Thursday, September 29, 2011

Part 3: The Myth of Moral Subjectivism

Please refer to the original post and Part 2 before reading this. All of the background is in those posts.

Here is the next response by the atheist:

It matters little if you mean to be disrespectful or not. What matters is if you are posting accurate statements.

Humans, as all primates, are a social species. We do better as a group than as individuals. Therefore, behaviors that have a positive impact on the group will be considered good and behaviors that have a negative impact on the group will be considered bad. This is why you see that rape, murder, arson and theft have become "evil". These activities have a negative impact on a society.

Contrary to your statement "evil" or "good" is antithetical to the very epistemology and metaphysic to which atheism professes", atheism makes no comment on this at all. Atheism simply says that there are no gods.

My Rebuttal:

Ah, the typical "morality comes from social interaction" theory. Now we're getting somewhere…kind of. :)

You assert that what makes something moral is whether it does more or less good for the group. So what group do you refer? Gangs are groups, and they do what is good for them. Though this isn’t necessarily good for the surrounding groups, who is to say that those surrounding groups have the right to impose their standards on the gang’s group? What if the gang is stronger and can assert its view regardless of the subjective tastes of the surrounding groups? Should those surrounding groups say, “Oh well, I guess this must be for the greater good, because we cannot do anything about it?”

Again, we can refer to all of the larger “group” scenarios I gave earlier (i.e., Nazis, Pol Pot’s regime, Nero’s, etc.) as examples showing that one group’s laws do not always reflect proper morals or ethics. This group or social theory of morality really isn’t a theory of morality at all, but instead is a theory of law. What makes something legal or not is definitely subjective, and changes from group to group.

The problem with this, however, is the question of how you are to determine what makes a subjective law moral or immoral. The only way to determine this is to go outside of the group – indeed, outside of every group – to an objective source of morality and then use that as the judge. If you do not do this, all you are doing is judging a subjective law by a subjective standard.

If subjectivism is the rule, then you have no right whatsoever to judge others in any way at all. You may say that society does, but if I become more powerful than the society of which I am a part, then I can change the rules to fit my whims and no longer be subject to your rules. If I then deem it lawful for me to take every firstborn in the land that I control and kill them, then you can say nothing against me, in terms of whether what I am doing is moral or not.

Next, you stated, “Contrary to your statement "evil" or "good" is antithetical to the very epistemology and metaphysic to which atheism professes", atheism makes no comment on this at all.” I’m having a bit of trouble understanding precisely what you intended to convey, because your statement was a bit vague to me. I did not say that atheism itself states that “evil” or “good” is antithetical to the very epistemology and metaphysic to which it professes (this seems to be what you think I meant). I’ll clarify my point. It is antithetical to atheism to call anything “evil” or “good.” This is antithetical to atheism, because its professed epistemology and metaphysic to contradict the ideas of good and evil. It is contradictory, because good and evil are not subjective feelings, but statements of truth. Atheism has no foundation upon which to build the concept of truth. Just as atheistic morals are subjective, all other ideas and concepts become subjective as well.

If your point is that atheism simply doesn’t address the philosophical concepts of epistemology and metaphysics (it “makes no comment on this at all”), then…I’ll just wait to see if that’s what you’re trying to say. I certainly hope it isn’t.

Furthermore, you state that “Atheism simply says that there are no gods.” I’m actually shocked that you would put forth this view. The wiser arguments in our day and age are those of the non-theists. They don’t make such a naive claim, because they realize it cannot be proved. Instead, they simply state that they have insufficient evidence to conclude that there is no God, so therefore, they don’t believe there is a God.

Thank you for the good and courteous discussion!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Part 2 of the Myth of Moral Subjectivism

Before reading this post, I encourage you to read my previous post on False Logic and the Myth of Moral Subjectivism, which will provide the requisite background for the following.

Another rebuttal from one of the atheists (more likely a non-theist, since no one can prove there is no God) is below.

It is true that we consider the Nazi's evil as well as Pol Pot. However, many people do not consider them evil and in fact, would call us evil. It depends upon what criteria one uses to determine what is evil or good. It also helps that we beat the Nazi's in the war. If they had won, the Allies would have been painted as the bad guys in the history books that the Nazi's wrote.

If your god was actually the basis for this, we should see that all people have the same foundation for making moral determinations. But we do not see this. Killing a is a good example. Most people consider killing to be bad. However, they will accept certain types of killing to be permissible. Mercy killings, killing for family honor and personal insults, to name a few, are perfectly acceptable reasons to kill for some cultures. Others would disagree.

Standards change over time as well. Slavery has been accepted in most cultures in the past. However, today, we find that concept to be completely unacceptable. Your bible even gives rules for owning slaves.

What this shows is that morality is not static, but fluid. It is very subjective.

My Rebuttal:

I do not intend to be disrespectful with this reply, but the truth of the matter is that the only thing you have proven here is your lack of understanding of Scripture

For an atheist to decry anything whatsoever as "evil" or "good" is antithetical to the very epistemology (one's theory of knowledge) and metaphysic (one's view of reality -- where we come from, what is real, etc.) to which atheism professes. In a world of chance-driven subjectivism, all that exists is opinions and feelings -- both in the subjective sense. You may choose to call something evil. You may choose to eat carrots or chocolate or steak because you think they taste good. However, you have absolutely no objective moral basis for asserting that even a single other person should hold to your beliefs. This is one of the most audacious positions of atheists -- you (generally speaking) assert that beliefs such as Christianity are "wrong," "evil," "not good for society," “immoral,” or whatever is your choice pejorative of the day, while at the same time asserting that no objective morals exist by which to judge such things and make such statements.

Regarding differences in how mankind views and follows various moral values, Scripture does not state that all men will follow the Law written on their hearts in equal measure. It simply states that the Law is there and that we are commanded to follow it. Due to man's fallen nature -- a fallen nature that infects every aspect of a man's existence; the degree of which varies from person to person, from time to time -- we would naturally expect, and Scripture affirms, that man will not obey YHWH's Law perfectly. Far from this issue refuting Christianity, this fact, clearly stated in Scripture, is why we find various views on individual topics in our daily experiences. Man's sinfulness, when not brought into check by the Law and temporal judgment, has nearly no bounds.

Your point regarding the immorality of killing is also one of misunderstanding and/or a lack of wisdom. God gives clear Law when it comes to the taking of human life (even this distinctive of human -- not animal -- life is pertinent, due to some comments above[this was relevant to other comments not seen in this blog post]). Killing itself is not strictly forbidden in every instance. The death penalty is stated as how certain crimes are to be punished; wars where YHWH vindicates His people also involve Divinely sanctioned killing; etc. Of course, one of immature understanding may turn to the 6th Commandment in a vain attempt to show a contradiction. One who cares to take the time to study such things will quickly find that the 6th Commandment deals with murder, not killing in general. For an excellent treatment on the use of the words related to "kill" in the Old Testament, see Milton Terry's "Biblical Hermeneutics" (pp. 192-193

Yes, YHWH's Word does give specific laws that relate to the treatment of slaves. His Word also gives us specific instructions on how we are to proceed with divorces as well. However, again, wisdom requires deeper thought into this matter (though some things in Scripture are blatantly obvious, others require study and diligence...along with the illumination of the Holy Spirit). Malachi 2:16 clearly states that YHWH "hate[s] divorce." But then both Christ and Paul give instructions on how we are to go about proceeding with a divorce. Oh, the contradiction! Hardly. Though YHWH hates divorce, He is also merciful and gives us specific instances where we may be released from a marriage, because He knows that our sinfulness will inevitably lead to ungodly unions sometimes that should not be continued.

In similar manner, YHWH also attends to the protection of slaves by ensuring their masters have Law that gives clear instruction on how such slaves are to be treated. Another parallel to this is the fact that, in the beginning, YHWH made marriage to be between one man and one woman. Both Matthew 19:4-5 and 1 Corinthians 7:1-2 clearly make this point (…and so as to not be negligent, Gen. 1:26-28, as well). However, in Old Testament times, men were frequently polygamous. Did YHWY endorse polygamy? No. At that time, He simply did not choose to judge it temporally. Such was the case with slavery.

Finally, you state, "What this shows is that morality is not static, but fluid. It is very subjective." False. On the contrary, morality itself is static. It was defined by YHWH Himself in Scripture. Man simply suppresses the truth of Christ's Word to bend it to his every whim in an attempt to justify his sins (see Romans 1:18-32 for a clear Scriptural view of this topic). It is not morals that are subjective. It is man's implementation and application of those objective morals that is subjective.

For a continuation of this post, please see Part 3: The Myth of Moral Subjectivism.

Soli Deo Gloria!

False Logic and the Myth of Moral Subjectivism

While checking my email today, I came across an email from a group that I regularly follow. I clicked on an article titled Boehner denounces Iranian pastor’s death sentence. After reading the article, which truly speaks of the horrors of Christian persecution in our world today, I quickly started to scan some of the comments.

One of those comment threads started off this way, "But apparently he's happy with American citizens being executed in Texas. Typical Christian hypocrite," which referred to Boehner condemning the execution of Christian pastor, while endorsing "American citizens being executed in Texas." I won't bother getting into the difference between these two, because hopefully such differences are glaringly obvious (if not, feel free to comment).

This comment thread had a number of replies, which spidered from there into abortion, and then into morality and whether morality is objective or subjective. One of the commentators used Naziism as an example of how law in and of itself is not a sufficient means of governing a people. When it got to that point, an atheist who was posting on the topic rebutted, "Ah yes... Godwin shows it's ugly head. Not surprised considering it's despe!" where "despe" is short for another commentator's name ("Despeville"). If you are not familiar with the "Godwin" reference, you can find plenty of information by simply Googling it, or you can check out Wikipedia's page on Godwin's law.

Such an answer in a debate is not an answer at all, which is the point of writing this blog. Following is my answer to this commentator. Hopefully it will be edifying to others who a.) find themselves up against such a red herring "argument," and/or b.) find themselves needing to vindicate objective moral values and to distinguish between them and law.

(Note: I proofread this again after posting it in the comments of the Web page cited above and found a few typos and fixed them. I also clarified a couple points slightly.)

My Rebuttal:

One's use of a common argument by no means nullifies or weakens the argument itself. I could very easily write my own "law" to the effect of, "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of the topic leading to a discussion of whether God exists approaches 1." Such a law, though, speaks in no way to the validity of such an argument. Godwin's law itself even admits this. Whether you understand this or not isn't very relevant here. In this case, you are simply asserting that your statement, "Ah yes... Godwin shows it's ugly head. Not surprised considering it's despe!" necessarily defeats @Despeville's argument, which it does not. Instead of stating the humor that the "law" points out, and then dealing with the argument, you simply try to diffuse the argument by referencing the law.

The logic you put forth is faulty in that it assumes that the likelihood of an occurrence nullifies the very validity of that occurrence. The foolishness of such an argument is illustrative of the lack of a solid answer you have to the real problem at hand.

If morals are subjective than one's judgment of any law is irrelevant, as one's judgment is also subjective -- only those in power can "judge" such a law. However, this isn't judgment at all, but simply imposition of their subjective values on all of those subjected to them. Whether this is done by an individual, a small group, or a majority doesn't matter. In such a system, there is no true freedom, but only the freedom which is granted by the subjective will of the authorities. Furthermore, such authorities can change at any time, and therefore one can never even know when one's liberties that have been granted as such will endure or not -- even if those liberties are truly just.

Ultimately, your view is self-refuting. Even you cannot live by such a standard. You presuppose the very thing you deny (objective moral values). Your expectation is not just one where those around you will follow the laws of the land, but also that they will follow the morals that are written on your very heart. You can deny this all you want, but all you accomplish by doing so is suppressing the truth in your unrighteousness. In the end, you simply deceive your own heart.

It doesn't matter whether one uses the example of the Nazis, the example of Nero, the example of Pol Pot, the example of Kim Jong Il, or whatever other immoral regime throughout history. All such examples point to the fact that law alone does not dictate morality. It is morality (or the lack thereof) that dictates law. The fact that we can even judge whether laws are moral or immoral is proof that laws are subject to morality, not the other way around. Morality is the objective standard. Laws are the subjective expression of those standards. The foundation of immoral laws is man's fallen nature, which corrupts our perfect God-given moral values.

Furthermore, in the end, you will be judged by the very words that you mock and condemn, and you will be held fully to account for your denial of the One who created you -- Almighty YHWH. It is only through repentance and belief in Jesus Christ that you can hope to be saved from such an end. I pray that the Holy Spirit will remove the scales from your eyes and will replace your heart of stone with one of flesh.

Soli Deo Gloria!

For a continuation of this post, please see Part 2 of the Myth of Moral Subjectivism.