Saturday, December 11, 2010

Atheism and morality

This is an answer to an ongoing debate between theists and atheists on moral law, absolutes and such.

The original post is here: and this response is in answer to statements here: Patient and Persistant: Response to Pogo #4

Participant “pogo” wrote:

Logically if “ethics and morals can change”, then tomorrow you may also agree with Pol-Pot, Osama ben Laden or Stalin or the neighborhood rapist… Here again, in logical terms there are no real barriers (beyond peer pressure) to such a switch within your moral system. Just to be clear. Though your world-view would not exclude the morality of Mother Theresa, of Albert Schweitzer or of Martin Luther King, neither would it exclude the views of Hitler, de Sade or of Pol-Pot. It doesn’t exclude anything. If you know of an escape hatch from this equation (within your world-view), please enlighten us.

Paul Baird answered : “Sorry, Pogo, but this is emotive nonsense.”

Here is my response to Paul B.

How so? It has nothing to do with emotion.
Pogo’s statement is simply factual and logical.
You claim there is no Moral Law. Thus values are determined on whatever one pleases and ultimately anything goes.
So you can do as you want based on any criterion you happen to like at the moment.

The apostle said: “For the Law inflicts punishment; but where no Law exists, there can be no violation of Law.”
And, “…but sin [transgression of the Law] is not imputed when there is no law.”
i.e. There can be no right or wrong where there is no law.

And this is the whole point -atheism, having no independent Moral Law -because there is allegedly no source for such- it cannot logically have moral values either.
The one is dependent upon the other.

Like I’ve said several times thus far: no law = no morals for there is no rule of measurement
The only reason atheists DO have morals is because they have no choice. The moral sense is innate, “written in the heart”.
The whole idea of morals as an evolutionary adaptation for survival is ludicrous for then all morals would be based purely on non rational genetic accidents!

Paul then said:

“Would you like to explain the moral rationale of water-boarding or extraordinary rendition ? …”

Again, any specific case is simply irrelevant to the real issue.
You could bring up any number of moral debates, issues etc. they will all merely underline the fact that humans cannot get away from their moral sense and automatically measure all actions according to some assumed rule they believe “ought” to be obeyed.

The fact that there are varying opinions implies 2 things:
1. everyone is consciously or unconsciously assuming some primary Law by which they attempt to measure actions. We try to measure how “close to” or “far from” the overarching Moral Rule, any moral state or action is.
2. we do not know this Law perfectly and some are closer to it, in their moral values, than others -whatever the reason

How so? As soon as we make any moral judgment we’re insinuating that actions, in any social arena, are wrong or right according to some independent Rule used to measure them.
We’re not just saying, “Well I don’t personally like that action so I deem it wrong.”; or “You’re action bothers me emotionally and to the degree I feel bothered you ought not do that.” The other party -if atheist- could easily respond, “well why should I care what you feel and to hell with your values, mine are different!”.
No, rather we appeal to an independent Rule that we automatically assume the other party knows and ought to obey.

There can be no debate on anything either unless we have parties each attempting to convince the other that their view is the right one, i.e. closer to a Real Right -independent of mere opinion.

The whole crux of the matter is this: what is the rule you use to judge actions? If not independent of human opinion it is not binding upon any and none ought be punished for any action at all. This is what Provine clearly stated in our quotes of him.
If there is no ultimate rule then no moral judgment is even possible and no evil or good either. See previous Dawkins’ quotes.

If there is no ultimate authority there can be no binding moral Law at all.
Hence no God = no right to make law, thus all human imposed law would be mere tyranny. Worse, that tyranny itself could not be ‘wrong’.
And again, this is standard atheist dogma (not a strawman) i.e. no God = no Rule = no good or evil; simply because there is nothing but subjective personal thought to measure by. Why should subjective opinion be binding on anyone? No God = no reason at all.