Goodness! (With or without God, the atheists don’t answer the question)

Among philosophically minded people, it is none too uncommon to believe man cannot be good without God. Atheists, on the other hand, claim they can live good, moral lives without God.

Who is right? Both are, probably. The statement “you cannot be good without God” does not mean what the atheist, or non-atheistic member of the public, think it does.

Philosophers ask: Can people be (objectively) good without (the existence of) God?

The atheist answer: People can be good (according to society’s majority opinion of good) without (believing in) God.

The atheist gives a red herring answer: “Without God” and “without believing in God” are not synonymous.

The real question, for better minds than mine, is: “If no higher being exists, is their anything/ anyone that can objectively be called good? Or would that mean the sadist’s subjective standards of good is as valid as the standards of the philantrophist, because no arbiter higher than the sadist and philantrophist can say which standard is right?”

You cannot answer that one by being a respectable atheist. But then, the atheist who understands the question don’t have to feel offended. This is no more a slur on the atheist than on the believer: If no higher being exist (so say this idea), neither the (falsely believing) religious nor the atheists can be objectively good.

Advertisements

About Retha

Attempting to question everything, reject the bad and hold fast to the good.
This entry was posted in Apologetics and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Goodness! (With or without God, the atheists don’t answer the question)

  1. Brian Westley says:

    The real question, for better minds than mine, is: “If no higher being exists, is their anything/ anyone that can objectively be called good?”

    First, you need to explain how a “higher being” somehow creates or justifies calling something objectively good. I’ve never heard of a reason why that should be granted. It always sounds the same as might makes right.

    Second, I have no problem with subjective evaluations of good and bad, and I’d say history agrees with me.

    A lot of Christians (e.g. the Southern Baptist Convention) back during the US civil war argued that slavery is good; as the basic precepts of Christianity haven’t changed since that time, it would appear that Christians such as these have changed what is considered good. The SBC does not, today, consider slavery good.

    That looks to me like subjective morality. Even if god is considered to have objective morality, humans have no way of absolutely determining exactly what that is, so we’re back to human judgement anyway.

    Subjective morality based on human judgement also has the added bonus that, if you keep in mind that you actually ARE dealing with subjective morality based on human judgement and NOT dealing with absolute objective morality based on some god, people are less apt to rigidly apply draconian laws and more likely to change laws that now appear unjust. I think the government of, say, Massachusetts improved once they stopped hanging Quakers.

    • Retha says:

      First, you need to explain how a “higher being” somehow creates or justifies calling something objectively good.

      The mere existence of a higher being, with no specification on what the higher being is like, does not make for his/her/it’s morality as superior.
      But Christians claim their Higher Being made the universe. As such, he know how it’s supposed to work. It’s not “might make (you to pretend the might is) right”as in a bully forcing you to do things his way. It is the designer understanding how humanity work, because He made them that way.

      “Second, I have no problem with subjective evaluations of good and bad, and I’d say history agrees with me.
      A lot of Christians (e.g. the Southern Baptist Convention) back during the US civil war argued that slavery is good; …”

      We’d probably agree that “slavery good” is a subjective view of morality. You say you have no problem with subjective morality. “Slavery good” is an excellent example of why I have problems with subjective morality.
      You also say there is no way to know objective morality, if it exists. That is your opinion. Slavery versus opposition to it is not evidence of inability to know objective morality. It is evidence of people placing their interests ahead of the simple “do unto others …” morality (which I believe is part of objective morality, but which unbelievers have to call subjective) they know.
      ———————————
      (*Slavery in the above mean slavery as in the past few centuries, not as mentioned in Old Testament Hebrew culture. “Slave” owning in that culture were regulated in such a way that when the Old Testament talks of slaves, it could often rather talk of contracted long-term employees. For example governors over provinces were called slaves of the king, and a runaway slave did not have to return.
      Slavery was ugly in NT Rome, but the small persecuted Christian minority were in no position to stamp it out. So they told slave Christians to do what they had to for their owners, and those Christians with power to help those without. The point of this bracketed footnote is an anticipation of “why do the Bible not forbid slavery?” OT “slavery” was not forbidden (except the cruel slavery in Egypt, which got the 10 plagues as punishment), as we don’t forbid employer/ employee relationships. It don’t stamp out NT slavery as they were in no position to do so. But the NT certainly speaks in the direction away from slavery and towards equality, against lording it over others, for example.)

      • Retha says:

        “Subjective morality based on human judgement also has the added bonus that, if you keep in mind that you actually ARE dealing with subjective morality based on human judgement and NOT dealing with absolute objective morality based on some god, people are less apt to rigidly apply draconian laws and more likely to change laws that now appear unjust. I think the government of, say, Massachusetts improved once they stopped hanging Quakers.”


        I also think they improved. This hanging of people does not fit with the (IMO objective) morality of Jesus: Matthew 13:24-31 and :36-43, focus on :28-29. If there is no objective morality, then hanging Quakers would have been no worse (except to our feelings) than not hanging them, so regarding Christ’s words on the matter as objective would help a lot.

      • tnmusicman says:

        This is very true but oft times its almost impossible to get the atheist side to understand those facts.

  2. “Or would that mean the sadist’s subjective standards of good is as valid as the standards of the philantrophist, because no arbiter higher than the sadist and philantrophist can say which standard is right?””

    ‘Right’ based on what?

    Deciding whether or not one person’s standards are better than others depends on what we value.

    If you and I (or the sadist and the philanthropist) share the same values, then we can determine whose standards are more in line with keeping those values safe.

    If we disagree on what we value, then we can’t really compare our morality.

    Luckily, most people generally agree on what we value. Where we differ is often what causes the conflicts and wars that still go on to this day.

    • Retha says:

      ‘Right’ based on what? … If we disagree on what we value, then we can’t really compare our morality.

      That is exactly the problem with subjective morality! For example in our societies, we may believe the philantrophist is more right than the sadist. But in Indian caste society, Hindus believe those with a low place deserve it because of what they did before. Making life hard for those who deserve it (because of their previous lives) is good, and making life easier for them is evil. You seem to say mistreating India’s poor is not wrong, because it is in keeping with India’s values?

      (Off topic: I’d say wars are seldom about values. It’s mostly about land and power. The guilty are mostly not the principled who defend their religion or world view, but people who want to gain territory or not lose it.)

      • “You seem to say mistreating India’s poor is not wrong”

        No I’m not. I was describing how things are. Not explaining the way things should be.

        Based on what I value, mistreating India’s poor is wrong.

        “Off topic: I’d say wars are seldom about values. It’s mostly about land and power. ”

        But you wouldn’t start a war to get land or power unless your values were a certain way. I, for example, value land and power. But I value health, happiness and treating people fairly more. Thus, no matter how much I want more land or more power, I won’t ever start a war. Others might.

  3. Retha says:

    Apologies for misunderstanding you about India’s poor.

    I can see how land and power tie in with values. But don’t warring groupy A and warring group B then have the same values? Both say: “I want to see my group in command of this country.” Both value the same territory highly, and want the same thing. So it’s not a difference in values that cause it?

    So, thanks for correcting me. I modify “I’d say wars are seldom about values. It’s mostly about land and power” to: “I’d say wars are seldom about DIFFERENCES IN values. It’s mostly about land and power THAT BOTH VALUE HIGHLY”

  4. Brian Westley says:

    ” “Slavery good” is an excellent example of why I have problems with subjective morality.”

    And it’s my example of why I have problems with god-based morality.

  5. Morpheus91 says:

    I’m curious how Christians can continue to use this argument when their “objective” morality has changed so drastically over the years and throughout the denominations. A cursory examination of history and theology demonstrates the oftentimes irreconcilable differences among those who claim to follow the same deity.

    • Retha says:

      Objective morality – really moral things – is not “whatever Christians do” but “whatever God wants.”

      Second flaw in your reasoning: If something changes, it has nothing to do with the objective truth of it. For example, there is an objective truth about what the current gold price is. The gold price 3 years (100 years) ago was different.

      • Morpheus91 says:

        And yet, the people who supposedly know best what “god wants” continue to argue and even kill…

        Am I to understand you would suggest objective morality changes akin to the price of gold?

      • Retha says:

        For your first comment: Except that I can challenge it every possible way (those who supposedly know? According to whom? And many of them has a “thou shall not kill”motto that oposse your idea) it is totally irrelevant to whether the creator has a morality or not. If you struggle to get it: People who lie about you don’t change the truth about you, and assuming there is a God, people who lie about Him don’t change the truth about Him and His values.

        As for the second part, I am not suggesting anything except that changebility has nothing to do with whether something exist. Your reasoning (changebility proving non-existence) is thus wholly irrelevant.

      • Retha says:

        Morpheus, perhaps here is two simpler way to compare it for you.

        First comparison

        My post: Some people say there is a real answer to the question “What is 12+12?”

        You: But between 30 first graders, they got 21 different answers!

        Me: If people tell less than the truth about something, that thing can still exist.

        Second comparison

        My post: Some people say there is a real answer to the question “What is the fastest way of transport?”

        You: But people asked that in the years 1500, 1870, 1940, 1980 and 2010 disagree!

        Me: If a truth change, it can still be true.

        Can you see, now, how neither argument is at all relevant to the question?

      • Morpheus91 says:

        Condescension doesn’t make you a better logician, fwiw. 🙂 But moving past that, I think you’re missing the point. Since god obviously isn’t coming down to our lovely terra firma and laying down his/her standards for mankind, the only way we have to judge the effectiveness of this supposed standards is by the lives of those who claim to wield it. Your argument boils down to, “bad Christians don’t mean god isn’t right!” And yet Christians claim to be led by a higher, wiser power. Just because some of them happen to agree with your standards doesn’t mean you can dismiss the other ones. Look up “No True Scotsman.”

        Your argument for objective morality is amusing in that it manages to avoid having to actually demonstrate any moral progress or benefits. By constructing your case so that god’s moral law is unchanging and change in Christians is only due to human error, you make your statement unfalsifiable and this supposed moral law unknowable. Of course if mental masturbation is your exercise, that’s fine, but I like to see practical application in my moral theorizing.

    • Retha says:

      You talk of “my argument for objective morality”. But I was not making any argument for the existence of objective morality. I did not construe a case! The post made the argument the heading says.
      My comment to you said you don’t understand what is actually meant by “objective morality.” You keep on changing the topic (From God’s law to what people think of God’s law; knowability, etc.) which I never discussed on this thread. Your tactic is called red herrings, and I won’t fall for them. Far from missing your(alleged- I did not concede or deny them) points, I am sticking to one topic. From now on, keep to the topic or your comments will be deleted.
      As for “no true Scotsman,” I understand it better than most: https://christianrethinker.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/no-true-christian-no-true-scotsman/

      • Morpheus91 says:

        *shrug* If you have an important point to make, I’d assume you’d take the time to communicate it to an inquiring reader rather than threatening deletion, but it’s your blog. :)( What has deleting off-topic comments have to do with my point? More bad logic.- – Retha) It’s a common theist tactic to claim change of topic when looking at an issue from a naturalistic standpoint (Looking at the issue from a naturalistic standpoint? Nothing you said looked at the issue-Retha) or from the angle of ensuing issues caused by the main point. If these aren’t aspects you can take into account when constructing an argument, you may have trouble communicating your ideas in an intelligent fashion. (I have trouble communicating my ideas to you because you will rather regard any irrational off-topic idea as proving naturalism than to entertain the possibility of a God.-Retha

      • Retha says:

        Do you agree, this far, that nothing you said even touches whether there is an objective morality?

        I am capable of handling topics, but I hate the dishonest way of arguing that keep on changing the subject whenever the commenter is not winning.

        And even your changed topics are irrational arguments: You claim God is “obviously” not setting down his standards, because people are saying different things on what it is.

        That is the equivalent of: “The course handbook obviously did not include the answer, as people wrote different answers in the exam.” Or “This guy who call himself an investor stole my money, so investing is not a way you could make money.”

        You are, of course, not at all prepared to listen objectively to how and why I find God’s standards knowable.You will just make more arguments that has no basis in reason.

        What worries me, is how many people believe irrational arguments like yours.

      • Morpheus91 says:

        If I thought these points weren’t valid aspects of the discussion, I wouldn’t have brought them up. 🙂 Your definition of No True Scotsman hardly merits your description of “a better understanding than most,” but I won’t take that up here, since it’s clear you want to confine discussion to a very limited range in which you can feel secure. Like I said, it’s your blog, and if you want to refrain from allowing questions that might call your method of thinking into question, that’s certainly your prerogative.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I don’t think Morpheus “gets” your question. He’s flling in the gaps of what he doesn’t know, something almost akin to what people accuse Christians of doing, with the “god of the gaps” theory. He thinks it is not possible to know the answer, because if it was, then why have Christians got it all wrong throughout history? Must be that there is no such thing as moral objectivity. The question is, is it possible to have moral objectivity, a gold standard, without God who claims to be the Ultimate in goodness? From a purely logical point of view, no.

    • tnmusicman says:

      Agreed. It’s not that just because Christians agree there are objective moral values that they will be followed by all Christians (most would hope everyone would) but rather its an acknowledgement that without God there can be no objective standard. No moral barometer,so to speak.
      It’s also true that on a naturalistic POV morals are not grounded in God so therefore can change from culture to culture. Has this happened ? Yes! Does that mean anything has changed as far as God (not man) is concerned? No!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s