Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Atheists Really Do Borrow Christian Morality

Problem: It is a common claim by apologists and Christians that “atheists don’t have a foundation from which to criticize moral wrong.” Atheists often assert that some action God does is immoral, or at least inconsistent with moral values. Objective morality is necessary by definition. We cannot really imagine conceive [EDIT: Thanks to Mike Gage for the correction.] a possible world where it is fundamentally OK to rape and kill and torture babies or old women. If it is true, it is necessarily true. If it is false, it is necessarily false. If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.

Proposed solution: Atheists therefore are committed to the necessary falsehood of objective moral values. So when they say, “if objective moral values were to exist, then some God-action X would be immoral.” But if objective moral values are necessarily false, then there is no possible world in which the antecedent is true, and hence the antecedent is technically logically impossible. Yet in that case, the following would-counterfactual in the consequent is trivially true (or technically unjustified). It holds the same force as saying, “If married bachelors were to exist, then I would win tomorrow’s lottery,” or “If triangles have seven sides, then all goldfish are purple.”

Counterargument: 1. Don’t theists commit themselves to the truth of at least some statements that have impossible antecedents but yet are non-trivially true? 2. One is merely evaluating the consistency of the moral action at hand: even if morality is necessarily false, can we not reconstruct the argument to say something like, “All instances of lying are wrong. This is an instance of God lying. Therefore, this is wrong.” Since this argument is true by definitional (and non-contradictory) means, the atheist may critically evaluate the actions of God.

Response: 1. Yes this is true, but it is not entirely clear exactly which examples should be considered non-trivially true. It seems it needs to be some necessary dependence of the consequent on the antecedent, where such a relationship is known to exist in actuality. So for instance, even though mathematics is necessary, so that a proposed mathematical answer is either necessarily true or necessarily false, we may relate: “If two and two are added together to equal five, then we would not have four;” so that even if someone felt the antecedent was necessarily impossible, we can consider the statement non-trivially true. But since we do have four when we add two and two together—in fact, precisely because they are added together—we have a dependent relationship that allows us to consider the statement true in a non-trivial sense. If the atheist admits this, then he admits the negation of the consequent, which undermines his entire argument.

2. Changing the statement to a categorical proposition seems to help the cause somewhat. However, the same problem persists: the atheist thinks this proposition is necessarily false. Since if one of the two premises are false, the conclusion does not follow, the atheist cannot derive his conclusion. Hence, he is stuck in the same boat.

Counterargument: But in the case of the first premise (or some modified version of it), Christians do in fact accept it. So in any case, the option of appealing to the first premise’s falsehood or impossibility is not open to the theist. Thus, the argument still stands.

Response: What is interesting, however, is this: the Christian may simply say that God, as the grounds of objective moral values, cannot, by logical definition, do what is a moral wrong. Thus, the Christian is well-justified in asserting either some have misunderstood the situation, the situation was not reported correctly, or that the particular entity being identified as the “doer” of the action is not the maximally-excellent God. The Christian theist is well within his comfort to maintain that that maximally-excellent being known as God cannot sin. Hence, the second premise is false for him.

Interestingly, the atheist can only hope to show a maximally-excellent being either is not the ground of objective moral values or it is impossible for such a being to exist. The former is unlikely and the latter requires an entirely different argument, making the current one superfluous, as Tim McGrew would say. Why are these the only options open to the atheist? Because, as we noted, the atheist considers the first premise in his argument to be impossible.[1] But in this case, both the theist and the atheist have no reason to think the argument is true! Therefore, it really is true that atheists typically borrow from the Christian worldview when they accuse God of moral wrongdoing.

                [1] He may not think it is logically impossible, but in that case he thinks it is the case there can be objective moral values without a necessarily-existing ground, something that should be justified on its own before the theist is to allow this.

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  1. Randy, you said: "We cannot really imagine a possible world where it is fundamentally OK to rape and kill and torture babies or old women."

    I have a couple of thoughts.

    1. I don't find this sufficient to demonstrate logical necessity.

    2. I actually can imagine a world where, according to a Divine Command Theorist, such things would be permissable. That world would be any world in which the giver of divine Commands actually commands the actions you mention. One could even make the argument that, according to the Bible, some of those things were commanded in the actual world.

    If I recall correctly, you hold DCT, so I'll be interested to hear your thoughts.

  2. One more thought. I'm not sure I would want to say that objective would have to be equated with necessary. If you define it that way, then I think you would be talking past a lot of ethicists who say that we can have secular objective morality.

  3. Hey Dr. Mike! You got me: I made a mistake by referencing "imagine" instead of "conceive." In philosophical terms, mere imagination is not always a key to metaphysical truth. We can imagine something popping into being uncaused, but we cannot really conceive of it in its pure form. I will edit the article and credit you. :)

    If there is no possible world in which some proposition P is true, then it can be said to be necessarily false, or impossible. If it is in all possible worlds as true, then it is necessarily true.

    I do indeed hold to DCT, but I find it logically impossible for the ground of DCT, which is the Perfect Moral Being (ontological grounds of objective morality), to command acts that fall into the category of objective moral evil.

    I also knew that I was talking past the Sam Harris' of the world, instead appealing to the majority of atheists (though not the majority of people) who I encounter.

    Fianlly, I think the main points hold as true of the argument. If morality is objective and necessary (as it seems to be to avoid subjective moral truths) --like math or logic or other abstract objects (though yes, I do hold there are some abstract objects that are contingent, but these are shown to be dependent on specific things and accepted for a specific reason), then the rest follows. If they do not hold morality to be necessary, but instead contingent, then they owe us an account of that morality in order to avoid charges of presuming that which one seeks to prove.

    1. Hey there. Me again. We can actual conceive of things popping into being uncaused, in the quantum world that happens all the time. I would argue that we cannot really conceive of god existing in its pure form but we can imagine it.

      I still find it hard to palate the idea of how you know or how you determine what a perfect moral being is without appealing to some standard that exists independently of such a being. Otherwise, if the being itself is what determines moral perfection, then is it not the case that one can appeal to the logic that what ever that being does is perfectly moral by definition, no matter what that is? This is the line of reasoning I hear many theists make. It seems you don't take this route and say for example that god could never command rape because rape is fundamentally wrong. OK, but how do you determine that rape is wrong? What factors are you using? This is more than just an epistemic/ontological difference.

    2. Hello. I used the example to show a distinction between "imagine" and "conceive." I do think you're mistaken, but that's beside the point. I recognize rape as wrong because it's evil (where "evil" is a value and "wrong" is a violation of a moral duty to do the good), and I recognize it as evil due to moral intuition. I don't see any good reason why I can't appeal to moral intuition, nor do I see any good reason why the ontological reality to which my intuition points (that is, the referent of the object of the intuition) can't be God as the foundation of the good. Nothing about one's way of knowing moral values and duties changes with a specific ontology (many people hold to moral intuition as their way of knowing morals without believing in the biblical God, or even any god at all!).

    3. Randy thanks for replying. I think moral intuition is a great guide that every able minded person can utilize, but a problem I see on the horizon is when moral intuition and scripture disagree. Would you say that we should always jettison our moral intuitions (especially when they can be backed up with evidence) when it disagrees with scripture?

      And another thing I see problematic, is when for example we see societies today that still execute homosexuals (like in parts of the Islamic world) and call them out on their reprehensible behavior. They ground their actions as being in favor with god. How would you react to a society that does that given divine command theory? Muslims use the same meta-ethical framework as you do, yet come to many different moral conclusions as you do. Is there any way to resolve such conflicts given a DCT framework? I see a major epistemic problem on our hands.

    4. I certainly think that if our intuitions disagree with some evidence that we consider strong enough to overcome our intuition, that we should jettison the intuition. So then it just depends on whether a) one considers Scripture to be such a higher authority, and b) whether one holds his particular interpretation of that Scripture to a higher degree than his moral intuition. So if I don't hold Scripture to be a moral source of knowledge, then I can safely ignore it. Of course, that's not open to me. So it just depends on my interpretation of that Scripture, and whether and to what degree I believe it is binding upon me personally. If it is, then I ought to jettison my intuition, or adjust it accordingly.

      As to the Muslims (or really anyone else who disagrees with our particular moral values), I think it's important to discuss the distinction between knowing and showing. We may both claim we know what the correct moral answer is, and if that were all there was to it, we would be at a stalemate. Now it's important to realize that it wouldn't follow from this that we don't actually know what we, in fact, know. That is, the mere disagreement by someone else won't imperil our intuitions or moral beliefs. However, we can show the Muslim belief is false by any number of ways, including showing Islam is false, Christianity is true, or that shared moral intuitions logically entail the falsehood of some positions taken, etc.

    5. On your first point it sounds like interpreting scripture however one sees fit will ultimately get you moral relativism. This is pretty much what has always happened in practice under DCT.

      On your second point, everyone will claim that they know they have the right religion and interpretation of that religion. How would you show a Muslim that they're belief is wrong? Many devout theists will believe on faith no matter what, that's why presuppositionalists are so difficult to converse with: they will believe on faith no matter what evidence you show them, and they see having faith bereft of evidence as a sign of honor. Shared moral intuitions will be superseded by scripture by devout theists and you even said you'd jettison your intuition in favor of it.

      On top of that, as a non-theist i personally think there are good arguments against all religions, so I'm not sure how effective it will be to think you can simply just show a person their religion is false and they will abandon a religion they may have had for 40 or 50 years. But you claim there is an epistemic way to know Christianity is true and Islam is false, I'd like to hear it.

    6. Remember the distinction between ontology and epistemology: people can have varying ways of knowing something without affecting its ontology. My view doesn't entail that I interpret Scripture however I see fit; it rather entails that whatever my view of Scripture is will be a control on my moral intuitions. Whatever else one might think of it, no relativism follows.

      Next, I've already offered several possible ways of showing someone else that they are wrong. If they don't agree, it wouldn't be my problem! Same goes for the religious belief itself. One can appeal to the Resurrection, et al. But I have to say that's just irrelevant to how I know my morals. Islam just doesn't come into the picture, and even if no Muslim ever agreed with me about a single moral fact, it wouldn't affect how I know objective moral values, nor would it affect my primary way of knowing these moral truths (when it comes down to it, a majority of moral truths are known either outside of or in addition to Scripture; there are certainly important ones that come from Scripture, but it's not as though I have no moral intuitions!).

    7. Randy, thanks for responding.

      I don't see how moral relativism is avoidable given DCT. The Christian and the Muslim are both using divine commands (as revealed in scripture) as their ultimate source of moral truths and they are each coming to a different conclusion. They each ground their moral beliefs in the ontology of their version of god, and no one can prove the other is wrong. This will even be true of believers within these religions. Since this ontology is not something we can empirically verify, you're ultimately going to be left with one belief versus another belief.

      I don't doubt that you believe you know you have the right religion and the right grounding for moral values, but every theist says this. Religious belief is faith-based. Hence, I doubt appealing to the resurrection will persuade many Muslims. But it seems you're content with everyone just believing what they want while you can claim to know the true belief. That will get us moral relativism. I mean, how would you call out the Muslims who are still executing homosexuals and apostates? Would you appeal to scripture or intuition or something else?

    8. Surely it will not get us moral relativism. This is because it doesn't follow from the diversity of moral opinion that there is a diversity of moral truth! So long as that premise is false, it just doesn't matter what anyone else believes. Moral facts are just like any other: suppose no human believed the correct answer as to whether a particular proposition were true or false; suppose I also don't care as to whether or not anyone else believes what I think the answer is. Suppose I also think my answer is true. Why should I think my answer is only relatively true, instead of objectively? It just doesn't follow that because I allow some person to hold some other belief, I thereby think their belief is true. The confusion between epistemology and ontology is rampant here, and no new information is being added to your claims; you're just repeating yourself, as it looks.

    9. One thing I also wanted to make clear: it's precisely because I know the right answer concerning morality that I can be generally apathetic toward alternate moral claims. Because I know the truth of moral fact X, anything opposed to it is false, so I just don't have to be too interested in examining moral claims that are or entail not-X.

    10. But Randy, we have moral relativism now amongst religionists. There are two parts to this: theory and practice. I'm talking primarily about practice now. You are certainly going to get relativism in practice given DCT whether it matters to you or not given the major epistemic hurdle it suffers from. So at least as far as this aspect is concerned, DCT holds no advantage over any other meta-ethical theories. It perhaps could even be worse, since trust is ultimately put into a book.

      Why should I think my answer is only relatively true, instead of objectively? You're confusing theory and practice as I said above.

      Your last statement is a bit fundamentalist I think. Suppose a Muslim said, "I know killing the ex-Muslim who converted to Christianity is right, and anything opposed to it is false because it is the will of God." You and I would both disagree, but given the very nature of DCT itself, it seems impossible to reason with such a person. Like I said, the epistemic problem is a major hurdle that I would argue renders DCT defunct.

    11. On the contrary, the confusion is yours. Meta-ethics is precisely about theory. I can't practice or make relative ontological concepts independent of myself (which morality surely is). The argument is literally incoherent. I can't even figure out what it is you're trying to say, much less how you argue for it.

    12. Since you didn't add anything substantive, I didn't allow your comment. Your original claim has no more merit going for it than it did before, and you haven't added anything new. Differing opinions don't make facts ontologically relative, and if you don't mean ontology, I'm just not interested. I didn't allow your comment precisely because it's not relative to the claim, and it makes you seem like you jump from claim to claim once you've been beaten, and that kind of foolishness I just don't abide.

    13. The following is in response to an unpublished comment, and I am not sure of another easy way to respond.

      @TheThinker, quite frankly, you won't be able to manipulate me into indulging your poor behavior. I'm only interested in substantive debate. Either you're woefully ignorant of issues underlying metaphysical topics (such as what constitutes propositions' objective truth--it isn't uniformity of belief, that's for sure) or you're unwilling to understand such. Either way, I've got no problems with you commenting or not, now or ever. I just won't go in circles (as hinted in my comments policy). Have a good day! :)

  4. Hi Randy,

    While there are a lot of paths we could go down, I think I'll just try one to keep it simple. How do you determine that raping a child is necessarily and objectively wrong? You've mentioned conceivability problems with the denial. Is there anything else to add to your arriving at the conclusion or is that it?

  5. Thanks for the question. I think most people would say (in their own words and terminology), conceivability of saying it is not evil and moral intuition, coupled with personhood. The first two are in fact related. The "personhood" claim seems only to work if we think persons have inherent moral value. So if atheists don't think this is a good enough reason to accept moral values and hence thinks they are false, it turns out they are necessarily false. If objective morals don't exist in the actual world, it's tough to see how they would exist objectively in another possible world.

  6. My concern is that naturalism can offer accounts for the justifications you gave, which at least turns it into a probabilistic notion where you would say theism best accounts for these. And of course a naturalist would say that naturalism best accounts for these and other things, like those individuals who actually don't think it's wrong.

  7. Also, a number of the things we would conclude are objectively wrong using that method would contradict the bible. Just one example would be murdering an infant.

  8. Hi Mike, I don't think that naturalism can account for objective morality, and thus if that is so the accusation that they must borrow from a theistic morality stands. It would stand even if naturalism could account for objective morality, provided that the atheist in question doesn't actually think that it does. This is because naturalism entails whatever it does necessarily, provided that entailment is metaphysical. So perhaps it is conceivable that naturalism accounts for objective morality, but if the atheist thinks that it doesn't actually do so, it's still necessarily false.

    As to DCT, I don't mind discussing it but it is irrelevant to the overall argument at hand. I, of course, would suggest that either the biblical record was misunderstood by people, the people were mistaken, or that the objection begs the question by assuming it was murder. After all, a murder is an unjust killing.

  9. Hi Randy. I was making the weaker claim that naturalism could account for the justifications you gave. You argue that some set of moral propositions are necessarily true or false. You know the truth value based on some justifications. Let's assume these justifications can be a product of naturalism. You've argued that naturalism cannout account for necessary moral truths. That would mean these justifications do not show that some propositions are not true or false (or they show that the premise saying naturalism cannot account for this morality is false).

    I'm not overly interested in putting in the effort to show that naturalism can account for the justifications, but I do think it can be done.

    My example was meant to show that I think part of the criticism is too narrow. Atheists don't have to believe in any morality to make an internal consistency argument. I actually think that argument is pretty compelling for why the Bible is not inerrant.

  10. Hi Mike. But I still don't see which of the above that is supposed to refute, to be honest. If they think morality were to be objective if it exists is to agree with the Christian theist, who posits it as a metaphysically, true-in-all-possible-worlds necessity. If that is the case, then if it does not exist, it is necessarily impossible, and hence the criticism follows. If it does exist, then they are siding with the Christian view, and hence borrowing from it, and the criticism follows.

    If they think morality would be subjective if it exists is just to say that they think objective morality does not exist as postulated by the Christian, and hence is true in no possible world, and hence is necessarily false. Only in that very particular case that a naturalistic or atheistic contingent account can be provided would this come close. And then the interesting thing about that is this: even in that case, objective morality as given by Christians is necessarily false, and hence the criticism follows or the internal consistency argument does not apply. The reason? Whatever is contingent is necessarily contingent. This is because to say something is contingent means it exists in at least one possible world and does not exist in at least one possible world. If that is the case, then it is true that in every possible world "Moral fact X is contingent" is true. Otherwise, it would be necessary in some worlds and not in others, which is incoherent. Of course, whatever is true in every possible world is necessary, and hence the truth that moral facts are contingent would be necessary. This means its negation is false. Whatever is not contingent is necessary (whether necessarily true or false is another story). Hence if it is true that "Moral fact X is contingent," necessarily, then it is false that "Moral fact X is necessary" necessarily; that is to say it is necessarily false.

  11. I was questioning how some of the points mentioned were justified, but it was not necessarily meant to refute one of the responses or proposed solutions. If I were going to try and refute it, I suppose I could say that your argument doesn't exclude some kind of naturally occuring Platonic Form existing in the fabric of everything - but I don't really believe that.

    I'm not that concerned with refuting the argument because I'm not sure there is objective morality in the way you describe it. Although there are some ways in which a thing can be described as objective, like if there is a fact of the matter, that I think can be had on natural grounds that is different from how you describe objective. For example, I think it's fair to say there is an objective answer to the question, "How far away from the sun is teh earth at time t?" If morality has to do with some kind of relations of states of affairs, then there are answers like the one to the sun question.

    I also was pointing out (with my bible point) that the atheist critique can be phrased in such a way that it does not require belief in objective morality. It would merely demonstrate inconsistencies among theist premises, if successful. So, some of the initial problem from the post would be dissolved (or to be more precise, it would be moved to different grounds of argument) .

  12. Hey Randy,

    I don't think the atheistic concern here is best construed in terms of counterpossibles, if not only for the fact that counterpossibles are rather sticky creatures. There isn't any standard way to make sense of non-trivial counterpossibles. (I'd be inclined to say that counterpossibles involve a different modality, say conceptual possibility, rather than metaphysical possibility, but I haven't gotten too far on that one.) Along with the previous poster, I think the argument can be construed in categorical terms.

    1. If God exists, then there are wrong actions.
    2. If there are wrong actions, then X is a wrong action.
    3. If God exists, then God does not, at any time, perform a wrong action.
    4. If God exists, then there is a time at which God performed X.
    5. Therefore, God does not exist.

    This evades the strange modal concerns and cuts to the chase. The only premise in need of any real defense would be premise 4 for a given X because premises 1-3 are true for both the theist and the atheistic antirealist (and even premise 4 is obviously true for the atheist). The way out would be, as you suggest, deny that God performed X (suggesting alternative interpretations of problematic scripture passages or denying the veracity of those passages). It would be up to the atheist to explain why this move would be problematic, but it's not hard to think of how this would be motivated.

  13. Hi Jake, thanks for the comment. You've certainly suggested an interesting argument. Of course, I would suggest the atheist is in the unenviable modal position of thinking the antecedent is impossible, since God is posited as a logically necessary being. But no matter since I accept that God does exist (but what makes the modal concern relevant is that the atheist assumes objective morality--the kind espoused by theism).

    And I agree with you that (4) would be disputed by me on exactly the basis you describe. But, perhaps surprisingly, I would dispute (2) as well. For what (2) must mean in order to make the argument valid is that in no case is X ever not-wrong. But wrong entails moral obligation, not merely moral value (such as evil). Perhaps X is something like "ending the life of a human being" which is not necessarily morally evil, yet is wrong in certain circumstances (and in those cases these particular acts are evil). So perhaps it is the case, depending on what X God is supposedly to have performed, that God could perform X and it not be wrong; these would be cases in which God does not have a moral obligation to refrain from X.

    So, really, we would need the premise in (2) to mean something like "If therwe are wrong actions, then X is a wrong action for God;" but depending on what X actually is, the theist may see no reason to support that either. In that case, we may even accept (4) as true, but in denying (2), the conclusion does not follow.

  14. Hey Randy,

    It doesn't seem to me that the theist is any particularly enviable position concerning their modal claims relative to the naturalist. For instance, very similar problems that you raise in your post would plague concerns such as, "If God were not to exist, there would be no objective in-the-world moral facts," and "If God were not to exist, there would be no meaning to life," etc. Or, more straightforwardly, "If naturalism were true, there would be no objective in-the-world moral facts," etc... So it looks like a nice tu quoque can be set up here regarding similar theistic arguments.

    With regard to (2) and (4) of my previous argument, these premises are a kind of Scylla-and-Charybdis which induce two different kinds of skepticism: skepticism concerning what actions could be morally available for a perfect being and skepticism concerning certain historical accounts in scripture. These need to be independently motivated (to keep from being ad hoc) and need to be plausibly bounded so as to not degenerate into problematic forms of theological skepticism. It would be up to the atheist to argue these for any particular set of X's under discussion, but the road doesn't look particularly peachy for the theist, IMHO. But in any case, the modal concerns don't infect this straightforward categorical version of the argument, so it doesn't follow that atheists presuppose objective moral facts when they make arguments like this. (And, of course, this is discussion so far has assumed the impossibility of naturalistic ontology of ethics and the assumption that ethical talk has existential purport, neither assumption I would actually grant. Your note in [1] is quite a big little note! :p )

  15. Hi Jake. I in fact acknowledge this in the article itself! While it is potentially a problem, I suggest a possible reason for accepting certain statements with impossible antecedents is that we know there is some necessary relation between the antecedent and consequent (e.g, between God's existence and morality). In this case, we would need to ask ourselves if the new premise would apply: I'm not entirely sure whether it does.

    Indeed, I agree the atheist would be forced to justify (2) and (4). I also agree the immediate problem goes away so long as the atheist doesn't actually hold "God exists" to be logically impossible. I also continue to maintain he or she then owes us an account of objective morality on some non-theistic grounds. Finally, since God is posited as a logically necessary being, I'm not sure how an atheist could deny "God exists" in a contingent way. But then, I would want to know why this doesn't make statements about God non-trivially true! I think the Christian has recourse precisely because we think "God exists" and "God is the ground of objective moral values" are necessarily true, so that if one was gone, so is the other, making the statements non-trivially true. I don't see the atheist has that option in critiquing God. Unless...perhaps there is a legit escape after all: the atheist may maintain, as does the theist, the logically-necessary relation between God and objective moral values. It just so happens he thinks they are necessarily false. It would be like "If objective moral values exist, then God exists." So, I think the atheist can avoid the charge of borrowing after all, so long as he is committed to the necessary falsehood of both "God exists" and "objective moral values exist," both of which are strong propositions to hold, but that has no bearing on the argument at hand.

  16. Hey Randy,

    This will be my last comment on this particular topic, as I don't want to keep this discussion going forever. If I understand your concern about the non-trivial counterfactuals (finally!), it is that there must be some *actual* relationship between the antecedent and consequent of the counterpossible in order for it to be viably non-trivial. However, on atheism, there is no actual ontological dependence relation between morality and God (as there is no God to serve in that relation). Thus much is true enough, but I'm not sure why this dependence must be ontological, rather than, say, conceptual. (This is part of the reason that I think that the modality being exploited in these counterpossibles isn't metaphysical.)

    I think somewhat relevant to this point is two-dimensional semantics for counterfactuals. Under such semantics, we have a systematic way of thinking about worlds where water is not H2O (even though water=H2O is a necessary truth) by exploiting the intension/extension distinction.

    I think there's also something curious about your last point. You basically say that if an atheist is an antirealist about objective morality then he escapes the problems with the counterpossibles that you consider. But it's been your contention all along that the atheist must be an antirealist. So if you're right, then, how can the theist really say something's awry here?

    (Also, given that "God does not exist" is equivalent to "Necessarily, God does not exist" under a metaphysical reading, I don't see how one is really stronger than the other (as they entail each other). I think similarly for the kind of objective moral values that the theist is discussing.)

    As always, thank you very much for the discussion!

  17. What's interesting is I think I have finally understood your point as well. Couple that with a very similar discussion by WLC on the most recent Reasonable Faith Q and A and I have some more thinking to do. I'm not against revising or even scrapping this post, but I want to explore these things more fully before I do. That will probably come after this weekend. Thank you for your most polite interaction!

  18. Ok so basically "atheists borrow morals from Christians". Does this make Christians more moral than atheists? Probably not. Seeing as 75% of the prison population is Christian, while less than 1% is atheist. I don't think there's any sort of borrowing of morality going on.

    Atheism may very well be the evolved form of morality; morality without fear of reprisal from an unknown imaginary force. Moral atheists are moral for the sake of being moral. Moral christians are taught to be moral out of fear.

    Either way, if atheists borrow christian morals, then it is safe to say that christians borrow morals from Greek Mythology, as those texts predate yours by quite a few centuries.

  19. Hi George, thanks for commenting. There seem to be a number of issues that need to be addressed. To be honest, I'm wondering if you actually read anything other than the title, because your comments don't interact with any other part of the article (please forgive me if this is not the case).

    First, the claim is not that atheists borrow morals from Christians, but that atheists borrow Christian morality. The difference is that God is the objective grounding of the good. Second, I wouldn't claim that 75% of prisoners are actually Christians. Third, even if they were, were they Christians before, or after, their crimes? Fourth, inconsistency wouldn't invalidate moral ontological claims. Fifth, it is irrelevant to whether or not atheists need a transcendent source to ground objective moral values.

    Next, you have misunderstood "borrowing" of morality to be something like emulation, which suggests you did not read the article. Your next paragraph just argues that atheistic morality (there's not really any one such code, but I get the idea of the point thereafter) is superior motivation. However, this doesn't address the point: the point is whether or not there is an objective ground to whom the atheist owes an obligation. If there is, then it is morally wrong to go through life opposing such a ground. Now if you take this to be some sort of argument against theistic ethics, why can the theist not simply say "love God, and do his commandments" out of the first clause?

    Finally, the misunderstanding of "borrow" is revealed when you illicitly claim that Greek mythology predates Christian morality by several centuries. Since it is the ontological ground we are concerned with, this is metaphysically impossible.


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