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← Moral Clarity and Richard Dawkins

Hume's Razor's Avatar Jump to comment 19 by Hume's Razor

Even if we knew nothing else about the origin of moral values, the one source that could definitely be ruled out in advance is the Biblical God. As I wrote in another thread:

If the Biblical God is your idea of "good", then being "good" is definitely nothing to strive for. With a God like that, who needs a devil? As others have pointed out, it is ironic how fundamentalists always go on about the dangers of moral relativism, when, in fact, there are no greater moral relativists than themselves. In order to escape the conclusion that Yahweh is the antithesis of every civilized value ever conceived, your moral standards have to be infinitely flexible, unless, of course, you define "good" as "whatever God is", thereby making a sentence like "God is good" (i.e. "God is whatever God is") into an empty tautology. If you believe in a God who literally said and did everything that Yahweh is supposed to have said and done according to the Bible (such as ordering genocides, demanding rape victims to be stoned, threatening to force anyone who disobeys him to eat their children etc.), and in spite of this you still take God’s side, then there is nothing you can accuse anybody else of that is worse than what you, yourself actively favor.

If, on the other hand, you are free to pick and chose the 'good' parts of the Bible and interpret the nasty parts symbolically (as a symbol of what exactly?), then you must have some criterion for deciding which verses and which symbolic interpretations are the 'good' ones. It is clear that most Christians (the ones who aren't raving sociopaths) use Bible verses selectively, as a mere alibi for values that they originally subscribe to for reasons other than religion, and precisely these "other reasons" are our real criterion for distinguishing right from wrong whether we are religious or not.

Notice, once again, the disingenuous assumption that the God hypothesis wins by default unless atheists can provide an ultimate justification for morality or knowledge that believers are no more capable of providing themselves (I cringe whenever atheists swallow the bait and allow dishonest apologists to put them on the defense in debates). What cannot be justified without the God hypothesis cannot be justified with such an hypothesis either. No religious apologist has ever come up with a satisfactory answer to Plato's Euthyphro dilemma: Is an act moral because God likes it, or does God like it because it is moral? If the former is true, then "moral" is just another word for whatever arbitrary preferences God happens to possess, whether it is genocide, stoning, eternal torture or the extermination of all life on earth. If the latter is the case - God likes an act because it is moral - we might as well cut out the middle man (God) and appeal directly to the thing that makes us think of it as moral in the first place.

Tue, 22 May 2012 14:25:37 UTC | #942831