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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Morality and God

In the debate between Glen and Gene (a few posts below), they are arguing the timeless question of whether belief in God is necessary for morality. Let me first broadcast a portion of my comment:

"...I think that God designed the universe and human beings, and thus He knows what will give us not mere pleasure, but joy. And thus when He warns us (through prophets, but also by giving reason to sociologists, economists, political scientists, and medical doctors who specialize in venereal disease) about the consequences of immorality (or sin, to use a quaint term) He is letting us know that we are going to be unhappy. It's like a parent telling a child not to go near the stovetop...

What if it were the case that people felt unfulfilled because they were separated from their Maker, and that's what caused them to seek out drug use, affairs, bank robberies, etc.? (Granted they might be atheists and not realize the source of their unhappiness.) In what possible sense could you say these people could fully understand morality if they were ignorant of the single most important fact in the universe (the existence of a conscious God)?"


Now as far as the issue at hand: I think it's similar to Hayek's argument in Road to Serfdom. You can't expect to have a political system that respects "democratic" rights if it is socialist. Yes, in theory you could have a bunch of socialists who allow the government-owned printing press to run critical articles and who don't give dissenters crap jobs in Siberia, but in practice that's not going to happen. With each generation, the government will become more and more brutal as the habits and morals that formed under economic freedom die away.

By the same token, it's logically possible to have a society of atheists who are completely moral. But if you take an actual society right now, and stamp out belief in God, with each generation (I claim) it would get less and less moral, by our current definition. Maybe the people in those succeeding generations would consider themselves more civlized than us, but we would do the same when viewing their behavior--even today's atheists.

11 comments:

  1. Anonymous2:47 PM

    In the final analysis, either there is a God, or there is not. In either case, it is perfectly logical to say that belief in God encourages morality.

    In the one case, the belief is a powerful form of worship. In the other, it is a sad commentary on humans.

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  2. " it would get less and less moral, by our current definition"

    Well, if your definition of morality includes a belief in (a) conscious god(s) then obviously you have set up atheists to fail. If you just mean "don't kill", "don't have affairs", "don't abuse drugs" and whatever else you find repugnant behavior, then god(s)-believing societies haven't faired any better. So why should you hold up the atheists to a standard that nobody else has been close to achieving?

    I take the view that if you need (a) god(s) to keep you in line then you are no more mature than the teenager who lives in fear of getting caught by his parents. Maybe the atheists are the only ones who can truly live in a morally pure society as they will be doing it for themselves instead of in fear or to please of an authority figure.

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    ReplyDelete
  4. If you just mean "don't kill", "don't have affairs", "don't abuse drugs" and whatever else you find repugnant behavior, then god(s)-believing societies haven't faired any better.

    I'm not talking about "god(s) believing societies," I'm talking about societies that believe in the one true God, i.e. the one I believe in. I realize to an atheist, belief in Yahweh is as silly as belief in Zeus, but if my point is that there is a God who created the universe and thus defined why morality works, in fairness people need to believe in the correct God for my claim to be tested.

    I take the view that if you need (a) god(s) to keep you in line then you are no more mature than the teenager who lives in fear of getting caught by his parents.

    OK and if the government needs a Constitution to keep it in check, it's immature. Only a socialist government can really exhibit concern for its people.

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  5. Woody8:18 PM

    Human beings have built-in empathy, which presupposes the golden rule. There are genetic defects, of course. Whether capacity for empathy is by design or not is beyond my capacity. I do not need a God for my world view. I have deference for others, and respect the sufferings of living things.

    Exodus demonstrates god's word as a form of domination. Nobody was up there with Moses and he came down and gave the law.

    Organized religion is a greater threat to freedom than any other thing I can think of.

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  10. In the final analysis, either there is a God, or there is not. In either case, it is perfectly logical to say that belief in God encourages morality.

    Think about the possibility that the concept of God is nothing but a form of check, devised to keep the society in order, and all arguments of 'hope', 'unconditional love', 'justice' are just side-effects.

    Morality is essential for common good, but once you agree to the fact that faith serves no purpose except promoting morality, and we accept the need for morality, should we continue to believe? One may say that morality among atheists would not last very long. But thinking about the wars that religion has brought to our world, I would definitely give the atheists a chance.

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