Morality

March 31, 2010 at 5:33 am (Fróðleikr) (, , , , , , , , )

I will be posting about subjects other than religion beginning tomorrow; I apologize for the mire my blog has seemingly come to rest in.

Euthyphro Dilemma
Assuming the existence of an omnipotent, moral God, then either:
1. What is moral is commanded by God because it is moral.
or
2. A thing is moral because it is commanded by God.

If the second option were true, then what we consider immoral could become moral if God were to command it. Perhaps if God were to command it, then we could automatically consider anything moral.

The standard rebuttal of this hypothesis is to declare that there are things, such as child molestation, rape, and murder that we cannot conceive of as moral. However, just because we cannot conceive it, does not make it impossible. God could re-make the fabric of things, under this scenario, such that these things were moral, or even required for morality, and simply change the way our brains function such that we instinctively view these things as moral.

The above (absolutely beautiful and moving) video takes the argument further, saying that if this were the case, then the concept of “good” would have no meaning, and morality would become God’s subjective moral code, rather than an objective truth.

However, this argument does not satisfy me. Devout Christians can and have easily declared that the very definition of “objective” is “subjective for God”. Bishop Berkeley went so far as to interpret the entirety of objective reality as God’s dream. Kirkegaard’s entire moral philosophy was based on the observation that Abraham, in unquestioningly obeying God’s commandment to murder Aaron, was the supreme example of religious morality.

My answer to the problem is a strictly deductive one. Consider: if morality were solely based on the word of God, then a thinking being that is not God could not reason his way to a moral decision; he could only unthinkingly obey what God declares morality to be, and thus no logical argument can have moral significance. Consequently, the Dilemma itself, being an attempt to reason towards what is moral, could have no moral significance. If the Dilemma has no moral significance, then it is not morally significant whether argument #1 is true or argument #2 is true.

However, scenarios #1 and 2 lead to different real ethical consequences, and thus it must be the case that the Dilemma is morally significant, and therefore scenario #2 is false.

In examining scenario #1, several conclusions can be drawn:
1. Morality is not God’s subjective morals.
2. Morality therefore exists apart from God.
3. God has given us the capability and the desire to reason towards what is moral.

A moral Christian who believes in Heaven and Hell has three options:
1. Act morally because morality is Godly. This option has been rejected with the rejection of scenario #2.
2. Act morally for the sake of morality in and of itself.
3. Act morally so that God will reward him with eternity in Heaven.

Here is where I depart from pure logic into the realm of persuasion. I won’t lay out the arguments against objective, self-centred moral systems here; it would require hours of time I simply do not have tonight. (I may return and complete this post at a later date.)

However, I will make an appeal to common sense. If morality is totally apart from God, and the only relationship between the two is that God is perfectly moral, then is it moral of God to reward a believer with Heaven if that believer does not wish to actually be moral, and rather, only wishes to be in Heaven? I think most of us, and especially most Christians, will be repelled by the idea that a moral God would define both “purely” moral believers and believers who are just “keeping up appearances” as “moral”.

Thus, we are left with option number 2, that a Christian must be moral for morality’s sake in and of itself.

Now, imagine that a Christian is asked to choose one of the following:
1. Live an immoral life, and subsequently go to Heaven.
2. Live a moral life, and subsequently go to Hell.

Which of these should he choose to remain moral? As a consequence, which of these is sanctioned most by a moral God?

The final, and most important question, is therefore:
Would it not be logical for God to test our moral resolve by threatening to send us to Hell for both moral and immoral actions?

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