a critical look at Dr Craig’s morality (7)

This is the 7th part and the final part of my series in which I examine this article from reasonablefaith.org .

You can find the previous parts here: part 1 , part 2 , part 3 , part 4 , part 5 , part 6

to the question whether Atheists can be moral Craig replies with this: ” Exactly. If there were no God, I think there would be no objective moral values. Everything would then be simply subjective. Moral values would be the by-product of socio-biological pressures upon humanity. Just as a troop of baboons will exhibit cooperative behavior because it helps them to survive, so human beings have evolved a kind of herd morality that helps them to get along in the struggle for survival. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. That sort of thing. So if there is no God it seems to me that there really is no objective right and wrong, good and evil. Everything is morally indifferent. But if there is a God then even the atheist’s life is characterized by good and evil, right and wrong, whether he believes it or not because these things are not dependent upon human opinion.”

Now it is not my stance, that morality is purely dependent on human opinion. It is true, that morality evolved and that it is important for our survival. My subjective Morality is dependent on exactly that: Human well being and human flourishing. It is true, that acts like murder will diminish human well being. This is not an opinion this is fact. My morality as defined by me, is at least somewhat representative of the morality of the vast majority of my fellow human beings. If we as humans define the terms right and wrong as I proposed (and I contest that most humans do), then certain acts are immoral.

“Everything is morally indifferent. But if there is a God then even the atheist’s life is characterized by good and evil, right and wrong, whether he believes it or not because these things are not dependent upon human opinion.”

These things however would then be dependent upon what God’s nature happened to be which just happens to be a nature that promotes human well being and flourishing (or so they assert) . This the group of Christians then deem “God” to be “good” . We’re sitting in the same boat here as far as defining our terms goes. I and most others including the Christians define good and bad in terms of human well being, in terms of being compassionate etc. . It’s just that Christians put the “God” label on it. Nothing wrong with that in principle. But trying to build not only an objective morality out of it ( I would somewhat agree with Sam Harris’ objective morality) but an absolute morality simply fails. What’s worse, is that as far as I’m concerned, my morality has better applicability than his.

On the question whether Craig would go out commiting atrocities if he lost his faith he said this:

” That is to misunderstand the argument. The argument isn’t that because of the existence of God we are constrained in our moral behavior. The argument is that in the absence of God the moral behavior that we exhibit is not really good. It is just illusory. So, if one came to believe that God does not exist as many apostate Christians have, they don’t immediately become barbarians and so forth.[4] But it would mean that the moral behavior that they continue to pursue isn’t really right or wrong if there is no God, if they were right. Now, I think there is a God so it is still good and right. But if God doesn’t exist and one came to the realization that he doesn’t exist, you might still, as a result of societal pressures, continue to live the way you always have. But there wouldn’t be any right or wrong about it any more than there was when you were under the illusion that God did exist. In other words, it is not about belief in God. It is about whether or not there is a God.”

Well I’m glad to hear, that Craig wouldn’t become a murdering Psychopath if he lost his faith. I think his reasoning for it is poor, but be that as it may. Some (by no means many or most) Christians say otherwise.

I won’t address the “meat” of his argument here, since I have previously addressed his circularity and question begging at length in the previous parts.

In closing though, what I think it comes down to, in a Christian moral framework is a fight over words. They want to claim words like “right” and “wrong” for themselves and they fight to death over them. It’s a security blanket for believers, who fear that without God there is no objective right or wrong. I personally find this silly. I have no interest to fight over vocabulary. But this is exactly why I did what I did: To show why their morality fails at accomplishing what it sets out to do and why their morality fails at certain levels at which mine succeeds.

This is the final part of the series. He continues through 3 paragraphs but they really have nothing to do with the subject at hand anymore.

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation

a critical look at Dr Craig’s morality (6)

Welcome to my sixth installment where I critique this article on Dr Craig’s website reasonablefaith.org .

You can find the previous parts here: part 1 , part 2 , part 3 , part 4 , part 5 .

Dr Craig when asked why not everybody agrees on these objective values, has this to say: ” I think to say that moral values are objective is not to say that they are always clear. Certainly there can be areas of gray. Some things are clearly right or clearly wrong but in between there can certainly be difficult moral questions that are hard to discern what is right and wrong. To say that there are objective values and duties is to say that in any moral situation that you find yourself in there is a right thing to do and there is a bad thing or a wrong thing to do. But it is not to say that that is always easy to discern. So we must not confuse epistemology (which is how you know moral values and duties) with ontology (which is the reality of the moral values and duties). I am not making a claim that because these things objectively exist that they are always easy to discern.”

My question to Craig is simply the following: When it is the case that “any moral situation that you find yourself in there is a right thing to do and there is a bad thing or a wrong thing to do” but we do not have the abilities to recognize, what is right and what is wrong, then what are these objective moral values and duties good for? Even if I were to concede, that they exist (and I definitely don’t) then it wouldn’t do us any good. In that case one person may say, “it is objectively wrong, to abort a fetus at any given time during the pregnancy” another person may say “I’d say after 12 weeks in, then you shouldn’t abort anymore.” If Dr Craig is right, then there is an objectively right answer to that question. But so what? How can we find out? We can’t. All we can do, is argue with each other and find some common ground, which is impossible with a moral absolutist. In the end, even if Dr Craig is right it makes no difference whatsoever.
When confronted with the fact, that we misapply them subjectively he says this: “Yeah, that is absolutely right. This is what sin is. Sin says that we are fallen in our nature and therefore we love wickedness and unrighteousness rather than righteousness. We are bent in upon ourselves and pursue our own selfish interests. So it is not surprising that when you look out at the world you find cultures that are deeply warped and evil. One thinks of Apartheid in South Africa or of Nazi Germany or in dictatorial societies and cultures like Marxist or Communist nations or even in materialistic consumer-driven Western nations. It is not surprising in virtue of people’s sinfulness that we would see entire cultures infected with evil and existing in a morally fallen way. So the objectivity of moral values doesn’t mean that everybody follows them.”
Well first of all, Dr Craig needs to substantiate his claim, that the Fall of man into sin really happened. Otherwise of course, his entire theology essentially becomes moot. If the fall didn’t happen, then there was no sin and Jesus died for something else, if his death had any purpose at all.
To the rest of what Craig says I just wanna say: Exactly. You made my point perfectly. Even if these objective values exist, it doesn’t make a damn difference. Everybody already follows his subjective standard, even though some shape their subjective standards around what they perceive to be a perfect objective standard, which they call God. The world behaves exactly the way it does, if there was no objective standard at all. Everyone has a different moral Philosophy. And none of us humans are deities. None of us know, if a deity exists (even though some claim otherwise) and we don’t know, which deity is the right one. Maybe the Muslims have it right and their standard is the objective one. In that case, Craig would follow a standard he perceives to be objective (the Bible) but which is in fact subjective. If this standard exists we are blocked from knowing it. It’s existence is utterly useless. All it does, is give Christians the feeling, that they possess the moral highground. Even if we concede Craig’s Philosphy (and I showed, why it fails and why I don’t) it falls short of informing our moral decisions and it accomplishes nothing.
Goodbye from yours truly,
Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation

a critical look at Dr Craig’s morality (5)

This the fifth part of my critique on Dr Craig’s article .

You can find the previous parts here: part 1 , part 2 , part 3, part 4 .

Craig continues: “When you think about it, why is it any more difficult to think that the compassion of God exists than to think that the omnipotence of God exists or the timelessness of God exists? I don’t see the difference. They are just properties of God but the one is a moral property and the others are non-moral properties. Things like omnipotence and timelessness aren’t moral properties but that is how they exist in the same way that any of the properties of God exist. They are just ways God is.”

The first thing of course is, that Craig asserted this without evidence. I maintain that timelessness and omnipotence are incoherent concepts but that’s just as a side note. I do see a difference: I am made of matter. Nothing I could ever do would change that. I am also a compassionate human being. But there are scenarios and paths, that could lead me to not being compassionate any longer. I see no reason why it would be different for God. Plus conceding, that it just is the way God is necessarily means, that God is unaccounted for and that God is random .

If you account for Unknowns with an Unknown, you haven’t really accounted for anything.

To the contention, that morals are personal Craig says the following: “Right, they are person-dependent. I think it is in virtue of being persons as God is personal that we have intrinsic moral value, too. That is why a single person is more valuable than the entire material universe put together, which is an awesome thought. Because only persons have intrinsic moral value. Things have extrinsic value in that they can serve the purposes of persons. A hammer can help me to build a house.[3] Money can help me to buy food. These things are extrinsically valuable in that they serve as means to ends. But persons are ends in themselves. They are intrinsically valuable, not just extrinsically valuable as means to be used for some end. So as Augustine said, we should love people and use things, but so often we do just the opposite.

Okay the first thing I want to say may sound a little bit harsh but please just hear me out: We don’t have intrinsic value. Nothing has intrinsic value. Here’s why: Imagine yourself in a world, where we have gold and diamonds in abundance. Literally half the planet is made of it. But we as a species are not fond of gold or diamonds. Nobody wants to have them, we don’t use gold as a currency. What we are fond of are bananas. But bananas unfortunately for us, are rather scarce.They only exist on one Island in the South Pacific, namely “Banana Island” . Can anyone now truly say, that under this scenario gold and diamonds are more valuable than bananas?

For something to have value it needs to have a valuer, somebody who assigns value to it. The valuer in this case is us as a society. We as humans place value on human life, therefore human life is valuable to us. It is not in the least valuable to lions. We value the lives of our fellow primates subjectively.

I do want to address this contention: “Because only persons have intrinsic moral value.”

We have dealt with the “intrinsic value” part already but I contest that. While I certainly can agree with his contention later, that persons are ends I think animals are ends as well. If I were to see a human and a Tarsier drowning and I could only save one, I would of course choose the human (though it’s a close race) but that doesn’t mean, that other creatures have no value at all and that we don’t have moral responsibility for them as well. We assign them value as well and therefore we are responsible for them as well.

I have no objections to the rest of this paragraph though plenty for the following ones which I will tackle in the next few posts.

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation

A critical look at Dr Craig’s morality (3)

This is the third part in which I examine an article on Dr Craig’s website reasonablefaith.org . The original article can be found here and I suggest, that you read my first part and my second part of this series, if you haven’t done so already.

After his brief talk on voluntarism Craig continues: “ Yes, right. He is consistent with his own nature. Remember, it is his nature. It is not as though there is something outside God that compels him to act in a certain way. Rather, this is just the way God is. It is who he is.”

Now as I’ve said earlier, I see no reason why God can’t change his own nature, that is, evolve in his nature just like we humans do. We can go from being honest people to becoming dishonest people and vice versa. Of course, Craig won’t accept, that God can change his nature in any way, which of course leads to a dead end since he can’t prove it.

and now it’s get interesting: Now it’s time for the age old Euthyphro Dilemma to enter the picture. For those of you who might be unaware The Dilemma goes as follows: “Is something good because God commands it, or does God command it because it is good?”

The first option leads to voluntarism and the second option would mean that there is a standard outside of God that is good which God merely reveals to us, which makes God esssentially superfluous.

Craig thinks he can solve the dilemma in the following way: ” So when Socrates asked him, “Is something good because the gods will it or do the gods will it because it is good?” what Euthyphro should have said is that the gods will it because they are good, or he is good if you put it in the context of monotheism. So that is the correct answer. It is a third alternative that splits the horns of the dilemma. God wills it because he is good. He is the paradigm of moral value.”

I see a couple of problems with his solution: First of all it renders the phrase “God is good” which Christians love to use a tautology. Being good essentially means being God. In theory God would be perfectly good and just, if he slaughtered thousands of children. Once again, we’re moving in circles here. God not being able to change his nature, creates problems for his omnipotence and once again saying God is the paradigm is completely arbitrary. If it is just, that God happens to maximize these values Craig posits in his nature, then once again we can go ahead and just appeal to those and not God.

In the following Craig outlines the platonic moral view:” I think that you are right – they don’t exist on their own. That was Plato’s view – that they exist as sort of abstract objects. There is such a thing as Justice or Greed or Vice or Self-Sacrifice. Even if there were no people there would be these sort of values that just sort of exist out there.”

and then outlines the difference of his view: “Yeah, that was the Platonic view. But on the Christian view, moral goods exist as properties of God. So they would exist in the same sense that the length of a meter bar exists. There isn’t some sort of abstract thing called “The Length” that exists on its own. But it is a property of the meter bar that is there in Paris in the Bureau of Measures and Weights and the length of the bar is the property of the bar itself. The meter was the paradigm for what a meter was. The meter was the length of that bar.”

First of all I must say, that the analogy fails badly. A “meter” is a human concept. It’s completely arbitrary. A meter is a meter, because we as humans have taken a certain length and assigned it the word meter. If a meter is the standard for what a meter is then this means God being a standard for what good is is arbitrary since the meter is arbitrary. And you know what: I think Craig hit the nail on the head with that!

Craig arbitrarily took certain values such as honesty, faithfulness etc. and assigned it the word “good” . He then said, that these properties are all an essential part of an all powerful eternal agent to whom he assigned the word “God”. He then said, that possessing and exercising these qualities makes one “good” or “like God” .

In principle there is nothing wrong with that but if you think, that you can derive any objectivity out of defining your subjective words “God” and “good” in this way, then you’re terribly mistaken. It’s still circular. It’s still a tautology. It’s still asserted without evidence.

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation



A critical look at Dr Craig’s morality (2)

This will be a continuation of yesterday’s 1st part the original source for my post is this article from reasonablefaith.org .

IDr Craig is asked the question whether Morality isn’t subjective because it depends on God’s will.

To this Craig responds: “Great question. If moral values were simply rooted in the divine will, if God just made up what is right and wrong arbitrarily, then I would agree with you. That would be the ultimate in subjectivity. Moral values would just be arbitrary declarations of God. That position has a name – it is called voluntarism. Voluntarism would be the view that moral values are rooted in the will of God, and the will of God just decides what is good and evil, right and wrong. The view that I’ve laid out is quite different than that.”

Well, for once I agree with the good doctor. Voluntarism is indeed ultimatively subjective merely depending on God’s will. It remains to be seen, how Dr Craig’s morality escapes this glaring problem of a subjective morality, as he claims his framework is able to.

Dr Craig lays out how he thinks he accomplishes this in the following: “Yeah, right. The view I’ve laid out is quite different from that because it says that moral values are not rooted in the divine will. His commands to us are expressions of his will, but these are rooted in the divine nature – in his essential moral properties like justice, kindness, compassion, truthfulness, and so forth.[1] Those aren’t arbitrary. Those can’t be changed. Those are logically necessary and therefore exist in all possible worlds. There is no possible world in which God lacks these properties and does not exist.”

As you might have guessed I still see many problems. The biggest one by far is, that I see blatant question begging in Dr Craig’s assertions: Why are his properties justice, kindness etc. good (see Yesterday’s post)?  Why couldn’t they be changed?

I know many people who are perfectly capable of changing their nature. I know many people, who were total douchebags in their childhood but have come to be decent adults now. People go from compassionate, good, moral humans to corrupt, merciless criminals all the time and vice versa. I’m pretty sure if we all look back at our past, we all see how our nature has evolved and how our nature has therefore changed. In some people it has changed to the negative, in some people to the positive for some more drastically for others only minimally. So what reason is there, that they can’t be changed? Why can’t God go through a character development? I guess you could back it up with scripture and say God is unchanging (which is evidently not true, the God of the NT is completely different compared to the God of old) but that doesn’t do anyone any good, because I contest the accuracy of the Bible and to prove it’s accuracy is (near) impossible. You can also define God in such a way that he is unchanging but that definition is meaningless, unless it can somehow be demonstrated, that the definition applies to the real world. So what reason is there, that his nature can’t be changed and what’s the evidence for it?

“Those are logically necessary and therefore exist in all possible worlds.”

Again, he merely asserts this, without justification.He defines God such, that these are his essential properties. In principal there’s nothing wrong with that. What’s the evidence, that this being with these properties exist? What’s the evidence, that these are his properties and that these are logically necessary, as opposed to other properties?

“There is no possible world in which God lacks these properties and does not exist.”

Well that is just fantastic. There is no possible world in which God doesn’t exist? What? How did he reach that conclusion? I realize, that I’m going off topic here but this just way too outrageous to be ignored. I suspect since he brought up all possible worlds, that he gives merit to God being a necessary being as the ontological argument claims. This of course is again, blatant question begging and circular reasoning!

For the next few little paragraphs Craig takes a few shots at Voluntarism and David Brink who as Craig says has failed to attack the theistic morality he subscribes to.

I hope I did and will continue to do a better job than David then.

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation