to talk about it, start your own thread. Do you care to respond to the points I made?


#6

[quote=EnterTheBowser]I tried very hard in my OP to say that we really ought to avoid talking about whether atheism entails nihilism, relativism, or egoism. It has nothing to do with what I talked about. If you want to talk about it, start your own thread. Do you care to respond to the points I made?
[/quote]

Why fornication is wrong. we say because God commanded so. in a conservative country you say “because most people here believes so” when you move to a liberal country what should you say?

God thinks fornication is wrong so he commanded the moral against it, we believe fornication is wrong because God said so with reasons can be found in Bible, Church’s tradition.


#7

I’ll take that as a “No.” Just as a note, I will ignore any future posts regarding whether atheism entails nihilism, relativism, or egoism.


#8

It simply comes down to who is in charge, If GOD exists and can send us to hell/heaven etc then whatever he says is right is right.
Ultimately whether we like it or not might is always right, now if for eg. God does not exist and some very advanced aliens pop in and tell us what is right or wrong according to them then we do best to follow them. If we refuse then we must accept the consequences irrespective of whether we think something is right or wrong.

The aliens are right because they possess the power to back up their claim of what is right.


#9

[quote=Tim Hayes]It simply comes down to who is in charge, If GOD exists and can send us to hell/heaven etc then whatever he says is right is right.
Ultimately whether we like it or not might is always right, now if for eg. God does not exist and some very advanced aliens pop in and tell us what is right or wrong according to them then we do best to follow them. If we refuse then we must accept the consequences irrespective of whether we think something is right or wrong.

The aliens are right because they possess the power to back up their claim of what is right.
[/quote]

So, if I were to take your family hostage (and you loved them very much), and I also had the power to reward you with billions of dollars, and were then to give you commands, these would be moral commands - they would be an acceptable basis for a moral system? Might does not make right - we might do it from fear but that’s not a good moral justification.


#10

You set yourself up for failure when you address the question to “theists.” If you want a Catholic Answer, you shall get one.

As you hopefully know, Catholics adopt the Aristotelian/Thomistic view of morality, which is the Natural Law view.

In brief, our view of Natural Law holds that God created everything with a nature, an essence, and that to be good is to be in accord with a thing’s nature.

Thus, if one is the Captain of a ship - which is something that one is, it stands to reason that one ought to do the things that a Captain of a ship ought to do. If something is something as such, it necessarily follows that they ought to do the things that such a thing does by nature.

Fundamentalists and bible thumpers don’t agree with this view, so they scramble to come up with scripture quotes to hack together arguments against stem-cell research and abortion, or whatever. You might find them more fun to debate on this issue. As to Catholics, we’re pretty rooted in serious philosophy.


#11

[quote=adnauseum]You set yourself up for failure when you address the question to “theists.” If you want a Catholic Answer, you shall get one.

As you hopefully know, Catholics adopt the Aristotelian/Thomistic view of morality, which is the Natural Law view.

In brief, our view of Natural Law holds that God created everything with a nature, an essence, and that to be good is to be in accord with a thing’s nature.

Thus, if one is the Captain of a ship - which is something that one is, it stands to reason that one ought to do the things that a Captain of a ship ought to do. If something is something as such, it necessarily follows that they ought to do the things that such a thing does by nature.


[/quote]

I don’t think that what you’ve said really addresses my question. You’ve outlined a particular system of morality. But my argument was not about the particulars of God’s moral system - it was about justification. So: Which way do you answer the Euthyphro question?


#12

[quote=EnterTheBowser]I don’t think that what you’ve said really addresses my question. You’ve outlined a particular system of morality. But my argument was not about the particulars of God’s moral system - it was about justification. So: Which way do you answer the Euthyphro question?
[/quote]

Bowser said:

*what does theism have to offer with regards to justifying morality?
*

I said:

Catholics (not “theists”) believe in Natural Law.

Bowser said:

Address my straw man please.

Like I said, you might find a bible-thumper forum more engaging and entertaining. You’re in over your head on a Catholic forum.


#13

[quote=adnauseum]Bowser said:

*what does theism have to offer with regards to justifying morality?
*

I said:

Catholics (not “theists”) believe in Natural Law.

Bowser said:

Address my straw man please.

Like I said, you might find a bible-thumper forum more engaging and entertaining. You’re in over your head on a Catholic forum.
[/quote]

OK; my first question is: would every thing have some sort of essential nature even if it had not been created by God?

Second: why is it right for a thing to act according to its essential nature?

Essentially: what does God have to do with natural law?

As a note, Catholics are theists. I did not address the question specifically to Catholics because it is more general than that and applies to (I would imagine) any sort of moral system based on theism.


#14

But the reasons are internal to God.

and if these reasons can justify God’s commanding it, then it could equally justify X in the absence of God.

That doesn’t make sense. The “reasons” are God’s nature. In the absence of God, those “reasons” would not exist.

You can’t separate ethics from the doctrine of creation. God “commands” a “system of ethics” (not the way I’d put it) because God has created human beings in His own image and likeness, with a nature that finds happiness in imitating God in particular ways. Ethics simply consists of our learning to become like God in the particular ways which bring happiness and completion to our nature. To speak of a ethics in terms of divine command, abstracted from the question of human happiness and the purpose of human life, is nonsensical.

I recommend Servais Pinckaers, The Sources of Christian Ethics, for more on this.

Edwin


#15

[quote=Contarini]But the reasons are internal to God.

That doesn’t make sense. The “reasons” are God’s nature. In the absence of God, those “reasons” would not exist.
[/quote]

So there’s some characteristic of God which is a moral justification for the moral system God approves of? Could you be a little more specific as to what this characteristic is?

You can’t separate ethics from the doctrine of creation. God “commands” a “system of ethics” (not the way I’d put it) because God has created human beings in His own image and likeness, with a nature that finds happiness in imitating God in particular ways. Ethics simply consists of our learning to become like God in the particular ways which bring happiness and completion to our nature. To speak of a ethics in terms of divine command, abstracted from the question of human happiness and the purpose of human life, is nonsensical.

I hope I’m not misrepresenting you, but did you argue that:
-Humans are made in God’s image
-Humans become happy when they imitate God
-Ethical behavior is imitating God in the ways that make us happy


#16

[quote=EnterTheBowser]So: Which way do you answer the Euthyphro question?
[/quote]

The “Euthyphro question” is irrelevant outside of its original pagan context. Or, more specifically, it is irrelevant inside the Christian context. Your question is, at its base, intellectually dishonest because you are seeking to constrain the terms of the debate in such a way as to rule out answers you don’t like.

Socrates had only the vaguest conception of a transcendant Good. Thus, he asked, “Do the gods approve of something because it is right, or is something right because the gods approve of it?”

This is a false dilemma because it ignores the possibility of a single, perfectly good, eternal God who is the ground and source of all being. Once one understands that all that is good has its ultimate source in the One who is Good, the “problem” vanishes.

– Mark L. Chance.


#17

Mark:

:clapping: :clapping:


#18

[quote=mlchance]…

This [the Euthyphro question] is a false dilemma because it ignores the possibility of a single, perfectly good, eternal God who is the ground and source of all being. Once one understands that all that is good has its ultimate source in the One who is Good, the “problem” vanishes.

– Mark L. Chance.
[/quote]

I feel that the question bears on this sort of God. Why does God ground whatever sort of morality the Christian God grounds and not some other sort? Why is this morality “good”? Is it good simply because it is the morality grounded by God, or is there some other reason why this morality is good?


#19

BOWSER

Is it good simply because it is the morality grounded by God, or is there some other reason why this morality is good?
Anything grounded in God is good. It needs no other justification. However, God allows us to see the goodness of his plan in different ways. Sometimes through Revelation, as with the Commandments. Sometimes through the natural law, which urges us to do good and avoid evil.

What God does not allow is for us to make up our own rules as we go along. We do not substitute what is wrong for what is right, even when the devil instructs us to … the archetypal case being the Serpent who made right (the eating of the fruit) what God had said was wrong.

Disobedience of God’s command (in the case of Adam and Eve and ever since) resulted in God showing us that He means it when He says that actions will have consequences.


#20

*I want to stress that though this thread is a response to questions about atheism and morality, we should not spend our time addressing whether atheism entails nihilism or relativism or whatever. That question is besides the point for the moment - we can resolve the issues I’ve brought up without discussing atheism and morality. That’s why the thread is called “Theism and Morality,” after all.*Twice in your introduction you made this point. Evidently you want the rules of the game to be entirely in your favor. You want to attack Thesism and Morality without allowing the Theist to address the alternative to Theism and Morality … the absurd spectacle of Atheistic Relativism.


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