Morality Without God

Many theists claim that there can be no morality without god. This is an interesting claim as the exact opposite is true: there can be no morality with god.

The argument is simple. If you have a gun and are faced with someone you loathe and despise and if you decide to not kill them because “God” (or the LAPD, or …) would punish you in the hereafter (or the here and now), is this a moral act? The answer is “no” as it is merely an act of self-interest. If you refrain from killing your enemy because that would be an immoral act by what ever moral code you operate under, then that would be a moral act.

To quote the book All God Worshipers are Mad: “Actions are moral only when they are performed because of their morality.”

So, the consequence of having an all-powerful god is that the all-powerful god trumps any human system of morality (e.g. it is moral because God commands it) consequently a god-based morality is one in which people can only act in fear of god. In other words, morality is only possible in the absence of such a god.

So, if someone asks you “how can their be morality without god?” Ask them how god enforces His Morality? You will then know that morality is impossible under such a system as no one would choose a moral system for any other reason than to avoid punishment or to extract a reward for the all-powerful deity. Don’t expect the “God Worshipper” to be convinced, though, they swallowed their Kool-Aid a long time ago and it will be hard to cough up.



Categories: god

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39 replies

  1. Ooooh, nice observation. I like this.

  2. Isn’t this what is called divine command theory?

  3. Weak sauce.

    Absolutely terrible and ludicrous argument. For starters, not killing somebody because it is immoral can’t even classify as a moral act. Not because it isn’t morally good. But because it isn’t EVEN AN ACT. It is inaction, the opposite. What then is there to qualify it as moral? Mercy? How good is doing what everybody knows they aren’t supposed to? The ONLY answer is not very. Bare minimum, your example fails at almost all points to impress. Or imagine a friend walking into your local watering hole talking himself up about how great he was for not killing that enemy of his? Would not the other occupants either privately or out loud rather tell him where to get off? And tell him to quit celebrating absurd ideas of himself? I would, frankly. Or put yourself in the shoes of the man who refrains from killing even. Would you not rather still be too ashamed of the murderous thoughts you’d entertained to even admit them, though you restrained yourself, out loud? I would be.

    So, the consequence of having an all-powerful god is that the all-powerful god trumps any human system of morality

    Actually, it’s the reverse. No human system of morality can ever trump Him. All is not static “reward and punishment” in the Christian religion, at any rate. That’s just a current straw man you’re running to Babylon with, so I’ll simply elude the noose or throw away the unnecessary hay and move on.

    So, if someone asks you “how can their be morality without god?” Ask them how god enforces His Morality? You will then know that morality is impossible under such a system as no one would choose a moral system for any other reason than to avoid punishment or to extract a reward for the all-powerful deity.

    The problem is you haven’t specified or described what “enforces His Morality” consists of. What does enforces consist of in the question? You are not, nor is the questioner, in any sense or should in any sense be misconstrued as being above and beyond the rules of engagement and entailment. In fact, failing to lack any and all nuance in doing so comes across as another “hotshot drive-by” destined for the Dawkins Foundation Meme trash heap. Plus, it’s indicative of a willingness to let nothing but confusion prevail.

    Think better.

    • “Actually, it’s the reverse. No human system of morality can ever trump Him. ” Someone has some severe reading comprehension skills. No human system can ever trump god = god trumps any human system. It’s exactly the same thing. The end result is the same. God is the ultimate arbiter or morality which cannot be overthrown.
      What Steve is arguing is that refraining from killing someone, because your god says so, is not a moral act, any more than killing someone because your god says so is a immoral act. It’s mindless obedience. It’s doing or not doing something because god ordered you to do or not do it. It’s following orders. If you want to assert that the promise of heaven and the threat of hell as reward and punishment for all behavior is not a central doctrine of the Christian faith, you are completely free to do so.
      Choosing not to kill someone because you’ve decided for yourself that it’s wrong or immoral is taking the responsibility for yourself and your own actions and deeds. Reasons for doing or not doing something must be carefully weighed and considered, including self interest, solidarity, etc and is certainly more respect worthy than not killing someone because you’ve been ordered not to.

      • Dear Ashley, I find myself hesitating to respond to some of the comments because I want to wait to see if you do so … and you seem to do a better job of it than do I! Thanks for participating. Steve

        On Mon, Oct 6, 2014 at 10:54 AM, Enquiries on Atheism wrote:

        >

        • Steve – I’m that predictable eh? Ha ha ha! Thanks and you are very welcome. I understood exactly what it was that you were saying in your original post. In a nutshell – mindless obedience to god can’t be moral. It’s simply following orders.
          And for the record, in response to John Zande’s question – yes, what you’ve written would be considered Divine Command Theory. Essentially it is states that what is moral is what which is commanded by god and that it is moral to follow his commands. The most contemporary theologian that springs to mind that accepts this “theory” is William Lane Craig. A despicable human being who seriously attempts to justify genocide because since god commanded it, it must be moral. You can read all about it here: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/slaughter-of-the-canaanites
          The sight of that man turns my stomach.

          • I read up on Divine Command Theory and it is despicable as any catalog of divine commands in the bible will show and it is bankrupt also.

            I do appreciate your youthful energy (I have no idea how old you are, but your energy is youthful ;o) as I often tire of the tripe that is proffered by some of the commenters.

            Cheers from ChiTown

            Steve

            On Mon, Oct 6, 2014 at 12:08 PM, Enquiries on Atheism wrote:

            >

            • LOL – Thanks! I’m 40, but when it comes to arguing with people like Paul, I manage to find the energy and time from somewhere. I spent a good portion of my day going back and forth with my brother (who oddly enough is not religious at all, but appears to aspire to almost be an apologist for religion) about the video that’s going viral about how Reza Aslam apparently “rips Bill Maher a new one” for his apparently very misguided and ignorant sweeping generalizations about Muslims and Islam. There must have been 40 odd posts in total in which I argued in vain that belief in god and adherence to religion is tantamount to a delusion because there is no evidence to support the existence of any deity or the religious practices attached thereto. The best I was able to elicit from him that “you are free to think that religion is a delusion”. Apparently “armchair experts” like Dawkins and Maher, et al, have no business criticizing aspects of religion about which they apparently know nothing since they haven’t studied the phenomenon in enough detail. In other words, they aren’t “experts” like Reza Aslam. That’s seriously his position.

              • I am frequently amazed at how many experts there are on Muslims and Islam. This is in spite of the fact that there is no church hierarchy (all Imams are self-appointed; their power comes from attracting adherents–kind of like Mega-Church pastors on steroids). I suspect there are as many different kinds of Muslims as there are kinds of Christians (tens of thousands of registered brands and growing!).

                The pro-Islam crowd seems to attack anyone who is speaking against Islamic practices as being a racist, which is appalling. It reminds me of people being called *Communists*! in the 1960 for saying something someone didn’t like. Racism!, the 21st Century epithet!

                And, virtually everything I have heard about Islam of a negative nature is backed up both in scripture and in the actions of Muslims, so it is hard to argue against. A close reading of the Bible shows that it also is a religion of the downtrodden and violence is not disavowed. For every “turn the other cheek” there are a half dozen massacres and orders to go to war against unbelievers.

                The sad thing is that religion *is *delusional but that people actively *share *their delusion with their children, friends, and relatives. I was watching the movie Noah until I could stomach it no longer. Every human being save Noah’s family were utterly depraved. Did anyone stop to ask how things got this way? Were Adam and Even not chastened? Did they learn nothing from being expelled from the Garden? If they did nothing to educate their young and everybody ended up depraved then the Creation was horribly flawed. If they did repent and tried to raise their children right and everybody ended up depraved then … the Creation was horribly flawed. How is it that everything good is granted to Yahweh and everything bad is our fault? Do just a few like me and you think about these things?

                is great puzzlement!

                On Mon, Oct 6, 2014 at 1:04 PM, Enquiries on Atheism wrote:

                >

      • God has no need of trumping human moral systems. And He was, sinless, nailed to the Cross of human morality. “Hard as nails” like C. S. Lewis says. And He expects us to follow (basically) all human morality to the letter. That’s why it’s not exactly the same thing.

        God is the ultimate arbiter or morality which cannot be overthrown.

        Boy George, I do believe you’ve got the hang of it! I like a morality which cannot be overthrown and fail to see what’s wrong with that one iota. Too many bad people think they can get away with it and the world, fumbling its conscience or gavel, tolerates them. Vice versa, too many good people are tread upon and experience nothing like a reward or (let’s posit a better word) fulfillment of their conscience in this life. Furthermore, unlike ours can and we’ve exhibited countless times again and again throughout history, God’s morality never decays into immorality.

        Ironically, it was first Christianity, and nothing but, that taught me that choosing not to kill someone [murder] because it is outright wrong and human life is sacred to Him and not “mine” to take, and thus also to take responsibility for myself and my own actions and deeds. There are false Gospels out there, though, I do realize and empathize completely. I pray for their dissolution.

        • Paul,

          I suspect that you don’t recognize how good you are at practicing cognitive dissonance but a thorough review of your last paragraph reveals that your mind has been completely corrupted by your beliefs. So corrupted that you are unable to think rationally. You start out by saying that it was only Christianity that taught you that choosing not to kill someone was wrong. Then you say the reason for doing so is because “human life is sacred to Him” and because of that, you take responsibility for yourself and your own actions and deeds. This is having it both ways in the most promiscuous and exorbitant manner. You are either doing it because God says it’s wrong, or you’re doing it because you are taking responsibility for your own actions and deeds. It cannot be both If you are doing it because God tells you it’s wrong and/or to take responsibility for your own deeds, you are still doing it because you’ve been ordered to do it, not because you’ve decided on your own that you shouldn’t do it. You just finished telling us that “I like a morality which cannot be overthrown”. If that’s the case, then the reason that God gives you for following his command is completely irrelevant if the command cannot be overthrown. “Because I say so” is just as meaningless as “because you should take responsibility for yourself.” There is no need for God to give a reason behind following any of his commands if his commands cannot be overthrown.
          So since you do actually subscribe to the view that God should be the ultimate arbiter of morality that cannot be overthrown, I will ask you this question again, which you conveniently chose to duck the last time. What are you to do when god commands you to follow Deuteronomy 21:18-21?
          18 If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:
          19 Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;
          20 And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.
          21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.
          God says you must stone your disobedient children. According to you, you have no choice but to accept this. You either accept it, or you are a hypocrite.

          • On the contrary, I find your either/or both too rigid and decrepit where you’d force it, and simply hasn’t matched up with experience. Life is neither that pedantic nor that simple.

            • Paul,

              It is not MY either/or, this is a DIRECT COMMAND from God himself. It’s in the bible Stone your disobedient children. The fact that you start waving your hands around and doing backflips, looking for bullshit excuses not to follow this command, while simultaneously proclaiming that God’s commands are to be followed without question, proves my point exactly. You are a hypocrite. You are a mindless human being. You have taken the most precious of your faculties of reason, common sense and critical thinking and thrown them in the garbage can and have swallowed wholesale, the belief that blind obedience and unquestioningly following orders from God is considered “morality”. This is not something to rejoice or be proud of sir. People who think and talk like you are an embarrassment to the entire human race.

              • I’ve never stoned any children.

                • So does that mean that your morality is superior to God’s? Or does it mean that your morality is inferior to God’s? Because he says you should stone children. Why haven’t you followed his command?

                  • The distinctions of superior vs. inferior moralities is an interesting development of the conversation. I actually don’t like the idea of having “my personal morality” that isn’t checked at all points by God, my community, my family, my Church, my country. For doesn’t living in a vacuum of one’s own personal morality rather lead to immorality and amorality? But, to defer, no, whatever morality I hold certainly isn’t superior to God’s.

                    And He never told me personally to stone a child. Would it make you feel better if I had, for consistency’ sake?

                    • You are contradicting yourself again. You just finished telling us that you don’t have “personal morality”. According to you, morality comes from God, it’s absolute and it cannot be overthrown. You follow his commands, no matter what. You, your community, your family, your church and your country have nothing to do with it. If it says it in the bible, it’s God’s word and it’s God’s command. You are bound by it. He tells EVERYONE to stone disobedient children – unless you are saying that the bible isn’t the word of God? You just finished telling us that it was “Christianity” (and nothing else) that taught you that killing someone is wrong. Has God ever personally told you not to kill someone? Why is it a sufficient criteria to say that Christianity taught you not to kill, but you must be personally ordered by God himself to stone children. More special pleading.
                      I wonder if you’ve ever noticed that God actually contradicts himself. In the 10 commandments, he orders us not to kill others and then in the same chapter, he orders us to kill disobedient children.
                      Please sir, I urge you to quit while you are ahead. The more you talk, the deeper the hole you are digging for yourself. Every statement you’ve made today, is either hypocritical in nature, is contradictory or is filled to the brim with ad-hoc reasoning and logical fallacies. I can assure you, you are not going to win an argument with me or anyone else that uses critical thinking and logic that humans get their morality from God.

  4. Also, to stare down the nose of the liar, why must acting in self-interest necessarily be exiled or expunged from morality? The self-defense plea, for instance, I find totally moral.

    • I’m not sure where exactly Steve said that acting in self-interest would be “expunged from morality” so I’m not sure where this is coming from, but in any case, I’ll ask the question. What if what’s in your self-interest is in direct conflict with god’s will? What if god tells you that you should stone your disobedient child – taken directly from the bible? Now what do you do? Act in your self-interest or follow god’s will?

  5. Oh! and by the way, delighted to share

    Psa 103:10-13 He hath not dealt with us after our sins, Nor rewarded us after our iniquities. (11) For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is his lovingkindness toward them that fear him. (12) As far as the east is from the west, So far hath he removed our transgressions from us.
    (13) Like as a father pitieth his children, So Jehovah pitieth them that fear him.

    • Oh!, and by the way, delighted to share

      Collosians 3:23-24 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
      and
      Mathew 6:6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
      and
      Mathew 5:12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you
      and
      Mathew 25:46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

      You wanna play the bible verse trading game? I can do this all day.

        • For every bible verse that you’ll find that buttresses your point, I’ll find one (or more) that completely contradicts your point. I know you actually believe this bullshit and think it’s really important and profound, but I don’t. It’s very much a game to me.

      • And you most certainly already lost, at any rate, by imagining there is anything the Incarnate Word of God has spoken, notably in the guidance to keep one’s prayer out of public light thereby not broadcasting one’s conscience, that could ever “win” it for you.

        • I’d respond to that, but I am afraid I have no clue what you are talking about. Every single sentence in that last post is complete and utter gibberish. The only thing that is lost, is your ability to think and talk like a normal human being. To quote one of my all-time favorite movie lines: “English muthaf*&ka!!!!! Do you speak it?!?!!?”

          • I mean using Jesus against me…that’s kinda like dangling a glass of wine before a drunkard. Or foreplay?

            Perhaps this is one light for the world: Atheistic zeal to prove/disprove stuff at Christians using Scripture.

            We welcome every last blessed draught.

            • Oh how unfair it is of me to “use Jesus against you” right? Only you can use Jesus to further your views and beliefs. No one else is allowed. You poor persecuted Christian. Excuse my, I have to go get a box of Kleenex to dry my teary eyes. I had no idea how hurtful I’d been.
              If you’re going to use bible verses to buttress your views, I will use bible verses to contradict your views.
              Logically Fallacy of Special pleading, Tu Quoque, Appeal to Emotion. Take your pick.
              Try again.
              NEXT!!!

              P.S. Feel free to compare yourself to a drunkard or any other kind of addict any time you like.

              • Oh, Ashley, I wasn’t complaining; all is fair game! No, you can use Jesus to further whatever views you wish; be my guest 🙂 You’re quite allowed! I like the eagerness, in fact.

                On a less jovial more solemn note, I want you to know that I don’t consider anything you’ve ever said to me on this blog as “persecution.”

                Perhaps you’re missing a hidden gem there: There are no Bible verses to “contradict my views;” they are mine as I am theirs as I am corrected through all of them. I am the walrus.

                You’re feisty; I do like that about you.

                • You weren’t complaining? You could have fooled me.
                  “Perhaps you’re missing a hidden gem there: There are no Bible verses to “contradict my views;” they are mine as I am theirs as I am corrected through all of them. I am the walrus”
                  Very well sir. You seem to have convinced yourself that that’s the case. You are perfectly free to believe whatever you want to believe. Just realize that arguing like that is a pointless endeavor. You have just stated that you are not interested in having your views questioned or having any kind of discussion or argument and have in fact capitulated. Your position cannot be falsified. Everything that everyone says only proves more so how right you are and how much more your views have been reinforced. As anyone who has any capacity for critical thought and logic will instantly recognize, this is testimony not to the strength of an argument, but the weakness of an argument. An argument that is true no matter what and cannot be overthrown no matter what anyone says, is not an argument. It’s a waste of breath.
                  Good day to you sir.

                  • If there is a pointlessness to it, I do apologize; I’m having a hard time seeing that way though.

                    Actually, I stated nothing of the sort and I’m here out of a curiosity of both having my views questioned and questioning those I find questionable; the two aren’t mutually exclusive so fire away.

                    My position is unfalsifiable (first of all LOL) because my position isn’t a scientific theory. Nobody’s is. Human beings with positions aren’t scientific theories, thank God.

                    • “..and I’m here out of a curiosity of both having my views questioned and…”. No, you’re not. “There are no Bible verses to “contradict my views;” they are mine as I am theirs as I am corrected through all of them”. You are not interested in having your views questioned, you are interested only in telling others that they are wrong and you are right – always. Whether or not your position is a scientific theory, is irrelevant. Any argument about any subject must stand up to the scrutiny of counter–arguments and contradictory evidence and data. I have shown you just a small sample of the numerous bible verses that directly contradict your earlier assertion that “All is not static “reward and punishment” in the Christian religion, at any rate.” You have just admitted that these mean nothing to you. Nothing the bible says can ever contradict your views. Hence, your position is un-falsifiable and it is not worth considering.
                      “I’m having a hard time seeing that way though.”. I know you are having a hard time seeing it that way. That is because you do not understand logic and you have abandoned your faculty of critical thinking. That is a YOU problem, not a me problem.

  6. Missed this. Boy…

    You are contradicting yourself again. You just finished telling us that you don’t have “personal morality”. According to you, morality comes from God, it’s absolute and it cannot be overthrown. You follow his commands, no matter what. You, your community, your family, your church and your country have nothing to do with it. If it says it in the bible, it’s God’s word and it’s God’s command. You are bound by it. He tells EVERYONE to stone disobedient children – unless you are saying that the bible isn’t the word of God? You just finished telling us that it was “Christianity” (and nothing else) that taught you that killing someone is wrong. Has God ever personally told you not to kill someone? Why is it a sufficient criteria to say that Christianity taught you not to kill, but you must be personally ordered by God himself to stone children. More special pleading.
    I wonder if you’ve ever noticed that God actually contradicts himself. In the 10 commandments, he orders us not to kill others and then in the same chapter, he orders us to kill disobedient children.
    Please sir, I urge you to quit while you are ahead. The more you talk, the deeper the hole you are digging for yourself. Every statement you’ve made today, is either hypocritical in nature, is contradictory or is filled to the brim with ad-hoc reasoning and logical fallacies. I can assure you, you are not going to win an argument with me or anyone else that uses critical thinking and logic that humans get their morality from God.

    …really sounds like you just want to see me stone a child so you can win an argument.

    Plus, I think you have a hard-on for slinging accusations logical fallacies. Logical fallacies are a puzzling thing to me. I don’t know actually how much they help human communication; though I do see how their absence causes problems. The real problem, I’ve noticed, is how they tend to mar communication more than help, and at what point, confined by their criteria, can we even say anything at all? This is why, though feel free to do so, I think it wise to cease or refrain from hurling them. (I was kidding with the one I hurled the other day, by the way, because I thought it funny.)

    • “…I don’t know how much they help human communication *by referring to them over and over again;* though I do see how their absence *in checking an opponent* causes problems.”

      To clarify. My apologies.

    • No sir I don’t “really want to see you stone a child”. Stop changing the subject, grow a set of f*&ing balls and ANSWER MY GODAMN QUESTION.
      According to you:

      God is the absolute arbiter of morality
      You must always do what God tells you

      God tells you to stone children
      You did not do what God told you to do

      WHY NOT?

      I believe you when you tell me that you haven’t stoned children. I don’t want to see you stone children. I WANT TO KNOW WHY YOU DISOBEYED GOD.

      So far, with the one pathetic excuse that God hasn’t personally ordered you to do so, all you’ve done is avoid the question and change the subject. This is classic Christian apologetics 101. Avoid, duck, obfuscate, talk in circles and logical fallacies and change the subject. If that’s the best you can do, then that’s the best you can do.

      “Logical fallacies are a puzzling thing to me. I don’t know actually how much they help human communication” You did not need to make that admission. I already knew that. Everything you’ve said to date is a logical fallacy. Dare I say that your entire world view is one gigantic logical fallacy.
      Recognizing logical fallacies is ESSENTIAL to constructing any kind of argument about any subject. That is why you sound like an idiot when you argue because you don’t know what logic is.

  7. Very well then. According to you then, the bible is not the word of God.
    You are a dishonest, disingenuous, hypocritical coward.
    I weep for your children if you have any.

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