Tag Archives: Ground

Can atheists ground objective moral values and duties, just like theists?

Consider this article from Thinking Matters in New Zealand.

Excerpt:

There is an objection to the moral argument for God’s existence, specifically the premise which states the best explanation for the foundation for objective moral values and duties is God. It is the idea that moral values and duties can be plausibly anchored in some transcendent, non-theistic ground. That moral values and duties exist objectively, but as brute facts, not needing an explanation for their existence. They are sort of eternal unchanging ideas that are necessary features of the universe. This position we shall call Atheistic Moral Platonism, and there are three ways we could respond.

Click here for the three ways to respond.

I actually used to hold to Deistic Platonism before I became a Christian, and that’s all documented in my testimony. To learn more about this topic, here is my series on how morality cannot be rationally grounded by atheism, and the series includes links to lectures and debates for further study. The relationship between a cosmic designer and objective moral values and duties is the easiest topic in the world to discuss with non-Christians. It takes only a little preparation, compared to more difficult issues like scientific evidence and the historicity of the resurrection.

Debate: Must morality be grounded by God?

“Unbelievable”, is a show broadcast every Saturday in the UK. Every week, they feature a debate between a Christian and a non-Christian. The debate this week was on the moral argument, which argues that meaningful morality, including free will, human rights, moral rules, moral obligations, and moral significance, must be grounded in God.

THIS IS A MUST-LISTEN.

The debate starts a bit into the podcast, after they review audience reactions to last week and preview the next week’s topic.

Here is the link to the podcast. (MP3 audio)

If you have trouble with that link, try here instead.

The atheist Paul Orton argues this:

  • no moral absolutes
  • morality is a set evolved conventions
  • the set varies by time and place

The Christian David Robertson argues this:

  • morality is meaningless unless there are moral absolutes
  • cultural relativism doesn’t rationally ground moral judgments
  • the Bible does not teach that slavery is good

One of the best parts of the debate is when David contrasts H.G. Wells, an atheistic socialist who embraced socialism and fascism as a natural extension of his atheism, and a Christian, William Wilberforce who spent over two decades of his life trying to free the slaves in the UK.

This debate can be seen as an illustration of the thesis that I advanced in my series of posts on atheism and morality, in which I argued that atheism does not ground the minimal requirements for rational morality.

Further resources

This page contains a link to an excellent lecture on the ontological foundations of rational morality, as well as a number of debates between Christians and atheists on whether morality is rationally grounded by the worldview of atheism. And you can find some other apologetics posts here, including an article on whether the the moral statements of atheists are even intelligible, on atheism.

The best book ever written on this topic is Greg Koukl and Francis J. Beckwith’s “Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air“. You can see Greg deliver a lecture about relativism to an audience of students and faculty at UCLA (MP3 audio here). If you want to read something free on the web that explains the problems with moral relativism, which is the view of morality that is grounded by atheism, look here.

The war on parents in Canada, Germany and New Zealand

Everyone is complaining about men not wanting to be responsible and get married these days, but no one is paying attention to the incentives that cause men to stay clear of a relationship that is completely regulated by the state. Men don’t want to be coerced to do things.

The problem with the political left is that they never understand what incentives they are creating when they start controlling private interactions between individuals. Take a look at the stories below and ask yourself: is this going to make men and women want to marry and have children?

In Canada:

A Quebec youngster has used the courts to avoid parental discipline in a “landmark” case. The 12-year-old girl, who is too young to be named, went to court to force her father to overturn his decision not to allow her to go on a school trip. Her father had decided to ground her after he found out she had posted photos of herself on a dating website against his wishes.

The sixth grader then took her father to court, arguing that his punishments were too severe.

Madam Justice Suzanne Tessier of the Quebec Superior Court ruled today that denying the girl permission to go on the school trip was an excessive punishment. The girl’s lawyer, Lucie Fortin, said, “She’s becoming a big girl” and described the school trip as “a unique event in her life”, the Globe and Mail reported.

In Germany:

A homeschooling family in Southern Germany spent six hours in a grueling German Family Court session this week with the hopes of regaining custody of their six homeschooled children, who have been held in state custody since January. After the long and confusing session, the Gorbers regained custody of their 3-year-old son. The judge, meanwhile, retained custody of five other Gorber children now being kept in foster care and youth homes pending a court-ordered psychological evaluation of the parents. The court did allow increased visitation for some of the children up from one hour every two weeks that had been permitted since the children were seized in a surprise raid by the youth welfare office (“Jugendamt”) and police.

In New Zealand:

Green MP Sue Bradford’s controversial child discipline bill was tonight passed by Parliament, with only seven MPs voting against it.

The bill removes from the Crimes Act the statutory defence of “reasonable force” to correct a child, meaning there will be no justification for the use of force for that purpose.

But it doesn’t even work because it targets law-abiding people only! (Just like gun control!)

It’s very much like the Democrat party’s complaints about outsourcing. The left caused outsourcing with their interventionist war on “the rich” and “greedy corporations”. We need to move away from noble-sounding intentions fueled by the need to feel superior, and talk about actual incentives and actual effects of policies.

Sex education and taxes

Laura posted on the state interfering with parents’ right to educate their own children about sex:  (CP link)

No, we generally are not in favor of sex ed at school.  If “comprehensive” sex education included what it did when I took it in the early 80s – basic human anatomy, puberty, tab A fits into slot B, birth control methods include the following… even in the conservative evangelical circles I run in, few would object.  That’s all stuff we tell kids at home after we opt them out of sex ed at school- along with the main message of “Don’t do this; it’s not time in your life yet for this.”   What we object to is the attitude that teen sex is normal and inevitable and we should quit squawking about it.  We object to schools teaching bizarre sex practices like fisting.  We object to the theory that teenagers are mindless bags of hormones who can’t be expected to control themselves.

…Our teens are political pawns for the left.  They’re helpless victims of our [= parents’] prudery, children that the government needs to provide for at every turn with health insurance and free college tuition (but don’t deserve an adequate secondary education except when it’s time to raise taxes),  socially and technologically savvy enough to make their own entertainment and political choices free from our censorship,  mature and wise enough to choose abortion (but not give birth), and 18 year old babies who need to be protected from sneaky military recruiters and beer.   The rallying cry may be “it’s for the children!” but the only really consistent position I see in the left is that parents do not know best; government does.

Laura also posted on how socialism takes money away from the family:

When we charge people more to earn money via income taxes, regulations, and similar means, history has proved time and again that people earn less money.  Whether that’s by choice, where people like me purposely throttle back our income in order to pay fewer taxes, or by government fiat, where government takes more money from businesses, the bottom line is that productivity goes down and everybody, including the government, gets less money out of the system.

By the way, I notice that Laura has a new post up at Hot Air’s Green Room, (CP link), on how families can send the socialists a message by cutting off their supply of money, legally. She runs a business, so she knows what she is talking about.

Further study

Recently, I blogged about the myth of “dead-beat Dads”. And about how the feminist state’s discrimination against male teachers is negatively impacting young men. And there is my series on how Democrat policies discourage marriage: Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here and Part 3 is here.

What are the minimal requirements for rational morality?

UPDATE: Welcome readers from the the Western Experience! Thanks for the link, Jason!

Last week, I posted a list of 13 questions that Christians could use to get discussions going with their atheist friends. Basically, you ask your atheist friend out to lunch, ask them the questions. We got 10 responses to the questions, which I summarized here. And I had lunch with another one of my friends, another Jewish atheist, who goes to a Reformed synagogue, as well.

Basically, the questionnaire’s purpose is to establish whether atheism provides a rational foundation for moral behavior. Specifically, can atheism account for the minimal requirements for rational moral behavior (see below).

1) Objective moral values

There needs to be a way to distinguish what is good from what is bad. For example, the moral standard might specify that being kind to children is good, but torturing them for fun is bad. If the standard is purely subjective, then people could believe anything and each person would be justified in doing right in their own eyes. Even a “social contract” is just based on people’s opinions. So we need a standard that applies regardless of what people’s individual and collective opinions are.

2) Objective moral duties

Moral duties (moral obligations) refer to the actions that are obligatory based on the moral values defined in 1). Suppose we spot you 1) as an atheist. Why are you obligated to do the good thing, rather than the bad thing? To whom is this obligation owed? Why is rational for you to limit your actions based upon this obligation when it is against your self-interest? Why let other people’s expectations decide what is good for you, especially if you can avoid the consequences of their disapproval?

3) Moral accountability

Suppose we spot you 1) and 2) as an atheist. What difference does it make to you if you just go ahead and disregard your moral obligations to whomever? Is there any reward or punishment for your choice to do right or do wrong? What’s in it for you?

4) Free will

In order for agents to make free moral choices, they must be able to act or abstain from acting by exercising their free will. If there is no free will, then moral choices are impossible. If there are no moral choices, then no one can be held responsible for anything they do. If there is no moral responsibility, then there can be no praise and blame. But then it becomes impossible to praise any action as good or evil.

5) Ultimate significance

Finally, beyond the concept of reward and punishment in 3), we can also ask the question “what does it matter?”. Suppose you do live a good life and you get a reward: 1000 chocolate sundaes. And when you’ve finished eating them, you die for real and that’s the end. In other words, the reward is satisfying, but not really meaningful, ultimately. It’s hard to see how moral actions can be meaningful, ultimately, unless their consequences last on into the future.

Tomorrow, I will explain why the answers given by the atheists show that the worldview of atheism offers none of these 5 requirements, and that therefore morality is really, really, really irrational on atheism. Atheist can look over their shoulders at their neighbors, and act like them in order to feel happy that they are acting consistently with the arbitrary fashions of their herd, but that’s all they can do, on atheism.

Further study

You can get the full story on the requirements for rational morality in a published, peer-reviewed paper written by William Lane Craig here. You can also hear and see him present the paper to an audience of students and faculty at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2008. The audio is clipped at 67 minutes, the video is the full 84 minutes. There is 45 minutes of Q&A, with many atheist challengers.

The video of this lecture is the best material you can get on this issue, and the Q&A from the hostile audience is vital to the lesson. More debates on atheism and morality can be found on the debate and lecture page.

You can find a post contrasting the morality of an authentic, consistent Christian with an authentic, consistent non-Christian here. A post examining how atheism is responsible for the deaths of 100 million innocent people in the 20th century alone is here. A post analyzing the tiny number of deaths that religion was responsible for is here.