A critical look at Dr Craigs morality (1)

For today and the next few days, I want to do something different. I was provided with this article from Dr William Lane Craig’s website reasonablefaith.org.

In the article Dr Craig advocates for his moral framework moral realism and he claims morality is grounded in God. I as an Atheist obviously disagree, so I want to examine where I think his morality fails and want to show where my moral framework (consequentialism for the most part) succeeds. I won’t address each and every word of his but I will give my opinion on some points briefly. With that being said: Let’s get our hands dirty!

In the first paragraph Craig claims: “ I think of God as the embodiment of the moral good. He is the paradigm of goodness. He defines what goodness is.”

Now Dr Craig is free to define his terms however he chooses to. If he defines it for himself this way then that’s fine. I define my morality in terms of human well being and how we can maximize it. The problem is, that later he tries to go from his subjective definition of “God is the definition of goodness” to not only an objective morality but an absolute binding morality.

Dr Craig continues later: “In the same way, moral values are defined by God. He is the standard of goodness. His character is the paradigm of goodness. Whether or not our actions are good or bad will be based upon how faithful they are to the standard. Whether they are morally […] or not or whether they fall away from the standard and are therefore evil.”

Says who? If Dr Craig is claiming that for himself as his definition, then, as I said that’s alright. But at this point, Dr Craig is not engaged in talking about subjective morality or even objective morality but about an absolute moral standard. and this is where the problem starts: Craig can define his morality for himself. I don’t think it’s a good definition at all but in principle I won’t fault him for that. But his morality is binding for him alone. If it was God who said, that he is the moral standard of goodness, then we’re engaged in circular reasoning. Why can God declare himself the standard and why can’t John Doe declare himself standard? If John Doe can’t declare himself standard because he isn’t God then we have a case of Special Pleading. Nobody but God can declare himself standard. Why can God? Because he’s the Creator and all powerful? In that case you believe that “might makes right”. I disagree. Being the Creator means having the right to impose the rules on the Creation, is a man made rule and we place limits on that as well. Even if we were to find a passage in the Bible that says otherwise, I would simply ask the Christian to prove, that the Bible is God’s word he wouldn’t be able to, debate over. Even if he could it’s still circular.

Craig then says the following: “So God, in his moral nature, is the paradigm of goodness. He is by nature essentially good, loving, kind, faithful, just, loyal, truthful, and so forth. So I see moral values as defined paradigmatically in God; that is to say, God is the standard. Then that moral nature issues in divine commandments to us. It is out of that nature that God commands us that we should love our neighbors as ourselves; that we should love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and strength and mind and so forth.”

My objection is this: How do we know these qualities are good, objectively? Sure I agree subjectively that they are and most people would as well but human consensus doesn’t make morality absolute. In fact Craig is arguing, that these values are good independent of human opinion, which means asking for my opinion or anyone else’s opinion (as they often do in debates when they bring up the holocaust for instance) is irrelevant here.

How are they good? If they are good, because God possesses them, then we’re still not getting anywhere here.

I have a hard time believing, that Dr Craig would say God is good if he just happened to be deceitful, hateful and so forth. I’m going to spare us all the Bible quotes, that will reveal, that God doesn’t possess these qualities at all, here. We’re all familiar with them I think.

One last tiny thing for today: I agree that loving your neighbor (platonically) is a good thing but I don’t see how praising the Lord has anything to do with morality.

This analysis will be continued tomorrow.

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation

Moral Absolutes: Why it’s meaningless

One topic I frequently discuss with theists is the question about morality. “The objection to Atheism is often along the lines of the following: “If there is no God, how can you then say that anything is wrong? It’s just your opinion!”

And I wanna say right of the bat: You’re right about the last part. It is just opinion. So what?

I define the terms right and wrong in the following way: Right is whatever maximizes human well being (and to an extend the well being of animals) and wrong is whatever minimizes/diminishes it.

This definition of morality is one, that I would say is pretty much representative of most people. Most people value human well being and want to maximize it.

I also often get hit with the example of the “raping murdering materialist” and how I can say that he’s objectively wrong.

It of course depends what you mean by objectively wrong. Words in general get defined by consensus. Typical example is the word “gift”: If you say in America “I have a gift for you” most people would be excited. If you talk about “gift” in Germany most people would run away, because gift means poison in the german language.

As I said my definition is a pretty good aproximation of the consensus. But of course it’s about absolutes: Is it absolutely wrong to rape and kill other people.

In my worldview the way the theist defines his words I’d say No.

But what do you gain by being able to say murder and rape is absolutely wrong. The answer in my opinion is: Nothing.

If the theist encounters the raping murdering materialist, he can proclaim that what he does is absolutely wrong. Will the materialist stop raping and murdering after this declaration? No.

The theist can only appeal to God as an absolute standard. But it doesn’t matter because the vast majority of people don’t believe in his God. If the theist tells the materialist: “Murder is wrong, because according to God’s absolute moral standard you should never kill.” the materialist or the Muslim extermist or any other person who doesn’t subscribe to his beliefs can simply shrug it off and say he doesn’t care about his God’s absolute moral standard. At that point you’re stuck, when it comes to persuading other people of different faiths and you’re stuck, because you’re not open to dialogue about these moral absolutes either.

In the end all the theist has gained is 2 terms (who theists of different faiths may or may not agree with): “absolutely right” and “absolutely wrong”.

Now as I said if one subscribes to eternal, unchanging, absolutes as given to us by our Creator, then morality is not up for debate. Something is absolutely right/absolutely wrong because an absolute God’s standard dictates it is such.

But as far as the materialist is concerned I can at least make an argument that might persuade him. I can show him, that his behavior won’t lead to human well being and that being a rapist/ murderer will most likely lead to consequences that will diminish his well being and that he should therefore not desire. It will lead to him being ostracized from society, it might lead to him living in poverty in some cases it might lead to him being killed.

At that point he can either agree with me that he should stop it if he wants to avoid those consequences, he can continue at the risk of those consequences at which point I’ve hit philosophical bed rock with him and we as a society will have to stop him if we can, or worst of all if he simply doesn’t care about his own well being or that of others at which point the result is the same.

The bottom line in my opinion is this: Moral absolutes are a conversation stopper and are only good for one thing: Making the theist feel secure in his morality (doesn’t of course go for all theists).

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation